Right! I’ve been meaning to write something down about Warhammer Online for quite some time now, and figure I’ve played it enough to write an ickle bit about it.
As I managed to recommend Age of Conan a fair bit early on, as I had only played the first portion of it, that being the portion which was polished… as soon as you left that part of the game, the unfinishedness would kick in. As such, I’ve leveled a fair bit to experience a fair bit of the various aspects of the game this time around! :)
My initial “open beta” impressions weren’t all that, as I’ve written in another post. So, my mindset going into the game probably wasn’t as favorable as it could’ve/should’ve been.
First off, character creation isn’t really too hot, I think both the graphics and customization on character creation is really horrible. I really think more people should try out the City of Heroes character creator to get inspiration. Not saying every game should have something like that, but having more than 5-6 different looks would really help. Then again, with the low quality graphics in there – you’ll just spent a bit of time figuring out which face looks the least silly. :)
The concept of the game here is pretty much faction vs faction warfare in the old Dark Age of Camelot fashion. Each side has 4 different races, each race having 3-4 different classes archetyped into tank, healer, melee damage and ranged damage. Endgame is supposed to be a constant struggle between the two factions where the main goal is to annihilate the opponents city and then live happily ever after!
Upon entering the game and hanging out in the starter area, the game looks fairly much better than you’d expect from the login/creation screen. Characters and mobs look decent and movement is nice and fluid.
It has a standard skill system similar to other such games where you gain skills from a trainer as you level up, there are no ranks on the various skills, as they increase in power as you level. Same goes for the “talent trees”, where you invest points in trees to improve the skills related to that tree, as well as unlocking skills as you go along. An interesting point here is that once you reach a certain skill in the tree, you have to invest a point in actually acquiring the skill – which instead could be used for investing further in the tree right away, creating a nice little tradeoff-situation where you can either choose the skills right away, at the expense of getting another skill a level later.
The combat aspect is fairly standard as far as mmos go, it’s actually most similar to the Lord of the Rings system, and feels in general a lot slower than WoW. I’d like to note that I feel that they’ve managed to implement quite an interesting mechanic in the game when it comes to healing. You have an ‘action point’-pool and a ‘mana-point’-pool, which are used for attacks and heals respectively. The action-points regenerate automatically, whereas the mana only regenerates outside of combat, and is nowhere near full enough to last more than a few seconds. So, they’ve decided that when you spend X points performing an action, it regenerates X points of mana for you to use, meaning if you want to heal as much as possible, you’d need to get some offensive skills into your rotation. This worked out very well for my main character early on, as she was a Melee/Healer hybrid (Disciple), and had similar damage output as the pure melee damage classes, making it one of the more attractive solo classes the game has to offer.
The core concept of the game revolves around the faction warfare, realm vs realm, with the ultimate endgame being sacking the opponents main city. In addition to this there’s Scenarios you can join at any time, that function like a small battleground separated into different level ranges. You’re able to join these scenarios from anywhere in the world, getting a notice when it’s up, jumping right in, fighting, and warping back out to where you were. A very interesting deal here is that all players are leveled up (stat/hp-wise) to a relatively high level upon entering the battleground, so you can pretty much always be useful in a battleground, only thing you’d be lacking are the skills that you would’ve gained in those levels.
The Scenarios are in general fairly fun, and there are quite a few different types you can play, the ones I recall off the top of my head involve capture the flag, bombing runs, item retrieval, holding bases and item carrier. All of these are contested with a 15minute time limit, so it’ll never be a long epic battle, but, rather, just short bursts of fun really!
The other main PvP aspect is the one leading into the endgame, namely World PvP. The world is divided into different zones, where some are designated as PvP battlefields, and include keeps that needs to be captured to progress into the endgame involving the opponents city.
Keeps and keep siege is (surprisingly) quite similar to the way they’re implemented in DAoC with the New Frontier ruleset. Siege engines are needed to get in, and an evil person with the trigger on the burning oil above the door is good fun when you need to keep people out! Speaking of, they’ve added some fun parts when it comes to different siege engines, you can operate different arrow-shooting siege engines in addition to the standard “bash the door”-type.
The PvE/leveling in Warhammer is fairly straightforward and standard, you go from level 1 to 40, killing mobs, doing quests and living the good life. An interesting twist to this is that you get an extreme amount of experience from actually killing players as well, most noticeable while done solo. What Warhammer brings to the table that’s relatively new here, is the existance of “Public Quests”, which involve a short small storyline being played through several stages – in which all players in the area can participate, with different goals at the different stages. At the end of the final stage, if you succeed, all players participating will do a loot-roll and a few people will be fairly happy! Furthermore, participating in these will grant you points which will let you redeem fairly decent prizes, letting even solo players get their share of decent loot.
In addition, there are a *lot* of “Renown Levels”, which basically translates into PvP-levels for your character, as you gain renown experience upon killing other players, participating in scenarios, or helping out with battlefield objectives such as capturing keeps and other strategic locations. These renown levels will unlock better equipment available at Renown Merchants, typically PvP-centered. In the end, these levels remind me of the old Honor system in WoW, apart from the fact that it doesn’t have points-decay.
One of the most awesome and fun parts of the game in my view is the fact that they’ve added a nifty little thing called the Tome of Knowledge! It displays a LOT of information and statistics, such as how many kills you have of every kind of NPC, kills/deaths of/to every class you have. In addition, it tracks all your achievements, which in turn gives you an awesome amount of titles you can have displayed with your character. This alone was making the game so much fun, as the designers have really been QUITE creative to be honest. As an example, I got my title (The Reclusive) which I used for the majority of the game after ignoring 40 people! For a sample of what I’m talking about, have a look at http://warhammeronline.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_achievements
Then, the not-so-good portions! After a while, the scenarios tend to get fairly similar-ish and close to boring. World PvP is fairly situational, not always easy to find some place to fight there, and the contrast to the fast-paced action of the scenarios seem to make it slightly less attractive, even if it’s supposed to be the “main attraction”. The sides are obviously not equally balanced as players can choose whichever side they want, and thus, the larger side will have the advantage in world pvp, but for the renown-gain, the smaller side will have the advantage in scenarios due to shorter load times. And, for me personally, I think I have realized that the Arena format in WoW is what I really want from PvP in a game, more players than the 2v2 and 3v3 setups makes things a bit too much of a “who-can-assist-and-click-the-most-damage-buttons-best” type scenario that the endgame fights turned out to be.
All in all, fun, and worth trying for the experience of at least a bit of difference in the mmo-genre, and the option to jump in to scenario-pvp moments for a rush of fun! However, I don’t see this as much of a WoW-contender in terms of how long people will stay interested.
*Waits for Bioware …*