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An Honestly Honest Look at Warhammer

One devoted follower's gripes and praise for the upcoming MMO

Author: semajin

An Honestly Honest Look at Warhammer Online

Posted by semajin Monday August 25 2008 at 4:35PM
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Let me preface this short entry with a bit of a history, not the normal boring type, but my personal history. I have been playing MMO's for about as long as they have been around (we called them MUDs back in the day), and there isn't a mainstream game on the market that hasn't gotten at least a little bit of money from me. One of my greatest experiences to date with a MMO, out of the sea of titles I could rail off, has been with Dark Ages of Camelot. So believe me when I tell you, I truly wanted to love you Warhammer.

GRAPHICS:  I don't expect, nor do I wish or ask for cutting edge. Too often it slows down my average computer, and there hasn't been MMOs out there who found a happy medium between performance and flash. Warhammer Online will not wow you with it's looks, in fact it threatens to underwhelm. Beginning with the bland character models at startup, and continuing throughout with sub-par animation for both the environment and combat effects, Warhammer's aesthetic seems to belong to world of gaming past. The upside? It will most likely run very efficiently on your machine (that is once they have the bugs ironed out).

PvE GAMEPLAY: Much like it's older sibling Dark Ages of Camelot, Warhammer Online's PvE content is a vehicle. It will provide the middle-of-the-roaders with a good bit of meat, fairly cookie-cutter quests, and one shining innovation. I speak, of course, of the new "Public Quest" system. Very early on (earlier for some races than others) you will be given a quest that will take you in the vicinity of one of these areas. The "Public Quest" will entice you in with groups of your neighbors running around, taking out mini-objectives, all trying to finish and contribute the most. Each one of these PQs has a "boss" monster suitable for it's setting, and just hard enough to give you a challenge without overwhelming. A helpful addition for you social junkies, the group seeking system for Warhammer Online makes it extremely easy to be part of a crowd. Normally a lone wolf type myself, I found grouping in Warhammer to be a pleasantly easy experience.

RvR GAMEPLAY: To the heart of Warhammer Online's being, it's identifying characteristic, and a lion's share of the time I spent this past weekend. The Realm combat is divided in to subgroups: Scenario, Battlefield, and Open. The Scenario combat is different for each of the three starting areas per Realm. I spent most of my preview weekend doing the Khaine's Altar scenario. If, like so many, you have played WoW and been part of the scenario PvP that it offers, you will feel right at home. There are some noticeable differences, though mostly they emerge in the form of type of objective to be captured, rather than any true digression from the tried and true. The Scenario RvR is simply a game of capture and hold, and then of course trying to take the other guys objective. Battlefield RvR (specifically The Shadowlands area) was, for me, the closest that the RvR ever came to reaching the level Dark Ages of Camelot achieved. The combat was fast paced, the siege equipment has been well implemented, and the distinctive roles that each class plays were put on display. I can't say much for Open RvR, because I never saw much. Once the game releases and higher level areas are accessible, I anticipate that it will run much like that of DAoC.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:  Again, nothing new here, but a style of development that I think lends itself to a Player vs. Player environment. You have minimal control over how your character will progress regarding his stats (one of my pet peeves), and don't expect a huge number of similar skills. When you get that fireball as a bright wizard or the quick slash with your Disciple of Khaine, it will grow in power as you do, removing the need for upgraded skills every few levels. Instead, each skill you do get will have a specific use. The only thing that will seperate your character from every other guy with the same class, aside from equipment of course, is how you spend the upgrade points you get every level from 11 and up. There are three trees to invest in, each improving specific abilities, while offering benchmark abilities for spending certain numbers of points.

THE BAD NEWS: First and foremost, let's get one thing straight. There isn't much that is new or innovative about this game, with the exception of the Public Quests and the ridiculously easy grouping button. Every aspect of Warhammer Online has been done, and done better at some point. The RvR is good, but Dark Ages had it beat hands down, the PvE content is nothing special at all, and the character developement is more an afterthought. Combat is cumbersome at times, especially as a melee class, where you will find yourself mashing down the button for your basic attack almost ceaselessly, while peppering in a special ability here and there. There is no skill queue, meaning you can't start casting that fireball and click on the next skill you want to go off, you have to wait until after the fireball has been cast and the button has cleared. This leads to a screen that is constantly bombarded by the message "ABILITY NOT READY", especially during an intense fight. The looting system for the Public Quests also left me with a bad taste (you gain a bonus to your roll depending on how much you contribute), there were a few times I was number one on the list and left empty handed, because they made the rolling between 1 and 1000, there is a good chance that some freeloader who did virtually nothing will end up with the spoils of your hard work.

FINAL WORD: Keep in mind, these are the impressions I had after playing the Preview Weekend, and do not neccessarily represent the finished product. Though Warhammer Online may not be groundbreaking, it does bring together the common elements in a very entertaining way, just don't expect too much.