A fair implementation of DikuMUD with graphics, stable with relatively few bugs for a MMO in beta. That may be damning with faint praise, but as the man said, “I’ve already played Warhammer.”
I don’t know how much any of us are going to be able to say meaningfully from the open beta. You cap at level 20, and if you reviewed Age of Conan up to level 20, it was the game of the year. While level 20 is half-way to the cap here, half your leveling time is usually the last 10 levels, and holy crap they needed to add a cap of “half the levels” for a 10-day open beta? Is there some way to get open beta access without paying or having had closed beta access? It seems like a strange name. Anyway, these are thoughts from level 6 (class and RvR).
The game at present has a continuous stream of vaguely annoying bugs or poor documentation. As an MMO player, you will find your way around those: none of them were game-breaking, although someone in the guild reported frequent crashes to desktop, which must be really annoying with the 15+ minute queue for our server (day one, not surprising).
I am going to talk bugs first, because of my famous irritation with them, but also because you need polish to reach the non-core gamer audience. We will crawl through barbed wire to find our nugget of fun, but the casual games market outsells us.
I have whined enough about getting a bad open beta code; thanks Cyndre. They added extra servers for the beta, which is good. I had issues at character creation. It seemed unhappy with the notion of joining a queue and leaving it to make a new character. A different sort of annoyance was specifying an appearance on a Magus. They float on a disk. The character creator camera did not adjust for when her disk started levitating. The “teeth color” option for a goblin had similar issues with a mostly closed mouth.
The major playing problem was enemies that were unattackable, out of range while standing next to you, etc. I suspect some lag issues causing discrepancies between where the server says the character is and where the client shows it, for the range issues at least. The Greenskin’s first public quest had an enemy that consistently turned unattackable, causing people to run around until the right person hit the right spot to turn it back on. (The one time I tried the second public quest, we could not complete the second stage because there were no more trees to cut down at 9/10.) Looting bodies had a similar issue: is the bug that it is sparkling when it shouldn’t, that it is not where the game displays it to be, that it is out of range for some other issue…?
You know enough to get around lack of documentation issues. An early Greenskin quest is to throw mud at a statue. You pick up the mud. Right-click it to throw it. Maybe I skipped over where it mentioned that there is a separate backpack tab for quest items. (Which is a good thing, by the way.) As I said, you’ll crawl through barbed wire, so you’ll find that tab. Several quests needed it in the first night.
The hand-holding is different, more chaotic. Guidance for any given quest is clear: symbols on your mini-map, red areas on your map that list which quest it is when you mouse-over, pop-ups when you enter a public quest area, and the standard quests that send you to the next town over when you’re done with this one. Full marks there. I missed the standard path and wandered a bit (EASK), but you cannot get too lost. It just feels more chaotic, random, and pointless. Is pointless too harsh? I am coming off The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™, where the central quest arc that leads you through the game actually has Book 1, Chapter 1 and so on. After that, wandering between orcs who have violent errands they need run seems like I am a tramp (in the non-promiscuous sense).
I know the point of it all, war, but I’m not sure how compelling that is when you can never win. Maybe it will come together with the city conquest. As a Greenskin, actually winning would be a letdown, because their whole point is to keep fightin.’
The core gameplay is no different than anything else you’ve played. Nearest target, auto-attack, induction timers, and a game explicitly built with tanks, healers, and DPS. You’ve been playing this game for as long as you have been playing MMOs. It is nice to be able to survive a 2- or 3-on-1 at low levels, although this is not City of Heroes superheroism.
Let’s hit the three features everyone talks about:
Public quests. The influence system seems to encourage you to repeat them 3 or 4 times, which is done most conveniently 3 or 4 times in a row. Nothing says that your effort was meaningful like “public quest resets in two minutes.” They’re not bad. Connect to an open group, blow things up, wander off when you want to see something else. Of the ones I did, we made it through without that “cannot be attacked” bug only once. On the second PQ, we cleared the spites (not sprites) far faster than they re-spawned, so there was waiting there, and I got bored waiting for it to reset when the trees stopped at 9/10. I can’t judge fairly from the first, because it is obviously much much easier than the second.
Tome of Knowledge. Tobold’s right, it’s nothing special. I love data-tracking tools, but that’s the main attraction. It is neat to get a *ding* for everything, but I am still at the point of getting it for *everything,* sometimes three off the same kill. It looks like there could be more interesting unlocks later on. Right now it is, “you met a dwarf!” “you killed 25 dwarfs!” “you were killed by a dwarf engineer!”
RvR. I ran the first scenario enough to hit realm rank 6, during which I went 3/5, with two crushing victories, one close win, one close loss, and one crushing defeat. Capture the flag with three flags: fun for a bit. I have Team Fortress already, so if this is the main attraction, there are games that cater more to the PvE and PvP folks separately, without trying to please both masters.
I have yet to hit my main point here: connecting with the blogger guild. I am in it, but I spent my first night running around and learning how it works. Maybe it will be more fun once I am in a guild group, and also once I have enough experience to play and read the chat window through combat/loot/roll spam.
In one sense, I am disappointed with myself for not trying something more new. I played a Squig Herder, which went well, but my first The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ characters, both freep and creep, were archers. I am now an archer with a pet. On the other hand, there are only three Greenskin roles: healer, tank, DPS. Since I was playing a healer in Middle Earth yesterday, the only way I could diversify is to play a tank, and I am not a huge meleer. The game may have 20 classes, but it still fits them all very neatly into 4 slots, 3 for most races. There can be only so much new when we still have the holy trinity.
I don’t know if that came across as positive. It is meant as a mild positive, but there is less “new shiny” than expected. If “new shiny” is your main reason for playing Warhammer, I don’t see what you’re getting there. Fine, solid, somewhat different, but Bartle was absolutely right, and I said the same thing about The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™. Yet Another Fantasy MMORPG is still YAFMMORPG.
I expect more divergence at higher levels and a significantly different feel by some point. I don’t know if the open beta will go on long enough to let me reach that point, or if that point exists by level 20.
Also, needs polish.