As is somewhat traditional, I've spent my first few days of investigating Runes of Magic on trying out all of the various character classes. This takes on special significance in ROM because each character gets to pick TWO of the game's eight classes. You can switch out which class is your primary class in town, and your secondary class offers some of its own abilities as well as some unique variations on your primary class themes.
Without further ado, here are my initial gut reactions having taken each class through to level 10 (a bit over an hour). The list is arranged in approximately the order in which I enjoyed the classes, take that for what you will.
The Warden primary is ROM's pet class. They can also use some mana-based melee attacks (these are available to your other class when Warden is your secondary). Because the Warden is an elf-only class, it cannot be combined with the human-only Priest or Knight.
Unfortunately, this class left me feeling like my job was to serve a support role for my NPC pet. The pet's autoattacks do more damage than my Warden melee abilities, and it was actually more time efficient for me to act like a ninja looter and go loot corpses and quest items while the pet did the fighting. I paired this with the scout and found myself leaning almost exclusively on the Scout's cross-class abilities for personal DPS over the Warden's own attacks. (Perhaps a second melee class would have been a better choice.)
The Scout is an archer ranged dps class, with abilities powered by a "focus" bar (starts full, drains and refills rapidly, like a WoW rogue's energy bar). As a secondary, this class confers the ability to equip bows and use some of the Scout's attacks.
Unlike your typical MMO archer, this class is perfectly happy to continue shooting arrow attacks while mobs are in melee range. I'd thought that the Warden melee abilities would be useful while waiting for focus to regenerate, but I found that they did too little damage to be worth using. Supposedly this class also gets some good synergy with the healing classes via higher level elite skills.
This class is a melee DPS, powered by a rage bar that builds up while dealing or receiving damage. You have a variety of one and two handed combo attacks, where one ability chains into another for greater impact.
I was very underwhelmed with the way that the rage bar works in ROM. It feels like you both gain and lose rage very quickly, and end up either watching autoattacks while waiting on rage or suddenly staring at a full bar just as the mob dies. I think I'd like this class better paired with another class that offers melee attacks (Rogue, Warden, Knight) so that I'd be able to use the resource bar for the other class while waiting on the rage bar.
This class is the human racial take on healing. It's also a popular secondary choice because it grants access to healing abilities. (In particular, Warriors, Scouts, and Rogues don't use mana for any of their class abilities, so that mana bar is fully available for low downtime self-healing while solo.) This class is human-only, and therefore cannot mix with Warden or Druid.
I had a lot of trouble playing this class, which was the only class where I died repeatedly. Like the mage, you're completely dependent on your mana pool. Unlike the mage, your spells don't do a ton of damage, so you can simply end up screwed if you get into trouble with a low mana bar. Many players pair the mage with the priest (or the druid) because the two are pure casters that offer each other good passive bonuses to their primary roles. The issue is that this also exacerbates the weakness of being mana-dependent.
If I ever try this class again, it'll be paired with a non-mana-user. Even then, I might end up dreading the time I have to spend leveling the priest side of the character.
ROM rogues need to wait for higher levels to get the abilities to stealth and dual wield, but otherwise will be familiar to anyone who has seen WoW's take on the class.
I don't really have much to add to that. The Rogue melees well, and is powered by a rapidly regenerating energy bar that leaves your mana bar (if applicable) available for whatever your other class does. Works as advertised.
This is your caster DPS class, offering some utility spells as a secondary.
As Yeebo told me a year ago, this class is comically overpowered at low levels, killing foes in one or two shots. It is mana-dependent, but that matters less when you only need to scrape together enough MP for one or two spells to make it through a fight. I might be inclined to pair it with the knight for additional durability (and also for the Knight's own sake), because a caster really isn't going to be set up to take advantage of melee/archery when they need a fallback plan.
This is a heavily-armored mana-based tanking-focused class, with holy damage and a variety of aggro management skills. As a secondary, it offers boosts to survivability and healing. It's also the other human-only class, so it cannot be combined with Warden or Druid.
This was probably the biggest surprise of the eight classes for me. I looked at the spell list and was mostly ready to write the whole thing off. The crucial thing I missed was that the class has not one but two combo point mechanics, one of which passively regenerates mana. This means that you can spam attacks until you're running low, switch into pure regen mode for a mob or so, and then jump back into the action with a full mana bar. Assuming you're not paired with a priest, you have no inherent means of regenerating health, but you're designed to tank, so you can mow through a bunch of mobs on one health bar.
Though the priest is a tempting combo - with self heals, you go fully zero-downtime while soloing, and the priest secondary does offer a token ranged spell for pulling - I'm thinking mage as a pairing for this class. The two complement each other very well - the mage gets durability and a holy-based nuke, while the knight can actually afford to USE the more costly mage utility spells.
The druid is the elves answer to the Priest. Druids have many more offensive spell options and slightly fewer healing options. There's also a "nature's power" combo mechanic that is built up by casting certain basic spells and spent on more powerful abilities (most or all of which are high level). Can't be paired with Priest or Knight.
This was my overall favorite. The spell casting power level feels about right in a niche between the mage and the priest. As a secondary, I have a melee accuracy buff and a nice heal+regen spell that will make a melee character very happy. Since I can't pair it with Knight, I paired this with the Rogue, and found that I was satisfied with both sides of the pairing.
Overall, it's an interesting system. If I was going to play four characters covering all eight classes, they would be:
1. Druid/Rogue (my probable main, at least for now)
4. Warrior/Warden (my two least favorites in the pairings I tried them in, but they actually might play well together, since you could open combat with the Warden's mana-based attacks and switch over to Warrior rage attacks later)
That said, there are subtle or not-so-subtle advantages to other pairings that could shake up the experience without having a system that is so wide open that it takes forever to find a good spec.