PC Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Scott Tortorice

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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is the highly anticipated new MMO from Mythic Entertainment. Mythic has done a wonderful job at adapting the tabletop version of Warhammer Fantasy into a virtual battlefield where the Forces of Order battle the Forces of Chaos in a struggle for survival and domination. Player vs player combat is the heart of WAR, and its fun, addictive Realm vs Realm combat should appeal to both casual and hardcore fans alike. But WAR does have its share of issues with bugs, an already dwindling player population, shallow content and a lack of originality. Even with these issues, WAR is still one of the better MMO’s on the market.

Getting Started

Mythic has been diligent about adding and fixing content in WAR since release, so be prepared for some patching once the game has been installed. Players are only allowed to choose one Realm per Server in WAR. Those who have played Mythic’s previous MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, will be very familiar with this setup. You have a choice of three server types, or rulesets in WAR: Core, RP and Open RvR. Gameplay will differ some on each server ruleset, so it’s important to know what the differences are between the three before you make a server choice.

Core servers have restricted RvR areas allowing players to adventure in relative safety. RP or role-playing servers have a strict code of conduct for its players, and are meant for those who want to play ‘in character’ - actions that fall outside the realm of ‘believability’ in a high fantasy setting are not tolerated. Open RvR servers present an increased amount of risk as players can be attacked anytime and anywhere with two exceptions, Chapter 1 hubs and Capital cities.

Character creation begins by choosing a Realm, then choosing a Race and a career within that Realm. The Forces of Order consist of the races of Dwarfs, Empire (Humans), and High Elves. The Forces of Destruction consist of the races of Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins), Chaos (Evil Humans), and Dark Elves. There are currently twenty careers in WAR, with two more scheduled for release in December. The careers themselves are based on the age old archetypes of Tank, Healer, and DPS, both ranged and melee.

Going to WAR

Gameplay in Warhammer Online centers on the Realm vs Realm Campaign that pits the two realms in perpetual combat with the ultimate goal of sacking the opposing Realm’s capital city. This warfare between Order and Chaos encompasses three regions, Dwarfs vs Greenskins, Empire vs Chaos, and High Elves vs Dark Elves. Each racial pairing will begin fighting its natural enemy, but players are free to travel among the three regions and fight on any front they choose to.

Each region is separated into four tiers, with Tiers 1-3 having two zones each. Both Realms battle for control of these contested zones to accumulate victory points through PvP by capturing battlefield objectives and by laying siege and capturing the zone keep. When participating in RvR combat, players can earn Renown points to increase their Renown Rank. Increasing Renown Rank can earn you new titles, unlock new abilities and increase stats, and most importantly, unlock better gear for your character to use.

Tier 4 features several zones that need to be captured before attempting to capture a city. Each region has one zone that is contested while others remain inactive. Capture of the contested zone pushes the WAR-front towards the enemy’s capitol city, effectively turning inactive zones into contested zones. In order to lay siege to a capital city, a Realm must control all zones and fortresses within that Tier 4, and do it all within a certain amount of time. It is a lengthy and difficult process, and failure to capture a fortress within the allotted time will reset the tier back to its original state, and the whole process must be started over from the beginning.

WAR also features instanced RvR scenarios as well. All scenarios have a max time limit of 15 minutes and are score-based with objectives ranging from possessing artifacts to controlling flags. Mythic has gone out of their way to make RvR accessible to all players all the time. One way is to allow players to que themselves for scenarios anywhere and anytime. Players will also periodically be given quests that will require them to venture out into the RvR areas of a zone.

Those who are unfamiliar with the pacing of combat in DAoC may feel combat is a bit sluggish the first time they engage in RvR combat. Combat is slow purposefully in order to promote longer battles and team play tactics. The sluggish feel can be partially attributed to the choppy animations while in combat. Often times there will be a long delay between animations giving the feeling that combat is going on at a much slower rate than it truly is. Another cause for the sluggishness in combat is the GCD, or global cooldown. When WoW did some revamping of their combat, they instituted a 1.5 second GCD to help keep the combat balanced, and WAR uses something very similar. Only in WAR all abilities are subject to the GCD, serving to slow combat even further. Players used to the fast pace twitchy combat found in WoW may be frustrated, but if given a chance, combat in WAR can be fun and rewarding.

Arguably the most original and innovative feature in WAR would be the Public Quests. There are numerous PQs scattered throughout the lands in WAR, and they come in all shapes, sizes and difficulty ranges. The PQs are comprised of multiple stages, usually two or three, and once the objective is completed in a stage, the PQ advances to the next stage with its own set of objectives. The early portion of a PQ can be completed by a single player generally, but the later stages do increase in difficulty requiring a group to complete. Upon entering the area, your heads up display will inform you what your objective is and at which stage the PQ is in.

Public Quests are not only fun, but very rewarding as well. Participation in PQs will give players influence which can be used to purchase new armor and weapons. Also, once a final stage is completed, a treasure chest will appear and rewards are giving out based on how much a player participated. The more you contribute the greater chance you have to receive a gold treasure bag. But Public Quests do have one drawback; they require other players to complete all the stages of the PQ. With player population being an issue lately, it’s often difficult finding a group depending on the time of day you play.

Questing in WAR can be a slow and painful affair. The quests themselves are well written and worth reading through, but they rarely deviate from the same gather and kill quests that have come to be expected. Another hindrance to questing is the fact that you never get the feeling that you are truly making a difference in the war. If a quest giver isn’t sending you out to scout around the RvR area, then they are sending you out to finish a task that they themselves don’t have time for.

WAR also suffers from the early game polish syndrome that Age of Conan suffered from. The first two zones in a tier 1 area are very well done; there are plenty of quests to be had, the PQs are spaced out nicely, and rank progression is fairly quick. There’s a decent amount of content to experience in the tier 1 areas for all races. But once in tier 2, the quests begin to dry up, PQ’s follow the same formula and can become stale, and players begin to experience a steep leveling curve.

Probably the most talked about and popular feature in WAR is the Tome of Knowledge. The Tome keeps a personal record of your journeys, battles, and accomplishments while playing WAR. Virtually anything needed to be known about your game play in WAR can be found in it. The Tome is arranged in three parts: the Introduction, Personal Journal, and the Compendium.

The Introduction has the table of contents and any new entries that have been made can be found there as well. The Personal Journal logs a player’s progression through WAR; every quest a player is currently on, every achievement and discovery can be found in the Journal. The Compendium holds information on whom or what a player has encountered during their adventures. Beasts, humanoids, and various monsters that have been encountered all have information contained within the Bestiary. There’s even a section on the History and Lore of Warhammer that gives an insightful look as to what and why the different races are at war.

WAR uses a stylized graphic style very similar to World of Warcraft and conveys the dark and gritty world of Warhammer nicely. Each zone has a unique look and feel with nice detail that keeps them from becoming stale, but character models lack the same detail seen in the environments. The user interface will look very familiar to MMO veterans, and features a nice layout editor for those who like the option to customize their UI.

Mythic has taken a page from Everquest 2 in regards to guilds and guild management. Guilds in WAR are known as Living Guilds. As players quest, participate in RvR battles and rank-up, guilds will also gain experience and increase in rank as well. Attaining new Guild ranks unlocks guild advancement rewards such as customizable Guild heraldry, Guild cloaks, Guild standards and Guild tactics.

The Ugly Side of War

It’s been two months since the release of Warhammer Online, and Mythic has continually made tweaks and fixes to the game. Many of the patches released have focused mainly on gameplay issues such as class balances, but some features that were introduced late in beta, such as the auction house and mail system, continue to be ignored. Unfortunately WAR may have been stable enough to be released, but Mythic could have used a few more months of testing to iron out the kinks and add more polish to the game.

No MMO would be complete without a crafting system, and unfortunately the crafting system in WAR is dull, unintuitive, and lacks any sort of depth. Players can choose only one of four gathering skills; Butchering, Scavenging, Cultivation and Salvaging. There are two crafting skills, Apothecary and Talisman making, and players may only choose one of those as well. Apothecary allows players to create potions and dyes, Talisman making allows players to create Talismans that can be placed in empty slots in weapons and armor.

Mythic made a big deal during beta about how they wanted crafting to be more than a grind of useless items like what can be found in some MMO’s. But what Mythic created was a crafting system that is a grind of very useless items. Crafting is made even more difficult with the lack of information both in-game and in the manual. It’s unfortunate that crafting feels little more than a tacked on feature with good ideas, but terrible execution.

One obstacle facing Mythic is the lack of originality with WAR. New MMOs will always be compared to WoW - rightfully so as it is the most popular and successful MMO of all time - and at first glance, WAR does resemble WoW in many ways. But both games differ greatly with respect to end game content, combat style and pacing and overall game focus. Where the problem lies is that most things found in Warhammer Online have been done before in Mythic’s previous MMO, Dark Age of Camelot. If you take away the Warhammer from Warhammer Online, you would be left with Dark Age of Camelot version 2.0.

Even more important than bugs or content issues facing WAR is server population; having an RvR focused game requires a large player base in order to be successful. As with many new MMOs, WAR saw a large number of subscribers at release where many players faced long waits to log into the game. Now after the first month of release, many of the servers are experiencing low population, prompting Mythic to begin allowing free server transfers for players.

Closing Comments:

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has had the smoothest and most successful launch of any MMO to date. Its source material, coupled with the games focus on Player vs Player combat, innovative features like Public Quests and the ever popular Tome of Knowledge, help make WAR a stand out in a market dominated by World of Warcraft. WAR’s lack of originality and low population are a cause for concern, but even so there is a lot of fun to be had. Warhammer Online may not be the best MMO out, but you could far worse and I highly recommend that everyone give it a try.

8.0 out of 10
 
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