Warhammer: Odyssey has “soft-launched” this week on Android and iOS. In the echo chamber of repetitive, sleep-inducing, auto-play mobile games, Warhammer: Odyssey (W:O) takes a mild departure into the mobile realm as an authentic, traditional MMORPG experience. With success all but guaranteed, W:O stops short of one major victory, convincing PC MMORPG players that mobile is the genre's savior.
When I was younger, I used to work for a high-profile lawyer as an IT consultant. When anything conceivably went wrong, or something didn’t work, he would turn to me in anger and say something like, “It’s 2005, can’t we get a monitor that works?” That line comes back to haunt me from time to time, as the world of gaming continues to turn, but we see the same genres playing the same tune. As an avid mobile gamer that spends a considerable number of hours weekly devoted to several mobile MOG’s and MMORPG’s, I’ve asked myself more than once this year, “It’s 2021, can’t we finally get a mobile MMORPG that actually feels like an MMORPG?”
There are mobile MMORPG’s on the market right now that are objectively good games. I’m not going to foul anyone’s fun if they enjoy Black Desert Mobile or A3: Still Alive and the auto-play, gender-locked, mobile money-making machines they’ve become. These games have good graphics, streamlined questing, and plenty of updates. For those expecting a traditional MMORPG experience from the horde of games on Google Play or Apple’s App Store, you’ll be hard pressed to ever find it without spending excessive hours sifting through MMORPG facsimiles.
Warhammer: Odyssey is not one of those games. From the moment you log in and create your character (albeit with very limited customization options) the lack of gender-locked classes is a welcome departure, but the first few minutes of questing breathes a genuine feel of an MMORPG experience. After more than a dozen hours in-game, I’ve quested in groups with other players, attacked 3 and 4 skull enemies to save others (the higher the skulls the more difficult the enemy), and I actually played the game the entire time – it didn’t play itself.
I chose my gear drops, planned my character’s development path, and sparked up a few local chats with players requesting help because their armor was broken and they couldn’t kill the quest enemies alone. Every moment I set out on an adventure on my Dwarf Engineer, I would pass by dozens of players. The classes have both the look and feel of the Order faction in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning that I came to love, like the Warrior Priest. I enjoyed the game enough to put a little real-world coin down and expand my bag space which I’m certain will become a necessary upgrade, as 20 bag slots just isn’t enough, even at a paltry level 15.
As a traditional MMORPG gamer, the style and gameplay ring true. Objectively, questing may be a little bland, and the class builds, while more diverse than most mobile MMORPG’s, are still too narrow for any extensive build diversity at this stage in development. Despite some early shortcomings, like performance hitches, W:O is actually a really good, authentic, true-to-feel MMORPG, for mobile. Yet here we stand, with the caveat that kills – “It’s a good MMORPG, for mobile.” In 2021, is it fair to say that an MMORPG is good, simply because the vast competition it finds itself contending against could barely be considered MMORPG’s in a traditional sense at all?
Relative “goodness” may dictate W:O’s immediate success, and there is little doubt that the game will prosper monetarily, especially when the “soft-launch” transitions into something worth advertising for. We as pilgrims of our genre, settling the MMORPG worlds over the past 2 decades that led to the massive boom that brought us to where we are today, can’t be bought by something being relatively good, when there are still MMORPG’s in the PC market that are (arguably) good on any platform. Developers can dress up some of these pretty-princess-pigs like Black Desert Mobile or Lineage 2 Revolution under assumptions that they’re bringing the same quality and value as their PC counterparts to mobile platforms, but for many of us they fail to validate that stance.
The problem is, those mobile play-a-likes bring home the bacon. Mounds and mounds of fat-back bacon, despite the lack of a traditional, genuine MMORPG feel. The big winners of this story are accessibility and microtransactions. Mobile MMORPG’s of the past several years have proven it’s easy to turn off your brains, give your thumbs a rest with auto-play, and spend your way to your desired results. Because of that, when a game like Warhammer: Odyssey does show up, and brandishes its relative “goodness” with direct ties to the more traditional MMORPG formula we’ve grown to love, it actually does matter.
I’ll keep playing W:O for the foreseeable future. Whether I’m lying-in bed, or on the go, I enjoy grouping and questing, and my Engineer is just starting to get good, while my Witch Hunter still needs some work. W:O, if it launched on PC today, probably would have gotten the same treatment as Bless Online received from me upon its launch, and eventual shutdown. However, as a mobile game, making the most of its chosen platform, W:O is actually pretty good. It’s strange how the perception of a game based on the platform it’s on can change your perspective. I guess, in the end, just getting a traditional MMORPG feel on a mobile device is enough after all. At least, for now.