Episode II of my stint into Warhammer is probably going to be less insightful than I had hoped, mostly because I got 3 more days to actually play the game and then 5 to sit there and stare blankly off in to space thinking about playing the game. Oh well, here goes. I’ve lumped the various details into three basic categories: Appearance, mostly dealing with, well, the appearance of the game visually, graphics and such, Gameplay, dealing with how you bashing your face into the keyboard translates to your stick wielding neanderthal cutting a baddie in half, and Feel, concerning overall cohesiveness of the game and other less intangible stuff. Also anything that didn’t fit in the first two categories.
As has no doubt been mentioned in every review of the game ever, Warhammer is a pretty game. Not FPS pretty, or even current generation RPG pretty, and certainly not pretty in the dollies and shiny toy houses sense of pretty, but for an MMO it’s decent. I mentioned before that it lacks the thematic cohesiveness of WoW, and while that still holds true I now feel that deserves a qualifier or two. While WoW certainly makes each and every one of their zones immediately identifiable, I think they might go a bit overboard on that, making every different area feel almost like it’s own little world. WAR, for all their over the top plots and characters, attempt to take a more realistic approach to how their world at least appears, and once I realized this I actually began to enjoy the game a lot more. The areas are tied together in a more subtle sense; instead of tinting the entire zone a funny color of orange, areas are tied thematically together by more real world means like, I dunno, say pine trees.
The other major graphics note is that unlike every other modern game ever, WAR is completely devoid of bloom. None of it, says Mythic. We don’t want any pesky sunlight reflections off of grass obscuring things as you hack pieces off of your opponent while standing on his mother’s corpse. It’s a bit jarring at first, having become so used to getting stabbed in the face with shiny over the past few years, but I like it. It serves to enhances the hypergritty world that I think the game is aiming for. If you want a rough approximation of what you’re in for, picture a sort of mishmash of Guildwars and Quake III. Or, you know, look at some fucking screenshots.
Of all the MMOs that I’ve played (perhaps a dozen, mostly trials. Don’t judge me), WAR is one of only two that has a combat system that is not a slight variation of basically the exact same fucking thing. I gave both tank and DPS classes a tryout, and while I found the tank system quite intriguing and the DPS system boring as shit, I spent the vast majority of my time as a healer, mostly because I’ve wanted a game that let me heal people by punching other people in the face for oh, I don’t know, forever. This was all well and good, and I was having a great deal of fun using all my attacks that heal my friendly target – slight tangent here, you’ve got both a friendly and an unfriendly target space. This is an awesome idea, unfortunately the friendly target system works about as well as a bicycle made of knives. The selection method is dodgy at best, and even if you manage to select the correct target, sometimes your target will disappear for no apparent reason, or change to the guy standing next to him, or just display a picture of Hitler’s face. Anyway, healing. So I’m having a grand time hitting people in the face, and being stupidly unkillable because at low levels healing classes in WAR absolutely stomp anything else into the ground. However it turns out that people don’t like it when you heal the people hitting them, and they are quite willing to gang rape you if you ever present them with the opportunity. I quickly discovered that all my fun melee hitting abilities were completely useless and resigned myself to sitting in the back and spamming my two heal buttons over and over. Wait, this is starting to sound familiar….
For a game that claims to have amazing PvP I was singularly unimpressed. Aside from an inability to clip through players, it feels mostly like vanilla WoW PvP except that everything ever has a slow attached to it. There is a mechanic that mirrors resilience, and of course game play changes at higher levels yadda yadda, but from what I experienced PvP was a fierily train wreck in which the victor was determined entirely by which team brought more red shirts. Even if there’s significant improvement to this with guild teams and higher level gear/stats, it’s not going to be something to write home about. It should be noted that the artillery system in WAR is vastly superior to that off WoW, mostly because it’s not terrible.
Then there is the animation of the characters themselves. Try to imagine a robot trying to impersonate a human, and now suppose it’s got a stick jammed up its rear, and you’ve got a pretty good impression of what the animations of the are like. It’s like the designers very carefully studied just how an arm looks when it swing a giant hammer and put a great deal of effort into replicating that, so much so that they forgot that the arm is connected to the rest of a fucking person. In addition, in what I assume is an effort to smooth game play, the game will begin to cut frames from character animations as they move away from you. They do this at such an alarming rate and over such a short distance however that basically any character out of piss range looks less like a PC and more like a poorly crafted flip book of one.
Lastly there’s the system by which you stick your various baddies with sharp pointy objects. All characters share two basic “do shit” mechanics. The first is used for most anything you do, and functions almost exactly like Rogue energy. Seriously, it’s a yellow bar an everything. The second is essentially your “limitbreak-o-meter”, in which you build a pool of energy as you preform actions in combat. Once you reach a certain amount of this stuff, you unlock one of your various “I win” buttons on a two minute cooldown. Fantastic. The last thing is specific to your class, and these are in fact quite varied. Some build up combo points (which are tied to the character, not the target, woo!), others shift through a series of stances, and still others have….another energy pool. Still, overall a quite refreshing departure from the normal MMO design.
As far as classes go you’ve got quite a bit to choose from. Twenty four classes seems like quite a lot until you realize that the designers apparently grew up on Diablo and twenty four classes becomes “one of each of the four roles for each of the six races.” Still, it’s a fair selection of variables for just how you hit people in the face, and while every basic category of class does essentially the same thing I’m not quite willing to call it Extreme Makeover: The Clone Edition. Character customization is essentially on par with WoW; having seven option menus to cycle through instead of five did not particularly endear me to the process.
WAR also makes heavy use of world quests. Essentially these are highly localized areas in which you and anyone else in the same area are tasked with defeating a few waves of baddies (or opening barrels, or whatever) until at last a Big Bad emerges, and you stomp him and take his stuff. This actually makes it quite easy to meet new people and determine if you want to join their party (players can invite themselves to parties unless the leader specifically sets it otherwise), or fuck off to another zone to enjoy the more sophisticated conversations of woodpeckers. Where this goes terribly awry is in the loot system. As essentially the “dungeons” of WAR, these events always drop desirable gear for the appropriate level characters. Unfortunately with everyone in an area being involved, distributing the loot becomes a bit of a problem. Once the Big Bad is steaming on the floor, a loot window pops up and beings to automatically roll a need roll for all players that participated in the event. You are awarded somewhere between 0 and 500 bonus points to your roll (rolling 1d1000), depending on how much the game feels you helped. Mostly this means how many people you killed, so healers go fuck yourselves. Now this all seems nice on paper, but it rather quickly breaks down once you’re actually in it. First off, you can’t pass, so even if you’ve got every godawful piece of gear out of this event and are just here to help some friends, guess what you’ll probably be taking loot from at least one of them. The other well thought out mechanic is that “participated in the event” apparently means “was in the zone when the boss died”. What this means is that any retard who showed up at the last moment and hit the boss three times, or happened to be passing through and accidentally did anything is stuck on the loot table. Now of course they’ve got a +0 to their roll, but a +500 to a 1-1000 roll is not exactly exclusive, and the RNG is as big a fucker as ever. There’s nothing quite like doing an event for the third time with a +500 and then rolling single digits. Again, good concept, but I think it took a wrong turn somewhere at the intersection of fuckery and douchecock.
The UI of the game was suprisingly nice. Not for the appearance itself, which basically looks like every other MMO UI ever, but because the game essentially has Bartender (or Bongos, or whatever bar mod you use, and if you don’t you’re a moron) built into it. Size, position, and visibility are all completely customizable, and I highly recommend doing so, because as ever the default UI is ass. For starters, your three different resource pools appear to be attempting to be as far away from each other on the screen as they possibly can be, and your quest tracker is attempting to consume all remaining space.
Overall, I would recommend you try out WAR, but do it on the 10-day trial. The game still has a long way to go before it could hold my interest. The seeds are there, however, and I will definitely be looking back in on it in a year or so.