This is less a review than a compendium of plaudits and rants on Warhammer. If you’re looking for an introductory review, you’re better served elsewhere as the review assumes some familiarity with Warhammer’s gameplay. Otherwise, read on!
Warhammer Online is a game that has devoured my nights ever since it came out on Sept 18. I’ve a love-hate affair with this potentially great but raw game by Mythic (maker of Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC).
In my time playing this game, I’ve come to a few impressions after spending around 80 hours on two order characters in the lower tier 2 areas.
1. It is not WoW, so don’t expect it to be
It is not as polished. It has a smaller gameworld. Quests are not as elaborate, the economy is not as robust, the crafting system is WoW-lite. But Warhammer is designed for a massive army-on-army PvP endgame, not a PvE end raid experience. If you don’t want to PvP, you’re missing the whole bloody point of the game.
Will it hold gamers like WoW or fade away like other MMOs have? I’ll stick my neck out and say yes for now – Warhammer is sufficiently different from WoW and should attract a dedicated audience. WoW is still the game to beat in the current crop of MMORPGs because it caters to a wide variety of play styles, it is exceedingly polished, and has so much content.
But it is not inherently designed and balanced for wide scale PvP. Time will tell if Wrath of the Lich King will change that in November, but at its core, the feel of the games are different. Play Warhammer for large scale PvP, WoW for PvE. And Guildwars 2 (coming 2009) for brilliantly balanced arena PvP. 🙂
2. Don’t play alone
Playing this game alone is going to be a horrendously frustrating experience. The PQs (Public Quests, which are open world scenario quests) require good groups to do well at the later chapters.
RvR (Realm vs Realm) combat also requires a sizeable number of folks to capture objectives or realm keeps. Playing this game by yourself is a surefire way to turn you off the game as it is designed to be played in groups. You can solo, but it will not be fun.
I already have friends try the game and leave after two weeks because they didn’t find it fun soloing. One piece of advice: be an unapologetic PuGie (pick-up-groupie), and join any open groups you can find. I tend to play healers and support, so I prostitute myself to all and sundry on any PQs and RvR areas I want to try. It’s the only way to get into groups, especially if you don’t have a dedicated group of friends or guild to level with together.
Sometimes you don’t get a good group no matter how hard you try, and the night becomes a frustrating experience. But the times when you get a good PQ or RvR group rolling is heaven.
3. PQs are not all similar
Some PQs are ridiculously tough and there are major balance issues that Mythic needs to look at. For example, the Pit of the Forsaken (Empire Chap 4) and Dragon’s Gate (High Elf Chap 7) require a ton of people for the last insane boss stages, for a pittance in terms of rewards.
I’m already playing on a reasonably populated server (Ironclaw, Oceanic), the game is new, and already I have difficulty sometimes finding a group for some PQs, especially those that are farther away from towns.
I would think it would be difficult to group for some PQs when the game gets a little older and the players get more spread out throughout the game. As there are three PQs per chapter, 22 chapters for each of the six playable factions, this works out to around close to 400 PQs in the entire game. The PQs are only worth doing if they are close to your level, and you can bypass them entirely if you don’t want to do them.
Some PQs – especially those near towns – always attract people and others a big fat zero. A few require runs through mob populated areas, meaning if you wipe, you have to start the PQ again from scratch (as you probably have failed the objectives based on time) – an incredibly frustrating process.
But when you have a good group for a well designed PQ is it is exhilarating. I loved Shattered Beach (High Elf Chap 3 PQ) when I first played it, where Order had to defend swarms of Black Orcs surging the beach at Blightsward, complete with mass ballista bombardment. Brilliant. Or Kon Kromar Gap (Dwarf Chap 3 PQ) where you compete with destruction players on who is the first to kill the opposing mobs. Two nights ago I completed Starbrook Falls (High Elf Chap 8 PQ), and the boss fight – with a knock back attack and mass skeleton summons – was incredibly fun with our eight people warband.
4. Chaos >>> Order
My gaming khakis and I came to the conclusion that more mature players tend to flock to the less glamorous races.
That would explain the imbalance between order and destruction players (actually, a similar imbalance exists between Horde and Alliance in WoW), both in terms of play skill and numbers.
Often I log in and realize order has no keeps to buy renown equipment as all of them are controlled by destruction. Play a scenario and I spend half my time pulling my hair out spamming curses to try to rally idiots who only fight but use no brains at all tactically. On certain days, we only win three out of every ten matches played, sometimes less.
Weekends seem to be better for order though, and sometimes you get a great PvP group. But based on anecdotal evidence, there are more skilled destruction players than order players.
Why play order then? Well, I like the perverse pleasure of playing the underdog, plus my scenario and log-in queues load fast. Don’t expect to win very often though.
A small aside to stupid (order) players in general:
- If the scenario is about capturing a flag, please support the flag bearer or gank the opposing flag bearer instead of fighting all over the map.
- If the scenario is about capping points do NOT fight outside the cap area. Rush in together to try to cap the point instead of solo suicide runs or clusterfucking outside the cap point.
- Do not pick the tank as a target when they are being chain healed by healers behind. Stick those pointy swords in those healers.
- Pay attention to the map objectives, chat often. Even if you’re wrong, communication helps the organization of your group in the game.
5. Classes are not balanced. Live with it
It is a testament to Mythic’s design that the classes play quite well thus far. For every whine by some player that some class or skill is OP (overpowered), there is a counterpoint by other players that the skill or class is ok.
I don’t want to hear *insert class or skill* is broken! Waaaah! I hate this game WoW-is-so-much-better-Warhammer-sucks whines. Go slink back to WoW, you rabid WoW fanboi. WoW took years to get the balance to its current state. And in Warhammer, it is often not 1-on-1 combat but en masse brawls and tactical play, so individual power levels matter less.
Maybe I’ll change my tune if Mythic doesn’t do any fine tuning in the future, but for now just play your damn class and enjoy the game.
6. Strip off those dancing shoes
No /dance, /spit, /slap, /silly emotes. In the beginning I thought the game had few emotes, till I realized via searching online there are quite a few, except that they are not well documented at all. You can find a list of them here.
7. Huh? You could stabilize potions by adding more waters? /Doh!
Speaking of which, the documentation in this game is horrible. Many things are not explained in the game, resulting in major confusion to the newbie player. For example, where do I go to learn my crafting skills? How do I create a potion or talisman, and how does each component affect the process?
For example, I never knew you could stabilize potions by adding two waters of the same type till I found this info online. Prior to this my potions were always volatile, and they had a high tendency to fail.
There are many other examples I could point out. What do mastery points do exactly?
How do you gain them? What are renown ranks for? What and where do I get tactics and what do the different types mean? Etc.
I had to find most of the information online, and Mythic could really do much more work in the documentation part.
Some answers to the basic questions above:
- Mastery points are used to raise your effective levels in one of your three mastery trees. Only core skills (labeled as such) are at the power level of your character rank, the rest of your skills are at a lower level unless raised. You must spend a mastery point to unlock the skills on the tree as you move up; it is not automatic.
- Mastery points are given at a rate of one per two ranks from ranks 11 to 25, and one thereafter to level 40 (level cap).
- Renown ranks are used to buy renown skills and renown gear, and these bonuses are applicable outside of RvR and PvP scenarios.
- Tactics are special customizable modifiers that can be changed out of combat. They affect your character in various ways, and there are a variety of them: career, renown and tome unlocks. You get more slots as you rise in rank. For more details, read here.
8. Eh? Everybody looks the same
Art wise, the polish is obviously lacking in Warhammer. Item models are often reused, leading to players of the same rank and class looking like each other.
Obviously Mythic decided to gimp on the art to concentrate other aspects in the game. If you’re looking at Warhammer for aesthetic reasons, you might find the animations limited and rather choppy.
Warhammer is buggy. No doubt about it. I’ve crashed to the desktop several times, experienced stuttering video and sound, etc. and had to turn some of the graphic features off in order to play this game at a reasonable frame rate.
For a 12 GB+ game, it consumes a lot of resources from the processor, memory and graphics card. And it isn’t stable. Patches will help to ease the pain, and Mythic is churning them out at a frantic pace. To be fair, the first year of WoW was also quite buggy. In the meantime, the best thing a player can do is to patch all the latest drivers for their graphic cards.
Or you could also look to install UI mods like buffthrottle that help a lot. It did for my system.
10. Don’t rush to 40. Take your time and enjoy the darn game!
This could be said of any MMO, but unfortunately there will always be players who want to rush to 40 so that they can grief lowbies.
Thankfully, in Warhammer you can’t do that. There is no unbalanced ganking in this game (unless you pick a non-core, open RvR server, but even then it’s limited), as the game forces you to progress to the next RvR tiers once you reach the area cap. You PvP at all levels, so rushing to hit the top tier is doable, but I think you lose out on the varied experiences that Warhammer has to offer.
Overall, I think the game has less content than WoW and might have a shorter shelf life. It’s balanced by a cheaper monthly subscription (about S$37 for two months play) though. Still, this can’t be judged accurately till you get to the level 40 end game content.
In any case, if you’re on Ironclaw order, do drop Althea (Elven Archmage, lvl 18) or Morduin (Dwarven Engineer, lvl 14) a ping, and perhaps we can get together for a greenskin-bashing soiree. May you have some fun times adventuring!