Carolyn Koh's Thoughts:
Fast, furious and fun. That about describes the short hands-on time I had with Wrath of Heroes over the last weekend. I’d received the beta invite and missed the first beta session because I work on the West Coast and they were testing on East Coast time but I had two hours with it the next day. I logged in knowing that Bioware-Mythic were really just testing the gameplay and balance on the characters already in game. No tutorial or cheat-sheets were available, although some tool-tips – such as the commands for chatting to your war band and setting radio buttons which also had accompanying dings to gain quick attention during the hectic combat. Some quick clicking around and experimenting and I found out how to chat in the lobby, look over the characters, moused over their skills for a description and I joined a random battle. Big red button. Couldn’t miss that. Then it was a lot of trial and error as I tested the various characters out.
My first group were all noobs too luckily enough, and we all fumbled around together, getting killed, trying to figure out what we had to do – which was actually pretty simple. We were on a three-way map in a tree-way battle, so each color group – Orange, Green and Blue spawned in between the three flags and there was the center to capture as well. We found out quickly, between dying, that we needed a flag captured to capture the center. We chatted about the characters, died, tried different characters, died, chatted some more, died and died again until the game was won by one of the other teams.
That first game gave me a quick understanding of how the game worked. For this kind of fast action, forget about using the WASD keys to move, you’re using the mouse to move and the other hand to depress hotkeys to fire off your skills and do some damage. All the characters available were those shown at PAX and in the short two hour session, I didn’t get to play all of them, but quickly moved from the melee (I so sucked) and ranged DPS to my favored finger-waggly classes, then the fun began and I stuck with what I was good at, the mage and the necro (vampire).
Every character has similar type skills (I didn’t get to the healer before the two hour session was over). A spammable skill, like the fast firing fireball for the mage and the fast firing bow for the ranger, a single target snare and a group snare, with two more providing the flavor for that particular class.
To capture a flag or the center, you had to have enough members of the team in close proximity for a short amount of time to capture it. Perfect for a mage to cast a group snare with rain of fire and for the rest of an opposing group to pile on in. I was in my element, raining fire and throwing balls of fire, but dying really fast if I got stunned or snared and pounded on by the heavy hitters, but I really liked the heavy damage and seeing my kill score go up. As long as I protected my healers, I was in fat city.
Nethys, the vampire was a different kind of gal though, and everything she did, she drew life from, which in the whole scheme of things meant a lot less death, and there was a little more nuanced play with her. With her, I actually went after the mages and healers.
All in all, I didn’t get in a lot of time, but the game was exactly as promised, fast, fun and furious, each round completed in 20 minutes then it was back to the lobby to talk and learn. For the experienced MMO or MOBA player, the learning curve is short of the “how to play” aspect of the game, the “mastering” may take a little longer, especially with characters that may offer a little more nuanced play. If I had a regular war band to play with, this game could really rock.
Bill Murphy’s Take
I don’t have too terribly much to add to Carolyn’s overview. I spent most of the weekend as Korith Deathbringer, the pointy-eared elf with a nasty bow. Not exactly my first choice, but once I got a feel for his ranged DPS, I couldn’t stop. During the recent PAX Panel, we were told Korith was really dangerous, and that’s the truth. I spend each match taking down healers from afar, though often enough I had to run and watch my ass as Korelei the dark elf came screaming at me and she can slice you up but good. She can dodge my attacks like no other, and it’s not uncommon to see her pop up on the field should there be one or two Koriths around.
This is the thing about Wrath of Heroes: it’s Warhammer in the art and name only. Having all these races fighting on the same side is ludicrous, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Like SMITE from Hi-Rez Studios, the MMO combat makes things much more fast-paced and frenetic than your normal MOBA. And while SMITE seems to have more strategy at this point, Wrath of Heroes wins in the area of pure maniacal and quick action. The matches last no longer than a normal Scenario in WAR would, and though the heroes don’t level, your account does and you’ll get points to spend on additional tactics to buff your account out.
This isn’t a game about building characters and playing in a world… it’s the kind of game you’d pick up if you just wanted to log in and bash heads for a few minutes. And it’s quite good at that. I’m anxious to see what layers they can add onto the game to make it more compelling in the long term, but for now I’m pleased to report that it’s quite fun, quite hilarious, and pretty addictive. Is it Warhammer? Not really, but I’ll be damned if it’s not a hoot.