WAR First Impressions

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.

: Zubon

14 thoughts on “WAR First Impressions”

  1. “There is a separate backpack for quest items? Well, now I know why I could never get that mud throwing quest to go.”

    Tabula Rasa does the same thing. Only they also break the backpack down into a crafting tab also. Quite nice unlike WoW where you have to buy bags for crafting materials. Although it does make for a gold sink.

    There are simple reasons Blizzard does what they do so well. It all comes full circle in the end.

  2. I think you got it spot on. While I didn’t care for it in the preview weekend, I went back for open beta and played for a good bit on Friday and some Saturday. I picked a chosen (tank) and had a somewhat fun experience, more along your lines of mild fun. I didn’t find anything impressive with the PVE quests, more like a mild annoyance to get levels.

    I really enjoyed the public quests, but did run into the bug of certain mobs that spawned that would be unhittable. Unfortunatley, they could still hit you. I did run into another issue as well, that if you ran across a public quest with not enough people (I had 3 for one), when you got to phase two when your elite mobs showed up, that was as far as you could get. This may pose a bad problem once folks hit level cap is that the lower level PQ won’t be doable do to lack of people. Maybe not 3 months from now, but what about in 6-12 months ? You will be in the situation WOW is in where some old content never gets played much anymore.

    I did a scenario and open RvR, and open RvR to me at least felt like playing any standard FPS, just with spells and blades instead of guns and knives. Really wasn’t anything different, but I’d rather pick up a FPS for that, or play a mod for Half Life 2 that is tweaked to whatever scenario style I want to put myself in.

    Overall I found it to be mild fun, sometimes enjoyable, but not enough to make me swap out one “YAFMMORPG” for another one.

  3. Sorry to hear your experience wasn’t as fun as you’d hoped, Zubon. :( As for guild hookup, I rather suspect that will improve for you when the not-quite-new-but-not-yet-known game experience settles down.

    Many things in WAR are more fun with friends, that’s nothing new either, though one of the things I think they did well is that open groups can also fit that bill. There’s the usual proportion of selfish asshats around but that’s just bleedover from RL, and on the bright side I’ve met more fun people to group with than I ever did doing standard PUGs elsewhere.

    Hop into Vent if you have it and Moo with us over voice chat? If nothing else it might help answer those really irritating questions one can get as a new player when you KNOW something should be obvious but you still can’t figure out how to do it. That’s not unique to WAR, but it’s exquisitely re-irritating with every new game that comes out. ;)

  4. I was surprised at that the holy trinity is not so bad here. At first I was thinking “oh crap the same 3 archetypes” but it’s better than most games. Nothing like CoV of course.

    I played an Ironbreaker most of the weekend so far and found even though yes I don’t do lots of damage, I have some CC skills to keep players near me so I can pound on them, I can buff another person while I buff myself, or take damage for others (I think high level LOTRO guardians and WoW pallies have a similar take damage for others skill). But in WAR you get it at level 10. Taunt also works on squigs! now i just need an aoe taunt since often a healer will have 3-4 squigs on him (or lions).

    Anyway, as a tank I felt not completely useless in pvp which is the bane of other games.

    However I did not like the zealot, I only got to level 8. But unlike the melee healer and the shaman/archmage, both of which must do damage in order to heal, it seems the zealot (and runepriest I suppose) are too much like healers in other games. You stand back and heal and buff. I liked the other 2 healers types but not that one.

  5. You’ve pretty much summed up my first impressions too.

    I enjoyed the Public Quests more, but I think that’s because I didn’t hit any “not attackable” mobs the first few times.

    Overall, I suspect most of the bugs I’ve encountered are related to lag issues and that’s an annoyance as a player from the west coast of Canada, because I suspect I’ll get a lot more screwed over the lag problems than say, closer to Mythic’s centralized server farm.

    I really like much of the interface so far, Tome of Knowledge included, but I totally agree, it’s not revolutionary or anything.

    I took a trip to Inevitable City and was really unimpressed. Mythic’s insistence to call these “living cities” doesn’t seem to have any merit.

  6. For me it has come down to two things. Finding out if there is a class my wife wants to play and how much fun RvR will continue to be. Everything else has sort of dropped off my list of concerns.

    @Rog: I loved the cities, one of the highlights for me. I think they did a great job on them.

  7. Short and sweet.

    Warhammer is cool and has the potential to be a really good game. Good enough to warrant spending another $50 if you’re already playing an MMO, probably not. Good enough to give up all the time you’ve devoted to another MMO, definitely not. I enjoyed the game greatly and in about a year or so I might give it another try. Right now, it’s just not worth the effort.

  8. I think Mythic calls them “living cities” because they have levels that open up new areas. They don’t do much to make that clear, though. And exploring is dangerous when you’re Rank 8 and there’s Rank 20+ champions around that are aggressive…

  9. @Ethic
    Finding out if there is a class my wife wants to play

    My wife loved the Witch Hunter, but overall felt like she was playing in a Disco with all the brightly lit circles and the dull graphics made her feel that she could not make a good looking woman (and she didn’t, it looked “rough” as she put it.)

    The fact I reupped my AoC account after playing WAR Sunday (and having fun) really says something…

    Duplicate the EQ/WoW formula all you wish, but as LOTRO has proven…if it has already been done, then you fall into the “niche” territory.

    WAR does not “suck”, but it really does nothing to motivate either.

  10. Its kind of funny, this game doesn’t really impress me. Its not awful.. but its not that great either. I’ll play mainly cuz my bro has decided to play and I don’t wanna leave him to fly solo. I’ll prolly try playing with the Casualties of WAR also and see if that fun meeting you guys. Are you playing Destruction or Order Zubon?

  11. As far as MMOs go… I’d put place this as a fairly standard one. It takes the very overdone foundation of the genre, adds some stuff and throws it out there.

    I’m more of an FPS/Action/RTS guy and to me, the combat system is everything. Since WAR’s combat is standard MMO, there really isn’t much I like in that regard. It doesn’t even attempt to break the Trinity stuff.

    The visuals (character and environment) are old to my eyes. Of course, I’m used to having the Unreal 3 Engine in my face with my FPS games, so that isn’t a surprise. Still, I don’t see why they could have made it a tad nicer to look at. They barely give you any customizable options for them either. I’m used to having a lot more video settings than the 7 I’m given.

    Like I said, I’m not a big fan of the genre. I definitely had more fun starting in AoC, too. The problem for me is that I don’t really want another standard MMO… I’m waiting for a game that does things differently, which is why I don’t look at my experience with AoC as being a waste of time. Funcom’s combat system was the best part of that game… it just lacked the content and completeness it needed from the start.

    I’ll be playing throughout Open Beta and even after release (because I have to write an official review) but after that, I’ll probably put it down and leave it to those who absolutely love the genre in its current state.

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