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Mythic's Warhammer continues to grow and Garrett Fuller finds out more

Warhammer Online has only been in full scale development for eight months, but the excitement surrounding the game cannot be ignored. The people at Mythic showed us some of the combat system, quest, PvP elements and much more.

Much of what Mythic had to say was covered in our pre-E3 hands-on preview, but during our demo with the team, we caught a glimpse of a more focused scenario.

Warhammer is a dark world with grim storylines, but most of all it does not take itself seriously and adds great humor to the game. With a strong IP on their hands, Mythic has the chance to create an MMO that will capture the brutal silliness of the tabletop game.

The greenskin racial pairing consists of Orcs and Goblins; or Gobbos to use the Warhammer lingo. Goblin players can be Shamans and Squig Herders, while the Orcs get to be Warbosses (name pending), a traditional heavy tank class; or Battlers, a damage dealing class that wears lighter armor and can carry two choppas. At this stage of development, Orcs can also be Shamans and Goblins can be Battlers, but all of this could change. If you know the lore, the fighting classes and shaman are not too hard to understand.

The Squig Herder is not nearly so simple. Tenatively, the plan is for the gobbo to be able to call forth squigs (imagine a horrifying Pac-Man with legs) to attack as a small group of chomping animals. A pet class. Simple, right? Not so much. At higher levels the plan is for the herder to summon a giant squig that will in turn eat the gobbo. Once inside the creature, your character grabs onto the squig’s innards and drives it around the battle field crushing and chomping your opponents. When your squig is finally killed you are belched forth back onto the field covered in guts. The developers described to us a wealth of different types of squigs. One rolls around crushing people, one breathes poison on the enemies, etc. The exact line-up is sure to expand over time, but as of E3, it remains totally in the realm of ideas. None of this had been implemented yet.

This may not be in the tabletop game yet, but it is a great use for the crazy Orcs and squigs. While there is no word on mounts, Mark Jacobs let everyone at their Wednesday party in on a secret: the Orc form of transportation from the video – which is to say by catapult – is a planned game feature.

The combat system in Warhammer starts at a very familiar base – Mythic’s revolutionary use of an action bar – and then expands into a three layered system. The hot bar is used for skills and attacks. It is a system known to gamers and easy to use. Mythic saw no reason to rock the boat. Instead, they added onto it.

Morale is the second tier of the combat system. Based on how active your character fights, casts spells and generally takes part in the action, the character’s morale bar – a semi-circle in the center-bottom of the UI – fills up. If you stop fighting, it recedes. As players gain more morale during combat, they can fire off special abilities. These moves are powerful, but eat all morale you had accumulated. This opens up a balancing act, as the moves are placed equally along the meter and get stronger the longer you wait. Should you use the first one as soon as you get to it or take the risk of going for a massive blow?

Players who stay out of the action and hide – while in a group involved in combat - will get some small morale for being alive, but nothing compared to those who actively fight. Currently Mythic has three morale abilities on the bar, but this is not set in stone and should be expanded over time. Personally, I already learned the value of these. When playing as an Orc, I was able to fire off my second ability. This ability healed me and turned the tide of a fight.

Besides morale abilities players can also use Tactics on their characters to enhance combat. Tactics are passive abilities which can be chosen before the fighting gets underway. Some will boost damage, some defense and other may increase your attacks against a specific race. You can also stack your tactics for a boost to one ability. The abilities themselves can take up multiple slots and the players both earn new abilities and new slots as they advance.

Mythic said that they have learned a lot from the RvR played in Dark Age of Camelot and plan to balance the combat system as accurate as possible. While we brought up most the major issues – such as buffbots – all the team would say is that they are fully aware of all the bad parts of DAoC PvP and would take steps to ensure that they do not make their way into WAR.

Player customization is another hot topic for most MMORPGs.

“What matters is the size of your choppa, not the shade of your eyebrows,” said Design Manager Paul Barnett.

While there is character customization, it will be more about the overall look of the character than minute changes to their faces. Remember, players can hang skulls and beards off their armor as trophies when they crush their opponents. All that said, the game also has a face cam in the UI and fully boned faces for changing moods.

Many people have been wondering about Chaos. For fans of evil and humans, that is the next racial pair coming down the development pipeline.

From a story perspective, Tzeentch will be the only Chaos god players can follow. Beyond that, they would not say much else, save that there is a very specific reason. However, all elements of the chaos pantheon will be in the game's story.

Dryads are also making an appearance in a quest to gather some wood and the giant regularly walks around the greenskin camps, just give him more beer and he will be happy.

The Dogs of War army will be represented as NPCs in instanced PvP scenarios to balance out the sides in certain fights. Basically it seems like it is in the Warhammer IP it will be in the game in some form or another.

PvP is the focus of the game and Mythic is doing everything to boost what they delivered in DAoC. Most PvP in the game is not instanced. There will be instanced battle scenarios. Points or ratings are assigned to each character in a group. The group is then paired with one on the opposing side of a similar point value. Whatever is lacking on either side will be reinforced by NPC Dogs of War units. Skirmishes, huge battles and sieges will also be going on in the world. It looks like there will be plenty of fighting for players to find and Mythic assured us there will have taken steps to ensure that the queues for the instanced scenarios will be limited.

Warhammer is a rich IP, but Mythic hopes to sell the game to more than just Warhammer fans. With all the detail and terms thrown about, it sounds like a nightmare for players to navigate without the aid of Google. Thus, Mythic invented the “Tome of Knowledge”. This is a book that each character begins the game with. At first, it is empty, but as players explore and discover new places, creatures and items, the book is filled in. What's more, you get experience for the filling. Every entry you find is in the voice of a unique character and carries a unique and sometimes contrary viewpoint to other entries in a book. For example, an entry for a great hammer might be a glowing rant from a Dwarf, joined by an angry, dismissive, incoherent tirade from an Orc. It’s not a boring encyclopedia.

Warhammer Online has come a long way in a short time, but has a long way to go to hit a Q4 2007 target. It is still too early to judge, but if they can keep up like they have, this could be one of the best MMOs on the floor in a year’s time.

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