Age of Conan Class Interview #4: The Assassin

Questions by Cody
"Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
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Answers by Evan
Michaels, System Designer for Funcom

The time has come for stealth, guile, and the silent kill. The last few
weeks have been rife with information on the classes in the style="font-style: italic;">Age of
Conan as our bi-weekly class interviews covered all of the
archetypes in thorough detail. With the soldiers finished, the Ten Ton
Hammer staff has
refocused our next set of class interviews on the Rogue archetype,
which features the Assassin, Ranger, and the ever-popular Barbarian
For our first of these three interviews, the Funcom developers wanted
to concentrate on the mysterious Assassin. To find out more about this
class, we asked a series of questions to Evan Michaels, system designer
for Funcom, and he was happy to give us the nitty-gritty info. Enjoy
the article and start dreaming about your future

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Ten Ton Hammer: Out of
all the Rogue
classes, the Assassin has really been the only class without a detailed
preview. Why has it taken so long to get specific details about the
Assassin class to the general public?

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href="" title="Assassin 1"> src="/image/view/15579/preview"

An Assassin sneaking
up on his next kill.

Evan Michaels:
Assassins were
one of the more major “theme mergers" - bringing together the
Lotus Master and Defiler classes into one - and as such has required a
bit more work to fit everything together compared to some of the other
classes, like the Guardian or Priest of Mitra that have been around for
quite some time.

Given that the Assassin class has undergone so many changes over the
last year, naturally it has ended up further down the list in terms of
the order we approach class previews. In the end, however,
been very happy with how the Assassin turned out and feel that it will
be a very enjoyable class to play.

Ten Ton Hammer: Could you
give a brief
synopsis of the Assassin so everyone can understand what this
particular class is all about? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
What do they excel at?

Evan: The
basis of the Assassin
is (as the name may imply) killing swiftly and efficiently. 
Assassin is probably the deadliest of any class when it comes to raw
power, having a variety of means with which to quickly dispatch his
target of choice. So, simply put, an Assassin is definitely someone you
want to have on your side of the battle as opposed to knifing you in
the back. The Assassin is also the most proficient class when it comes
to stealth, and has a bit of an easier time sneaking around than the
other classes in the game.

As for weaknesses, his focus on stealth—which requires
sacrificing heavier armor for silk to make less noise—and a
offensive-oriented mentality leave him a bit weaker defensively when
compared to many of the other classes. Assassins rely more on evasion
and other methods of rejuvenation—be it golden lotus extracts
more necrotic techniques, depending on their focus—rather
taking the brunt of many direct hits.

Ten Ton Hammer: In
general –
from the scant amount of video and descriptions of the Assassin that
has filtered its way into the public – why does the Assassin
such an emphasis on melee combat? Weren’t Assassins just as
at killing people from a distance as they were with their close combat

Evan: While
Assassins are able
to use crossbows and other forms of ranged weaponry, their strength is
primarily in their ability to surprise and overwhelm their target
quickly. Although one could accomplish this reasonably well with ranged
attacks, the Assassin finds it more effective to be up close and
personal, rapidly barraging his target with a flurry of quick jabs,
poisoned blades, and other nasty techniques meant to expose his
target’s weaknesses.

Ten Ton Hammer: While
combat is
important in AoC, there has also been an emphasis placed on stealth and
guile as well, which the Assassin seems to be exceptionally good at.
How will the Assassin’s stealth abilities allow him to gain
upper hand in certain encounters?

Evan: As was
mentioned before,
you are correct that the Assassin is exceptionally good at stealth, and
the various advantages thereof.  The Assassin takes full
of this, gaining the upper hand by surprising unwary foes and
debilitating them before they have time to gain the upper hand.

Given that the Assassin isn’t the most hearty fighter when it
comes to getting directly attacked, being able to gain the element of
surprise is a large boon for him. If skilled enough in sneaking around
his chosen targets, the Assassin also has the ability to perform sneak
attacks to further gain an advantage. He also has a number of abilities
which have additional properties if used from stealth.

Ten Ton Hammer: For the
Barbarian and
the Ranger, it’s obvious what sort of benefits they can give
to a
party (melee and ranged DPS), but the Assassin’s party
aren’t so obvious. Why would an Assassin be a good person to
include in a group? Should Assassins worry that they’re going
be labeled as the “loners” of AoC?

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href="" title="Assassin 2"> src="/image/view/15578/preview"

The after-effects of
a completed assassination.

Evan: From a
certain point of
view, Assassins are a bit of a “selfish”
class—however, one shouldn’t be so fast to dismiss
that as
them not being useful to a group.

Unlike the Barbarian, the Assassin generally does not have what we
would consider direct “team buffs”, however he has
a very
wide toolset when it comes to debilitating his targets in ways that are
generally quite useful in both solo and group gameplay.

His “Lethargy” combos, for instance, will
lower the damage output of his chosen target, while he can further
increase this effect with his “Atrophy” feats in
the Lotus
specialized tree.

In terms of other specialized feat-based group utility, Assassins can
train in many abilities which are quite useful, such as:

  • “Sabotage Armor”, which removes the
    directional shielding abilities of the target for a short period
  • “Cleansing Lotus”, which can remove
    poison effects from their group
  • “Necrotic Leech”, which deals area
    damage while also leeching mana, stamina, and health back to their party
  • “Burden to Bear”, which makes
    high-armor targets take additional damage for a period of time

These are just a few examples of the toolset of the Assassin, but you
can probably see that while he is perhaps a bit single-minded in terms
of focusing on killing his targets, the way he facilitates it can be a
major asset to any group.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will an
Assassin be
able to solo his enemies? Both the Barbarian and the Ranger seem to
have decent combat abilities, but the Assassin doesn’t seem
have anything that really makes him good at soloing. Are there ways for
Assassins to solo effectively?

Evan: Yes,
the Assassin will be
able to kill enemies solo, however it does take a bit more calculated
of an approach than perhaps you would find in the brute-force measures
of a Barbarian.

Especially when utilizing the element of surprise, the Assassin can be
quite formidable. Launching a sneak attack on a target, debuffing one
or multiple targets with his Lethargy combos, then following up with a
barrage of quick hits, poison or unholy damage-over-time combos and
abilities can kill a target more swiftly than pretty much any class in
the game.

On the flip-side, being careful is the way of the Assassin and getting
caught off-guard is not something that will prove to be ideal. Even
then, however, Assassins can spec into a number of evasive and
recovery-oriented abilities, such as “Prediction”
evasion bonuses), “Necrotic Leech”, “Life
Leech” (damage-based health recovery),
Paw” (short-duration evasion buff), and “Golden
Extract” (short duration healing effect) to deal with

Ten Ton Hammer: How will
Assassin's poison and unholy attacks work in combat? Are they going to
be combos, or something that you will apply to your weapons before you
enter combat?

Evan: The
Assassin has a number
of ways to utilize the effects of their chosen damage path, be it
through stances, combos, or abilities. The first specialized feat
available in their ‘Lotus’ and
trees will grant the respective stances used in association with either
tree and allow the Assassin to deal passive poison and unholy damage on
all of their melee attacks while active. Additionally, depending on the
stance the Assassin is in at the time, their combos will take different
forms and have slightly different effects corresponding with said

Examples of this would be one combo which applies lingering poison
damage while in Poison Stance (‘Poison Blades’) or
instant unholy damage and collects Soul Fragments while in Unholy
Stance (‘Corrupted Blades’.) As one might also
expect, the
optional special abilities found in either of the two trees are
typically themed to match one of the two damage types or somehow
interact with the nature of their respective stance.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are the
still going to have the ability to create restorative elixirs? How are
these going to compliment potions created by an Alchemist?

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href="" title="Assassin 3"> src="/image/view/15577/preview"

Assassins aren't
afraid to get down and dirty with the corpses they make.

Evan: While
creating elixirs
was an idea originally slated for the Lotus Master class, the Assassin
himself will not have that ability specifically. Instead, the Assassin
will have a number of abilities which grant temporary effects
corresponding with the theme of the two ‘stances’
of the
class. For example, specific to the Lotus tree is the ability to use
restorative powers of ‘Golden Lotus Essences’ in
order to
heal the Assassin’s wounds.

Similar options would be the ability to remove poisons from himself and
his group, become resilient against magical attacks used against him,
or (as my personal favorite) use a bomb of mixed lotus powers to
confuse his enemies, rendering them unable to tell friend from foe for
a short period of time. Not to be left out, the Corruption tree has a
number of more unholy-themed abilities which bestow short-term
advantages upon the Assassin—often utilizing the Soul
harvested from his victims in order to drain the life from his
still-living targets or empower him with unholy strength.

Ten Ton Hammer: The
Assassin character seems pretty neat, but is there anything else you’d
to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers to attract them to this particular
class in AoC?

Personally, I’ve
been playing the Assassin quite a bit recently—especially in
working on the specialized trees—and have to say
really been having a blast with it. The Assassin is a really great
class for people who like having a large strategic toolset, many
abilities on the hotbar, and high damage-dealing potential.

After all, simply from a gamer’s perspective, when you start
getting into using all your abilities to maximum potential
hard to resist watching your target’s HP plummet from the
of damage numbers on the screen caused by offhand procs, poisons,
combos, and clickable special abilities!

What do you think of the
Assassin? Will there be enough stealth and guile involved for you? href="">Let
us know on the forums!

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