We spent some time dabbling in the MMO genre. In our MMO showdown we had a look at trials of three of the most popular MMO’s of recent years and gave some impressions. We got many comments, but the two enduring themes were that a) trial versions are a rubbish impression of the full game. b) you can’t pass any judgement on these games until you’ve poured your life into them. While the former is true and the latter is debatable we felt that the MMO has been such a huge part of PC gaming over the last five years that it would be remiss of us not to have a proper look. We chose a new release, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning so that we could see how it differed from the other MMO’s we tried and, more importantly, to get in on the ground level while the Guilds are still young, and before the game’s focus inevitably shifts to cater for elite high level players. No trial accounts, no nonsense, and we’re going to stick it for as long as we can, (or until we get bored).
So find below the cut the first of our entries on WAR when we consider one of the great issues of our time – in a fight between a Squig and a War Lion, who would win?
Ah, what class to choose. A choice that would denote how the next sixty odd hours of time I was likely to put into this game would pan out. One of the fellows who made the game, Paul Barnett, told me to be a greenskin (Ed – you might want to pick up that name you just dropped. Ludo -:P), but I’m not taking any of his nonsense, he may support the forces of evil but that’s not how I roll. I’m all about the peace and the love (of killing). Of course the forces of Order aren’t exactly pally with each other. There’s more than a bit of beef between the Dwarfs and the Elves, and the Imperials are evangelical to the point of insanity. Still, it’s a pleasing mix of character types, from the stoic Dwarf Ironbreaker, who, even after a keg of grog could headbutt a Troll into submission, to the Imperial fire mage, who burns things, you know, for kicks.
After chittering with amusement at the silly moustaches you can give to the witch hunters, savvy rogue types sporting duelling pistols and sabres, something else caught my eye. A High Elf, no less.
“Bah!” I thought, “Look at those poncy flowing locks, the chiselled girly features, I’ll have no truck with that!” But then there was the giant axe. Now I’m interested so I have a quick look around the WAR official website. Turns out they’re called white lions because they summon their own personal War Lion who fights with them on the battlefield, and the War Lion grows as he gets older. Then I saw a picture of a high level White Lion with a grown up lion that was wearing plate armour and WAS BIGGER THAN A HORSE.
Character customisation is passable, there are enough options to create something you think not many people will have, but the different face and hair styles are all designed to remain carefully within the race’s remit. If you see a group on the battle field you’ll know instantly that what class and race they belong to. It’s down to your loot to define your look. There is a dye system included which allows you to colour your various armours, adding a much needed extra facet to character customisation.
Soon Ludovican was spawned into the world, looking as angry as I could possibly make him, which, being a High Elf, meant a faintly irritated expression, as though he’d left the gas on in his flat and can’t be arsed to hike all the way back to Ulthuan to turn it off. I decided to summon my noble War Lion to my side. Ludovican blew a horn and a scrawny slightly pathetic looking thing with braided hair materialised. I christened him Professor Snugglesworth. He didn’t do much to add to the menace of my character, but hopefully time would change all that.
WAR isn’t a looker, Age of Conan this ain’t, and its style has more in common with World of Warcraft than anything else, albeit with more detail. Combat isn’t going to give you anything you haven’t seen in WoW either, you queue up your attacks and watch them go. In pure gameplay terms WAR, like the other MMO’s, isn’t up to much. There’s a good amount of strategic variation within the classes, thanks to a career system that allows you to tailor the way your character fights, but the meat and veg of the fighting system isn’t anything terribly exciting. Fortunately you land your blows quickly, and the fighting’s a lot pacier than some of its more leisurely rivals.
Another thing, you’re not stuck in starting areas for long. You can charge ahead to the nearest warcamp and take a flight to any of the other low level locations on the map. This means you can meet up quickly with your other low level friends. You can see more and do more than any of the other MMO’s we sampled. The speed and immediacy of the early experience was reminiscent of our time with City of Heroes.
There’s one other thing that delivers thrills even at low levels. Walking into certain areas will activate Public Quests, which automatically place you in a group with all other players in that area, and specifies objectives to work towards. There’s no messing around with invitations or chat, it’s straight into the action. As you complete each stage the next wave of enemies becomes harder until the final stage, which will offer something spectacular. The first Public Quest I wondered into climaxed with the appearance of a twenty foot tall Hydra. And while it trod on Professor Snuggleswoth, ending his short but action-packed life before biting my character decisively to death, I had witnessed something exciting and memorable, and I was only level 6. Two levels later I went back with a bigger posse and took the beast down. Most satisfying.
Don’t expect much beyond battle. The crafting is very basic, allowing you to make talismans or potions which improve your fighting effectiveness. The focal point of WAR really is the rampant death-killing. The basic questing, the PvE (player vs environment) stuff is nothing special either. There’s a high percentage of kill quests, and arduous tasks that require you to trek vast distances to speak to someone. It’s mostly repetative and uninspired, but past a certain point you’ll find quests that deliberately send you into Public Quest and RvR areas, cleverly guiding you into the meat of the game proper.
When you create your character, you have to specify whether they will belong to Order or Destruction, the two sides of the vast overarching conflict that rages forever in WAR’s world. These battles take place in Realm vs. Realm areas , which are huge battlefields with objectives that need to be taken and held. Taking areas and killing enemy players grants you reknown, a currency that gives you access to the best weapons and armour in the game.
RvR areas become more dramatic as your level rises. When you reach tier two you can fight over fortified structures called Keeps. You can purchase war machines to use in these battles including cannons and battering rams for attackers, and cauldrons of boiling water for defenders. These are tough fights and you’ll need a large warband of about twenty people to take one. At the top of the keep stands a boss NPC which guards the keep and slows the attackers, allowing any players in the area to travel to the keep and give backup. Whenever an RvR objective is under threat a message is immediately delivered to all enemy players in the area, which means that fairly large conflicts tend to develop on their own momentum. We haven’t seen the higher tiers yet, but this setup has the potential to inspire absolutely vast nationwide scraps.
If the scale of the battlefields doesn’t appeal then Scenarios provide more focussed RvR thrills. You enrol in a scenario via an easy menu function in the corner of your screen. Once there are enough Order and Destruction players enrolled all members will be transported to a small enclosed custom battlefield. The sheer number of players in the Scenarios means that a massive and frantic fight is guaranteed break out immediately. The scenario ends when the capture points have been held for for a certain amount of time, or 500 enemy players have been killed. In the scenarios I have played the winners took victory based on kill count in about ten minutes, which gives a good impression of the manic and extremely killy nature of these frenzied fracas.
Add to this the huge capital cities, which gain levels as people complete quests within them, evolving and offering up new areas and missions as they grow, and the promise of the re-introduction of all of the classes and home cities that were cut just before release (for free) and WAR is one exciting prospect. We can’t wait to level up and see the high level areas, to get mounts and assault the cities. There could be fun times ahead.
Me and my compatriot MacDante are both officers in the PC Gamer guild running on the Karak Vlag server. We’re an Order guild, and Order characters are getting a 20% levelling boost on Karak Vlag thanks to a recent patch, so come along and join us while the going is good. All are welcome, just send a message to Hank, Rossferatu, Ludovican, Macdante, Phorin, Imbru or Padrick, we’ll send you an invite. At the moment guild night is on Wednesdays when everyone gets online and teams up en masse to bash Destruction. If you want to see twenty odd people charging a keep, dying repeatedly and charging again, and having great fun doing it then pop along, you’ll be most welcome.