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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Previews: First Look, Hands-On

By Dana Massey on April 04, 2006

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We learn about WAR in our most extensive preview ever

Editor's Note: This article is based on hands-on and demonstration time, as well as a host of presentations and one-on-one interviews during a recent three day trip to Mythic Entertainment's Fairfax, VA offices.


Mythic Entertainment’s trailer for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning set the tone. In it, an orc runs into battle looking evil as arrows whiz by his head. It’s much like many fantasy trailers. Then, the orc jumps into a catapult and is shot forward. Fantastic? Yes, but surely this will be followed by some ridiculous fight sequence.

Smack.

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The orc hits a stone wall and falls onto a pile of comrades. He clearly was not the first. From the get-go, we knew this MMORPG would be just a bit different from Dark Age of Camelot.

The weakest part of DAoC has always been atmosphere. Warhammer oozes it.

It is rich, it is vibrant, it is funny and it is more than a little bit evil. There are severed heads hanging from trees, birds eating bodies, cannons, shotguns and all sorts of foolishness.

“There is a battle going on and you’re caught up in it,” said Steve Perkins, Mythic’s Director of Marketing.

They believe firmly that player vs. player combat extends the life of a product and – if done correctly – does not limit your audience as others have claimed.

World of WarCraft hit the genre like a bomb in late 2004 and like everyone, Dark Age of Camelot took a hit, but they prepared for this. After three months, things settled down and the end result has been positive. Blizzard ripped the market open.

“It’s about going out and disrupting supply lines,” said Perkins. “It’s not about collecting seven lizard heads.”

In Warhammer Online, players can chose one of six races distributed across two alliances and three frontiers. On one side are the humans, dwarves and elves. No one in Warhammer likes each other, but these three have formed a bond out of necessity. They’re waging war against the greenskins (orcs and goblins), chaos and dark elves.

Each side starts in its own racial territory paired against a race from the opposite side. Dwarves fight greenskins, elves fight dark elves and the empire (humans) fight chaos. Players can travel between the different areas, regardless of race, and help their allies. Like Dark Age of Camelot, players cannot communicate with their enemies.

The way the battlefronts are paired is indicative of the core design difference between DAoC and WAR. Both are RvR games, but in WAR you can advance from start to finish exclusively through PvP if you like. Or, go to the end-game without ever entering RvR. Each pairing has PvP zones along the front where enemies can go to wage battle, gain experience and items (don’t worry, you cannot loot people’s stuff).

As players advance, the battles become more significant, culminating in an end-game where the outcome of battles allows sides to conquer territory and eventually – if they do well – sack their enemy’s capital city.

That is the short version of what Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning promises, but over three days at their Fairfax offices, we learned there is a lot more to it than that.

“Don’t let him say lunacy.” Paul Barnett's Self Introduction

I can honestly say Paul Barnett was not what I expected to find in Fairfax, VA. Seemingly able to channel British comedian Ricky Gervais (the star of The Office in Britain), the eccentric design manager of Mythic’s newest product brought the flavor of a comedy routine to the proceedings.

“Realize we’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your soul,” said Barnett with a straight face.

His quirkiness seems the perfect fit for an intensely British intellectual property like Warhammer, which is far from serious.

As a consultant who works for both Games Workshop and Mythic, Barnett is the person responsible for making this title a Warhammer game. That is not to say this creative force is exclusively the creature of Games Workshop. Not unlike Mark Jacobs, Paul got his start in MUDs. In the early 90s he released the Legend of Terris, an insanely popular title in Europe that made him exceedingly rich.

Rather than use that money as the seed of a software company, as Jacobs did, Barnett retired and sought answers to more important questions, like the meaning of life. Which, he insists, is simply being happy.

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