September 2008 Archives

What I'm Playing: Warhammer Online (First Impressions)

At one point in the recent past, I made the decision that I simply wasn't going to start in on any more MMORPGs - I just don't really have the spare time to invest in such an endeavor, and am usually only able to play for a few hours each night, plus a little more time on the weekends.

But, of course, I'm a sucker for beta testing these games - given the usually more-rapid advancement process, not to mention the fun of getting to see something before the general public.  And I bought into Warhammer Online after sitting through their half-hour presentation at PAX this year.  Also, I happened to find the pre-order package (with a free entry into the Open Beta, plus a head-start on the actual launch) at Target for 99 cents one day.  Since the pre-order also comes with a $5 coupon, it seemed like a pretty good deal - get into Open Beta, play the game for a week, and if I liked it, I could save $5 by spending $1.  Net savings = $4!

So...yes, I bought into the Open Beta, and had some fun wandering around, mostly with a High Elf Shadow Warrior.  Unfortunately, some other things came up during the week of Open Beta, so I was really only able to log in about 10 hours or so of actual play time.  And while I wasn't horribly impressed by the game overall, I figured it was worth $50 to play for a month or so, then decide whether I wanted to continue.

Plus, I had the head-start, which meant that I got to create ongoing characters three days before the actual launch date.  Since the Open Beta characters were all wiped, I restarted with an Empire Witch Hunter on the Wasteland server, and have been playing him pretty much since then.  I did also create a Chaos Chosen character on Bretonnia, but I haven't had much time to wander around with him.

But enough about me - you probably want to know what I think about the game as a whole.  It's always difficult to get a bead on an MMORPG immediately at launch, but the one thing I'm impressed with overall is the manner in which the folks at Mythic are handling the game in general.  They haven't been afraid to make major changes in the design and scope of the game (dropping four classes and several capital cities from the game because they "weren't exceptional").  In fact, in the past few days, they've actually pulled off a first in the support for an MMORPG - they "cloned" several servers so that people could re-balance the load at their own leisure.  I haven't heard anything about the results here yet (Mythic doesn't have an official forum for the game, another thing I applaud them for), but in concept it's an exceptionally brilliant plan.

As for the game itself, it really is a lot of fun, and is relatively quick and easy to get into.  The quests are fun, they draw you all around the map, and you get to see some pretty amazing sights.  The "Realm versus Realm" (RvR) concept is at full swing here, and if you don't like PvP playing, then I'm afraid you really won't get to enjoy all that Warhammer Online has to offer - even many solo quests send you into RvR areas of the game, essentially forcing you into interacting with other players.  Of course, there are drawbacks to that concept, as I ran into several "griefers" who were hanging out around the entrance to some of these RvR areas, waiting to pick off individuals who were trying to pull off the solo quests.  I found, though, that this just made these quests a bit more of a challenge, and sneaking around them was actually kind of fun.

The "Public Quest" concept is a fun one as well - in each area there are roughly 10 of these scripted events to uncover, and they're in some ways similar to short "instanced" dungeons that you find in other MMOs.  However, you don't really need to have a formal group in the area, and the requirements are straightforward and laid out at the top of your screen.  The PQs that I've done have had multiple stages (typically 3 stages), where the first is usually collect X items or kill X creatures, followed by a second stage where you have to fight off X Champions (harder than your typical level X creature), and finally taking down a Hero of some form (I've fought a Giant, a Hydra, and a Warlock in a couple of the early PQs).  It gives the almost-casual player a feeling that they're contributing to an overall story, and you are given a bonus to the overall loot "roll" based on your contribution - the more damage you do, the more items you find, etc. all affect the likelihood of you getting "loot".

The only real drawback for me is the fact that I'm trying to play it on a computer that's almost three years old.  Needless to say, this isn't really an option for a modern game, and the game that I play has almost ZERO resemblance to that shown at PAX.  But, it's still a lot of fun, and if you're looking for a good combination of the same-old "what works" from the MMO world, with some additional zip and nifty features (such as your bag expanding every 10 levels!), I would definitely recommend that you pick up Warhammer Online and give it a chance.