Today, Mythic launched the Land of the Dead update for their MMORPG Warhammer Online. Earlier in the week, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood had the opportunity to talk to the team about it.
The launch of The Land of the Dead marks the closing of the long-lasting Call to Arms event that started with the addition of two new careers, and moved on to reveal more and more of the backstory of the Tomb Kings through live events and such. This all culminates with its launch.
In story terms, the Land of the Dead, different Tomb Kings ran a huge necromantic empire. There, they had a powerful artefact known as the Casket of Souls. In the Age of Reckoning, Destruction decided to send an expedition to the Land of the Dead to find it. Doing so woke up the Tomb King, also known as the Vulture Lord, invoking his wrath. Order got involved by sending a group down to prevent Destruction from getting the Casket.
Long story short: Destruction searches fro a powerful artefact. Order seeks to destroy the same artefact. Undead try to kill everyone.
This new update brings with it a lot of new content for players from mid tier three to tier four, including what Designer Gabe Amantangelo described as a two part dungeon. The first part is The Necropolis of Zandri, "a big sort of open field PQ and lair kind of loose dungeon crawl system and then there's the Tomb of the Lich Lord which is a traditional six man instance that has a lot of non-traditional things including traps and the ability for players to invade each other inside of instances.
Access to the dungeon zone is controlled through what Mythic is calling the Expedition Resource system. Players will earn resources via T4 zone control and player kills. Once they have enough, flight paths will open up (closing the opposition's paths).
To keep things moving, the team has built in a bit of a handicap safeguard. After about 18 hours of one team not gaining access to the zone, resources increase in value making it easier for the opposing team to gain access. They don't often expect to see this handicap brought into play, however, because a team's resources don't reset when the other side gains control meaning that no one has to start from scratch after the prize is claimed.
When possession of the zone changes hands, opposing players currently active in the zone will remain so, allowing them to reset traps and lay ambushes for their opposition. So long as characters don't respawn (meaning that if they are rezzed after death), they can stay in enemy territory indefinitely.
Traps add a new element to Warhammer Online dungeons. At least three of your group mates must make it through any given trap alive in order to disable them on the other side via three switches. These traps can then be re-enabled when an opposing expedition hits the dungeon, causing any number of headaches for the opposition.
With the full lore introduction of the land of the dead, speculation has surfaced that Mythic is working on the popular Undead army as a next possible playable race.
According to Jeff Skalski, Mythic plans to spend its next cycle of development improving on systems that are already in the game: City RvR endgame, second ramps for keeps and the like.
"We're definitely going to be stepping up some more information about what the roadmap is for the next couple of months as we get closer to our one month anniversary," answered Skalski.
Speaking specifically to the issue of the Undead as a race, Skalski was non-commital although he did say that adding a new race is something that would take a lot of effort on the part of the team, but that it isn't something they are ruling out. Quite the contrary in fact as we were told that it was something that they have talked about.
"I think," He said, "that if we were going to do additional races I don't think we'd do it like we did the Slayer and the Choppa where we just put them out there for free. I think we would tie them to maybe an expansion down the road or something like that."
So while land of the Dead has plenty of new content for T3.5 - T4 players, what does the update bring in for lower level players?
"In 1.3, we did some massive changes to the dungeon, Gunbad... it's basically a three man dungeon crawl," said Gabe. "Basically, the difficulty has drastically dropped so that the risk vs. reward is a lot better in there now and the rewards have all been adjusted in there as well."
All in all, the launch of the Land of the Dead adds just one more layer of activity to Warhammer's endgame, giving order and Destruction just one more thing to fight over.