What is a barbarian? Used to be, they were fast fighters with crappy armor who got angry a lot. Now they have many flavors of rage to choose from. And 4E barbarians can even be kings.
Some things about barbarians have not changed. They are still limited to lighter forms of armor. They’re still able to charge around on the battlefield hacking enemies to bits. Now, they’re heavily focused on two-handed weapons. As primal strikers, they are capable of dealing out huge amounts of single-target damage. You don’t have to dig too deep into the powers list to find 3W encounter powers and 4W dailies.
Instead of one all-purpose rage that they can use a few times each day, barbarians gain access to a variety of daily powers with the rage keyword. They bear a certain resemblance to the Warden’s polymorphs in that they include an attack and an ongoing effect that lasts to the end of the encounter. In the barbarian’s case, the attack is pretty devastating.
What if you like your current ongoing rage effect, but still want to use a rage daily to make one of those killer attacks? Do you have to switch rages? Nope. Rage Strike is a special power that lets you burn a rage daily to make a big attack (6W at 15th level!).
The rage effects are nice. Some of them give you temporary hit points or a speed boost. My favorite is Rage of the Silver Phoenix (level 5 daily), which gives you regeneration 3 and an automatic healing surge if you hit zero hit points. Dude.
Everyone expected crazy raging barbarians, and they are indeed awesomely represented here. What really raised my eyebrows was the other path a barbarian can take: the Thaneborn Barbarian. If you’ve read any of the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, you know that later in life, Conan became a king (not through any administrative brilliance or political scheming, but mainly through raw charisma). The Thaneborn powers nicely simulate this, giving the barbarian a bunch of pseudo-warlord abilities that weaken enemy defenses or generate attack and damage bonuses based on your charisma modifier.
What is best in life? Say it with me now: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”