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Warhammer: Age of Reckoning -- Comprehensive Review

Posted by dethgar Tuesday November 18 2008 at 9:52PM
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In 2002 Mythic Entertainment announced it was working on a new sci-fi based MMO titled, Imperator Online. On May 18th, 2005 Mythic officially canceled the project and announced their acquisition of the Warhammer Fantasy IP created by Games Workshop. Warhammer is a long time table top miniature strategy game in a high-fantasy setting. Many have tried duplicating the success of Warhammer Fantasy's table top phenomenon to no avail, including Blizzard Entertainment. In the past Games Workshop has taken a very firm stance on how its intellectual property is used, going as far as to delay and eventually cancel titles due to artistic differences. Mythic Entertainment founder, president, and CEO Mark Jacobs had a great relationship with Games Workshop and was able to achieve more leniency in terms of story and setting.

Not long after development began information was released that the still un-named Warhammer title would be featuring Mythic's Realm vs. Realm system, made popular in their only other title Dark Age of Camelot. The game was being hyped as a pvp mmorpg concrete in a true to life struggle of war. The title was officially named Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and was one of the most anticipated demos at E3 in 2006. Mythic promised to create a title that could compete in the modern market against the juggernaut known as World of Warcraft.

Looking to get a proverbial horse in the MMO race Electronic Arts purchased Mythic entertainment in 2006 and renamed it EA Mythic. To many gamers EA's involvement arose questions about the quality of the game as it reached release. EA has a history of rushed and over hyped games. Shortly before announcing the launch date, Mythic announced it would once again be referred to as Mythic Entertainment despite its ownership by EA. Not long after, Mythic announced the cut of four critical classes and cities in order to meet the release deadline. Some viewed this as yet another rush by EA while others thought it was a good decision to remove content that might otherwise be broken.

Mythic promised many things to players about gameplay and progression within WAR, most of which centered around the constant struggle between two Realms. WAR's leveling experience was promised to be a diverse blast. Public Quests that provided bonuses to your side, Scenarios that contributed to the faction power struggle, and of course the highly touted Open-World RvR, with leveling divided into “Tiers” based on character level and racial pairings.

Scenarios are set instance maps with key objectives, a point system, and game timer. Each player below the 8th level of a tier will receive a bolster buff for better competitive balance. The first side to reach 500 points, or the side with the most points at the end of the timer, wins. The winning team earns double XP and Renown, which is used to buy gear, for the match . The losers simply receive XP and Renown from their kills. Each scenario has a back story and somewhat different objective mechanics, ranging from capture the flag, multi-point king of the hill, hold the rock(my bad--bauble), and various others. This is by far the fastest way to level, win or lose.

WAR has regular quests , each with a story and objective currency, items, and XP rewards. However its most innovative PVE leveling is found in Public Quests. Areas where players openly meet and participate in the same scripted story and objective for loot, XP, and Influence which is similar to Faction Reputation in World of Warcraft. Finishing a PQ adds a very small amount to your Realm's control over that Tier. Players earn Influence by completing PQ's and is used to purchase select items and gear. Players who contribute the most to the quest are given a bonus to their roll for loot bags from a chest once the final stage is complete. Each PQ has a unique story advanced through three stages by completing objectives.

Open world RvR is contested in a specific area of the Tier, fighting for control of key points of interests(secondary objectives) and eventually keeps. Each objective is protected by NPC guards who are more or less powerful based on the amount of objectives the opposing side holds. If the opposition holds zero objectives, Keeps are guarded by champion caliber NPC's. Taking a keep is akin to a mini-raid, using some pretty interesting siege items to break through and fight the Keep Lord. The Keep Lord has four champions with him, requiring you to take on all 5 at once. The fights are typically tank and spank but are being adjusted by Mythic in order to create more of a challenge even when your army holds all other objectives.

Unfortunately every aspect of the game is but a hollow shell of what we were led to believe. Outside of Tier 4, the final areas of the game, there is little to no RvR in the open world. The rewards of participating in such are less than you would earn doing a regular series of quests, outside of renown earned. In the 8-10 minutes it takes to capture and hold an objective till it becomes locked for fifteen minutes, you earn around 2-3k experience. Aside from the reward, finding people to participate in a siege or defense is near impossible outside of grabbing your guild mates. Keep Lord fights aren't very challenging at the moment and tend to be less about strategy and more about numbers, especially considering that no one wants to defend them in the early Tiers, and would much rather flip them back over for the Renown. The rewards of controlling a Tier other than Tier 4 isn't worth the time or effort.

Public Quests end up being long grinds for minimally useful upgrades and becomes more of a competition with your allies than a unified challenge to bolster your army. Eventually people realize this and give up on them, settling for sitting in a WAR camp and queuing the same damn Scenario over and over again. The weighting for the contribution system is pretty reasonable though at times it does tend to favor damage dealers over healers. The most unsettling part of the PQ's loot disbursement is the fact that being number one in contribution means nothing other than getting an extra lump sum added to the loot roll. Meaning you can be the top contributor and get such a low roll that you receive no loot at all.

Scenarios are the very best way to level your character and obtain gear for RvR. Even if you lose all your games you'll net far more xp per hour by doing scenarios over and over than you will doing any other questing or open RvR. The down side is the utter lack of communication and constant relentless beat downs that occur due to uneven levels and human incompetence. Another major problem is map rotation. Rarely ever is a different pairing map selected for a scenario since the join all function queues them in a specific order, it is extremely rare to do a different map.

While WAR is somewhat of a step in the right direction its glaring flaws are fundamental problems with the game and there is no quick fix. Mythic has worked extremely hard fixing bugs, listening to feedback, and trying to achieve a semblance of balance since launch. Unfortunately, unless radical measures are taken to enhance the currently ignored and sometimes un-noticed features of the game, its likely that WAR will remain a niche game for people seeking an alternative to World of Warcraft.


(This review is from my perspective. If this review seems harshly negative, it isn't intended to be, it is merely a collection of my observations. If you would like to dispute anything I've said, feel free to do so in a mature and civil manner.)