With so many MMOs currently available, it's easy for us, as gamers, to shun a title due to a few minor flaws. Being spoiled for choice has made us scathing critics, so it is a rare occasion in a gamers' career where you find yourself truly immersed in an online world.
The first time I experienced this 'feel-good' sensation was in October of 2001. Mythic Entertainment released Dark Age of Camelot, which boasted an amazing world enthralling thousands of gamers. With a 25 year old thriving Warhammer franchise fan base, it was expected that developer Mythic Entertainment, which had a demonstrated ability to develop an excellent MMO, would deliver an experience with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning to shake the very foundation of the MMO genre.
MMORPG's Michael Bitton first reviewed Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning in April of 2009, several months after the initial release. Today we take a look at the past year, and determine whether it's still worth joining the WAR .
In the beginning...
In September of 2008, Warhammer Online graced our computer screens sporting many of the features that made Dark Age of Camelot a success, as well as introducing a few new features that grabbed the interest of many gamers. These features included Realm vs Realm (PvP); Instanced PvP Scenarios, which can be queued and accessed from anywhere in-game; Public Quests, involving multiple players who would receive different grades of loot depending on a dice roll and level of contribution; Community building through rewards and experience bonuses for conquering and holding zones; And the Tome of Knowledge, a complete journal of your character's journey including a bestiary, and titles gained from completing certain tasks (some quite silly, such as 'AHHHHH' for falling to your death 25 times). The Tome was such a great addition; the idea was even borrowed by MMO mammoth World of Warcraft.
Release day came, and initially servers were so frequently overloaded, additional servers were required to meet the demand. Opponents were plentiful and the community was brimming. This was short lived though, and unfortunately many people jumped ship early due to unbalanced game play, among other things. Today, over 60 North American servers have been 'consolidated', merging all remaining players into four non-restricted public servers- Badlands, Gorfang, Iron Rock and Volkmar.
While this may sound like a bad thing (it's certainly not great), Warhammer Online is primarily a PvP (player-vs-player) title, and in order to operate needs a decently sized player base. Consolidating the servers quite possibly may have been Warhammer Online's saving grace. The good news is free character transfers have been made available for all players whose characters were on closed servers. For those of you playing on Oceanic servers, you may also find that although the Oceanic servers have closed, the North American servers always seem to have a moderate active player base throughout the day, which is a refreshing change from other titles.
Where did everybody go?
One of the main reasons people fled from Warhammer Online was due to the lack of substance to solo and PvE content- and if you've had your fingers crossed for additional content, look elsewhere. Initially, all races started in zones unique to their player class/ race; these zones were shared with opposing races and included race-specific quests and storylines. But, due to lacking player base and the vastness of the world, all new characters now start in the same location. There is an option to return to your home area, but from personal experience, I would strongly suggest against this. These areas are now desolate ghost towns, leaving you feeling lonely in a world already lacking in solo PvE content.
There are some worthwhile PvE experiences, although many still require multiple players. These are in the form of Public Quests (PQs). Several PQs are available in each zone, and are available by simply walking into the area. These quests are made up of several stages, which may include settings ships on fire, destroying houses, or simply fighting off waves of NPCs, all of which finally culminate in a boss battle. After completing a PQ, a dice roll is given and, based on your contribution, you may be awarded loot. These PQs reset every few minutes, so even if you miss out on loot, you can participate in the next round and receive a bonus roll, giving you a higher overall score.
So, you may ask "If so many factors of WAR are player dependent, what's being done to increase the population?" Well, a fair bit actually. In October 2009, a Macintosh version of Warhammer Online was released, bridging the gap between platforms and opening the world to a whole new audience. In November 2008, the marketing team over at Mythic also developed a new method for customer trials.
Abandoning the classic '10 Day Trial' period, a new 'Endless Free Trial' has been adopted, which is exactly as it sounds. There is no time limit for the trial, instead a cap at level 10- restricting you to the first Realm Tier, disallowing access to Capital Cities, and sending mail.