Warhammer Online : A Second Look

In our next Second Look, we take a look at one of the original "WoW slayers". Even though it's down to single digits for servers, it has come a long way!

It’s hard to believe Warhammer Online is just short of three years old.  It feels like yesterday we were all running around Nordenwatch, the first tier of PvP, blasting people to death with Bright Wizards and backstabbing with Witch Elves.  Of course, like any launch MMO, it shipped with its fair share of problems.   Mythic was fixed some, and some are still problematic.  Were Mythic's measures enough to make WAR a must-play MMO (past tier 3, that is), now that the game has reached maturity?  Let’s take a look!

Servers - A dwindling population?

While Rift and WoW expand, WAR continues to merge server after server.  The game launched with dozens of servers and now we’re in the single digits.  While it’s nice to see that the developers are looking out for the population, a low population means a low income, which means a low rate of development for patches and content.

There are two segments of the game that have an active and constant population – Tier 1 and Tier 4.  For those who forgot or don’t know, I’m talking levels 1-10 and 30-40 essentially.  The former is due to Mythic’s relatively new Endless Tier 1 trial, where you are level capped but can experience more or less everything in the game up to that cap. 

Note that to help the population woes, everyone now starts in Empire vs. Chaos.  You can still access the other homelands, but this change helps greatly with upsizing public quests.

PvE – The Good, The Bad, and the Waargh

So with all of the action in the first and last 10 levels of the game, what is there to do in the other 20 levels?  You can still do what we used to - queue for battlegrounds and occasionally get a fight.  There’s still open PvP, on a much smaller scale than the massive raids of Tier 1 and 4.   That leaves questing, which is, lamentably, still a drudgery.

While Public Quests offer an ‘easy mode’ that can be soloed, the rewards are paltry, with no real chance of seeing bigger and better rewards unless your bring your own guild.  The long and short of it is that the best gear still comes from PvP renown ranks, which are of course obtained via PvP.  So what are you to do when you want to keep your renown ranks up there with your levels so you quickly unlock access to the sweet, sweet PvP gear?  Your guess is as good as mine!

PvP – Balancing Act

Perhaps the most frustrating part of WAR for a lot of us was the silly imbalance.  For examply, Witch Elves had a healing debuff in tier 1, witch hunters didn’t get one until tier 3, and Dwarf Ironbreakers went around punting Chaos meleers into lava with insane knockback. Hilarious, yes, and good fodder for a Paul Barnett monologue, but it's no exactly eSports material.  

Fortunately, Mythic has kept a few unique properties for each side’s version of the class, but the core functionality of the classes between the factions now seems much more in-sync.

Add in matching equivalents of the Chosen and Ironbreaker for each side plus the addition of the Slayer and Chopper, and you’ve got a lot of new threats on the battlefield that you might not be used to.  The server mergers have been a great boon to PvP, as it keeps world PvP in the popular warzones relatively lively.

Most recently, the 1.4 patch brought a big shake up to open PvP in two major forms. You no longer have to have 30 minute slug fests to capture a zone. Zones are now captured via one big ugly keep raid (and who doesn’t have fond memories of those?) which helps with the attrition and periods of passivity that arise during open PvP. Speaking of boredom, if you do get tired of doing the same old thing, you can now play as a Skaven class in world PvP areas. These are great at filling role gaps in your warband and great to just do something different every now and then.

Note that there is a USD 9.99 booster pack that enables renown ranks 81-100, and speeds up ranks 1 through 80 now.  This greatly alleviates the PvP grind if you’re willing to drop a bit of cash on it.

No matter how much changes in WAR, we will always thank it for adding collision detection to PvP.  And big ass orcs.

End Game – Raiding in WAR?

For the progression-minded, I hate to say this, but you really still need to look elsewhere.  The path to the top in WAR is via PvP, not PvE.  You can still get some quality gear from PvE, but the true draw of the game and perhaps more importantly, the players of the game, is in the PvP.  You might as well forget the idea of a pick up group for a raid in WAR.  The fact that the game is largely in the shadow of BioWare's behemoth, The Old Republic, means that fans won’t be seeing a whole lot of PvE content in the discernible future. Unless, that is, you count Wrath of Heroes as part of WAR's legacy.

All in all,WAR has come a long way, but you still come for the PvP, and you stay for the PvP.  If you can endure the comparative deadzone that is (still) 11-30, Tier 4 is a surprisingly fun hint at Warhammer Online fully realized.

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