You can never go home again but in MMORPGs you can sometimes visit. I recently took a trip back to the year 2008 in Warhammer Return of Reckoning the fan made Warhammer Age of Reckoning emulator. Unsurprisingly a game that was full of mixed emotions upon its launch triggered another mixture of emotions upon its resurrection.
(Editor's Note: We've loosened our strict stance on discussing emulated servers for dead games, and that's why we decided to let Tim run this piece on Return of Reckoning here at MMORPG.com. If EA doesn't seem to care about it, then it's fair game for us to cover we wager.)
Upon casting res the first thing I noticed was the obvious, how the graphics had aged. Textures simply weren’t as sharp as they were 10 years ago but overall it holds up pretty well. As I scrolled through all of the races and classes I began to feel the rush I got so many years ago. At the time, and even now, this game had fantastic character models. My beloved green skins looked as awesome as ever, but it was hard to see them clearly due to the water coming from my eyes. I assume it was an allergic reaction caused by the dust on my PC…
Even back then creation never had as many options as I would have preferred but the developers maximized the options they gave us. Contrasted with the cleaner friendly World of Warcraft, WAR stood out as a grittier less civilized affair - exactly like a PVP game should! It appeared every race and class, especially on the Chaos side, was crafted with love and fandom. That realization was when the first ping of sadness hit me. In a gaming world of generic games with generic characters it was nice to see such effort put in to make each race and class look unique. Happy with my creation it was time to play!
I loaded into the game, queued for the PVP battlegrounds and headed off to grind some NPCs while I waited. My run slowed to a halt as I looked around. A chill began to creep up my spine. Most NPCs stood around like lifeless statues until attacked. A second wave of sorrow washed over me. Like Pompeii after the ashes were lifted this game which was once so full of life had become a time capsule and I a time traveling tourist.
Long dead but alive, it was still and everything in it had been preserved. I was exactly where I was ten years ago, it looked the same, but the emptiness added weight to the emotions I was feeling. The ironic stillness was making me slightly uncomfortable. This is how they all die isn’t it? Empty vessels preserving a brief moment in gaming history. Age and time and a sense of longing for what was and what will never be again. There was a metaphor here, but I refused to acknowledge it, instead I ran from it! I first came to MMORPGs for escapism and I refused to let this trip be any different! Fortunately, my PVP battleground pinged.
In another bit of irony, the PVP instances that contributed to the death of the game were now it’s last vestige of survival. While the main game world was jarring for its stillness, the battlegrounds could not have felt more alive. Just as before this was where the majority of the game was played. It was as if no time had passed. Same PVP, different day...ten years later. The combat felt as good as it ever did.
It was during these sessions that I would lose myself as I got caught up in the battle only to be snapped back to reality when I loaded into the game world after its conclusion. I would re-que as fast as possible both to get another PVP fix and to escape the loneliness beyond the instances. It was as strange a contrast as I’ve felt in a game and vaguely familiar as it was exactly how I remembered Warhammer feeling not long after launch.
If I keep coming back maybe I would seek out a guild? Return of Reckoning has a small but dedicated base of a few hundred players with over a thousand during peak times. Besides PVP in Warhammer is still more fun than in most of the MMORPGs released since! That realization punched me in the gut. To find some good PVP I’m going back ten years! Our genre might be the one that needs the res if it doesn’t produce something decent soon.
The end of the night left me feeling a mixture of satisfied, entertained and sad as I longed for what was and imagined what could have been with just a little more time and a third faction. Creating my old characters and even using some of my old names was wonderful. I smiled every time one of them loaded. I liked to alt before, but Warhammer made me an addict. I can’t think of a game since that made so many classes so much fun. I found myself wanting to try all of them again. Last but not least the PVP, oh how I’ve missed some complex, tab based PVP. It was as refreshing as it was exhilarating.
Warhammer was as I remembered it, fantastic characters, great classes and fun PVP. The last thing I felt at the end of my time with Return of Reckoning was fortunate. I was fortunate that I was a MMORPG-er because MMORPG fans are something special. We take our fandom to another level; how many other fans would rebuild a game they loved? I was fortunate that Warhammer had those kinds of fans. Because of them I was provided the opportunity to go back ten years and experience something I never thought I’d feel again.