WAR vs. WoW: The Snake eats its own Tail
Long before the "World of Warcraft", "Warcraft: Orcs & Human", or even Blizzard itself there was a table top war game made by Games Workshop called Warhammer: Fantasy Battle. So, for those of us in the know, when the Warcraft series came out it wasn't what you would call original, but plagiarism would be a difficult charge to make stick especially if the ghost of JRR Tolkien was called to the stand. Of course Warhammer games have already been made centred in their dark Sci-Fi universe, Warhammer 40K, but with the upcoming release of WAR the great Ouroboros continues.
This time it is EA Mythic working directly with the new Warhammer Fantasy Source and Army books. So, yes it is a LOT like WoW, which in a lot of ways is good because we all like WoW. The Question is will it be a WoW Killer? Although similar, the Old World is darker then Azeroth and Draenor especially with Destruction being truly evil unlike the Hoard and Order, with my prediction of the popularity of the half naked Goth Dark Elves, being in a constant uphill struggle. Will it be different enough to convince them to jump the fence? If WAR is ever released, it is a good bet that a big enough percentage of bored WoW players will it a try and find it enough of an upgrade to make it a contender.
The debate over WARs release date, as can be judged from many forums out there, is more raging then the siege battles they promise. The good money is that EA Mythic will release it just barely on time for Christmas 2008 Q4 release to be followed by a couple of patches. So don't dismiss this ambitious dark twin just because it looks like its younger more successful brother; WAR has the backing of the Juggernaut of game companies, EA, and is eagerly anticipated even with its ever pushing release.
While the internet abounds with press releases, developer diaries, and a plethora of information on world the hot ticket for those who want to know the game is the closed Beta. When playing the closed Beta you don't just play a buggy game with unfinished everything, you play parts of the game that the developers want to test, from quests in a particular zone to city sieges at level 40 and of course they have systems to let you make characters of the particular level and type that is being tested. On top of this testing a five or so question survey pops up after you do things asking you to rate whatever you just did. It seems EA Mythic wants to listen to their players.
While many reviewers are lauding the WARs art, the current graphics are taking a bit of slag out there. Yes they are plastic, flat, and a little cartoony, but as anyone who knows about game art could tell you, it is unfinished and most importantly unlit. Already the Animation is smoother than then a lot of current MMOs and the art style is grittier, grimmer, and, if you can predict the future lighting, Darker with a lot more contrast.
Customisation and Specs
Currently Customisation isn't in the game yet, but EA Mythic will have all the regular stuff and maybe if we prey to Tzeentch we'll be able to change the color of our cool powerful armour to match our idea of our character, our guild, or whatever. On top of the normal stuff there are a couple other really cool art features. First, the characters art will change as they work their way toward level 40 making them look bigger, meaner, and more powerful. For example, Dwarf players will get broader and their beards get longer while a bright mages hair will be literally fire all to change the way players identify the strength of their enemies. One of the other ways you're character's look will change is through the collection of trophies. Players will collect the coolest trophies they can from their adventures of daring do and slaughtering of the opposing realm, and wear them to show off. Trophies don't do anything; they don't make you more powerful, rather they show off that you are already better. These features mean that WAR won't have the fifth level character that got pimped out in gear and looks far more dangerous than the level 40 RvR god. The powerful guild leader who has toppled kings will look like the badass he is, huge, dark, and powerful with a collection of familiar looking general's heads hanging from his belt and maybe one that looks like you.
According to War-Hammer Online Guides: http://www.war-hammeronline.com/warhammer-system-requirements / one of the several online resources already started for the yet to be released title the game spec might be:
Minimum System Requirements for Warhammer Online
2.4Ghz Intel Processor or 2400+ or higher model AMD processor
1GB RAM (Almost went 512 MB here, but it won't work)
100% DirectX 9.0 compatible computer. 100%
DirectX compatible keyboard or input device.
Vertex and Pixel shader 2.0 compatible hardware with 128MB of texture memory.
100% DirectX compatible sound card
56k+ Internet Connection
16X Speed DVD-ROM
20Gigabytes Hard Drive Space
Recommended Specifications for Warhammer Online
Processor 3.0Ghz Intel or 3500+ AMD processor
100% DirectX 9.0c compatible computer.
100% DirectX compatible keyboard or input device.
Vertex and Pixel shader 2.0 compatible hardware with 256MB of texture memory.
DirectSound compatible audio hardware
Broadband Internet Connection
16X Speed DVD-ROM
20Gigabytes Hard Drive Space
Okay here is the part that really matters; what are you going to do? How do you do it? And what makes it different from the game; you already pay fifteen bucks a month to play? This is my blurb on gameplay and in Warhammer everything that happens in gameplay happens in the Tome of Knowledge. One of the main gameplay features that sets Warhammer apart from other MMOs is the Tome of Knowledge. The story, stats, MOBs, Quests, and everything the player does is tracked in this huge volume. The tome is where Quests will be tracked and even be granted in cases like those quests you get for finding books and other objects. It also tracks everything you interact with from the first time you meet a dark sprite, a famous person, or even a dwarf (unless you're playing one) to how many you kill. It also rewards you, Xbox Achievement style, for how many you kill, to talking to important characters, to exploring the map. Not only is it the place to go if you are wondering what you're supposed to do, it also tracks everything you do in your own characters story, it shows how you fought a great siege, helped in some public quest, or took out some huge monster solo. I think the brag factor in the ToK personal story will sell very well to the perspective Warhammer player as everyone loves to brag about their amazing solo kills or how they got the final hit on that impossible Boss.
The Combat system being a lot like WoW is one of the main 'features' in WAR. The combat system does currently have couple of differences I noticed. First is their inclusion of a Morale Bar, this meter is like a combo meter tracking how well you do in the combat and opening special Morale moves when your meter is full. The other two differences I notice with combat are hopefully bugs. First is when attacked the player doesn't auto attack that enemy, which is annoying. Second is that currently the combat doesn't feel right, it is kind of distant and when fighting I didn't feel like what I was doing really had an effect. It seems to just happen separate from me. This I hope is just a tuning issue. I guess we'll see.
Public Quests: PvP vs. PvE, together forever.
Always the difficult choice for developers is how to balance PvE and PvP content. This is a monumental task, but several parts of gameplay mechanics seem promising. In every interview and article about PvE and PvP the developers insist that while you can do one or the other and have fun, do well, and kickass, the player who does both will do even better.
The gameplay mode that is central to bringing E and P together is the Public Quest... Yes, it is trademarked, no matter how silly it sounds EA owns the phrase <<puts 12 cents in jar to send to EA>> Public Quests. This gameplay mode is EA Mythic's answer to not just blending P and E, but also allowing players to play casual without losing rewards or pissing people off or avoid looking for group (not the comic of course) all the time. Public Quests are initiated just by showing up where one is happening. As Public Quests cycle endlessly they are will be all over the place all the time. Your Public Quests rewards are based on what and how much you do. Like regular Quests that are broken up into individual chapters with their own goals, for example Chapter 1: kill 300 High Elves in 3 minutes, Chapter 2: Collect 450 avenger blades, chapter 3: Kill Sildaen of Hoeth. As a player you only need to contribute to the goals not finish them all on your own. That sort of flexibility will make public quests very popular, why meet at the tavern when you can meet on a public quest battle field and get some XP, renown, rewards, and loot while waiting for your buddy to finish eating Mac & Cheese with his kids. I wouldn't be surprised if there will be a few people who make it to level 40 renown 40 just playing Public Quests.
[[As goes Realm vs. Realm, So goes the Old World]]
Like its predecessor Dark Age of Camelot, WAR will be sporting EA Mythic's version of PvP, Realm vs. Realm, as a prime gameplay mode. Unlike DAoC the players are allied with either Order (read as Alliance-like) or Destruction (more evil then Horde nightmares), but they are also set in opposition against a particularly hated enemy: High Elves vs. Dark Elves, Chaos vs. Empire, and Dwarves vs. Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins). This creates a War on three fronts, but as elves are helping Empire, Empire is helping dwarves and on and on allowing travelling characters to play on any front they like. In DAoC the single player missions and levelling up was quite separate from the RvR play, but in WAR modes like Public Quests will blend these boundaries.
Renown is basically XP for player kills, but it is also rewarded for other group based gameplay such as Public Quests, healing other players, Sieges and Zone captures, as well as any activities that lead to capturing a zone including some crafting activities and Quests. Interestingly you also get renown if you're on the loosing side of a siege or zone capture. In the same way the XP is spent on levelling up, Renown can be spent on special tactics and items which can only be used or purchased by players with a particular Renown rank and level. It doesn't look like players can loose Renown when not PvPing, they just don't gain any more.
RvR is also one of Warhammer's (and DAoC for that manner) big differences from most MMOs out there because RvR is all about Zone control. Players will find that every zone in the Old World, such as Praag or Barak Varr has both RvR areas and PvE areas and that the number of RvR areas increase as the Tier rating of the zones go up. Tiers are rated 1 through 4 with 1 being N00b Zones(level 1-10), such as Ekrund and Mount Bloodhorn, with only one RvR Area while Tier 4 Zones (level 31-40), such as Black Crag and Karaz A Karak, are majority RvR zones.
The better your Realm does in Victory points, from every game mode that grants Renown, the more the tide of the war turns in your favour. Victory points are cumulative like XP and Renown and allow you to fight to raise your realm above its opposite and even levels up your capital city opening more quests and areas. Every zone is built in opposition to one of that fronts opposite. Victory Points flow upward from low tiers to the high, how well the Tier below your current does affects your Tiers advantage. This makes N00bs learning to RvR very important because you cannot just go fight a low Tier RvR as the developers have instituted all a bunch of anti-grief measure, such as turning higher tiered characters into chickens if they go to low tier zones.
Although the developers have been pretty closed mouthed about WAR's endgame they do say that the blend of RvR and PvE on which WAR balances continues all the way into the End-game. Dungeons, Quests, and large-group dungeons and Boss battles, including epic dungeons like Lost Vale, will work right alongside massive Raids, Battlefields, Scenarios, and Campaigns.
The ultimate goal in RvR campaign is the City Siege and Sacking of the enemy's capital city. Once the your Realm has taken control of the opposition's homeland by building your victory point far above the opposition your Realm will be at the enemy's fortress, which will be a massive battle on its own. Then after a massive siege battle at the capital's gates and you'll actually capture, loot, and pillage of the city itself then try to hold it for as long as you can against the increasingly powerful resistance.
Once the Capital is taken the biggest PvE encounters are unlocked and open to that winning realm for a set period during this period players get to take on the King. Warhammer's most powerful Bosses are the Kings of each faction and even though you will have as many tries as you want while it is unlocked, you can kill the King once; that is of course until the next city sacking. To take out the King you'll have to be ready, you need the proper gear and have to out his guards and minions.
If you're in the Capital when the Fortress conquered by your enemy, the game will give you the choice between fighting and fleeing; if choose to fight, you enter an instance to fight PvP against the Capital's attackers. If you choose to flee you are sent to the refugee camp outside the captured city with the basic amenities in a black market.
The Captured city is now a massive RvR battleground in which the conquered Realm will struggle to through off their oppressors and sooner or later the city will be reclaimed by its rightful owners; the developers have made sure of that. One the enemy is driven from the Capital the whole thing will reset for you to do all over again, in Warhammer: Age of Reckoning war is everywhere and eternal.
WAR has a tonne of potential, it is a huge game, with a mighty history steaming back to 1983, and with EAs muscle, and the creativity behind DAoC they have a chance at becoming a contender. Will it be a WoW killer? It has a chance, but a lot will depend on what they do between now and release; how much they listen to Beta testers and whether they let themselves lose track of what they are trying to do.
- A lot like WoW
- Lots of PvP
- Public Quests bring together RvR and PvE
- Centralised Tome of Knowledge pulls everything together.
- A rich world under development for twenty-five years
- Backing of EA, who has wanted to compete in the MMO market for a long time; they won't let it go out unless it is good.
- Too much like WoW?
- Too much PvP for the standard player?
- Combat system needs a lot of tuning