Keep assaults in Warhammer Online feels a lot like a Mirror World Guild vs. Guild (GvG) battle in Guild Wars, but the little elemental differences are enough that one can nearly feel like a PvE raid (on top of more PvE), while another feels like a pure PvP playstyle. The fundamentals of the Keep assaults and GvG are nearly identical: kill other players and NPCs to break through to the Guild/Keep Lord NPC and kill him/her/it to win. Both games also herald it as a large part of the meat of their PvP game experience, but which is better? I’ll compare the two in classic beatdown compare and constrast style.
Best Style – Warhammer Online
The Guild Wars Guild Lord is always one model. You can be fighting on Druid’s Isle or Isle of the Wurms and your Guild Lord will remain an Asian-themed warlord from the Warrior Profession. The Keep Lord in Warhammer Online, in contrast, changes models based on racial pairing, and it also can be one of the many different character classes. Each game also has various Keeps and Guild Halls that are thematic to their surroundings, and they do offer small changes in strategy based on which Keep or Guild Hall is being assaulted or defended.
Best Underlings – Guild Wars
The Keep Lord in Warhammer Online does have four bodyguards, which in themselves can put up a tough fight, but they are really superfluous. Many groups will strike directly at the Keep Lord without batting an eye at the bodyguards. The Guild Lord has two Knights, which are similar to the unnecessary Keep Lord bodyguards, but Guild Lords also have two fairly useful Bodyguards, which support and heal the Guild Lord. While the Bodyguards are alive it is much harder to kill the Guild Lord making them an integral part of the defenses.
The other big factor is the worth of the underlings as a whole. In Warhammer Online the initial underlings at the first gate or in the courtyard are about as useful and challenging as mosquitos in defense of a swamp. The worst part is they respawn adding only to the annoyance. Guild Wars underlings are bodies to be protected and feared. Players can heal and protect the underlings in Guild Wars, but once they die they are gone. They were much more powerful when they walked to the flagstand all together during Victory or Death, but that is no longer part of the game.
Best Stronghold Offenses and Defenses – Warhammer Online
Guild Wars offers a few gates to the stronghold, which are bypassed by a Guild Thief, and on some maps teams will each get a trebuchet that targets one area of the map. It is a game in itself to assault the stronghold in Guild Wars, but the weak points are wide and open. In Warhammer Online the Keep’s artillery or attacker’s battering ram can make or break everything. A few rounds of boiling oil can slow an enemy’s advance to a crawl allowing for more time to rally defenders from across the realms. A cannon firing at the Keep wall defenders can cause them to fall back and lick their wounds. A battering ram is absolutely necessary.
Best Loot System – Tie
In Guild Wars and Warhammer Online, players will get some sort of boon in the form of Balthazar Faction or Renown, respectively, for fighting and winning the battle. Warhammer Online goes a bit further by giving player’s a chance to win a loot drop based on a player’s “calculated” contribution to the siege. The problems of this system have been discussed. Guild Wars has a system in place to turn in Balthazar Faction for Zaishen Keys, which convert to a random “rare” item once used on a chest. To be honest neither loot system really imparts the Jeremy-screen-humping feeling I get when I kick down one of another game’s PvE raid-boss; so I am giving the two games a tie. If Mythic puts in an influence system in their 1.10 patch, I think that they will edge Guild Wars out.
Best Glory for the Winner – Guild Wars
Keep raiding in Warhammer Online can be a grind-like PvE affair. A shining jewel of the game becomes a dull drudgery of spending 10-15 minutes staring at keep doors and then zerging the Keep Lord. In all fairness, when the playing field is nearly balanced… warband vs. warband… keep sieges can be adrenaline inducing. Still, fighting a keep door while being shot at from above is not as fun as direct conflict found in skirmishes or scenarios. Warhammer Online does get points for having the thought of a direct conflict when all the keep doors come down. But, a simple zerg on the Keep Lord can wash that thought away since players can become as superfluous as the Keep Lord’s bodyguards at such a time.
Guild Wars immediately allows for a level playing field. Players are guaranteed direct conflict. Plus, there is a feeling of working as a true team, rather than a blob of players where the leader hopes the players all do their “job.” The push-and-pull of the battlefield also gives a greater winning feel, when an enemy team was in the defender’s Guild Lord’s face and the defenders have pushed them back to their Guild Lord and won.
I would say that the best Warhammer Online keep sieges are roughly comparative in excitement to the best Guild Wars guild vs. guild matches. However, the best keep sieges seem a rarer offering, and the normal keep sieges are mere grinding drudgery. Whereas, normal guild vs. guild matches will guarantee at least a small rush of PvP excitement (even if you get creamed).
Guild Wars is unlikely to get many more tweaks in guild vs. guild gameplay. Most of the updates are in the form of skill balances, and with the last change to the matches (eliminating Victory or Death), I don’t foresee another shakeup with Guild Wars 2 peeking over the horizon. I think that ArenaNet did a fine job in this near-final implementation of a equalized assault-style gameplay. I think they could probably make things a little more organic-feeling (possibly in Guild Wars 2), such as siege weapons or destructible stronghold objects, but this is hard to do when creating a balanced e-sport.
Warhammer Online, on the other hand, has plenty room to evolve and grow. I would first and foremost make the underlings matter and not respawn. I would also make the encounters dynamic based on whether there are player defenders present or not. Give reasons for more direct conflict instead of hide-behind-the-Keep Lord and AoE the crap out of that little room and stairway. I am very interested to see what changes will be made in the upcoming big patches because I think that a lot of the problems and drudgery holding keep sieges back will be dealt with.
…must be a killer angel.