Sunday, June 27, 2010

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

I've recently completely my free month of this game and since I refuse to pay by the month for any game, that means its time to review it. I attained level 33 (out of 40) and had the chance to experience most of what the game has offer, so I figure this review will be pretty fair. First off, for those lazy people out there (which I estimate comprises over 50% of my readership) here is the tl:dr version:

Lacklustre PvE, decent and fun PvP, glitches/bugs can sometimes become annoying, interesting classes.

Now for the full review:

Let's start with PvE since there isn't much to say. For the most part it's boring and grindy. Virtually all quests follow the kill 10 rats formula and virtually none of them are challenging or engaging. Out of the hundreds of quests I completed during my stay in the Warhammer universe, only one stood out as being memorable (it involved climbing up and then jumping off a honking huge tower and was actually pretty fun). Then there is their much touted Public Quest system. These are a lot more creative and fun to participate in, but unfortunately even the easiest ones require other players to complete, a resource which, unless you're playing with friends, is often in short supply. But if you can get a group together then PQs are easily the best part of the PvE game, providing a good level of challenge, interesting objectives, and worthwhile rewards. There are also some instanced dungeons in the game which are composed of a number of PQs with an epic boss fight at the end of each wing of the dungeon. These are also a lot of fun, but require a more coordinated group than required for regular PQs (good luck getting a group together), and you'll also want at least one person who knows the strategies needed to defeat the endboss (so you'll probably need to find the appropriate wiki).

You'll only need to play WAR for a short time to realize that PvP is the heart and soul of this game. PvP is divided into 2 major components: scenarios and open Realm vs Realm. Scenarios are essentially instanced battlegrounds that you queue up for. I'll note right now, that until you reach the final tier of the game, expect very long, if not indefinite queue times. There may only be a small window of a couple hours each day where queues consistently pop, and if you miss that window then you probably won't be playing any scenarios that day. Once you do get into a scenario however, then you're in for some fun times provided teams are equal in number (or if your team has more). Most scenarios are some variation of battlefield objective control with some capture the flag thrown in here and there which can get a bit repetitive, but killing other players is plenty of fun and the renown rewards system makes it worthwhile.

Open RvR is the other major aspect of PvP in the game and its a bit more hit and miss. There is almost always a warband or two doing running around in open RvR areas, so its more reliable than scenarios, but often its a lot more boring. A good 75% of my time doing RvR was spent killing NPCs at battle objectives and then sitting around for 3 minutes while waiting for the objective to flip without encountering any players from the opposing faction. The remaining 25% was spent doing keep battles, which is where the fun and the best rewards are. Whether attacking or defending a keep, you're guaranteed to be in for some hot player on player action. At peak hours, over 50 players might be involved and at times like these the battle gets really intense. Personally I prefer being on defense (but that can be a real pain if you arrive after they've broken through the outer gates).

One problem of the game that I cannot overlook is the surprising number of bugs I encountered. Some were relatively insignificant, such as minor interface glitches where the casting time of a skill would remain on the screen long after the skill has been used. But others could really hamper gameplay. I ran into no fewer than 4 PQs which became impossible to complete due to glitches. Because they pissed me off so much I shall tell you about each and every one of these incidents. One stage of PQ requires you to destroy 4 cannons. The problem? There are only 3 cannons. Another PQ requires you to kill 7 ratmen. We killed 6, but the 7th had this interesting skill which apparently allowed him to phase in and out of existence. One PQ featured skeletons who could attack you from underground where you couldn't see them or attack them back. Compounding the situation was the fact that they were elite mobs which led to a number of group wipes before we just gave up. Finally there was the incident of the ghost lady boss who turned neutral (and thus unattackable) and spawned a couple low level mobs. We made short work of the spawns, but the boss refused to turn hostile again so we watched helplessly for 10 minutes as the timer ran down and the PQ reset. Ok I am done my bitching now.

Another thing that I admire about the game is the class system. All of the classes have their own unique feel to them, yet Mythic still managed to balance gameplay so that no faction has more powerful classes than the other. For instance, I played a Magus who serves the forces of Destruction. He rides around on this funky disc everywhere and summons demons from the netherworld to do his bidding while firing off bolts of energy. His equivalent on the side of Order is the Engineer who summons turrets instead of demons and fires bullets instead of bolts of energy. Both serve a similar function, gameplay wise, but have their own original spin that no other class has. In this respect, Mythic did a pretty good job.

Also the Tome of Knowledge is pretty cool, and all MMOs should have a similar resource.

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