Taking Another Look - Post 1.3.2
When Warhammer Online first launched, I was excited. When MMOs aren't the focus of my time in front of the computer, highly competitive PvP FPS games are. So, in watching the development of WAR, I was excited about the prospect of a PvP MMO in such a familiar and iconic setting.
When the game launched, I wasn't one of the people who railed against it from the beginning. I actually quite enjoyed my time in the game, levelling a shocking number of characters through to the middle of Tier 2 while my primary character worked his way through T3.
Then, over time, something happened and I just lost interest in the game. I think it had a lot to do at the time with a less than stellar experience with my primary in T3, performance problems, an increasingly predictable open RvR experience and dwindling scenario play that resulted in my eventual abandoning of the game. At no point did I get "fed up" or angry, and leave. Instead, my play time just dwindled until it faded out all together.
Now, with all of that said, a while back, I was reading the patch notes for update 1.3.2 and the changes and improvements that were being made. So, being the easily swayed individual that I am, I decided to pop back into the game to check it out and see how it had changed, at least in its early stages, since I left.
My time back in the game has consisted primarily of T1 and T2 play, and what I've seen in terms of changes so far, I've liked. Below, I'm going to talk about some of the more glaring things that have jumped out at me:
There are fewer of them. Way fewer. Seven for North America at the moment. Servers have been a point of contention with this game since launch. People have made a big deal out of the closing of servers, but I for one feel like this is the only way to make the game feel vibrant again. As the game's overall population dwindles, so too should server numbers. It's only a good thing if players who get into the game do so with large populations. WAR thrives on quantity of players and it doesn't do anyone any good to spread those players thin across servers.
The difference in performance is like night and day between when I stopped playing and today. When I stopped playing, I would have performance issues in any number of annoying instances: Any time my camera was aimed directly behind my character, in war camps, between cinematics, every time I entered an RvR combat situation, in scenarios, and more.
Those issues, at least for me, simply don't exist anymore. I can play at full resolution, wiggle the camera around in any which way I bloody well please, run into RvR and do pretty much anything else without worrying about stutter.
The map, one of the most useful tools in any MMO, has actually become more useful than it was before. First, it seems to be more accurate in telling you when and where RvR is happening and second (and possibly more importantly for the flow of the game), the map actually highlights active Public Quests. This means that players no longer have to bob in and out of PQ areas to find out if anyone is in them. Now, the PQs light up gold when they're active and scrolling over the icon will tell you how many players are currently engaged. It's a great tool that draws players toward the PQ areas instead of discouraging them.
I'm actually digging the new way that the tutorial is laid out in terms of popup screens. They're well designed, well executed and don't look too out of place within the world while you're playing. The developers actually managed to pack a decent bit of starting info both into the tutorial and onto the loading screen.
Overall, it's just a more inviting way to enter the world of Warhammer and with this whole new "play tier 1 for free" thing they've got going on, I suspect they will be seeing at least a small influx of new players.
The developers promised that city sieges would happen more often, and by golly they weren't kidding. Over all of the time that I played Warhammer Online in my first go-round, I think I may have seen an alert that a city was open for invasion, maybe once. I was back in the game only an hour when one of the cities opened up, and then it just kept happening so that it became more or less a regular occurrence.
New Player Guild
Part of the new player experience is placing new players all into a guild. Presumably this is being done to encourage guild play and to introduce players to it, but the whole time I was playing, I think the only guild interaction that happened revolved around a notification that my guild was now Rank Two. Other than that, I just really didn't see any real purpose to it. Well, I suppose it also opens up to a new player guild chat along with an ever-preset staff member to help answer questions and such. That's handy, but there must be other ways of accomplishing that without going to the trouble of sticking everyone into a guild.
Advice Chat Channel
There is now a chat channel called "Advice." Presumably, this is what it's supposed to be used for... soliciting and getting advice. However, I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever seen a more useless tool in an MMO. My entire time playing was plagued with spam from this channel with such intelligent advice as "My advice - GTFO."
Basically, those people who join MMOs just to be a pain in the virtual butt to as many other people as humanly possible without having the guts to do it to someone face to face, have found a new home. That's about as useful as the new advice chat has been for me.
The UI didn't show any really glaring differences this time around other than to say that when you're in a party of a Warband, the UI will now tell you when another player is too far away to target. It's a very useful little change, especially for healers.
All players starting in Empire / Chaos starting areas
I've questioned this move, but starting a new character makes the benefits of this change pretty obvious. Centralizing all of the early players in one area makes it easy to start a game with a friend of another race, makes it easier to find groups, makes the world feel more populated right out of the gate and more. It's a good change, even if the other former starting zones now feel a bit desolate.
Other things I noticed
- The Lost Lagoon, the battlefield objective in the Empire / Chaos T1 RvR lake seems to have been removed. Probably because it was always a bit out of place, so far removed from the other BOs.
- The servers still feel a bit under populated. At the risk of being unpopular, I think cutting the number of servers down even a bit further might be in order.
- Scenario statistics are now much easier to read.
Overall, the effects of 1.3.2 are apparent right out of the gate for any new or returning player. It would be hard to argue that Warhammer Online isn't improving over time, with all of the changes that have been made since launch, and 1.3.2 is a great example of that improvement. That being said, I don't know if the second time is going to be a charm for me. I mean, the new bells and whistles are holding my interest for now, but will they keep my in the long run? Only time will tell.