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EA Mythic Press Conference Preview

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Warhammer Online Preview

Garrett Fuller attended a press event in Fairfax Virginia and learned a great deal about EA Mythic's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

What can be said about Warhammer Online that has not been said already? The hype on this game continues to grow by leaps and bounds on the internet. With Paul Barnett driving the crazy train and everybody trying to jump on board for the wild ride, it is easy to see why Warhammer is quickly growing as the next big MMO. One huge question remains, can it deliver? Can it live up to the hype? Can the new game mechanics of Public Quests, a vast series of character development tables, customization through RvR trophies, and the sacking of major cities really grab the players by the neck and shake them into the intensity of Warhammer Online?

Well, in the hopes of answer that question, the Press Event for Warhammer Online was held last week at EA Mythic’s Studio in Virginia. The computers were turned on, the group sat down and Paul Barnett (Creative Director) and Jeff Hickman (Senior Producer) took the stage to explain what is on the horizon with W.A.R. Once again “The Paul and Jeff Show” is funny in and of itself. When the game is launched, these guys should go on a comedy tour for promotion. They really had the crowd laughing the whole time while discussing serious game mechanics and the detailed IP of Warhammer.

The first item that EA Mythic showed off was the new Empire class, the Bright Wizard. The press got a chance to jump into the game for the Empire and play the Bright Wizard class. For those who have not been following the game, the Empire is the human realm in Warhammer. Please don’t mistake them for the good guys; they are simply humans on the brink of destruction. Every human emotion and condition is at an extreme. Faith is unforgiving and unbroken, corruption is widespread and encompassing, and magic is destructive and overpowering. After all, like Paul said, “WAR is everywhere”. This is clearly reflected in the Empire classes. The Bright Wizard represents magic at an extreme, with the ability to control fire and destroy with the flame. The Warrior Priest and Witch Hunter are examples of an extreme religion that humans must cling too on the verge of being overrun by Chaos. These two classes deal in faith. Finally, the Knight of the Blazing Sun represents the ultimate medieval soldier destined to meet enemies head on in hand to hand combat.

Finishing off the first look at the Empire here is some information on the Bright Wizard class. Do you like Fire? Well Paul Barnet described the Bright Wizard as a “licensed pyromaniac.” You’re not going to be seeing these guys throwing lightning bolts, or casting any of the other common spells. “Only fire.” The Bright Wizard has a variety of spells and options which deal with different ways of blowing things up. Early spells we saw all had sleek effects on-screen and gave us some colorful ways to make our enemies explode. Needless to say, this is the Nuker class for the Empire. Also, visually, the Bright Wizard looks like he stepped out of the pages of a Warhammer Rulebook. The character design is very much like the miniatures we have all seen. It is great to see the Warhammer IP being realized precisely as we all know it.

The Warhammer Chaos look and feel is everywhere right from the start of the game. Banners and bones litter the landscape as the eyes of Tzeench keep watch on his minions. There are four Chaos classes available to players: The Chosen represent the Tank or Chaos Warrior class, the Zealot is a healer type class, and the Magus is the Mage or Nuker of the group. The fourth Chaos class has yet to be revealed by EA Mythic. Paul did mention that mutations will abound for players and NPCs that are part of Chaos. Please keep in mind that the Chaos Gods: Nurgle, Khorne, and Slaanesh will be represented in the game, just not as player options.

This brings us to The Magus. He has a number of spells in his arsenal which all have various effects on the screen. Paul did mention that the Discs of Tzeench would play a huge part in the Magus’s look and feel. Blades, power, mutation, magic, it will all be there for players. While checking out the Chaos area we did see a skaven running about on the screen, so if you were wondering whether or not they are in the game, they are.

The public quest system is a unique feature to Warhammer Online. It allows players to gain XP just by entering an area and helping out with a specially designed story. Players can do this in groups, guilds, or they can just jump in on their own. The quests happen in stages and reset if no one is there to finish them out. This creates an active zone for players to work in and build up experience as well as Influence. What is Influence, you ask? Well, if a player continues to work in an area, eventually the major NPC will recognize their efforts. Rewards come back to the players this way. There is an Influence bar on your screen when you enter the area and begin going through the content. I know it sounds like a faction grind, and in a way it is similar to faction, but not as taxing. The Influence bar seemed to move faster and offer good rewards at many different levels. EA Mythic Designer Destin Bales pointed out that you can repeat public quests if you choose to do so, or you go find new ones in the area. They are trying to give players as much variety in content as possible.

You cannot mention EA Mythic without saying RvR (Realm vs. Realm). That is what is at the heart of W.A.R. Warhammer was built on fantasy races fighting each other in repeated epic battles, and Warhammer Online offers players a ton of options to fight it out. The game will launch with the four types of RvR we have reviewed in the past. Those being: Skirmish, Battlefields, Scenarios, and Campaigns. We had a chance to check out the Scenario RvR. Jeff mentioned that the game will launch with over forty scenarios for players to join. The group rate goes anywhere from six players, to twelve, all the way up to thirty six players at one time. The RvR action we had a chance to play was fast and furious. It was intensive and the main point was to kill the opposition in fun and creative new ways (we were given 40th level characters for the event). Even though there are certain objectives in the scenarios, the bottom line is…war. “War is everywhere”. The gameplay we saw was much smoother than the video that was released in the newsletter a few weeks ago. For those who thought the video was choppy, the real thing was not.

After the presentation, we had a chance to sit down with the game’s producer Lance Robertson. Lance came from Dark Age of Camelot and has been at Mythic since the early days. In talking with Lance (the podcast will be up at some point), we wanted to clear up a few issues that MMO players have come to consider when choosing a game.

In regards to gameplay and grinding, we mentioned that the MMO crowd is getting older, especially players from The DAOC era. We wanted to know if it would take a year to level your character and then another year to get the loot your character needs to compete in RvR. Lance said that scenarios and public quests are quick elements in the game to help players advance without spending hours of their time. “Nothing we do is intended to say that you have to spend eight hours at a time in game,” Lance was happy to announce.

We also asked about the elusive fourth Chaos class that we were hoping to hear about while there. Lance said that it will be out soon and not to worry. Also, the High Elves and Dark Elves should be making their appearance sometime in the spring.

Another exciting feature in Warhammer Online will be all of the elements that guilds will have at their disposal. When asked to describe it, Lance said to think of Dark Age of Camelot, only bigger. As an example, in DAOC when your guild or group captured a keep, the guild flags of the person who did the capture flew from the towers and NPC guards with your guild symbol patrolled the area. Hopefully, this type of guild interaction within the game will make the leap into W.A.R., but with some new enhancements.

Finally, we asked Lance about next generation consoles. While he could not give a firm yes or no, he did say that they were still in talks about whether or not we would see Warhammer on the consoles. They are looking into it, but they remain unsure if we will see the game on consoles.

So there you have it, as much information as we can give on Warhammer Online. The production of the game is moving along very well with 150 employees now working on the game. With any luck, it will meet the release date at the end of 2007. Thanks again to Jeff Hickman, Paul Barnett, and Lance Robertson for all the great information they gave.