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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Previews: Land of the Dead Hands-On Preview

By Dana Massey on May 12, 2009

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The non-traditional content didn’t stop once the pyramid door came down. This large dungeon not only has monsters to fight, but traps and puzzles to figure out. Very early on, players must navigate a hallway full of swinging pendulums. Take a step too far? Death. Take a step too fast? Death. To disable it, three players must make it through and flick switches so the rest can pass.

Later on, in an Indian Jones moment, a giant swarm of locust will chase players rapidly down some narrow hallways. As if that wasn’t bad enough, as the players run, skeletons reach up from the ground and grab at feet. This isn’t a root though. The only way to save the player is for a group mate to go back and help them, in a mechanic not unlike what players must do in Left 4 Dead.

Even the final encounter of the Land of the Dead feels far more like something out of God of War than an MMO. A giant statue of the undead ruler of the realm comes alive as a weary group leaves the pyramid conquered and comes down, fists a flailing, to smash the party below. It requires a War Band to complete, but players must quick run to avoid getting smashed by the fists as they wail away at the ground below, and then dive in to get some hits in quickly, before the statue raises them out of reach. After enough damage is done, the players can then run right up the arm and slay the statue by attacking a soft spot on the back of his neck.

For purists, there is good news and bad news. This content is really only in the Land of the Dead, which is ultimately an entirely optional experience for players. However, according to the team, this is entirely representative of how they plan to do content in the future.

For those into something new that requires players to be a bit more on their toes, this content should be a breath of fresh air, but will have to tide you over for a while yet, as there is no practical way to retrofit this style of content into the core game. It’ll come, eventually, but naturally that depends on fan response and development schedules.

Purge Mode

While much of this is PvE content, it wouldn’t be Warhammer if RvR didn’t have a hand in it. As mentioned before, when the zone first flips, the invading realm enters what they’re calling a Purge.

This is a series of missions to rid the Land of the Dead of anyone from the enemy realm. Among other things, they can destroy the opposing NPC base and any players in it, shoot down the giant airships that brought the opposition there in the first place, and slaughter players as they go about their PQs and more.

But it really doesn’t get super interesting until the pyramid itself comes into play.

Naturally, at the time of any switch, players are likely to be in the middle of an instance. They’re told that their realm has lost control, but they are not booted out. Instead, it just means that if anyone hits the respawn button, they must start back in their own realm, although resurrection is still allowed.

Now, they must make a decision. They can either give up and go home (not likely, eh?), dig in and defend, or try and get through to the end of the pyramid before anyone catches up to them. See, while this was previously a private instance, invading groups are allowed to either enter the pyramid in regular PvE fashion, or invade someone else’s instance. This means a new group, a group that can respawn, comes in the front door and is hot on the heels of the original group.

Remember those traps from earlier? Well, a smart group uses this to their advantage. They’ve spent the time to get through them all, so they can now go back and reset them all so that the invaders are delayed. Beyond knowing that the enemy is present, the groups know nothing.

A coordinated and efficient group can make life miserable for the attacking hoard and with a bit of skill complete the pyramid and kill lots of enemies as they do it.

Obviously, attrition is an issue and eventually the invaders are likely to chase off their opponents, but players don’t seem likely to make it easy on each other. Although, players are also fully allowed to log off and on, regardless of who controls an area. Many of the assembled press already had plans to hide stealth classes near the switches to various traps so that they could login and flick them at just the right moment to wipe out entire groups.

With the zone intended to flip roughly twice a night (every four hours or so), it is entirely possible (and likely) that well run group could fight off enemies and survive until their realm takes it back. In an instant, the hunted can become the hunters.

To Control The Land of the Dead

Mythic has gone to great lengths to ensure that neither side dominates the zone and the rewards within. To make sure there is a good back and forth, even on the most lopsided servers, they’ve done a few things.

At its core, this is a race. Whichever team reaches the number of points required to flip the zone first wins the round and gets the zone. However, they’ve set it up so that while the winning team’s score resets once they’ve taken on the quest to the Land of the Dead, the losing team doesn’t suffer any such reset. In short, the more times in a row one side wins, the harder it is for them to keep it up.

There is also a natural balance at play here. If one side is winning the Tier 4 land war and controls the Land of the Dead, more of their top players are likely to bleed off into the sands. That means more opportunities for the opposition on the ground to not only flip the land, but turn the tide of the war.

They’ve also made the contributors to those score amplified the longer a side fails, as a handicap of sorts. The want to make sure both sides get to experience the content and have a regular stream or purge scenarios, which is one of the things they are most excited about.

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