The NDA is down and it’s time to give you all my impressions of Warhammer Online. Over the course of the next few days I will be releasing, in parts, my thoughts on WAR. I’m going to share with you the positives AND the negatives as I have experienced them firsthand. The purpose of these beta impressions is to continue doing what Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog has been all about from the beginning: Sharing our thoughts on the games we play so that our readers can be truly informed.
It’s time to dive right into it! I’m going to begin by giving my general first impressions of the game then I will take certain features, mechanics, systems, and parts of the game one by one and give my quick thoughts. As the day unfolds and perhaps even into tomorrow and throughout this week I’ll continue expanding upon my thoughts, share videos, and provide you all with any information I can.
NOTE: I will be taking questions and answering them in a Q/A blog post today if necessary. Feel free to ask questions.
Warhammr Online: Age of Reckoning is exactly what I hoped it would be when I learned that Mythic was creating another MMORPG. The design direction and scope are true to what was promised. This is a game all about RvR and it illustrates that point almost every minute of gameplay. Many developers set out with the goal of creating a game with PvP and PvE but few succeed; most will have one or the other or have one be nothing more than an afterthought. WAR is designed to include both PvE and PvP from the beginning and does so in a way that the player can contribute to the realm war, and thus be considered as RvRing, by doing both. That’s one thing I find so great about WAR, no matter what you do it contributes to the realm war.
More specifically now, the game has a lot of polish. I feel like I have been playing a finished product. Aside from some problems, which I’ll go into later, there have been very few times that I say to myself “This game needs more time in beta”.
Look and Feel of the world – is it a real world? Does it look cool?
The artwork and the scope of details put into this game are amazing. I’m constantly stopping and admiring the landscapes and the architecture. From beautiful vistas to desolate battlefield wastelands to something as simple as a bell tower, this game has details layered upon details. It has the perfect ‘Warhammer’ feel that fans of the tabletop and pen/paper games will pick up on and be familiar with from the first minute.
The world is a true world, unlike recent games like AoC which instance and redundantly instance themselves. If you’ve been following the game you’ll know that there are tiers for each racial pairing (Example: Greenskins vs. Dwarves) and these tiers (1-4) are enormous zones/regions. They are not redundantly instances and you will spend 10+ levels in them without zoning even once. The ONLY time you zone is when you cross over into another tier whether it be running to it or taking a flight master and of course entering a Scenario. Open-world RvR areas are seamlessly connected and not only feel like, but ARE, a part of the actual world. HUGE kudos to the Mythic teams that put this together.
Combat – RvR and PvE
Combat in WAR is what I consider to be ‘traditional’ pacing. Generally speaking, it’s not much different from EQ, WoW, LOTRO, DAOC, etc. It feels like the time spent in combat however is a little more sometimes. Killing level 1 NPC’s on my Shaman can take several spell casts and melee hits whereas in a game like WoW most level 1 things are dead with a few attacks. Mythic has spent a lot of time increasing the time RvR fights take. They don’t want anyone to be 1 shot, 2 shot, or for combat to be so quick that players lose the tactical opportunities to think about what move they should use next (although really this time is not more than a few seconds, it came seem like a long time for someone who is a veteran mmo gamer).
I don’t want people to misunderstand what I’m saying and start spreading the word that “omg WAR combat is so slow and boring!” because it’s anything but boring and ‘slow’. Let me clarify further by saying combat is fast pace but the fights are drawn out longer.
Leveling up in general – is it fast or slow? Quests centric or what? what’s the REAL deal?
Leveling up in WAR is awesome. You have SO MANY choices. You can exclusively quest ala WoW or mix in some RvR ala DAOC or exclusively RvR. You can mix in Scenarios, Open-world RvR, PQ’s, dungeons, grinding, normal quests, and level well. The leveling in WAR feels standard to me. There are 40 levels in the game so I tend to think of each level as 1.5 the size of an oldschool WoW level. If it took you 30 minutes to get from level 3 to 4 in WoW it’ll take you 45 in WAR. Basically it feels 1.5x slower – hopefully that makes sense?
Leveling up renown ranks goes pretty quickly as well. If you mix in a healthy number of scenarios and participate in sieging objectives and keeps then you will gain ranks VERY quickly early on – so fast that you cap your renown rank for your level. It slows down a lot later on but never to the point where you feel like you’re not accomplishing something.
What a fantastic addition to mmorpgs. The way these public quests are implemented will absolutely be copied by developers for future mmorpgs; of that I have no doubt. Allowing players to come together in a location and work towards a PQ (they’re like mini-events) to earn experience, influence, items, tome unlocks, and more without it feeling like a grind is nothing short of innovative and dare I say revolutionary. Although the idea of a “quest that everyone works on together” isn’t necessarily ‘new’, the way Mythic has implemented these is unlike anything I’ve played before. When I first experienced a PQ I sat back and thought, “Now why didn’t anyone think of that before?”.
These Public Quests are EVERYWHERE. Seriously. There is one in every race’s chapter 1, then they start increasing in numbers to something like 3 PQ’s in chapter 2 and it only gets more involved from there. Every keep is a PQ to kill the Keep Lord. Dungeons are full of PQ’s. City Sieges are PQ’s. Mythic has taken this simple idea and applied it everywhere applicable – just short of overkill in my opinion.
One major thing that I like about these quests is how easy it is to just jump in and participate, earn loot, and leave without any of the usual hassle. There’s no LFG or worrying about loot drama. You have zero commitment to stick around or feel like you’re going to miss something because you have to leave.
There is one slight negative that I have experienced in the system and it has to do with how loot is distributed for contribution. In almost every PQ that I participate in I will rank in the top 5 – that’s not bad when there are 30-40 people there in some of these. But that doesn’t mean I get loot. That means I get a bonus to my dice roll that the game automatically generates. This dice roll creates an almost true sense of randomness in who receives loot. I could have earned a +300 to my dice roll but only roll a 100. The guy who came in 20th could roll a 999 and win loot. That would mean the guy who contributed almost the least was able to take loot from someone who contributes the most. Of course this system IS truly fair, and I have been both helped and hurt by the random nature of the dice, but it bothers me to see my consistent top contribution perhaps not valued enough.
Many people will know Scenarios as ‘Battlegrounds’. These are instanced PvP(RvR) encounters that you queue up for (from anywhere in the world with the click of the a button) and play in with even and balanced teams. Where these depart from the usual BG is their diversity. There aren’t just zone control and capture the flag maps here. There are sieges, blood bowl, a Team Fortress 2 style tug of WAR, king of the hill, and more. There are LOTS of these Scenarios (At least one per racial pairing tier) and they are all different. That’s key right there for me because I have always hated running the same 2 or 3 battlegrounds over and over and over ad nauseum. In WAR I can queue up for whichever one I feel like playing then go off and do whatever I want, when the queue pops up I can take it and play, then when the match is over be sent back to my EXACT place in the world.
Scenarios are also a great content ‘filler’. Graev and I would be questing out in the world and have our queue up. We would be getting a little tired of our particular quest or maybe even PQ when the scenario window would come up and let us know it’s time to play. We would hop in and be able to take a break from whatever else we were doing just long enough that we can go back fresh. Scenarios, since they give exp, are also a great way to level and round out a tier.
This is where the RvR truly shines. Starting in Tier 2+ (Tier 1 only has objectives) there are Keeps that you can siege out in the RvR areas (I call them Frontiers still – DAOC habit) and other objectives to take. Each of these RvR areas (a big area in each tier that gets bigger as the tiers go up) has a Warcamp that will offer RvR related quests. These quests + the objectives + the keeps + fighting players = amazing RvR fun. There is just so much action going on all the time! Last night we were on our level 14 Goblin Shaman/Squig Herder duo playing in the Dark Elf Tier 2 lands and Destruction had 2 Warbands (roughly equaling 35 people between them) defending one of our keeps that was under siege by Order. They had broken down the doors with rams and Hellblasters and for a few minutes I thought we were done for until we were able to somehow break their front line and get them on the run. Once they were running our army pushed into their territory and seized four of the batlefield objectives. We then made our way to their keep and began our siege.
It’s experiences like the one I shared above that keep me going in a game like this. It’s all about the open-world RvR and the real sense of territorial conflict going on. It gives me something else to play for besides leveling up or getting gear. I know that my goals are the same as everyone else on my realm because that’s the point of the game – dominate. I can’t wait to get off these Core servers and on to an open-rvr server where I don’t have to wait for my enemy to voluntarily flag or step into a RvR area – that will be REAL RvR.
Okay, this deserves its own section because this is my biggest gripe about Warhammer Online. There are still some serious balance issues in the game that need to be worked out before launch. Some classes are overpowered and some classes are underpowered. There are even some cases where classes severely under perform for half of the game and then magically get fixed as they level up. I find none of the above acceptable in a RvR game. I’m not usually one to cry foul or start whining about balance but these are some serious issues. I could write a novel on all the imbalances I’ve encountered in-game but for now I’m going to bullet point these things to present them clearly. Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:
The balance issues are many and if they’re not fixed they will be a problem at launch. Mythic knows this path is a slippery one and screwing up here can be the beginning of disaster. In the interview I had with Mark Jacobs at E3 he told me they have a much better way of detecting these imbalances than they did with DAOC. Let’s hope so.
How does the game run? Are there CTDs, crashes, lag etc?
The game runs like a dream right now. I’m not sure if the beta debug code is still in or not but I have no complaints. I get fantastic framerates with little stalling or hiccuping. I notice a tiny slowdown in capital cities for a few seconds but it’s almost not worth mentioning. In major RvR battles I will notice a stutter here and there but for the most part it’s smooth.
I get the occasional CTD – about once a day – but know people who got them constantly before yesterday’s mini-patch. A lot (I mean a ton) of people started experiencing CTDs after patch 3.3 so the problem DOES exist even if I’m not one of the unlucky ones. System ‘crashes’ and other nasty errors have been nonexistent for me (thank the good lord for that) and overall server stability have been good.
One of my biggest technical problems has been over the past week when a lot of people are in an area I begin experiencing server-side latency issues. Casting a spell and having it complete but not go off for a few seconds or swinging my weapon and not seeing numbers or damage appear is frustrating. It eventually all catches up but it throws off the flow of combat. This could be because the servers have been stress tested more than usual lately so I’m not worried. I know I’m not alone in this because general chat suddenly erupts with “Anyone else getting lag?”.
If I had to assign a number I would say that the game is running at 96% right now for me.
That’s the end of my Part 1 impressions. I will be posting A LOT more today and this week going into more detail on the specifics. Hopefully Part 1 has given you an overall sense of my thoughts on the game. I have movies, a Q/A (give me your questions!), screenshots (about 60), and of course more writeups on the way.
Topics I want to hit in more detail include but are not limited to: Questing, Capital Cities, RvR, Siege Weapons, Keep Sieges, and specific class writeups.
Update #1: Screenshots are up. For now you can visit the Photobucket page to see them. I’ll link to them here in Impressions Part 2. Movies and ChaosCast are uploading.