Warhammer Online – Snap Preview
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) is a MMORPG developed by Mythic Entertainment, the same guys that you might remember as creators of Dark Age of Camelot. After a week of open beta the game was officially launched yesterday (September, 14th) for the Collector’s Edition Pre-order Box owners and will be welcoming all the other players onto its servers starting 48 hours from now. I’ve sank my teeth into WAR and although I’ve only scratched the surface for now, I’m ready to share with you some of my early opinions.
The entire story of the game takes place in the fantasy world of Warhammer and that will seem highly familiar to J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel enthusiasts and to whoever played a Warhammer game in the past, table-top or not. If the last phrase made absolutely no sense to you, let’s just say it a story with orcs, dwarfs and elves, with sword fights, powerful spell casters and with the inevitable constant fight between good and evil. Upon entering the game you will have to choose between one of these two factions. Under the Order banner you will find the humans, the dwarfs and the high elves – these, if you like to keep things simple, are the good guys. In the opposite corner you have the forces of Destruction which are the greenskins, the dark elves and the chaos forces. For each of the 6 “races” there are 3 different characters you can choose from in order to play. Details about each and every one of them are available on the WAR official site: http://warhammeronline.com
Whichever your choices are, the game offers three focus points, all three available from the very beginning: the normal questing system, the public quest events and the Realm vs. Realm (RVR) battles. This can be a bit overwhelming for an inexperienced MMORPG player, but it actually is one of the best things WAR has to offer, especially because you can ignore any of the three and focus on whichever you like the most and still be able to level-up and advance through the game. If on the other hand you choose to tackle all these elements at once you will not have a single moment of rest, a single moment of boredom. I haven’t.
There isn’t much to say about the normal questing system – probably that’s why I called it normal. You get a quest from an NPC, you follow-up and do whatever the NPC has requested and you turn in the quest when it is finished for experience and sometimes for an item reward. The public quest system on the other hand refers to repeatable open events available to all players that want to participate and are in the area where the event is taking place. Depending on the performance of all the participants, once the event is finished a scoreboard combined with a luck roll decides who gets the loot and in what amounts. Apart from the immediate benefits, participating in such an event also offers influence in the current chapter of the story. There are three levels of influence for each chapter and for each level there is a reward a player can access once. The RVR system refers to PVP scenarios in which both factions join and try to win in the detriment of the other. These scenarios are available from the interface so there is no need to talk to a special NPC or be in a certain area in order to participate in closed RVR sessions. There are on the other hand open RVR areas on the map where points of strategic interest are the catalyst for conflict between players belonging to the two different factions, but more about open RVR in the soon to follow full review of the game.
The trade skills currently available in the game are split into two major categories: gathering and crafting, and you can have one of each. The good thing about the trade skills in WAR is that you can level them up as you quest and progress through the game because most of the required items are part of the normal loot a player would get. The problem with these skills is that there is only a hand-full of them so there’s not much room for choosing here. Hopefully Mythic will add-up to the inventory because right now this is simply not enough for a game of this scale.
The combat system brings a few new elements on the stage, but not enough of them for me to call it innovative. Basically what Mythic has done is take the World of Warcraft combat mechanic (I’m guessing this is the one most of you are familiar with) and add some more condiments, which is gave it a very nice flavor. But I think that if they would have tried harder that could have done better. The speed of the combat could use a bit of improving also. Might be enough to tune-up the character animation or it might be required to rethink the casting-times-versus-damage balance, but I’m pretty sure that at least in PVP you can actually feel the lack of aggression, of power, of speed. It’s more like a game of chess and that’s not good.
All that being said leads to the last of my comments and to the most important problem the game has: graphics. It is indeed the easiest problem to solve, but also the most damaging if not solved. At the moment the game looks rough, unfinished even in some places. There are areas of the game where the level of detail is so low they should be named “Pushed by deadline” and I haven’t even advanced above level 16 yet – the cap is at level 40. I had an interest in playing this game other than the ones a normal player has, because otherwise I might have not even started to play if I was to base my decision of buying the game or not on the in-game footage and screenshots and it’s a shame because on deeper level the game seems to have quite a lot to offer.
That’s it for now. These are just some WAR head start impressions I liked sharing with you. The game has a lot of potential, a lot of things to brag about, but also a few that almost beg for the developers’ attention. It’s unintuitive in some cases, too easy in others, but overall WAR is fun to play. I think I’ve repeated this obsessively, but I honestly believe it’s true: the most important thing a game can offer to its players is the fun. So right now I will continue playing WAR because I’m planning of tying a full review around its neck in a few weeks, but also because for now I’m enjoying playing it.