• August 2008
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Warhammer Online: First Impressions of the Beta

I’ve finally been invited to the CE Beta of Warhammer Online. I’ve played for about a total of three hours within the last two days. As a big fan of Mythic’s previous game, Dark Age of Camelot, I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now. I must say that I am impressed so far with Mythic’s new game, War, but I do have my worries.

First, a little background on my gaming style and experience. I played DAoC for a good three or four years, off and on. I quit around two years ago or so. The PvE in that game was really horrid to me, but the RvR (Realm versus Realm, an in depth form of Player versus Player) in DAoC was the most fun I have ever had in an MMORPG. During the last year I played, I enjoyed the end game “elite” 8v8 RvR. This experience was as much of a rush, if not more of a rush, than any FPS game that I have every played (I’ve played a lot of those too).

Hoewever, DAoC is an old game. It has been around since October 10, 2001. I’ve been playing it since 2002 when the first expansion, Shouded Isle came out. After three to four years of the game, it was time for me to try something else. I tried WoW, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars, Age of Conan, etc. The list goes on. Not a single one of these games ever stood up to the adrenaline rush that I got from DAoC. When Mythic announced Warhammer Online in 2005, I was excited that they would finally produce another game. I have been following it ever since.

Now, onto my first impressions so far. I won’t go into a lot of technical detail, and I’m not going to nick pick about little things that I don’t like. You can read plenty of that on other forums dedicated to Warhammer Online. The Beta is still under NDA as of this writing, so I can’t talk a lot about details anwyay!

My very first impression upon logging in was that the complaints about Warhammer’s graphics are juvenile complaints, and unfounded. The graphics are not as complex or realistic as Age of Conan, but they are not as bad as a lot of the leaked videos from closed beta. I mean, think about it. Why would Mythic spend a lot of time implementing the graphics of their game for the closed beta. It would be a waste of time. Instead, they focused on the mechanics, and the larger picture during their early closed beta. Because of that they were able to make some large changes to the game based on the beta community’s feedback. For example, the beta community complained that the RvR instances were too beneficial compared to the open battlefields. The open battlefields were more fun, and were the reason people loved RvR in DAoC. Mythic listened to the beta community, and changed the rules of the game to emphasize open battlefields more so than they had originally planned. Good for Mythic.

The game is actually quite fun early on. Leveling up is very easy, perhaps to easy, at least in the early stages. The game is very intuitively designed, and you don’t feel like you are fighting the game for control of your character (bumping into invisible walls, slow response time, stuff that you get used to in Age of Conan). There are bugs, of course (this is still beta), but the game runs smooth overall.

To me, the graphics look more like Lord of the Rings than they do World of Warcraft, which the game has been compared to constantly. The colors are bright and contrasted, which I think is where people draw the similarity to WoW. Overall though, the game feels nothing like WoW to play. It doesn’t feel like LOTRO either though. The game has its own unique feel.

I haven’t been able to do too much RvR yet. The instanced battlegrounds start really early. I was able to play one of the maps two or three times. It was fun, but I could tell that it would get boring after a few too many hours of doing the same instance (or even multiple instances). Just like any instanced PvP game like Guild Wars, AoC, or WoW, instanced PvP is never very fun for long. I’ve been aching to try the open field RvR. I went in once, got killed a few times by slightly higher level enemies, and decided that I needed to level up and get some gear so that I could kill some of these jerks. Back to the PvE (which isn’t necessary; you can get good gear from RvR too. I just hate not being able to kill someone that didn’t have much life left because I can’t hit them!)

The Public Quests, which you can read about on blogs and news releases, are really ground breaking as far as PvE in MMORPG’s. Even as a solo player, it makes you feel like you are a part of a larger world, truly an MMO experience. In fact, the game’s atmosphere and storyline just feels rich, even though I know nothing about the Warhammer IP. Compared to Age of Conan, War’s theme is incredibly immersing, even if you are not a fan of the table top game.

The only worry is that the game is too fun early on. AoC was very fun early on, and it had no soul to it all. Just like Las Vegas, all glitz and glamor, and no substance. I fear that War may not have enough content to keep the game interesting. Of course, I have not gotten very far in the game, so I don’t know. I am only up to Teir 1. Still, I can’t help wonder if the game will fail to offer substantial depth over the long haul. There are only 40 levels, and it didn’t seem difficult to get from 1 to 7 in a couple of hours. Leveling isn’t everything, but if it is too easy, people reach end game too quickly. Perhaps Mythic wants this because their end game is awesome. That is my hope, but I am not naive enough to believe that will be the case. Yet.

If you are into MMORPG’s, and you are looking for a good game, or you have heard that War is not worth trying because it “is WoW 2.0”, don’t believe the rumor mill and give it a shot when it releases. I will update this probably when the game is released. In the meantime, hope you get into the beta!

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