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WAAAGH! Warhammer Online Revisited

Posted Wed, Feb 03, 2010 by mattlow

The clash of steel upon steel, the cries of the dying, the smell of fires from countless burning buildings filling the air, all these represent the awesome appeal of Warhammer Online. The lure of Chaos led me to join my Dark Elf brethren to bring about the downfall of our hated cousins, the High Elves. Since then, I have drifted away from Warhammer Online, but Mythic has recently created a free-to-play introduction to the game. The pertinent question is how good is this free introduction? Is it fun to play, and what options are available to players in it? Does it guide new players through their first foray into the harsh world of Warhammer? Like a crow drawn to a bloody battlefield, I was drawn once more to WAR to get the answers to these questions.

To be honest, I’ve always liked WAR a great deal. I loved the almost non-stop combat and the relative lack of missions to collect “sissy-herbs” or kill “x number of stupid woodland creatures” that permeate so many other MMOGs. While the crafting system sucked, I didn’t care because I played the game to split skulls with my ax, not embroider some doublet. The PvP action was incredible, but the end-game content was somewhat lacking and the city sieges were not up to snuff, in my opinion. That being said, I enjoyed my time playing before I eventually drifted to other games.

The lure of WAR is hard to resist, especially when it is free. Now anyone can play the first tier in WAR for free, which means that you can play a character up to level 10. So, what can you accomplish in 10 levels ?

First, some great news. You can play all of the races and classes. This time around, I decided to be a Dwarf Slayer. Bald is beautiful, baby! Anyway, while you are not limited to a few classes or races, you are limited to a specific starting area. No matter what your race is, you will play in the Empire versus Chaos starting areas, Nordland and Norsca. You can freely roam through the starting area, but you cannot travel to any other zones or the capital cities. If you decide to upgrade to a full account, which you can do by purchasing the game or renewing your subscription, your character has a scroll in their possession at the start of the game to transport them to their own native starting area.

Limiting players to a specific starting area is a good thing. With the addition of new players trying out the game, there was an abundant population to adventure with. I played the first few public quests (one of the best things that WAR created), and there were plenty of other players also taking part. It was refreshing not having to try to finish a public quest on my own.

Mythic has also redone some of the missions in the intro tier. There is a definite strategy of quickly moving the characters along through the zone. I remember spending a great deal more time in the first village when I played originally, but I didn’t mind the game moving me along at a pretty good pace. In addition, you can queue up anytime for any of the tier 1 PvP scenarios. I had a blast playing those scenarios again. WAR’s PvP scenario system is still second to none.

Mythic does their best to help new players through the intro by having a tutorial pop up on your screen from time to time. These pop-ups have some narration helping to explain the various topics such as public quests, guilds and grouping, or combat. While I didn’t need them, they were presented extremely well and were clear and concise. If you don’t want to view them, you do have the option to turn them off. I hope other companies will use this method of explaining their game system to new players. The way the information was presented made it easy to understand. I got to give props to Mythic for this feature.

When you hit the second chapter of the storyline, Mythic pulls another ace out of their sleeve. At this time, you are automatically entered into a guild (one for Order, one for Destruction) and the help tutorial pops up with information on guilds and parties. While being forced into a guild might not sound like a great thing, Mythic makes it extremely helpful by having a mod online and in the guild to answer questions and help new players with information. Having new players getting their questions answered by a mod and not some snarky player calling them a noob every ten seconds is a stroke of genius. Again, this is a feature that other MMOGs should look into for implementation in their games.

There are a few drawbacks to the free-to-play introduction. First, you’re handicapped to level 10. Once you hit level 10, you stop gaining experience, but you can continue to gain renown through PvP. The items you can earn in the intro are also restricted. Playing for free, you can’t get purple, blue, or gold bags in public quests, nor can you get or use rare or higher level items. Every time you gain a level, you’ll also get bombarded with an option to upgrade the game. However, these drawbacks are minor considering you’re getting to play the game for free for the first 10 levels. Quit your whining, sissy-boys!

Overall, playing the free-to-play introduction to WAR made me realize all the things I loved about the game originally. The almost non-stop brutal combat, the incredible PvP action, and the awesome public quests, all while playing within one of the coolest game worlds ever created, puts a big smile on my face and seriously tempts me to renew my subscription. Perhaps my Witch Elf needs to pick up her blades once again to carve her hate on the bellies of the weak.

If you haven’t player Warhammer Online before, or if you left a long time ago, you owe it to yourself to try the free-to-play introduction. It’s free, ya bastards, so get out there and start kicking butt and taking names! WAAAGH!!!!
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