Age of Conan: Hands-On with the Demonologist in the Sanctum of the Burning Souls

Editor’s Note: During Ten Ton Hammer’s trip to the icy reaches of Norway to preview Funcom’s upcoming MMORPG, Age of Conan: Hyborian
Editor’s Note: During Ten Ton Hammer’s trip to the icy reaches of Norway to preview Funcom’s upcoming MMORPG, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, Cody “Micajah” Bye had the opportunity to play through mid-level dungeons in the game as a Demonologist. This dungeon, named the Sanctum of the Burning Souls, was rife with atmosphere, combat, and strategy, and Cody used the Demonologist to the best of his (not-so-great) ability. Please enjoy the reading!

by Cody “Micajah” Bye

“Whoa. That can’t be good.”

Those were my words – or at least my thoughts – when my group made it to the last area in the Sanctum of the Burning Souls, and all that was left before us was a huge set of narrow stairs leading up to a immense crumbling stone structure. Feelings of dread, excitement, and the anticipation of finding spoils ahead were making my heart beat with ever-growing rapidity. Nothing says ominous like a long set of rising stairs.

Stygian warriors may not be entirely prevalent in the Sanctum of the Burning Souls, but you'll face many enemies similar to this one.

However, we didn’t just teleport to the bottom of the epic stairs in the Sanctum of the Burning Souls. Oh no...there was plenty of wanton mayhem and mischief on the way. Before we continue down my path of vengeance, destruction, and multiple deaths, let me set the scene for you, chronicle my progression through the Sanctum of the Burning Souls, and give you a small taste of what the Demonologist can do. If you’re interested in furthering your Conan education on this particular subject, feel free to read Stephen Spiteri’s own hands-on report or watch the brief clip of Ben Avery’s video. We’ll have our own video up soon, so you’ll soon be hearing the curses I spewed at the top of my lungs whenever I drew aggro.

The Sanctum of the Burning Souls

When we entered the Sanctum of the Burning Souls, it was obvious that our group wasn’t entirely prepared for what we were about to encounter. While some of the press members admitted to being in the beta, many of these classes were new to the veteran individuals. We ran through the dungeon like any group first entering this encounter and died like the little nooblets that we were.

That said, it wasn’t long before we finally merged our collective focus and started to take down these monsters. Being a six-man dungeon, our ten players were often too much for the beginning mobs, and we tore our way through the first few sections of the Sanctum.

The first area you must play through in the Sanctum is a swamp-like section that rests just outside of the Sanctum proper. Ruins and cracked stone foundations litter the area, while half-standing staircases lead you to other areas of the dungeon.  Initial mobs that we encountered (Drowned Ones) were difficult at first, but without any sort of strange abilities, we quickly devised the best ways to defeat them and dropped them back down into their swampy habitat.

This is the sort of moody, dank atmosphere you'll encounter while traversing the Sanctum.

Overall, there were approximately eight different types of monsters in the dungeon, ranging from over-sized spiders (Acheronian Spider Queens) to the always awe-inspiring Blood Defiler. Each of the monsters really looked outstanding, and their animations were nearly spot on. Every time I got hit by one of the creatures, I could almost feel my bones crack through the computer monitor. The loot that was dropped was also appropriate for the monsters that we killed.

From what I could tell in my brief pass through the dungeon, there are four major boss encounters in the Sanctum of Burning Souls. The first encounter is near the beginning of the dungeon, and you take on the “leader” of The Drowned Ones. Another is an encounter with an immense Blood Defiler who is quite awe-inspiring when you look upon him fro the first time. The third boss is the ever-famous vampire Akivasha who loves hanging around the Sanctum because of the enormous pools of blood that happen to be everywhere. And finally you’ll face the Acheronian Warlord, a giant, horse-faced, demon-looking creature.

Where quests are concerned, there are multiple objectives to complete in the dungeon along with the typical loot mongering, so players will have every reason to go to the Sanctum in the first place. Quests are fairly standard fare, yet the entire setting of the Sanctum makes all the quests interesting simply due to the gloomy, dark atmosphere.

All in all, I thought the entire encounter was epic and easily navigated without feeling entirely linear. There are several areas that branch one way or the other, but not so many that you feel like you’re taking side roads after every combat situation.

The Demonologist

At the beginning of the dungeon, it quickly became obvious that the Demonologist is meant for intelligent ranged attacks. Unlike the Necromancer that played through the campaign with us, the Demonologist’s pet enhances the entire group – acting as a buff for everyone in the group while also adding a bit of DPS to the mix as well. However, I often focused less on my pet than on my own spell-flinging, which was much more integral to this group encounter.

The Demonologist will be able to wield a variety of different spells, including electrical.

The range of the Demonologist’s spells is enormous, with everything from your standard flame spells (Flameburst, Flamestrike, and Flamebolt) to the more intricate unholy damage spells (which weren’t always effective in the Sanctum), and also integrating electrical themed spells as well. With a wide range of spell abilities to choose from – direct damage, area of effect, snares, damage over time, and stunning – the Demonologist must often be aware of what sort of spells are best for a particular encounter rather than leaving anything to chance.

However, damage spells aren’t the only things in the Demonologists arsenal, and I would argue that this pet/nuker/caster class will also be important in granting his teammates the buff spells they need to last through the encounter. Along with the buff of the pet, the Demonologist also enhances other caster’s abilities and has some fairly useful general buffs that he could lend to the group.

This all sounds tremendous, right? I can just hear the Demonologists out there getting there arguments ready for the “Which class is the best?” conflicts that are bound to pop up. The Demonologist does have an extensive arsenal of spells and abilities at his disposal, but he doesn’t have one thing.

Hit points.

The Demonologist, at least the version I played, was incredibly squishy. If your pet isn’t tanking the mobs for you, you’re in deep trouble. In the sort of group encounter I was engaged in, it was almost suicide for me to cast any sort of area of effect spell, as I knew the mobs were going to come chasing after me just as soon as I dropped one of those particular spells. If you’re not wary of your environment, it could mean a quick death for you.

That said, the entire mechanic of the class could change once spellweaving has been integrated into the game. If a spell combination could do AoE damage and root at the same time, this class could be exquisitely deadly. We’ll just have to wait and see how the Demonologist shakes out when the game releases in May.

Be on the lookout for our video from the Sanctum play session! It's definitely hilarious to watch.

What’d you think of Cody’s description of the Demonologist? How would you like to see this class handled? Let us know in the forums!.

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