Monday, September 22, 2008
I would never claim to be an expert on MMORPGs (short for Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games, and shortened further to MMOs). As a lad I spent a fair amount of time playing the original Everquest until I got frustrated with having my Savant's Cap looted for the 14th time (yes, was a pvp server, you will see a theme). I played the original Neverwinter Nights on AOL, back when a 56k modem was the shit and you paid by the minute for internet access-and my parents almost killed me for it. Before EQ and after NWN I spent a fair amount of time playing text-based MUDs (short for multi-user dungeons) such as Gemstone III and Dragonrealms. After a few year break, my second year in college I got talked into Dark Age of Camelot, in which I spent over three years-and which is still my favorite MMO ever. During and since I've flirted with and/or had short stints with Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft (sold my account for $500 to buy my girlfriend at the time a Valentines gift), Lord Of The Rings Online, and finally a few months back spent about 5 weeks with Age of Conan before realizing it was fucking terrible.
The point of all this isn't to stroke my own ego, as though admitting that i've wasted chunks of my life on pointless MMOs is some sort of badge of honor (and let me assure you, it's not), but instead to give some credence when I claim that I do, in fact, have some experience with this genre. And while me and MMOs tend have a very bad relationship, ever since the death of Granarc and my soon-after departure from Dark Age Of Camelot (henceforth known as DAOC), I've been looking for the next one. The one that will finally grab my attention, will depart from the tired MMO formula and offer me something new.
And finally, I think I've found it.
Warhammer Online (henceforth known as WAR) isn't perfect. As someone that didn't participate in beta and did barely any research into it going in, I was extremely frustrated with it early on. The game does an absolutely abysmal job of explaining itself. When you start, short of some vague tooltips, you're on your own to figure out wtf you're supposed to do and how things work.
But while it's not perfect, it's damn good. For transparency's sake, I'm currently sitting pretty as a rank 13 (of 40) Goblin Shaman (see picture above) on Phoenix Throne server, so no I'm not at the end game and it could easily shit a brick for the last several levels after a promising start the way Age of Conan did. I'm just reviewing what I've seen.
In the classic Mythic way, leveling is slow. Over the first week I've got 24 hours /played and that's gotten me to level 13, and while there are only 40 levels I'd consider that a bit slow. That said, unlike classic Mythic levelling isn't a grind to end all grinds. If memory serves I was sitting somewhere around 50 days /played when I hit 50 on DAoC, and it was even worse for EQ, this isn't nearly that bad. More importantly though, levelling is a blast in WAR.
RvR (their twist on player versus player combat where its instead realm versus realm, as it was in DAOC) is a core element to leveling, you secure not only a very nice return of XP for your time through RVR, but you can do it starting at level 1. That's right, there's no carrot and stick where you have to grind PvE (player versus enemy, against the AI) to get to the fun stuff (PvP). From the get go there are scenarios (instanced RvR engagements, much like in World of Warcraft) set up for each set of 10ish levels in the game (insuring a relatively even battlefield) that will provide you with not only the XP to level, but also Renown Points, which are just as they sound-and are spendable for items as well as garnering ranks and titles.
So if you're a PvP junkie like me (needing the thrill of fighting others rather than a silly AI), you can queue up for a scenario at anytime, anywhere, and go about your PvE business-the game will alert you when a slot opens up, and you can enter it, and when it ends you're right back where you started. It's beautiful. Seriously.
The PvE is pretty straightforward. The game seems very soloable, although there is grouping to be done if that's your thing. There's a very nice mix of classes between the races, with lots of unique roles and abilities, and most importantly a fair amount of customization. No one likes being pigeonholed into a role, and you've got options.
And in the classic DAoC twist, beyond the PvE and instanced RvR, there is world RvR. Even at lvl 10, there are overlapping zones where you will run into your enemies and be forced to fight or flee. There are world objectives to be captured, and bonuses to be had as a result. It's the coup de grace that WoW never had-RvR not only matters, but isn't bottled up into instances.
If you're a DAoC fan, buy this game. If you're a soured WoW player, buy this game. If you made the mistake I did thinking AoC would be worth a damn, don't let it sour you and give WAR a try. If you're still playing CS, then don't bother.
Seriously, it's good....it's damn good. It's fun, lots of fun.