Another MMO Giant Enters the Fray
January 30, 2008 – EA Mythic has been credited for creating the famous Dark Age of Camelot, an MMORPG that rivaled Asheron’s Call, EverQuest, Ultima Online, and City of Heroes going into the early 2000s. Though a little unpolished, it featured a unique class system and solid PvP (player vs. player) action that still draws some crowds to this day. Yet, in an age where World of Warcraft currently holds the genre in its tightly clenched fist, many people have found that those two particular elements aren’t enough.
Aiming at the casual player and offering a deep solo, group, and player vs. player environment, Blizzard has created a monster that both casual and hardcore players can get engaged with. Most modern day MMORPGs either make it too difficult for new players to get into or just try to copy World of Warcraft’s formula and fail. Warhammer Online sets out to try to do everything World of Warcraft has done but better, with emphasis on a truly fascinating end-game PvP environment.
The plot of Warhammer is one that you would expect from Lord of the Rings, but with its own particular twist Basically, a nation known as the “Empire,” which consists of mostly humans, is attacked by a plague. Though quarantined at first, the disease soon spreads throughout the entire area, infecting every person within its deadly radius. The symptoms are minor for the first few weeks, but as time goes on people begin to notice a change in those particular individuals. This change turns them into the “Chaos,” a group of bloodthirsty, deranged sub-humans with nothing on their mind but the kill. Eventually another evil nation, the Dark Elves, takes notice of the Empire’s current problem and utilizes this opportunity to join with the Chaos. With help from the Greenskins, who consist of mostly Orcs and Goblins, the newly created horde begins their march on the Empire. Obviously needing help from the plague and the army on the way, the Empire calls on the High Elves and Dwarves for assistance. With all the nations set for battle, the scenario has been set, and thus begins the conflict within Warhammer.
Following in World of Warcraft’s footsteps, Warhammer Online showcases a class system with a total of six races: Dwarves, High Elves, The Empire, Chaos, Dark Elves, and Greenskins. Yet, unlike World of Warcraft where certain races can only take on a number of class traits, Warhammer allows all professions to be attainable for all races. These class traits include a tank (defense class), melee damager (offensive melee class), ranger (ranged class), and support (magic/healing class). The options are fairly rudimentary, but they will no doubt be expanded upon as release draws closer and closer. Each of these six make up two distinct groups known as Order and Destruction, with the races that make up these two groups being fairly self-explanatory. The option to be either a male or female is there, as well as a customization feature to change a character’s looks, clothing, name, and more. All in all, it looks like the foundation is in place, which is always important to have to support the rest of the product.
Another similarity the title holds with its soon-to-be rival is the questing system. From screenshots and videos you can probably deduct that the advancement of your character will be through primarily completing quests and advancing through your particular career system. Drifting away a bit from the average MMORPG, Warhammer Online does not have a level based system. This has been wanted for a long time from fans of PvP that have felt that high level players make too much of an impact. So much so that it abolishes the premise of “skill” all together. I feel that the game’s advancement system is similar to that of Guild Wars, where PvE (player vs. environment) is primarily for small-time progress, while the PvP is the emphasis of the game. And it is the PvP aspect of the game, or should I say RvR (realm vs. realm), where Warhammer truly shines.
A lot of complaints that modern World of Warcraft players have revolves around the game’s lack of current world PvP. By this they mean that besides ganking (the attacking of lower level players), there isn’t any reason to do battle in the non-instanced part of the game. Warhammer looks to correct those problems by introducing four main player vs. player types: Skirmishes, Scenarios, Battlefields, and Campaigns. The first of these, Skirmishes, is just a regular confrontation between you and one or more of the opposing faction. This is comparable to real world battles in most traditional role playing games. However, unlike similar titles within the genre, winning Skirmishes will earn you experience, character points, and even loot. There’s an incentive to get your hands dirty, right? While this sounds well and good, the next three help define what the realm vs. realm combat within Warhammer is all about.
One of these highlights is the Scenario game type, which is similar to the battlegrounds of World of Warcraft. Instanced within a particular part of the world, you will go about your objective trying to save a particular group of people, capture a base or flag or deal with quest specific non-player characters known as Dogs of War, which attempt to balance to play out and reward characters who complete their missions. Battlefields are more of the same, except that the objectives are a little more specific and may include gathering resources or taking over a pre-determined location. In essence, it is a more casual setting of the RvR gameplay, catering to those a little less experienced. Now, the three mentioned above sound exciting, but they are all merely baby steps to the ultimate goal: the Campaign.
You can probably head over to the World of Warcraft forums right now and notice people complaining about the lack of objectivity in PvP gameplay. Instead of random encounters with no real rewards or consequences, players these days strive to be able to make an impact within the world. This is where Warhammer’s Campaign comes into play. Once you have accomplished enough within the three earlier mentioned battle types, you will have the chance to organize a group raid on a particular city. The defenders will have a chance to make a stand, as well as have support from some of the A.I. If you can lead a successful attack, there will be opportunities to seize particular structures, treasures, and even have the option to hold the leader of that city hostage. What is impressive about this game type is that it truly gives players a chance to engage in meaningful combat, and while there are consequences for death and failure, the rewards more than make up for it.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for you fans of PvE play as well. For those that wish not to actively take part in the RvR system, there are some quests throughout the landscape to participate in. Towards the end of the game, higher level players will be able to take part in challenging boss fights and tricky dungeons, which test both reflex and wit. Though not much information has been divulged in this category, it would be nice to see computer A.I. that can be beaten through skill, not the traditional gear and level build up which is all too common these days. Yes, I’m talking to you Blizzard. Regardless, according to the developers, there will be plenty to do on both fronts. And with the amount of depth placed into RvR, I feel that even people who regularly despise competition will enjoy the facets being offered.
They say that a solid presentation is half the battle, and Warhammer Online is truly trying to convey a more realistic tone to the MMORPG world. After plenty of sessions with the cartoon themed visuals of World of Warcraft and Maple Story, Warhammer is definitely a sight for sore eyes. Taking a nod from recent releases Tabula Rosa and Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer brings both a darker tone and presentation that is more reminiscent of classic fantasy stories. Characters are well proportioned, with plenty of facial features and fluid movement. Particle effects are impressive and even sections of the landscape look to be alterable for a short time during combat. No information has been revealed about the finalized soundtrack, but if it is anywhere near as good as how the graphics look, then I think players have nothing to worry about
Ten years ago Dark Age of Camelot was a breakthrough in player vs. player combat within an MMORPG with the introduction of its RvR setup. Now, nearly a decade later, Mythic looks to bring the same magic back with Warhammer Online. With little else on the horizon other than the myth that is Darkfall, Warhammer is the most anticipated MMORPG of the year, with over 500,000 people signed up for the upcoming beta. There promises to be a lot to do, from crafting and questing to exploration and combat, and you would have to be a complete hater of the genre to not want to give this one a shot. Will it drop World of Warcraft from its deserved throne? Probably not, but it will definitely attract the competitive crowd who are looking for more of that “hardcore edge” to their gameplay. No release date has been solidified, but look for it to arrive sometime this summer. In the meantime, there’s always World of Warcraft; I know some of you haven’t gotten to level 70 yet.