Online games and raw chaos normally go hand in hand. Ever since the early days of DOOM for the PC and other various first-person shooters, there has been a chaotic nature to online gaming that players couldn't get enough of. As time went on, the evolution of online gaming brought about team-based variants such as Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch. These variants have been such a huge success that they're now staples for more or less any first-person shooter or third-person shooter that one could buy for the PC or console. Rejoice, fellow console gamers! World of Warcraft has a similar variant of gameplay that I find addictive and possibly the most satisfying aspect of the game. Today we will have a "console to WoW" look at Battlegrounds.
While I did mention Battlegrounds in the first entry of this series, I didn't go into detail simply because Battlegrounds can either be a beginner's favorite experience in WoW or the absolute worst. Battlegrounds, in my humble opinion, are the first real tests of PvP (player versus player) skills, strategy, teamwork, and spot on decision making that players will endure. The wrong decisions can result in getting killed, the loss of potential Honor Points (more on that in a second), and possibly the loss of the Battleground. It is here that the player will become fully aware of what his character is capable of and what his biggest weaknesses are.
Each Battleground - currently six exist - has a different theme and a different way to win. The objectives range from depleting the enemy's army to capturing the flag to controlling certain points on the map. The game ends when one side reaches the maximum number of points needed, when the enemy has no more units, or if there aren't enough players in the game to continue. Players are resurrected shortly after each death, so there isn't a load of downtime in these game variants.
The first Battleground that players will encounter is Warsong Gulch. This one has a Capture the Flag theme which many console and PC gamers will be very familiar with. The theme is very simple to learn for those who have never played Capture the Flag: attempt to capture the enemy's flag and return to your base while defending your own flag and ensure it doesn't get captured. The player who is holding the flag is extremely vulnerable simply because using attacks, summoning a mount, or becoming invulnerable will cause him to drop the flag - and he won't be able to pick it back up if he's invulnerable.
The strategy for Warsong Gulch isn't exactly as simple as Capture the Flag in Unreal Tournament or MechAssault mainly because one has to keep all of WoW's different classes and abilities in mind. A flag carrier could look like he's home free with a defender in tow when a Warlock could easily cast Fear on the defender and leave the flag carrier completely vulnerable to attack. There are also plenty of stun effects and other abilities that make strategy a vastly important thing in Capture the Flag when other games' variants are fairly simple and to the point.
The second Battleground that players will encounter is Arathi Basin. This has a Capture the Point theme similar to King of the Hill in the Halo games or other capture variants that games like Unreal Tournament 2004/Unreal Championship have. The big difference between Arathi and the game variants that I've mentioned is that there are five different locations to think about during a massive power struggle between the Alliance and the Horde.
Each capture is begun by the player clicking on the location's flag. This will make the location turn neutral for a brief period before ultimately being claimed by that player. However, other players can click on the flag and reverse this action during the neutral period and get extra Honor Points for defending the area. Each team will gain points over time depending on how many locations they have capture, and more points are earned if a team has more locations than the other.
There's a lot more going on in this Battleground than in Warsong Gulch, and it usually calls for far more strategy. Players are forced to learn when to go for more location captures and when to defend their current locations. Going for more captures can be fun, but I've learned that defense is when a player will learn to best use his character. Also, running out on one's own without proper backup to try for captures normally results in a quick and easy death.
Players participate in Battlegrounds for entertainment and for Honor Points. These points are awarded whether the player won or lost, but obviously more points are awarded for a win. Honor Points are also awarded for every Honorable Kill (assisting in killing an enemy player) obtained, and dishing out the killing blow on an enemy player also nets some bonus points. These points can be turned in to buy special items - mainly gear - that can only be obtained through the Honor system, and the gear is usually well worth it for lower level players who are just starting out. I definitely suggest running Instances and playing Battlegrounds to obtain great gear in the early levels.
As if the Battlegrounds weren't chaotic enough, a wildcard is thrown into the fray that console gamers will immediately recognize and happily welcome: powerups. These special items are placed in certain areas around the Battleground map and can definitely help situations in a time of a need. For example, Warsong Gulch has a speed powerup that increases movement speed by 100% for ten seconds. This is a flag runner's best friend when they've managed to capture a flag without any defensive backup and need to make a run for it.
I want to mention Twinks only briefly because they are an extremely touchy subject in the Battlegrounds world. Twinks are defined as characters who obtain high level items or item enchantments that normally require large amounts of gold. The characters can get this gold from their main character (assuming the Twink is an alt) or from friends, guildies, etc. They usually level themselves to level 19 or 29 and play only Battlegrounds from that point on so they won't level again - experience isn't earned in Battlegrounds... yet. Some claim that Twinks have an unfair advantage in Battlegrounds while others argue that legitimate work is done to create good twinked characters and are therefore justified. I'll leave that argument to you, the reader.
I tend to find Battlegrounds exciting and challenging just like I do the various different modes in Halo 3 and other console games I play. The strategy may be extremely different, but I find that it's something that can easily grow on a player like an old favorite. With many different ways to play and powerups to help change things up, I believe that Battlegrounds will be something that every console fan who is trying WoW for the first time will enjoy.