Everyone knows I’m an EVE nut, but overall I’m a big fan of the MMO genre. As such, I like to give every game a fair shake, and where possible I try to do so at launch.
Age of Conan (AoC) is one that I got on day one, and was largely disappointed with the result. The lore of Conan is deep, but while playing the game I just didn’t feel the connection to it, and the gameplay didn’t seem to have the depth to keep me hooked.
Now with Warhammer Online (WAR) out, we have a game which is based on the ridiculously successful Warhammer table-top game, which I admittedly never got into (my wallet is thankful for that). Early media previews dubbed it a World of Warcraft (WoW) killer, and that always freaks me out because it usually means “WoW clone”. But click onward, and read about my first impressions of this hotly anticipated MMO.
You could say it’s inspired by WoW, but WoW itself was inspired by the Warhammer table-top game, so really getting into the discussion of who inspired who is moot here. But in general, if you’ve played any MMOs in the last few years, the general design and interface of WAR will not confuse you.
Initially I rolled a Shadow Warrior on the side of Order (the good guys), but I was surprisingly disappointed with it, and tossed the character today in favor of a Marauder on the side of Destruction (the evil guys, mwa-hah-ha). It’s a good thing to mention here that one of the coolest aspects of WAR is the fact that you don’t typically find your conventional classes here. They’re almost all hybrid classes, like a tank that can also DPS, buffing mages, etc. This is a good thing, since it really does give your selection a lot more longevity.
My Marauder for instance, can actually morph his arm into different shapes, which in turn allows me to use specialized skills. Use the Savagery morph, and the arm turns into a claw with skills activating with an emphasis on damage-over-time (DoT). Morph with Brutality and suddenly you’re wielding a demonic blade arm, with heavy slash attacks with flanking skills. It’s very neat, and lets you reconfigure you character on the fly. As far as I know, all classes exhibit the same dynamic of modifying what you can do.
The regular quests are as streamlined a PVE experience as you’ve seen in other more recent games, like WoW and LOTRO. There’s really not much to say here about it really. You find NPCs, they give you quests, you come back with the goal complete, and you get your reward.
The really cool thing you’ll find is in your travels for these quests, you’ll encounter Public Quests. These are larger-scale encounters that you can walk into and leave at any point, and have their own series of objectives to complete, and you work with other players in order to do so. For instance in one early PQ, you have to protect some mages summoning something, by killing militiamen trying to stop them. The next stage is harvesting their dead souls to help with the summoning, while tougher guards try to stop you. Finally, an uncontrollable demon is unleashed, and you have to help take it down. Based on your contribution to the whole quest, you roll for the final loot rewards.
But it doesn’t stop there. As you do PQs, you gain Influence. Basically another kind of XP, but it’s put towards your completion of chaptered story elements, which are related to the area you’re in. At each point as you max out your Influence for each chapter, you can talk to a Rally Master NPC at a settlement in that area and get some nice rewards for your time.
It’s a ton of fun to work with your fellow players doing these, and you can start an open party in the area for others to join freely and help you out with completing the quest. And in a really impressive bit of thought by the developers, your regular quests will often overlap these PQ areas, so they’re tough to miss and easy to get yourself into the fun.