Warhammer Online: My Early Experience in the Blighted Isle
MMORPG.com Warhammer Online Correspondent Bao Huynh writes this editorial discussing his experiences with the first four camps on the Blighted Isle in Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online.
For every MMORPG that gets released, there has always been the role playing game element of starting your character out in a lowbie area. In these lowbie areas, doing small things with a very small arsenal of offensive weapons became the norm since the release of EverQuest (I did not include UO since it was not a level based system). In Neriak (a Dark Elf starting zone in EQ), you started off fighting bugs and spiders progressing your way to more enthralling mobs. I've seen this evolve through the years from games like EQ where fighting noobie mobs took a good amount of time for a character to get to the good graphical looking mobs. Sometimes it would take weeks to get out of a noobie area like this setting in EQ. I can still hear the obsessive clicking sounds of the bugs crawling around Neriak due to long amounts of time it took to get out of those areas.
However, in WAR, as things remain somewhat the same in beginning areas, there are some distinctions in lowbie area game play. With the evolution of MMOs using quests to level (vs. mob grinding), WAR has also adapted this style of play, though the mechanics are not revolutionary per say. Although, I've noticed much more of an immersive world right at the start of the game. Yes there were the a-typical lowbie mobs to fight, but WAR also did a good job bringing the experienced player into fights that were not reminiscent of starting areas in other MMORPGs.
I've decided to explain the first four camps one would encounter in the Blighted Isle. Since I used Neriak as a good example of how it would be starting out as a noobie Dark Elf back in the day, we could all use the Dark Elves' Blighted Isle to see how it stacks up to games like EQ and other MMORPGs that used their own techniques on what would make an enjoyable experience to captivate gaming audiences early on. I've always felt early levels were important since MMO companies would usually need to captivate their audiences quickly. The players not captivated early on are known to have very short attention spans and usually fret on continuing to pay after the industry standard free 30 days of play that are included with the initial purchase of the title's software.
Once again I would like to remind all of you that this is my take on the how the game is played only in the Blighted Isles' early ranks and first four camps one would run into. I used a Dark Elf Sorcerer (soloing for the most part) to start the leveling process. I would also like to add that you are not forced to play out your character in any given starting area that Mythic has chosen for a given race. If you play a Dark Elf and really do not like the Blighted Isle, you could take a flight path (near a WAR camp) to another starting area and progress through those zones. For the sake of getting my point across, I will simply report on how I played through the first four camps and how it felt naturally. The path I took entails not overdoing any single method of leveling. I am merely going to go with the flow on how the game moved me from spot-to-spot and how certain things, whether aggravating or not, drove my character to level. Certain quests were skipped among other things, but this was my natural progression through the game. Without doing too much research on which was the "fastest" to level or being too overly obsessed with doing "all" of the quests in a given area, I decided to dive right in. There are many ways to level in WAR. You could RvR, Quest, run Public Quests, or do all three. To which magnitude you choose in either option of leveling is one of the many great joys of Mythic Entertainment's WAR.
I started off my journey after being logged in to the Blighted Isle instantly facing an NPC. Right in the beginning, you are given a few experience points for discovering the Narthain Beach and unlocking the Dark Elf Prologue. You also unlock Dark Elf Chapter 1 (story line regarding Public Quests) which gives you some experience. This NPC already has a few quests ready to be run. You can press "M" for map and see where to go for the quest outlined in a red circle. The first quest (Blood Feud) is rather easy. You go and kill 4 sea guards. After the quest is done you can once again press "M" to see where you need to go to hand in the quest.
The second quest (The Joys of War) is rather different. In this quest you click on the Dark Elf Bolt Thrower (Catapult). You then enter a first person shooter mode in this catapult and shoot bolts at baddies to finish the quest. This perhaps gives the user a taste of how siege weapons work. The third quest is called Lingering Darkness. You have to kill Dark Sprites which are wimpy little flies that remind me of EQ's lowbie quests found in the wood elven zones. These mobs were actually the only thing that reminded me that I was a lowbie. It seemed every quest after this specific one made me feel like I was in the thick of an important battle and made running quests an enjoyable experience. The few other quests that remained in this camp were easily done and all of this added up advancing your character to rank 2.
The quests of course led me to my second camp in Black Ark Landing. After running up a pretty long hill, I found myself in front of a nice-sized camp and started adding quests to my quest log. I ran a few basic kill quests and had no trouble once again doing all of the quests with the quest UI making it extremely easy for me to keep track of everything. The camp and quests were pretty much laid out in a nice fashion. I also found my first Scenario (RvR) quest here. You can join a queue to join this scenario and possibly start racking up some renown points in these RvR objective-based instances. I joined the scenario after waiting only 3 minutes in queue and followed the masses to pwn a little face.
In the scenario, there were objectives for flag capturing, but I mainly was just focused on doing some damage to the closest enemy I could find. I know some people that sat in there for hours running the same scenario over and over. After being in there a few minutes and killing enough enemies to satisfy my thirst for smashing heads, I decided to get out and start PvE questing again. It is important to note again that I had a choice in how I would like to spend my time gaining ranks (Whether PvE ranks or Renown RvR ranks). My choice at this point in time was to work toward the third camp.
Wandering the Blighted Isle, I quickly discovered the Ruins of Narthain. Upon taking the first quest available in this third camp, you stumble upon the first PQ (Public Quest = anyone near the quest area can partake in the quest and work together at any given point of time) of the zone. In this PQ, you kill an amazing number of NPCs only to be left to kill the boss character. There are actually three stages to each PQ, ramping up in difficulty until the final "boss" of stage three. This is where I first noticed WAR separating itself from past MMOs regarding noobie mobs. The boss of this PQ is anything but a tiny rat or bug. Whether joining the PQ in the beginning, middle or the end stages, it was a nice way to roll into some serious action without dealing with the challenges of getting a group together to do something collective. The system for giving out loot in the PQ is simple: Players earn points for their contributions during the PQ. At the end of the PQ, the system rolls a random number of points for each player. This is added to that player's earned points to arrive at the tiered winners. The biggest winners in the PQ win loot. I ran this PQ several times to fill up my influence bar (influence is gained through PQs, and leads to special rewards). This way I could get the maximum number of rewards from the Rally Master (RM sets your recall home and also gives you influence point rewards for doing PQs). This also opened up new quests from the Rally Master. The few other quests in the camp were item finding quests along with some normal kill mob quests. All quests here seem to immerse you in the world with NPC activity along with the mobs you need to kill. The quests so far did not seem like a boring grind to get to the fun content. These quests early on mostly gave me the impression that I was always in the middle of exciting content. So far, WAR was in contrast to previous MMORPGs I played that would normally take on the RPG style of making noobs really feel like weaklings.
The fourth camp is located in Mistwood. I like this camp a lot because of the area and how it was graphically laid out. At this camp you can also begin training some crafting skills. There are a number of quests here, and of course, some quests lead into PQ areas. The first PQ I stumbled upon here was Nimosar, a Chapter 2 Dark ELF PQ. To me this PQ did not flow well. It is based inside of a gate-like structure around buildings. Everyone seemed to run around in circles and I had a tough time finding mobs I needed to kill for the quest I had in the area. Perhaps it was just overcrowded and it caused too much confusion. I skipped it as I knew I could always come back for more before I left this camp.
Doing more quests in Mistwood led me to another Chapter 2 PQ called Mistwood Grove. The setting was very dark and gloomy and really set the tone for being a Dark Elf. This PQ however seemed much more efficient and the objective of killing 75 sprites was clear enough. The fact that the PQ took place in such a large area still enabled people (in groups or solo) to get credit for influence points. The next stage of this led to killing 8 Venombough Dyrads and then of course leading to the Boss mobs. What this PQ really offered, was an option for players who really do like to grind on occasion as the PQ was rather long and involved a lot of mob killing. I ran this PQ four times before getting back to the normal questing grind. Although most of the PQs had similar themes of kill and smash, this one really took a decent amount of time to finish because the large area the PQ took place in. I really enjoyed this one.
Upon starting to move further south to the fifth camp, I encountered another Chapter 2 PQ, The Watch Tower. This is where I ended my WAR Correspondent journey and would suggest you surround yourself with a nice fat group for this specific PQ!
Starting out in the Blighted Isle really offered a nice variety of how to advance your character. I would assume other starting areas would offer the same experience. Even at low levels, WAR gives you a sense that there is indeed war going on everywhere. Mythic has been able to immerse you into the thick of battle and role-play of their massive world. Even at only four camps into the Blighted Isle, I indeed felt like I was a powerful character ready for action in RvR/PvE at level one. It did not feel like I was doing noobie work before getting to the uber cool content like in past MMORPGs that I have played. At four camps I barely got my feet wet, yet WAR distinguished itself just enough from previous MMORPGs that I knew I'd be back for more killing and smashing only to see what lies ahead.