Much is made of attacking in Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, but sometimes you want to catch your breath or sometimes you're surrounded by raging Picts.
Sometimes, it's time for a little defense. There are two kinds of defense in Age of Conan: passive defense and active defense.
Passive defense means, simply, you don't have to do anything to make it work. This area of your defense covers several areas, such as your statistics, your armor, any magic effects you currently have running, and any user-selected things that affect your defensive abilities (such as trained feats or skills), such as a feat that gives you a better chance to dodge.
There are several ways to take a more active role in keeping yourself alive.
Shields Up! - Some classes have the options to use items like shields. While this will decrease your damage output, to a degree, it will also let you block and deflect incoming strikes, ensuring you last longer on the battlefield.
Terrain and Cover - Cover makes it harder for your foes to hit you and with Age of Conan's collision system, hiding behind things, running for safety, and using natural chokepoints to your advantage will make it much easier to stay alive.
Movement - Running around jumping up and down might not be effective, but there is a place for movement in the Age of Conan combat system. Quickly tapping the movement keys in a certain direction may make for a short, quick burst of movement in that direction (such as dodging out of the way of an incoming strike).
Bring A Friend - Sometimes, you want to take cover behind the bar, and sometimes, you want to hide behind something a bit more stout, like 250 pounds of muscle wearing 50 pounds of steel. Staying behind the big guys in the big armor is a good way to keep yourself alive. After all, if the beasts can't get to you, they can't very well hit you. Monsters and NPCs can defend themselves, too. Imagine the surprise of the eager Barbarian when his enemy cowers behind his shield, peeking out to see if the big bad man in animal skins is gone yet.
The Shield System
Part of the combat system in Age of Conan is the directional attacks, controlling every swing and strike, and working hand in hand with that is what we call the shield system. The shield system is simply a way of representing a lot of small things, like the guy who always tries to cover his right side or the monster that's weak to frontal assaults.
Your enemy will focus their defense in certain areas, represented by a set of icons that surrounds them. The more of these icons that are on one side, the heavier his or her defense is on that side, and the less damage you will do when attacking that side.
Your opponent will constantly shift their defensive focus around depending on where you're hitting, so mashing the same attack over and over again (or using the same combo over and over again) will quickly decrease its effectiveness. While not all enemies will use this defense system (and some may use it less than others), studying each foe carefully and noting its tendencies and mixing up your attacks will make for the most effective and most enjoyable gameplay.
Most importantly, players will also have access to the shield system and be able to tune their defenses according to their own tastes (and according to what they see you doing!), so mixing up your attacks and timing your combos to match defensive shifts will add yet another layer of strategy to player-versus-player encounters.
Source: AoC Official Site