Yeah, yeah, WAR is upon us. The juggernaut of EAMythic has been stirring for how long and soon we'll see if the hype was warranted. With North American closed beta NDA lifted (read: take the following with a grain of salt as the game is still changing), one can now scream from the highest mountain tops the following:
- Crafting in WAR, while initially full of win and delicious cake (I was excited, at least), has been nothing but a let down in-game. While not as completely useless, full of nonsense or broken like Age of Conan, crafting in WAR does absolutely nothing to bolster your game experience.
Now, what's the point of crafting? Time tested tradition dictates that crafting is a great way to make money at end game, while proving to be sometimes a money sink while leveling. For crafting to actually make you money, you need to be able to make things that people need. Sometimes games go crazy and have a bazillion gathering professions and only a few creation professions, making them dependent on one another. This causes a complicated web of crafting economy that can either fail completely on small servers or win on large ones. The thing about WAR's crafting is that it is not important nor does the economy rely on it.
After watching the developers' podcast, one couldn't help but get stoked at the idea of passive renown gain by helping aid the war-effort via crafting. I saw none of this in closed beta. A lot of people were just taking up crafting to sell stuff to the vendor for their mount. The majority found that at level 20, they were making potions for level 35. I was making level 20 potions when I was still level 10ish. Healing potions are underpowered and almost everything is completely useless. I found some use in the area-slow potions, but it was too much effort to use them during PvP or I'd forget most of the time.
What can improve crafting in WAR? We don't need some sort of complicated system like mentioned above, but simply an improvement in items, an intelligent placement of the mats needed, and actual RvR quests that ask for certain items in lieu of renown like we were first told. Another thing that needs to change is make Cultivation its own major profession (currently only Apothecary is, with Butchering, Salvaging, and Cultivation as singular lower professions) and either get rid of entirely Butchering or buff it because currently everyone is rocking Salvaging as firstly, you can skin PvP players (awesome, amirite?) and there's a higher percentage of humanoid mobs in WAR than nonhumanoid. People who take up Cultivation currently cannot get the materials needed to level as they already filled their single gathering profession. A lot of the mats they need are gathered through Butchering/Salvaging. Essentially this is one big mess but it's still early in the game so this problem can be solved through patching and further testing.
- RvR in WAR, the big attraction and rightly so. If you've hit end-game in WoW, tired of raiding, and all you do is play Arena, head over to WAR. RvR and Scenarios are so interesting in themselves, that self-imposed EXP halts are the norm between Tiers.
The first time I finished a scenario, it was like a light bulb went off. I seldom PvP in other games because I have issues with balance and credit. I usually don't like the rep/honor/reward systems because either they're confusing, poorly conceived, or completely broken. By the time I had reached the highest level for Tier 1, I was raking in high healing credits and receiving great renown for it. Yes healers, you receive full credit for healing! This adds something different to Warhammer, as now full teams can better attempt PvP without the fear of no heals. How many times have you, maybe as a melee class, rushed past a crowd of friendly ranged to pick off a running enemy only to get killed by the runner themselves? That's less of an issue in WAR because people actually heal you (given they're paying attention.)
If no one is holding back because they have no fear, PvP experiences become better, last longer, and are more fulfilling. This is how RvR and Scenarios feel like in WAR. Everyone does their job, battlefield objectives get taken, and keeps go down. Forming warbands with complete strangers isn't as horrible as it sounds as the curse-of-the-PUG becomes a slight non-issue.
Mythic has continuously strived to balance classes through closed beta and are doing a great job so far. Naturally one-on-one will always follow the same logical rules, but warbands are dynamic. Comparing all the other healing classes in Warbands, you get a good feel that each class is really unique.
- Classes in WAR, conceived safe but also it's the little differences that make a huge impression. While you might have a rogue-like class on both faction sides, they aren't completely the same so you have no idea what to expect.
During closed beta, I played three Destruction healing classes, focusing mainly on Disciple of Khaine. The idea of being a melee-based healer stroked my epeen so I was looking forward to it. While I felt I couldn't adequately heal MTs far away from the chaos of RvR (therefore forcing me to get into the battle), I had great survivability so more than half the time, I had nothing to worry about running into a large group of enemies (unless someone noticed me and I got focus fired, ocourse.) Other Destruction healing classes were ranged healers with their own unique class mechanics. Greenskin shamans need to balance their offensive and healing spells to incur buffs to either. So for every offensive spell you cast, you get one credit buff for healing (and vice versa), and as you continue to throw offensive spells, your credit gets higher. It's a see-saw battle but done right, you get incredible healing and dps results.
A lot of people moaned when they cut a few classes from the release but really, it was the best idea possible. With the current classes in a mixed atmosphere, everyone has something to contribute and everyone has their weaknesses. Surely after the game's release and solid numbers are put on the table, class imbalances might come to light but Mythic has shown a great dedication to balance (I mean, it's a game built on PvP) so tweaking will be always.
- Public Quests in WAR, take out the pressure of having to advertise for an instance/dungeon group. You're running down the road and see a bunch of people attempting a multi-stage public quest, jump right in. Depending on your contribution, you may even get loot.
The purpose of PQs in WAR is to gather reputation with that PQ's associated chapter (camps/towns in WAR are numbered chapters), at which that rep can be handed in at certain levels for set rewards. You can also win an end roll at the PQs themselves and receive a loot bag of a certain quality. Remember skipping certain quests in games because the loot was nothing you could use? All the reward tables in WAR are dynamic to your class, so there's always something you can use.
There has never been a time during PQs where the people already there have spurred me away or generally been unhelpful. Tanks will kindly tank, healers will heal, and everyone gets along. This could be possibly because the stress of PUG'ing is gone, or maybe the CB testers are nice or something. But everyone does their share in a PQ because they all want the rep. And just like in RvR/Scenarios, healers get credit for healing in PQs.
PQs consist of normally three stages (though I've come across some with even more stages), each stage progressing in difficulty. While you could probably solo a first stage yourself, you would probably need help on stage two, and a decent number of people for stage three which prevents the uneven solo farming of PQs. The developers were smart enough to insert quests that overlap with the area of the PQ, so while you're there doing your quest, you'll be more likely to be sucked into helping the PQ if there are already people there.
PQs are quick and fun, and definitely repeatable. And because they're in open space, you can walk away at any time and go do something else. Try to do that on a dungeon run or a regular grouped quest and people will yell at you and maybe blacklist you from the server, heh.
- Other things in WAR, yes there are closed dungeons, gear customization, capital city RvR, siege weapons, guilds, and mounts.
Siege weapons can be used at special pads littered around keeps and inside them to aid in taking the objective. Defensive teams can use oil to protect their keep door, offensive teams can use battering rams and catapults to take down the door and enemies. Siege weapons are working as intended currently and I haven't ran into any issues with them.
Mounts are attainable at level 20. As of this writing, the price was steep but not impossible. I had my mount at 21 even though I was spending money on dying my gear and etc. The speed increase is noticeable but not as much as you would probably like considering how large RvR lakes sometimes are. After you purchase your mount, basically all your income thereafter is free to be used however you like.
Gear customization is not yet totally awesome in WAR but it's getting there. You can dye your gear at any non-warcamp merchant and usually each piece of gear has two dyable sections so you can mix and match colours. Also a part of WAR is the trophies. Trophies are little doo-dads you get from various quests, Tome unlocks, and other such things that can be placed on your person with placement options built right in. There are a few other things in the works, but I don't know enough details about them to share.
Guilds! Guilds are awesome! WAR, being RvR based, really isn't the game to be guildless in (power in numbers, you know.) But being in a guild has so many perks that even if you hate your guildmates, you won't care because the guild standards, guild lounge, and other things are so crazy helpful that it doesn't matter. Guild standards can be used even outside of your guild in regular PUG Warbands, so later on when guilds make alliances (which they can in WAR), everyone can arrange their standards in advance to achieve maximum effect. Having a guild lounge is like having a hearthstone/recall spell that's never on cooldown. From the guild lounge, there's a merchant that sells all the things you'd need for crafting or whatnot and a flight path that can take you where you need to be. The guild pit recall scrolls are cheap enough that you can stock up on them and never get stuck in the middle of nowhere. They also provide a quick route to wherever the RvR action is occurring.
What to gather from all of this?
Warhammer is on its way to launch soon (Sept. 18). My overwhelming feeling is that the RvR and PQ experiences will temporarily make up for the short-comings of the crafting system which hopefully get fixed as soon as possible. There's nothing incredibly wrong with the crafting system (it works at least), but there's no incentive. Classes are looking good currently, scenarios are being balanced and the RvR lakes are perfect as is. There are no gaping holes in the PvE experience, the code for WAR has been improving greatly over closed beta and a lot of the technical things that were going on (getting stuck on things, floating NPCs, client crashing to desktop, etc) have been solved at least on my end.
One cannot help but compare this upcoming release to Age of Conan and gloat. We won't know until head start and then the official release how stable things are, how people react to game mechanics, and if people feel like this is a decently completed game that has successfully finished beta. If you put a hundred monkeys in a room, surely something is bound to break so a few thousand players all at once is unpredictable. Mythic has been stress testing the servers for a while now and are generally concerned about lag, especially in large scale RvR.
If Funcom is that insensitive boyfriend who never listens and hangs out late with his friends without calling, Mythic is your emotional tampon feeding you bonbons, absorbing as many suggestions and input as humanly possible. We will see.
Further reading taken from the MMORPG forums:
Player speaks of boring classes and bland graphics. (FYI: Graphics have been toned down for closed beta testers, final client's graphics will be hard to predict though reasonable graphics quality is incredibly important when you have more than 40 players on one screen imo.)
Calls for queued abilities like in DAoC, which is currently not enabled in WAR. Thread brings to question the issue of lag and UI response.