When Warhammer Online was first announced, many players hung on every word for classes and races. With an IP as rich as Games Workshop it was exciting to see which armies and units would make it to the battlefield. Skaven were left off the initial list as an afterthought. Who would want to play giant rats right? Well for the last two years players have been asking for Skaven. This patch they finally got their wish.
We spoke with the Warhammer team on how Skaven came into being as a playable race. Carrie Goukus, Lead Producer on Warhammer Online explained that, “Skaven are one of the overwhelmingly loved races in the game.” When creating the race to fit with Warhammer Online they looked at the Skaven army book and decided on which units work best in an online game. The units were selected in terms of their utility more than anything else. After narrowing down the choices the team decided to go with the Rat Ogre, Warlock Engineer, Packmaster, and Gutter Runner. Each class has a very distinct game play style.
In the game the team explained that Skaven had been a part of public quests and that there were small pockets of infestation around the world but nothing truly threatening. This was more of a false front as the real Skaven threat was growing under everyone’s feet. Now that they are ready to surface with mass destruction, the Skaven zone has been created. The Warhammer lore with Skaven has always been filled with weirdness and humor. I just constantly think of the “Secret of Nimh” every time I read the army book.
The Skaven being added to the PvP areas creates a new dynamic for players. The Warhammer team was quick to explain that Skaven will create new targets for groups in PvP and change the way fighting occurs. Again, the Rat Ogre was an example in that he can bust down keep doors very quickly. He also creates havoc on the battle lines allowing for other players to take advantage of opportunities. In terms of how PvP game play has been going, the team does feel that the trend has been moving toward more melee oriented play style. Initially WAR suffered from very heavy Bright Wizard groups which dominated the end game. Now it seems like melee is coming back into style and with the Skaven joining the fray they expect more options to open up for combat.
One of the issues that the team has had to tackle is allowing the Skaven to play with both factions. They are viewed as mercenaries who are taking both sides of the fight for their own benefits. The team did agree that hardcore Warhammer fans have taken issue with Skaven fighting on the same side as Dwarves or High Elves, but explained that Warhammer: Age of Reckoning remains its own time line separate from the other Warhammer stories. However you feel as a player, the bottom line is Skaven are open to all factions so that anyone can play them.
We asked when the patch was expected to go live and the team explained that they are hoping for a pre-chirstmas release. No date has been decided on, but players can log into the public test servers and check out the Skaven and how they play.
The Skaven certainly add a new element to Warhammer Online. A race of rats that is very popular among Warhammer fans finally comes into being as the first playable race since the launch of the game. One good thing is that Bioware Mythic definitely listened to their players because from the beginning of development, Skaven were being called for as a playable race. Open RvR battles will definitely change when the rats hit the battlefield giving players lots of choices and opportunities to buff both sides of the war.