On WAR

My history with Warhammer Online goes back about a year. That was when Arbitrary and I first started blogging about the game, several months before it launched. This was our first post, dated 14th May 2008.

I don’t regret any of it. We had a brilliant time writing about WAR, engaging with the hype, seeing how it evolved through beta, learning about the lore, chatting to other bloggers and readers, tussling with GOA, going to Games Day UK, and watching the community ebb and flow.

So I can’t help feeling a pang when my sub runs out today, and Arb wound up the Book of Grudges for much the same reason. Not only that, but this is the week that our server is also closed down and everyone offered free transfers to more populated ones.

That’s good in the sense that the game NEEDS to be played on well populated servers. But it still leaves me with a sense of closure – I’m gone, the guild is (long) gone, the blog is gone, the server is gone.

I really did enjoy playing Warhammer Online. I would and I do recommend anyone to try the free trial if you’re bored and looking for a new game. The starting levels (tier 1) are some of the best fun you can have in MMOs.

Best things about the game:

  • Red questy map blobs. When you got a quest, a red blob appeared on the map showing you roughly where you had to go. It very neatly gave a little direction while still leaving some room to explore. I miss it in every other game I play.
  • Scenarios. A little 15 min slice of PvP action that you can queue up for from anywhere else in the game. I loved how all the scenarios had different layouts and a variety of win conditions and winning tactics.
  • Holiday events. They weren’t all hits but Mythic did an awesome job of providing a stream of new temporary content in a way that put WoW to shame. Not only did we get holiday quests and events, we got temporary scenarios to play. Can you imagine WoW making temporary battlegrounds available?
  • Two targets. You could have two targets selected at any time, one offensive target (ie. all your attacks directed at them) and one defensive target (ie. all your heals/buffs directed at them). This was absolutely awesome for healers.
  • Public Quests. The quests themselves were hit and miss but the idea was great. You could roll into an area, help a load of other people with the quest, and be in line for reputation and rewards. And you didn’t have to even talk to them if you didn’t want.
  • Open groups. This one is a winner too. If a group or warband (ie. raid) was set up to be open, then anyone in the area could locate it and invite themselves to join. It sounds scary to a WoW crowd but a lot of the WAR content (such as open PvP) was of the type where more warm bodies were always welcome.
  • Open RvR. Some of the most fun I had in game was running Tier 2 or Tier 3 keep take evenings with the guild. And if we didn’t have enough people, I just set the warband as open and announced on the /order channel where we were going. The group filled up pretty fast.

I’m not going through the bad points, it’s been done enough. Endgame is lacking, the requirements for picking up ward gear were intimidating to people who didn’t want to run the instances, etc. These issues are being addressed!

As to why I left:

  • Guild leaders left after about a month in game. Yes, it affects morale.
  • Demoralised by the ward PvE gear requirements.
  • Wanted to spend more time in WoW — I didn’t switch immediately to Wrath, I spent some time playing both. But it was getting clear where I wanted to spend more time.
  • Bored of Tier 4 and not really enjoying the PvE instances I was able to run. I really do like the Tier 4 zones a lot, they’re gorgeous (apart from the Dwarf one). But do I really want to run around in warbands doing hit and runs on keeps every night?

Having said all that, the land of the dead (due out in June) sounds awesome and depending on how my gaming time goes I’ll be tempted to resub. Even just writing about the game makes me want to play it again, maybe as Destruction this time.

What Mythic should have done

In my mind, the game they should have made was DaoC II. This isn’t just because I find mythology more appealing than Warhammer, it’s because three realms works better than two, it’s because they threw away the concept of huge frontier zones in favour of PvP pools, it’s because we loved the seamless virtual world feel of the game. It’s because they had one of the best implementations of housing I have ever seen.

And it’s also because a feudal setup has huge possibilities for endgame that are there to be explored. In a feudal society, the king parcels out lands and titles to knights who distinguish themselves in battle. That’s a whole potential housing-centred minigame in itself.