Warhammer Beta Impressions

Let’s start with this fact: Warhammer Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.

That should befairly obvious to anyone who has at all followed the game, but it bears explicitly stating because there seems to be a constant complaint from some corners that massively multiplayer games have the irritating tendency of playing like massively multiplayer games. If you are expecting Warhammer to shatter the mold and perhaps offer real-time, gesture based combat where advancement is determined not by experience but by the number of dance emotes you can string together, then save yourself the disappointment. If you’ve played other popular MMOs then you’re going to be right at home with Warhammer, and if you hate playing these kinds of games then stop now, think no further on the topic and move along to other verdant pastures of gaming grazing goodness.

Personally, I’m an MMO addict. I’ve played more than I care to enumerate at length, from the staples like EverQuest and World of WarCraft with their iconic tropes and odd capitalizations, to games the world left behind like Horizons, Auto Assault and Asheron’s Call 2. I am weak for the opportunity to delve into at least the shallow tide pools of these games, though I am usually adept at discerning which stand a reasonable chance of success and which will fall by the dusty wayside. So, it is not without some authority that I say Warhammer Online is shaping up to be a success.

Now, let’s not go crazy and talk about competing with WoW; there’s no value in the debate. But, developer Mythic, formerly EA Mythic, formerly Mythic, has its own reputation to worry about, this being their first major follow-up since the surprisingly excellent Dark Age of Camelot. You may also remember Mythic as the company that sued Microsoft for the title of that company's MMO Mythica, which was never released, as well as being the developer of Imperator, which was never released.

But, I digress.

Warhammer walks along a path paved by great games before it. It begins by getting the fundamentals of play right, and then builds new experiences on top of that. This may not be a game that’s going to fit the popular buzzwords of marketing language that speak of paradigm shifting, perception altering and genre busting. No, there will be quests where you will be asked to kill varying number of things for flimsy reasons, where you will press the number 2 to unleash some attack skill on an enemy, where you gather experience so you can level up so you can gather more experience.

What separates Warhammer, however, is in its new explorations within that familiar framework. This is a game where the ultimate goal is player versus player conflicts, where the ultimate raid is not some instanced puzzle of just the right classes in just the right configurations, but the organized assault of hundreds on an enemy city or the desperate defense of your own crumbling city walls. This is an MMO that manages to make a die-hard solo player like myself somehow feel invested into the world and the people around me, and without shoe-horning me into a mandated playstyle. I can both be the hero of my own story and a character actor in a sweeping epic. Best of all, I can change to and from roles at will, without difficulty and without downtime. This game should be a study in smooth transition for future developers.

Let me break it down, so to speak. The things that I enjoyed most in the game as it has been presented so far include:

• Being able to access player versus player content from level 1 and being able to gain experience and level progression strictly through those battles.

• The idea, if not always the implementation, of public quests that very much encourage and reward a kind of impromptu collecting of a few players toward a fairly brief and organized goal.

• The layout of the zones, so that from the very start you share areas with your enemies and move naturally toward contested player versus player (PvP) areas very quickly.

• The early and effective inclusion of siege weapons into PvP combat.

• The wide and varied opportunities to advance in this game, whether through quests, instanced PvP battles, public quests, traditional methods and less structure PvP world content.

• Story and lore that is woven seamlessly into the game.

• The fact that Warhammer doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or that it doesn’t live and die by a single unrealized gimmick.

That’s not to say the presentation was flawless. There were pathfinding issues, class balance problems, what I suspect was a pesky memory leak, questions about the long term viability of the public quests in later areas and so on. And, what I’m going to do right now is pretty much gloss over those concerns, partly because they didn’t really cloud my overall experience, and partly because none of them are gamebreakers. I am among the camp that understands a launched MMO is an unfinished product; a fact that despite the dreams of idealists remains an inescapable truth in virtually every case.

So, it’s a game destined to see some balance and performance patches in the early days. What is important to me is the question of the underlying core, and if there’s enough meat there to sustain long term commitment. There's a world of difference between a game that needs some tweaks and adjustments as it populates its world, and a game with core issues. I feel confident that this game shows remarkable promise and a strong potential for longevity. It will still require excellent support and adaptability to the changing needs of its population, and can use Age of Conan as a nice base model for what not to do after you release a successful MMO, but Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning begins its potentially long run with the wind at its back.

Warhammer ultimately feels like the game you might have hoped Mythic would present to succeed Dark Age of Camelot. It is infused with a certain sense of confidence and shows the benefits of putting veteran developers onto a prized project. It is a maturation, a logical next step for MMOs and the kind of game that offers compelling answers to at least a few of the questions that have nagged the genre. And, it may just end up being among the better MMOGs released in the last few years

Comments

Indeed, the overall impressions are that it's a game with a firm direction and a sense of itself.

I think that if they keep faithful to their core ideals, then this game will be able to stand on it's own, much like EVE does.

Can't wait for my copy!

Thank you for sharing your experiences with the beta, sir.

I was in beta as well, and your observations are in line with my own. I don't see them dropping the ball post launch, as AoC did. And of course class balancing is an issue every MMO deals with. How many times has WoW tweaked classes over the years?

Mythic has a great start here, a phenomenal IP to draw from and the pedigree to instill confidence in the player base. If they can maintain that momentum with new content (bring my Choppa back dammit!), and quick response to bugs etc., then the game will be a long-term success.

This does sound interesting - the description of the public quests in the Conference Call sounded like a major step up from WoW's poor scripting.

One question: does anyone know what performance on low-end machines is like? I'd be running it on an ATI x1600: WoW is fine, TF2 is OK on low settings. A major part of the appeal of WoW is that it runs on almost anything.

I'd really like for this to do well, mostly so they get the cajones to release a 40k MMO.

I think the game is fantastic. Cant wait for the Sept. 18th!

Nice avatar in the screenshots. I assume you were unable to loot a Green Bay hat?

ApplepieChamploo wrote:

I'd really like for this to do well, mostly so they get the cajones to release a 40k MMO. :)

It's in the works. Do some Googling and you'll see a few press releases.

It looks interesting. I like the sound of the public quest feature and I've always liked the Warhammer 'world'.

But to be honest i'll probably pass. There's just too many other games coming out soon and in any event I can only realistically affort to pay for one MMO at a time (and that is still going to be WoW for the foreseeable future).

Plus, it's very PVP focused and I hate PVP with a passion. I subscribe more to the Ken Levine School of MMO Gaming

I wonder, how big are the Orcs in comparison with (puny) humans?

Well, it sounds great. Too bad I refuse to buy an MMO in the first month anymore.

Also...

Could it be that Age of Conan is/was the sour that makes WAR seem so sweet?

oMonarca wrote:

Also...

Could it be that Age of Conan is/was the sour that makes WAR seem so sweet?

Great , now I'm hungry for Chinese food.

I was planning on passing on the Marauder prior and post preview weekend. I did play one a bit in the preview weekend and discovered some cool bits (claw arms look so much cooler than the sword arm) but was bummed that they were male only. (but not really, because a hot women with a deformed club arm is suddenly not hot) Also, I was having such a blast with the witch hunter that the other melee dps classes fell by the wayside.

Then I happened across one of the marauder talent trees on wardb and wow, just wow. I never got high enough on my marauder to get their third form, the aoe damage centric gift of monstrosity. I'm really sorry I didn't as if we are going destruction at launch, the marauder just jumped to the top of my classes to be played list.

With strategic movement to keep the monstrosity marauder a low profile target, they will be lethal in RvR. If they can somehow use terrain to close the 100-65ft range gap, they will wreak havoc on ranged dps and caster/healers.

Oh god, when I saw this post in my RSS feed, I was half expecting the site to be down by the time I got home to read it.

Great article Elysium, as always. Just a few other things I wanted to add in for people who may not have been in the preview weekend and which I think are pretty important, because like you I spent a great deal of time this weekend with the game and was able to get 3 characters to lvl 10. First off I just want people to know how easy it is to make a group in this game. It's 1 click. There is a small icon just below your character portrait and when you click it the game brings up a menu of open groups and warbands (raids) This menu easily shows how many players are in a group what classes they are and what area of the world that they are in. If I invite a person to a group it is then an open group meaning anyone can just join from that menu I just mentioned. I can easily close the group if I want so that only friends can join or turn my group into a quick raid for public quests with again 1 more click.

The other thing I wanted to mention was about the loot. You never once get a piece of gear that your character can not use. Except off random mobs perhaps. But all the quest rewards and that includes public quest rewards, when you win a roll and pick an item it is always usable. You won't pick up a quest and say oh this is just a warrior quest or a hunter quest you will always be getting something out of the deal.

A few more quick bullet points and I will be done

1. The 2 factions look radically different (Alliance/Horde) Orcs look like Orcs and Dwarfs look like Dwarfs. You aren't all chasing the same sets. You can also attach trophy's to your armor to add some flavor to.

2. You can Dye your armor so unlike wow you are never running around looking like a rainbow clown.

3. The first dark elf public quest had me killing a giant dragon at lvl 4!! how awesome is that?! I feel like I'm doing high level content right off the bat.

4. You can have an offensive and defensive target. This is especially helpful for healers as they have to do damage to enemies in order to heal allies so you can always have that tank getting heals without having to babysit.

5. The one bad thing I noticed is that because there are only 3-4 classes per race you see a lot of the same class running around.

I was in the preview weekend.

WoW's success seems to have created an implicit rule amongst game developers: "all persistent worlds must play like DikuMUD." The genre is stagnated, and WAR does nothing to advance the state of the art - at its core, it's WoW with new skins and more PvP.

Now, to be clear, I think Elysium's description is largely accurate. Public quests are a swell idea, and a great way to encourage casual social interaction without all of the administrative burdens that comes with "proper" dungeon crawls. The notion of PvP progression at all levels is great, and it's really important for a game whose "endgame" focus is almost exclusively PvP based.

I do like these shiny things, but they're minor enhancements to a basic game that's been done to death. At the end of the day, you're still playing the same game, with your phat lewt and your tanks and your healers and your xp and your health and your mana and your gray vendor items and your autoattack and your hotbars and your one good skill that you use 90% of the time...

WAR will succeed because it's WoW + PvP and it doesn't suck. That alone is worth a fair chunk of the market, and it's enough to get me to cough up the cash to play for a month or two despite my misgivings.

Still, I can't help but feel that the market for WoW clones is quickly becoming saturated. It's about time for something new.

I got to play this one briefly at New York Comic Con, since then I've been describing it to friends as, "Dark Age of WoW" (this is a high compliment, in my eyes, as DAOC and WoW are two of the best MMOs the world has ever seen) and have been very eager to get my hands on it again. Sadly, I never got a beta invite, so the game gradually faded from my radar.

Between the impressions i heard in the latest Conference Call and this little preview, i'm back in full-on anticipation mode, I really can't wait to try this game again!

I've loved the closed beta thus far.

An easy question to ask yourself to see if this game is for you is: Do I like a pvp-centric game?

Another one is: Will I get bored with PvP as endgame?

The game is obviously a lot more in depth than that, but the basic structure is PvP-first. The PvP hearkens back to old world pvp conflicts in wow where the front will ebbs back and forth, but eventually there is a break through. However, in this game other than just for fun there is a lot of character progression tied to this type of pvp, which is flippin' fantastic for anyone who is like me.

gore wrote:

WAR will succeed because it's WoW + PvP and it doesn't suck.

Well, WoW pretty much copied the good things of previous MMORPGs and added refinement and a few other gameplay twists and that was great for the genre.

WAR is doing the same thing. Grabbed a formula that works for millions and add a few twists and refinements that previous games lacked. Things like Public Quests, getting levels from PvP instances and Open battles, the way it handles rewarded loot, easy group management and searching... The list is quite big and all that will help the genre improve itself, because if many of these elements work really well, I bet a lot of other games will be copying from WAR.

And if I were you, I wouldn't say that WAR is a complete WoW clone so loudly. Some people may have a strong reaction to it!

gore wrote:

Still, I can't help but feel that the market for WoW clones is quickly becoming saturated. It's about time for something new.

Well "we" (including myself) will not see something new until will all stop buying the clones, including WoW!

KillTrash wrote:

And if I were you, I wouldn't say that WAR is a complete WoW clone so loudly. Some people may have a strong reaction to it! ;)

I really hate when people refer to everything as a WoW clone, I know the vast majority have never played anything but WoW - still grinds at me. Basically everything is a clone of the first EQ, with there own twist.

fangblackbone wrote:

Then I happened across one of the marauder talent trees on wardb and wow, just wow. I never got high enough on my marauder to get their third form, the aoe damage centric gift of monstrosity. I'm really sorry I didn't as if we are going destruction at launch, the marauder just jumped to the top of my classes to be played list.

With strategic movement to keep the monstrosity marauder a low profile target, they will be lethal in RvR. If they can somehow use terrain to close the 100-65ft range gap, they will wreak havoc on ranged dps and caster/healers.

Monstrosity Marauders are great for thinning the herd at choke points. Flail away at the crowd trying to fit through a gate or doorway and watch your kills climb :).

armedbushido wrote:

I really hate when people refer to everything as a WoW clone, I know the vast majority have never played anything but WoW - still grinds at me. Basically everything is a clone of the first EQ, with there own twist.

Me too. As if WoW was the great innovator, heh. Know your history kids! Even if it's just games.

WAR is the first WoW clone to surface thus far. Others were merely caricatures.

shihonage wrote:

WAR is the first WoW clone to surface thus far. Others were merely caricatures.

Well it is possible that you know nothing of Warhammer itself, which I can forgive, but you should know that everything that has made World of Warcraft and Starcraft successes is the fact that they are heavily inspired by the Warhammer fantasy and 40k universes. It is Blizzard's games that clone Warhammer and not the opposite.

To say War is a WoW clone is like giving all the credit for a novel to someone who translated the original text. Warcraft wouldn't have existed without Warhammer and personally, even though I really like Warcraft, I find it rather insulting that anyone would call a Warhammer game a WoW clone.

Warcraft and Starcraft are so much like the Warhammer lore that you could think they originally tried to get the licenses but didn't manage yet went along with it.

had to say it.

You missed my (apparently too subtle) meaning. Which had nothing to do with the game's actual setting.

shihonage wrote:

You missed my (apparently too subtle) meaning. Which had nothing to do with the game's actual setting.

I got a chuckle. Keep'em coming.

The one thing that's drawing me towards this game, aside from the wonderful IP, is the notion of getting to access "high-level content" from the get-go. I never bothered to play an online RPG to the level of raiding or PVP - if this is what makes them great, why hold it off? I guess Mythic's been wondering about that, as well. So yeah, interested... the art is still something of a mystery - I really hoped they were going for something a little further from WOW, but I guess it's alright.

interstate78 wrote:

Well it is possible that you know nothing of Warhammer itself, which I can forgive, but you should know that everything that has made World of Warcraft and Starcraft successes is the fact that they are heavily inspired by the Warhammer fantasy and 40k universes.

Wow. That's impressively off the mark. Lore and world are heavily influenced/stolen from Warhammer, but that's not what made the games successful. The gameplay and level of polish is what made them successful, and Warhammer gets no credit for that; that's pure Blizzard.

WAR is a WoW clone in the same way that WoW is an EQ clone; it takes it's predecessor as a baseline for UI/mechanics/general gamery, and then builds on it with it's own tweaks and polish.

I think "clone" is an incorrect appellation. I see this is not identical, but more evolutionary. WAR is an evolutionary step. Will it lead somewhere is the question?

Why yes, I am splitting hairs.

Try as I might to stay disinterested, word of mouth is strong and I am moved. Perhaps in a month if things remain so positive I'll take a dive depending on the strength of the community.

Why do we have all these "clone" discussion with MMOs? Of course it is a "clone" because it is a MMO.

I just don't get it. Nobody says HL2 is a clone of DOOM and then complains. We don't hear people decrying the game mechanics/ui and so on in these games. It is those elements that help make the game fit the mold and just like Elysium said this is a MMO and if you want something different look someplace else.

Now if you want to argue or talk about if I am going to leave my current MMO for this one that is a slightly different topic. I think the answer to that question is more based on am I bored with my current MMO and will this one be fun.

These are my rambling thoughts on the fun based off a year of beta testing.

I like the PQ idea they have but I expressed my worries about them too. Mainly because while most areas have multiple PQ it is usually the first one in the area tha gets all the action. I am just as quilty as the next guy too as when I find a PQ I will tend to stay there to max out influence before moving on.

I like the idea of open groups. For those not familiar with the idea in WAR you can click a button under your icon that opens up a list of all the 'open' groups in the area. It tells you how far away they are from you in time the current group size and what they are currently working on (PQ, RvR, PvE). From this place you can join an open group or click a box that makes you the leader of an open group that others can join. It is a great solution for people looking to group up for specific activities.

I love the art direction because I love the Warhammer IP.

I like how you can also RvR from level 1 and how easy they make it to get into a scenario from any place.

I do worry about linear game play and this is not a problem unique to WAR but is created by having quest hubs that move you from hub to hub.

The Tome of Knowledge helps a bit with the hub to hub syndrome as my desire to unlock all the bits for the Tome has me running all over the place even if quests don't but not sure if that is enough in the end.

I also like how they basically took the Lord of the Ring deed system and made it part of the Tome and as a way to progress your character.

I worry that if you like PvE content and a level 40 max that it will be a bit light in that area.

I like and dislike the fact that your armor will almost always match because there are less 'traditional' slots. The trophy slots though more then make up for the lost slots in numbers but I will have to see if over time trying to get a new trophy is as addictive as completing an armor set for example.

I also worry that a lot of the RvR will as the game progress be about levels and gear. I can see the possibility of people new to a level range having issues with doing well if the other side has a lot of renown on them and are decked out.

I wish they had pass through targeting but at least having a defensive target and offensive target ability helps.

In RvR scenarios I had trouble using the mini map to find my group members over just a random person in the raid. I also had trouble with the raid ui as I would often make it move around as I did not see a way to 'lock' it. I found it annoying enough to finally hide the rest of the raid stats and hope I can notice the health of people near by without it (I was playing a healer).

Sure there are more things I am forgetting but that is it for now.