Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Preview

By Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
By Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

WAR is upon us. Hundreds of thousands of players wait at the gates of Mythic Entertainment’s Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, eager to jump into the fray, cut down their enemies, and build a pile of bodies larger than that of their opponents. Blood will fly as gamers scramble to snatch up their weapons and leap at each others throats. Long lines will form outside of local computer stores as gamers vie to be the first to take a copy of the celebrated game home to their computers and binge for a few hours before passing out in a sugar and caffeine induced coma.

That moment won’t be occurring until September 18th, 2008, and gamers still have a little while to wait before they officially wage war upon their friends and neighbors.  But what about those players that are still hanging on the fence? While around 800,000 individuals signed up to be a part of the Warhammer Online, there are certainly thousands more players that are interested in the game yet don’t know exactly what WAR is about nor whether or not they should be excited about this upcoming game.

Over 800,000 people have signed up for the WAR closed beta test.

That’s where the Ten Ton Hammer staffers step in. Throughout the rest of this article, I will try to paint you a solid picture of what to expect in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Don’t expect me to be overly critical of any aspect of the game; the game is still in the beta phase after all. However, I will try to be realistic with my views on the gameplay and hope to answer any questions that “undecided” folks may have. These are pure observations generated from time spent in the Warhammer Online beta test. If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to talk about them on the forums.

Sticking to the Formula

Unlike the developers at Funcom and their recently released MMOG Age of Conan, the crew at Mythic Entertainment seemed to hold to a very simply strategy throughout their development of Warhammer Online: Evolution rather than revolution. Although many of the “veteran” MMOG players complain about the lack of creativity when it comes to the combat mechanics and character advancement within MMOGs, the formula that was originally constructed by MUDs (and later adopted by EverQuest and World of Warcraft) really works for online gamers. Most gamers that have had any sort of experience playing a previous MMOG will feel totally at home in Warhammer Online.

However, there are a few differences in the way Warhammer Online operates. First, Mythic has really focused on making sure the combat in WAR feels like it’s actually happening underneath your fingers, even while the game still uses the auto-attack / hot key methodology. As I took my High Elven Swordmaster into my first RvR battleground, I couldn’t help but feel a little tingle at the way my sword sliced through my opponents. With cooldown times that are in the single digits for many of the abilities, most gamers will be actively using their hotkeys to try to carve up their enemies; this isn’t a click and wait sort of game.

That said, a number of the classes have actually adopted some mechanics from earlier games and actively evolved them to work with WAR. One of the most profound moments I had in the beta was when I discovered that the Chaos Chosen could “twist” their Aura abilities, much like what the Bards in EverQuest can do. While the Chosen is definitely more bad-ass than any Bard, it’s still a cool mechanic for those of us who used to specialize in twisting Bard songs during combat.  

The starting experience for Warhammer Online – and the general PvE combat that I’ve engaged in thus far – has been highly enjoyable, to say the least. Most of the quests seem finished and complete, and I’ve yet to see any truly immersion-breaking bugs or discrepancies in any of the environments. While some of the abilities still need some fine-tunings (and I imagine Mythic will continue to tweak well into post-release), each of my solo characters was more than capable of taking out low level monsters and completing the introductory quests.

However, the whole introductory experience is a bit more... hostile in Warhammer Online. Although the tongue-in-cheek humor is still all around the players as they march through the landscape, the sheer anger that many of the NPCs hold for their opposing race / faction is almost visceral. It’s certainly a different dialogue style, and one that I did enjoy, even without the fancy voice overs that are seen in EQ2 and AoC.

Nothing Like a Good Punch in the Mouth

As Paul Barnett and Jeff Hickman have stated over and over again, WAR is everywhere. While that may be uncomfortably true in our real world, it’s also true in the world of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. From the very moment you touch down among your chosen race, you’ll be pushed towards passionately believing in the enmity between the races of Order and Desrtruction. Although there was a definite hostility between the Horde and the Alliance in World of Warcraft, it pales in comparison to what you see in the battle between Order and Destruction in WAR.

RvR is definitely a high point for Warhammer Online.

For example, the very first quest I received from an NPC in Warhammer Online was to help gather bones in order to fire a Hellcannon – a dreadful weapon of mass destruction that was to be turned against the races of order, specifically the humans in the Empire. You see, I was one of the Chosen, a class that specifically comes from the Chaos race whose hatred for the Empire has seeped into their very core. From there on out, almost every quest I received was written in that particular style: “Do this to help kill our enemies in the Empire.”

Now I know many of you are asking: “But why is Warhammer Online so focused on the conflict between these two factions (Order and Destruction) and why should I care?” By engendering this sort of hostility towards the various other races in Warhammer Online, the developers are hoping to really inflame the passion of gamers worldwide. They want them to have a favorite faction. Even in their online advertisements, EA asks players to “Declare Your Allegiance” and then points them towards one of the two factions. Just like sports fans with their favorite teams, players with their favored faction will be more than willing to stand up for that “team” and defend them in any way necessary. And that is exactly what the developers at Mythic are hoping to achieve. This hostility strikes at the very core of what Warhammer Online is all about, and that is Realm versus Realm combat and competition.

Realm versus realm combat – or RvR as it is typically called - isn’t your standard take on player versus player combat. It’s all out war. Rather than simply jumping into a scenario to try to take out opposing players or randomly ganking a newbie from some hidden vantage point near a new player city, gamers in Warhammer Online are encouraged – from the very beginning – to enter into contested areas of a map and fight to the death with players from the opposing faction.

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