Alright, some of you wanted to know impressions and I know of quite a few gentlemen and women around here that have been in for some time. I'm hoping that they can also chime in with their thoughts concerning the game so that those sitting on the fence can weight the pros and cons of what's being delivered.
The game itself basically plays out as if it were the offspring of DAoC and WoW, which is certainly not surprising considering the company involved and the source material. If you've been following this title for some time, I'm sure you've heard that they've cut some classes from the release (and possibly for good) while at the same time, like every MMO, don't quite deliver on every promise made. (For those that remember the whole "Bears" speech in one of the early newsletters, this is one of those shortfalls). Nitpicking aside, lets get to the guts:
1. Graphics: Think WoW and think no further. What this does for the game is allow large PvP battles to work (More about that below); however, on the flipside, its hard to shake the feeling that this game at times almost feels like some WoW expansion, which while it isn't necessarily a terrible thing, it doesn't necessarily push many technological envelopes.
2. Characters: Here is my biggest gripe and one I've incessantly needled Mythic about on their beta boards. In the attempt to make everything equal, for every Order race, there is a corresponding Chaos race that is exactly the same. Have you played a Bright Wizard, well, then you've also played the Sorcerer. The only thing different about them are the spell/melee graphics and the names of the spells. Obviously, this was done with the idea of PvP in mind. Its awfully hard for people to whine about nerfs when their opposing forces are nothing more than their evil twin army come to life.
Beyond that, the speccing system they've installed is also made for those who love WoW. The trick is, you get a number of abilities and talents that you can customize into different slots on hotbars that you can use for different scenarios your character might get into, including PvE, Raiding, PvP, and group PvPing. This is extremely helpful and a million miles better than where they started when they conceived this.
3. PvE: This is your run of the mill stuff. Grind and Quest, Quest and Grind. Some nice things that you'll immediately enjoy about WAR really boil down to two things here. The first are the group quests you can do with others. These are quite fun at low levels where the population of the server is heavily represented. Its fun to jump into the quest wherever they are (they can be on step 3 of 5 and you can join to finish the last half) and play along. When you finish up the group quest, it posts little stats about how everyone did and who helped the most and rolls loot in an NBA-lottery style way for those that finished the quest. If you did very well in the group quest and were an important cog, your chances for getting the best loot is fairly high (and your chance of getting any loot is very good). If you didn't do very much and sat there soaking up xp, you'll likely get passed by when the loot comes. The other nice thing about this is that the group quest loot comes in baggies that are like little presents you can open up and the loot is specific for your character. No more finishing a fight and looting only to find out that you can't even use what was dropped.
The second thing most people will enjoy, though they may not notice it at first is the journal. The journal is basically your own little storybook that details what you've done, what you've seen, and where you've been. To be honest, I haven't played with it recently because the focus hasn't been so much on PvE and instead on PvP, so I don't know if there are any updates to it, but I do know that Mythic wants to make it a big deal. Once you realize its there, you'll find yourself leafing through it and spending a silly amount of time playing around in it. Depending on what you've done, you can change your title above your name (Think EQII-style) and do a few other neat things with it as well.
4. PvP: Really, here's the meat. I'll let you in on a secret, Siege PvP works and works well the two times I've been in it. Framerates were fine, there was very little stuttering and it was an exciting and enjoyable experience. My computers are decent dual-core, middle-of-the-line systems with an 8800GTS card at work and an ATIx1950 at home and it ran fine on both machines. About the siege. Do you remember DAoC? Think of seeing a ton of people with siege engines surrounding a castle with players running along the ramparts like ants. While half the time its nothing more than an semi-controlled zergfest, it does get the heart pumping and is a hell of a lot of fun.
The rest of the PvP? Yawn. You'll find along the borders of the Order/Chaos divide that one side always controls the 'neutral' areas and camps the entrance to the others' side while the weaker side shimmies back and forth across their 'safety' line. It reminds me of a middle school dance where you've got a couple of people actively fighting it out on the fringes while everyone else stands along the wall, too scared to do much else. This game plays out like most others of this genre: each player has his role and failure to fill that role = death. Simple and not very difficult. At one point, tanks freaking ruled and there was nothing worse than seeing an Orc Choppa bearing down on you, but with recent releases, they've been almost worthless which in my opinion (and I've given it) sucks.
You can level and gather elite loot through PvPing. Very early in beta, I tried levelling the PvP way and I made it from level 3-7 exclusively through PvP. Unless server populations are super heavy, I don't know that I'd recommend that. There are PvP rewards in place and they do certainly make nice carrots for getting the PvEers of the world a bit more involved in things and out of their respective sandboxes some. To be honest, this isn't really some game where you grind to max level and then go out and fight others. Mythic has set up tiers of play for PvPers to play in which mostly ensures you're not going to get ganked by someone 20 levels higher than you. Most people will want to, once they really discover the PvP zones, certainly get their toes wet testing the waters some and this generally starts to happen (because the quests push you toward them) around 7th-10th level. The only thing I don't much like about this PvP system is that it is heavily level-based. While one level difference doesn't make too huge a difference, anything more than that and you're out of your weight-class. The only good news here is that you're rarely ever alone when you're PvPing, which certainly helps in determining the winner of any given fight.