Warhammer Online First Look

15 Sep 2008  by   Paul Younger
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Ok, first up, a confession: I don’t know anything about this game beyond the newbie areas. I got into the press beta but, quite honestly, I never got beyond making new characters and screwing around with the local quests. I have a lot of good explanations as to why. Actually I don’t, but I figured if anyone asked, I’d just make something up.

Back to the matter at hand: Warhammer Online. The game runs quite well. It makes my computer hot, which means absolutely nothing. WoW, which is four years old, also makes my computer run hot. So does Battlefield 2 which, if I remember correctly, was released during the Reformation. Or the Renaissance. (I always get those two confused.) I’m pretty sure that if I dug up my old copy of Dark Age of Camelot, that old bird would make my computer run hot, too.

So aside from making my computer run hot, the game runs surprisingly smoothly. Really, there isn’t any noticeable lag, it doesn’t crash to desktop, it doesn’t lock up my system, and it doesn’t freeze. Even when I muck around a bit – you know, alt-tabbing out to chat with a buddy via ICQ, or to listen to the wife scream about Castle Crashers, or to look up who got kicked off of Big Brother 10 on the web – the game continues to run well in the background. When I alt-tab back into the game, it’s still running fine.

Let’s talk character creation for a moment. The character types in the game are varied and intriguing. Most of the races have a number of class options. There are melee DPS classes, tanks, spellcasters and ranged combatants. Character creation gives players a lot of options, more than most MMOs. There are a fair number of faces, hair options, and other customizations to differentiate one elf, human, dwarf, or goblin from another. One minor problem: every character is the exact same size as every other of his race. I’m not a big fan of this in MMOs and, unfortunately, Warhammer fell into this trap. You can’t make a particularly tall elf or fat human; bodily, they are identical. Oh well, it’s really just a quibble.

I toyed with a number of classes. They aren’t what you might expect. The healers are also nukers, or they have a melee option. The tanks can do some DPS, or have a hybrid-like casting ability. Here’s a random handful of classes which (hopefully) will give you a feel for the unusual nature of classes in the game.

The Dwarf Engineer – I built this guy because I was able to make him really strange looking. (This is a eccentric obsession of mine. So sue me.) They’re quirky. First off, they shoot guns, then bang on their enemies with large monkey-wrenches when they get too close. They also build turrets, which are static gun emplacements. The turrets act like pets, firing on anyone that gets too close to the engineer. Odd, eccentric, and funny.

The Black Ork – Don’t be fooled, this is the only kind of ork in the game. There are no red orks, blue orks, or yellow orks. The Black Ork is a tank, but has some DPS options. He primarily uses combinations, which become more powerful with each blow. The ork personalities in the game are among the most fun, and their intrinsic humor makes all the quests and NPC interactions fun.

The Human Chosen – this is a human tank, and he specializes in AOE curses. I almost never play humans – it’s so boring – but after playing a human Chosen, I may play one upon launch. First off, you can make a deeply ugly Chosen, which is a plus in my book. Second, the class is full of malevolent entertainment value. Excellent.

The Dark Elf Disciple of Khaine – This dude (and I use that term loosely) is both a healer and disturbingly androgynous. Both facets of the Disciple of Khaine catch you by surprise. He carries a pair of swords, which is unconventional for a healing class. He’s also got some solid offensive ability, so he’s equal parts killer and healer. The androgyny is also off-putting, unsettling, and somewhat disturbing. I couldn’t decide if he looked more like a severely angry woman, or a ladyboy in a corset. In a nutshell, he was just hard to look at. However, if you’ve ever wanted to role-play Marilyn Manson in an MMO, your prayers have been answered. It’s positively a fem-goth paradise.

Let’s move on to game-play and innovation. Now some have criticized WAR for not being “innovative” enough. The game is the same as WoW, they say. The game is just another MMORPG, they say. I want something totally different, they say. Yeah, yeah, yeah…we’ve heard this sermon before. Let me set the record straight.

WAR is actually quite innovative, at least from what I’ve seen so far. The quest model is much the same as other MMOs, this is true. However, there are some very nicely done public quests, in which you team up with and simultaneously compete with players nearby. It’s hard to describe, but in essence everyone has to work together to accomplish a goal. When that goal is completed, everyone’s performance is evaluated, and quest rewards are given out. My damage, sadly, didn’t ever allow me to claim a prize. One of the other WanderingGoblin.com staffers is a bit more ruthless and cunning than I am, and they were able to claim a reward or two. In a nutshell, these public quests are timed, they’re exciting, and they’re fun enough that I’ve repeated several.

WAR is also innovative in that they successfully, and smoothly, incorporate PvP into the gameplay, and they do it well. In most MMOs, PvPing is like playing a completely different game. You know what I’m saying: you level up and get used to your character and his/her abilities, and then you decide to try your hand at PvP after you’re level 70 or so. And you get spanked.

In WAR, Realm Versus Realm (the cool kids call it RvR) combat is like running a very convenient local instance. You decide to jump into a combat queue, and the next thing you know you’re fighting with the kids on the other faction. It’s quite fun. It’s also seemless. You don’t feel like RvR is an afterthought tacked onto the PvE game.

Don’t get me wrong, I still got spanked. For one thing, I tend to play melee characters, which are simply a lot harder to PvP with in nearly every MMORPG on the planet. So I got to experience the same kind of thing I’ve experienced in other MMOs as a PvP newbie – I got nuked by spellcasters standing 8.672 kilometers away. I have yet to figure out how to effectively close the distance in WAR. (I’m sure it’s possible, I just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.) I did, however, figure out how to become really sneaky. I took to hiding behind cover, and jumping out when some overconfident caster came running past. Muahahahaha.

Were the RvR events fun? You betcha. Quick, dirty combat pretty much summarizes things. My colleague did some RvR with me as a goblin shaman, and she also had a good time. Being a caster, her learning curve was a lot shorter, as she was able to stand back and nuke. This was quite effective.

What about end-game content? Well, if by “end-game” you mean level 10, then allow me to assure you there’s plenty. However, if you mean true end-game, then this is the point in my (ahem) “review” in which I have to lie to you. Here goes:

End-game is awesome. It’s simply great. I loved it, and I have 12 characters, all of which are level 100. One even became an immortal and was taken up to Valhalla by the gods. Trust me, the end-game in WAR is simply the best experience I’ve ever had in my entire life, and I would know because I have so many end-game characters and experienced everything the game has to offer. It’s epic. Loved it. Amen.

The big question is a simple one….Will I be buying this game at launch? Yes, definitely. The game is actually engrossing. I cannot claim I’ve played it all, but from what I’ve seen of the game, it’s a very, very good MMO. It’s different, it’s innovative, it’s creative, and it’s funny.

I’d also recommend this game to friends. I can’t guarantee they’ll continue to love it 6 months or a year from now (longevity remains to be seen in every new MMO) but for a new, intriguing MMO, Warhammer Online hits the spot.Look out for a full IncGamers Warhammer review once the game launch madness and bug fixing is over.If you enjoyed this artivcle, also check network site WanderingGoblin.com. Every day, they strive to bring you the quirkiest, most unusual, and funniest MMO news in virtual space.

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