WAR is no Age of Conan; let's get that out of the way. From a technical standpoint, the visuals of Warhammer Online are satisfactory at best and inconsistent at worst. The game is maybe two or three steps up from Dark Age of Camelot's upgraded engine, but like World of WarCraft, WAR makes up for much of this with a lot of style and attention to detail.
The world of Warhammer Online looks just like you'd imagine it from much of Games Workshop's artwork. Similarly the characters, for the most part, look as their tabletop units do with the exception of the High Elves, as Swordmasters and White Lions should be wearing metal kilts, not dresses! The world is dripping with detail. In the Greenskin lands, you can see Dwarf skeletons (again with their beards in tact) hanging from trees. In the Empire capital city, Altdorf, dogs chase cats around, NPCs chat and conduct plays, the Bright Wizard College breathes flames into the night sky, and the Imperial Palace is lined with stained glass windows.
Unlike WoW though, the world is much darker and grittier. That isn't to say there aren't beautiful sights to behold, the skies of Saphery are truly something else. Of course, most of the Elven architecture is now in ruins, quickly reminding you that you're not in the relative calm of Azeroth but within a world in which a fiery war is being raged and there isn't a place, not even the sacred land of the High Elves, safe from the ravages of war.
Character art as a whole can be hit or miss though. The newly added Choppas and Slayers grow in size when at full rage and sport gorgeous tattoos and war paint. The White Lion's pet lion grows from a young maneless cat to a muscled, armored, full maned beast as you level up.
On the flip side, much of the itemization is pretty lacking. If your armor progression isn't lacking in visual variety (and in many cases it will), the quality of the armor is often inconsistent. Most robe items are presented in blurry or pixelated textures and dye horribly, while shoulder pieces and gloves seem to come in higher resolution textures. When these are worn together, your character looks pretty odd. These issues vary in severity, and are on a class to class basis, as some suffer more than others. The best example of this sort of inconsistency is the White Lion. The cat itself received great attention to detail, but the armor progression for the character is almost insulting. You would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a Tier 1 White Lion and a Tier 4 White Lion, with the exception of the class's end game armor set.
There are a few nagging details as well, such as the fact Shadow Warriors hold bows that neither have bowstrings, nor arrows. Character animations, too, are about as inconsistent in quality as the character art is.
The sound in Warhammer Online is a mixed bag as well; with the voice being a high point. The Orcs and Goblins spouting off all their cockney English craziness is delivered perfectly, the Dwarfs are as obnoxious as you'd expect, etc. Spell sound effects are decent, Bright Wizards really get the lion's share of great spell sound effects, but the click-and-boom of a well timed Absolution from a Witch Hunter is equally satisfying to the ears.
Unfortunately, the music in the game is either annoying or non-existent. Most of the themes you'll hear in the game repeat just about everywhere and quickly become grating, while other areas are disturbingly quiet. Mythic has apparently added more music into the game in recent patches, and much of it actually sounds quite nice, but you almost never know when or where you'll hear it.
UI / Customization:
If you've played World of WarCraft, the UI will be pretty familiar to you. Just like WoW, the UI in WAR is easily customized as well. Many mods designed for WoW have already been replicated within WAR, and the modding community is thriving. WAR does go the extra mile though with the Customize UI button. This button allows you to scale, move, hide, and dock windows, buttons and bars to your heart's desire within the game itself. The feature is quite robust and easy to use.
Customer Support through the support website works pretty well. If you PM the various community staff on the forums, they are also pretty responsive, but where customer support gets a failing mark from me is the in game customer support representatives. Don't get me wrong, they're professional and they attempt to be as helpful as they can, but the real problem is getting them to show up. I submitted a ticket for an issue and I didn't have a CSR show up for anywhere from one to two weeks later! By the time the guy showed up I'd forgotten I'd even submitted the ticket in the first place. From what I've heard from other players, this is pretty par for the course. Not necessarily a week or two later, but that the response time is pretty slow.
Performance is where WAR receives its lowest marks from me. The performance has markedly improved over the last few months, but improving from horrendous to bearable is still unjustified given the visuals. The game is easily bogged down even on excellent rigs. When I looked at screenshots of the game before I got into it, I remember reassuring myself that even though it looks like it was bleeding edge in 2003, at least it would run blazing fast. I was dead wrong.
WAR was a husk of the game it is now when it launched. Mythic has gone above and beyond in addressing the issues present within the game over the past few months and adding new content to boot. In the past few months, we've seen several large balance and bug fix patches, two new classes, a handful of new scenarios and events, and lot's more. I've played many MMOGs and I don't think I've seen any company move as fast on the issues as Mythic has. That isn't to say the game is perfect, if you've read this far I'm sure you know that already. It's important to keep in mind that Rome wasn't built in a day, and even World of WarCraft wasn't perfect at launch.
Is WAR the game it should have been at launch? No. But it is well on its way, and I would have no reservations recommending anyone still on the fence about the game to check it out now. There is a lot of fun to be had in Warhammer Online, if you're willing to deal with a few snags as well.
| Familiar, easy to get into
Focus on RvR is refreshing
Multiple leveling tracks
Tome of Knowledge rocks!
| Inconsistent/poor performance
Many lingering bugs and imbalances
RvR isn’t quite “there” yet