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NDA: News, Dialogue, Action!

August 19, 2008

You May Commence Freaking Out… NOW.

Now that the NDA has dropped and you have approximately five billion new articles from beta testers to read — which is weird because you’re still here reading mine — there’s probably dozens of questions on your mind that need a bit of soothing relief.

I’ve only been a part of closed beta since late July, so it’s not like I have all the answers or experience anyway, but here’s a few questions I think *I* would have wanted answered if I wasn’t in beta — hope it helps!

Is it worth it, or is it a disappointment?

My biggest fear — that I had been waiting so long on Warhammer and blogging about it for months only to find out that it was a big turkey — was erased within minutes of loading up the game. My friends, this is the real deal. WAR is fun, polished, exciting, new and quite lovable. I have no regrets whatsoever moving on from WoW and other MMOs to this one, and I can’t wait for other people to finally be able to play it!

I don’t want to oversell it to you — I think there are sticking points that some people will struggle with, I think it’s very easy to become overwhelmed in PvP, and WAR haters are easily going to dismiss it as a WoW clone and move on. But seriously, this is a terrific game that seems deeper and more energetic than MMOs I’ve played in the past.

How are the graphics?

In a nutshell — less cartoony than WoW, more cartoony than LOTRO, and boasting a unique style all WAR’s own. Very pretty, is what I’m saying. The spell effects, landscape, character models… they look terrific for the balance between graphical power and ease of accessibility (in lower end computers). On higher-end rigs, it’s absolutely beautiful. In a death and decay sort of way, of course.

One issue is that in the beta versions I’ve been playing, I’ve yet to see the lighting that I’ve witnessed at GenCon Indy. Without the lighting put in, a lot of the game looks more “flat”; with it, it’s far more textured and lush.

How’s the sound?

Sound is an aspect of MMOs that often gets overlooked, but I am just loving the care and effort that went into Warhammer’s audio experience. The music ranges from loud and bombastic to soft, eerie crooning, but it never overstays its welcome — it comes and goes at the right pace. The voices and sound effects, including ambient noises, are impressively believable. I approached a waterfall once and my computer’s subwoofer went nuts with the rumbling. Combat noises give appropriate weight and heft to the action, which helps immerse you into the situation.

How’s the user interface?

As with most MMOs, there’s a LOT of stuff going on to digest and sort out at first, but WAR’s UI does a great job not being intrusive and, for the most part, being pretty intuitive. I didn’t need any tutorials to figure out most everything within a short time frame. You can move and resize just about everything, filters exist on the map and chat windows, and unlike some MMOs, I keep my eyes glued on the action instead of the health bars in the upper-left hand side.

The hotkeys took a little getting used to, as they do things a tad different than you might be used to (in terms of global cooldown and flashing to let you know everything’s ready), but once you get into the swing of things and start jamming on those skill keys instead of letting auto-attack do all the work, you’ll find that combat’s a lot more fun because of it.

What’s combat like right out of the gate?

It’s weird this has to be said, since WAR is no different than pretty much *every* MMO ever made in this regard, but you don’t start out with a hundred abilities and frenetic moves — most every class gets two initial skills, with new skills, tactics or whatever coming one per rank thereafter. Auto-attack is pretty worthless in terms of damage (it even gets less of a bonus to dps from your gear than special attacks do); you mostly want to stick with activating skills left and right to do decent damage, so the first couple levels will most likely be you doing the same one or two skills over and over and over again. It’s how it goes in these games, and if you complain about it in WAR, then you’re complaining about every other MMO as well.

The nice thing is that you do hit ranks 3, 4 and 5 quickly, and five skills within a half hour or so give you a nice starting palette of combat options. Plus, combat itself seems more visceral and flashy than other MMOs I’ve played (barring City of Heroes), and I was certainly not bored doing it.

How’s the PvP?

Apart from one keep siege (which was laggy beyond belief, due to either the client or my old video card or both), my PvP experience came solely in the form of the starting zone scenarios. Happily, these were pretty enjoyable (I think I liked the Elf pairing one best — big bombs go boom!), it’s chaotic but once you get into the swing of things, you can actually figure out what’s happening. There’s a little bit of twitch action, but a lot more is strategy — Bright Wizards going up to higher places to unleash damage without instant reprisal, people gunning for the healers, tanks pushing you out of the way, and so on. I didn’t find a lot of immature behavior, although it did trouble me just how much long-distance damage dealers (casters) dominated the field. I don’t know if that’ll be a balance issue as people level up or not.

How does it stack up against World of Warcraft?

Like you, I’m pretty tired of this question, but since it is a question a lot of MMO players have, we can’t be dismissing it without addressing it (and hopefully rectifying a few myths along the way). Personally, I think I’m going to like WAR a lot better than WoW. I loved WoW, I really did, but 4 years of unchanging gameplay takes its toll, and WoW will never be much more or less than what it is now. WAR, on the other hand, has a very solid PvE game on top of a monster of an RvR experience, and I don’t expect that to get old any time soon.

In many ways, WAR is on par with WoW’s features — it’s just as polished as WoW was in 2004 (if not more so), it has a very friendly death penalty, it’s easy to pick up and I expect it to be hard to master, it’s colorful and features a world just begging to be explored. In some ways, WAR will be overshadowed by WoW — WoW has a 4-year head start on polish (ergo WAR will seem buggier), WoW has a bigger playerbase, probably more balanced classes (9 classes balanced over 4 years vs. 20 classes balanced just during a beta), and WoW boasts a wider (if not deeper) PvE leveling game.

However, WAR holds the upper hand in many areas, which might be discounted by naysayers, but honest players will know better. WAR has several features that are unique to the genre — PQs, RvR, city siege and the Tome among them. While other MMOs including WoW might have variations on some of WAR’s features (achivements vs. the Tome), I’m finding WAR to be showcasing the better version of these. There’s simply more to do, more options to develop your character, more ways to level, more classes to play, and a new spirit of actual warfare that is strangely lacking in World of “War”craft.

Right out of the gate, there is just tons more to do in WAR than there is in WoW for a level 1 adventurer (see the next question). Particularly when it comes to making alts, this is going to be a huge relief to people who shudder at the mere thought of starting all over again.

I have no illusions about WAR suddenly outselling WoW, but I’d be very surprised if it didn’t make a serious dent and didn’t start winning people over to the WAR fold within a few months… even after people get their paws on Lich King.

What criticisms do you have so far?

Again, let’s keep in mind that for the bulk of my beta adventures up to this point, I spent my entire time in newbie areas doing newbie things — I can’t really comment on anything higher on up, and there’s bound to be quite a few criticisms and/or disappointments along the way. However, if I was asked to nitpick based on what I’ve seen so far, it would be:

  • The Tome is pretty well cross-indexed, but it took me a little bit to find the page with all the new entries on it, which I think should be the automatic page that comes up when you hit the Tome key.
  • Some classes (especially high DPS classes like the Sorceress) are incredibly strong in PvP during the first ten levels, which makes PvPing with a low DPS class an exercise in mild frustration.
  • Bugs. They’re there, even in the newbie zones, and those are always disappointing.
  • Class balance — 20 PvP classes are going to be a balancing nightmare, as anyone with half a brain could anticipate, and while I have no idea how closely balanced they are in level 40 combat, it still worries me.
  • Loot at the start is a bit blah (especially gear from quest rewards) — you really need to do PQs to get good starting gear.
  • Speaking of which, PQ rolls can be intensely frustrating. You might spend a half hour working your butt off during a PQ, and you still get a low contribution score and 7th or 8th place.
  • No easy general or worldwide chat channel that is there from the onset. It makes it a bit hard to connect with other players in the area (maybe they just never talked, I don’t know).
  • Making a guild isn’t super-hard, but it is a hassle, especially come launch day.
  • Elves exist.
  • There’s almost TOO much to do at the start, and players who eagerly rush through the starting zones expecting for the “good stuff” to start at level 10 or whatnot will miss a lot of it. I can easily see this happening.
  • Armor stats need better explaining (what does one point in toughness do for me?).
  • I wish I could put Tome entries that I’m working towards on the screen, just like how quest objectives are.
  • The in-game player base didn’t seem too interested in helping new players out. I don’t think any question I ever asked was answered.
  • My female dwarf engineer’s starting outfit looked like she was a waitress at a German restaurant. Where are the leather coveralls, darn it!
  • On lower end graphics cards (like my old GeForce 6800 that runs WoW maxed out), you get subpar looks and stuttery gameplay.
  • Mass armies clashing in open world RvR lagged out my computer a few times.
  • Ranged DPS seems to rule PvP whereas tanks flounder with crappy DPS (at least at the start, before access to mastery trees and better items).

What’s there to do at level (rank) one?

Good question, me! I spent a lot of time with the newbie experience, and in that time I compiled a decent list of everything you can do right at the start:

  1. Grind (duh). Kind of boring, of course, but neat to test out skills.
  2. Quest. Just a couple quests are ready at the go, but more quickly unlock as you complete earlier ones. These are good ways to raise initial funds (for skills) and get some basic gear.
  3. Do Tome Unlocks. There are a surprising amount of Tome unlocks for your level one dude or gal, including kill X whatevers, get critical hits, click on yourself, explore the map, speak to certain people, loot bodies, etc. You can have your first title within a half hour, easy.
  4. Kill Collector sprees. Kill Collectors sit in different camps, waiting for you to kill a certain, unspecified number of a certain creature/person, then giving you a “free” reward of XP when you find them.
  5. Start stocking up on crafting items. You can’t craft until you enter chapter 2 and find crafting trainers, but you’ll quickly start finding some crafting components on kills.
  6. Public Quests. Even as a level one, you can jump into a PQ knowing that you can contribute in a meaningful way. PQs are great ways to earn special loot and rake in influence. Speaking of which…
  7. Fight in PQ areas to increase influence. Influence can be traded into a special NPC vendor for good loot, and it doesn’t take too long to max out your initial Influence bar.
  8. Scenarios. Itching to jump into PvP, but you can’t wait the few hours it’ll take until your questing path starts intersecting with the enemy? Click the scenario button and get into the queue for your first battle. The scenarios automatically level up your character to the maximum rank for that battle (your first scenario will make you rank 8), although you won’t get new skills to go with it. Scenarios offer you an alternate way of getting XP, so conceivably you could level to 40 doing nothing but.
  9. Build up renown ranks. Scenarios not only offer XP and loot, but renown XP as well. You have 80 renown ranks to climb through, which will net you rewards and gear later on.
  10. Join a guild. Might as well — you need friends in this war-torn world!

All this, I kid you not, at level one.

What is [name of class] like to play? Which one was your favorite during beta?

This is a highly subjective pair of questions — what may be for me may not (will not) be for you. However, I’d want to know what you thought if you were in beta and I wasn’t, so I’m going to answer this question with a record twenty articles after this one that I’ve been working on. One article for every class and their newbie experience. I spent a few hours on each, getting them up to rank 4 or 5 for a “taste” of the class and starting zone, and had fun writing initial impressions — which, of course, aren’t a final say on the class itself. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll be like at level 40, that’s for sure.

As for my current favorites? You’ll just have to read and see…

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20 comments

  1. I am really happy that we both selected Batman references for the articles we both had ready to post when this happened. =)

    BAM!


  2. you don’t get leveled to the max rank, its like 3 below the max rank. You can be up to lvl 11 in the beginning scenarios. Thought I would clarify.


  3. Nice, I think as you have not been in Beta for to long your impressions are very valid as it will probably mirror that of us playing for the first time… I look forward to reading your class write ups.

    Kudos


  4. Making me reconsider not playing at launch…


  5. I have been in open beta since it started. iam an elder open beta tester and have pretty much played every class at different levels. I tried the end game content when they were testing it. I can tell you i have done everything there is to do from RVR to PVE. this game is awesome in terms of look and end game stuff BUT IT IS NOT BALANCED at all. the RVR is extremely frustrating at any level. Some classes are pretty much useless they get 2 to 3 shotted while HEALERS simply require a raid party to be taken down. the empire side needs alot of love all u see on the empire side is dwarf priest, elf preiest, bright wizard and the trend continues. sometimes u might see other classes (witch hunters which are pretty much just looks and 0 dps) i play destruction btw. healers have no mana (very very stupid idea imo) and their HOT is enough to simply stand in front of you and tank you to death. tank classes dont really do any damage they do ok in PVE but are pretty much just meat shield in pvp nothing more. if u think that your job is to tank and get heals in RVR well think again you WILL NOT GET HEALS ever well may be just one or two once in a blue moon. anyway the game is good and the PVE is alot of fun until u get to PQs and u see that u finished last although u were first on teh contribution list ( another stupid idea). bugs are plenty in warhammer online more so than the zombies in chaos starting area. my favorite must be the one that kicks you out of the game and doesnt let u log back in for 15min this particular bug happens once every umm 20 min yeah u heard me right every 20 min. the game looks much better than wow in every aspect of it except the pvp which will piss the living crap out of you. you will soon realize it once you get to higher lvls. u dont pvp much early on but once you get to tier 2 you will start to pull your hair and scream at the monitor casue your elf tank or chaos chosen is wacking at a healer for a good 15 min and he is still standing or you are trying to kill a bright wizard and guess what he is running away and umm yeah u have no real snare to stop him or reduce healing on him or distrupt spells. I really like this game depsite all these bugs and balance issues. I hope the developers fix the RVR issues before launch or this game is nothing more than another AOC


  6. Great to see your comments. Much appreciated are the bad as well as the good. Can’t wait for the class write ups.


  7. I meant closed beta tester and been in closed beta since the open beta obviously has not started yet ( sorry for the typo)


  8. Did anyone else feel like Champs are a tiny bit overpowered?


  9. […] Syp gives an amazing overview at Waaagh! […]


  10. Champs? Aren’t those from DAOC? πŸ˜›


  11. Good review, I agree with you on many points. The one thing I thought was really cool, in a sense, was how overwhelmed I was even in the starter area. It wasn’t like, “oh, these wolves are annoying, go kill 10 of them for me and i’ll give you an apple”. It was “WE’RE BEING INVADED GO KILL THESE ZOMBIES BEFORE WE ALL DIE!!”. Even though the game is really quite linear, it’s very chaotic and you deinitely feel like you’re being pulled in different directions, especially with the huge variety of stuff you can do from the moment you first log in.

    And as for the PvP? I’ve always hated PvP, but WAR has made me a believer. It’s the first PvP EVER that I’ve found to be fun and that I don’t dread or do only long enough to get gear.

    So yeah, I’m a happy panda. πŸ™‚


  12. I think you are dead on with a lot of points you make. The game really is great but it does have that new game feel that will always have bugs popping up, balancing to put in place… etc. But when you see past those things I think the game plays rather well.

    One thing I agree and disagree on is that Tanks in WAR get a bad rap. I’ve played a Black Orc and a Chosen for about a month or so now. If you go in as Sword and Board the dps is pretty low. Though you have to admit your roll as such a Tank is indeed just slamming people off into the distance and trying to block their path. With a two hander though I really think Tanks can tear things up. I absolutely love my Black Orc with a Great Weapon. Go right for an MDPS or RDPS and just cleave, snare, and goto town and they fall over.

    It’s the same experience I’ve had with the Witch Hunter. I’ve only gotten about a week or so time in on this class but while it’s by far the weakest melee dps (takes the shortest amount of time to kill) I don’t think it’s DPS is something to disregard. I went down the mastery tree of Inquisition (My name makes that pretty clear πŸ˜‰ hehe.) and I fell in love with it. It’s not the instant pwn button by no means. But once you put in several Fervor’s and get a five point ‘Burn, Heretic!’ your work is halfway over. You can then use which ever ability you find best in the situation and usually come out on top. If that person gets a healer on him then you probably are screwed.

    Then again anyone that gets a healer on him will usually out live the dps your doing to them.


  13. Some of your nitpicks are on the extreme edge of nitpicking:

    “Loot at the start is a bit blah (especially gear from quest rewards) β€” you really need to do PQs to get good starting gear.” Where you expecting epics at level 1? Not to continue the WoW comparisons, but it was exactly the same way there.

    “Armor stats need better explaining (what does one point in toughness do for me?).” One quick look at your character profile explains what each stat does.


  14. I agree with your comments about the style and mood and feel of the game, it’s very nice.

    But I really can’t agree with your comments about the level of polish at the current stage of closed beta. I don’t think it’s even remotely true that “it’s just as polished as WoW was in 2004 (if not more so)”

    I’ve only gotten in a few good sessions of play in CB but I’ve easily reported 20-30 bugs, I found I was just constantly encountering (small, not game-breaking) bugs.

    I think Mythic are going to have to flog their developers half to death to get this into a release-worthy state inside a month.

    But yeah, if they manage that, it’ll be a good’un. Even if they don’t, I’m sure they’ll sort out the little bugs within a patch or two.


  15. And that’s EXACTLY where Blizzard was in 2004. These sorts of things fade with time, but really, WoW was far from being a bug-free, stable game at launch. It took them MONTHS to get the servers stable, and even longer for some pretty horrific bugs that continued to plague the game. It was still a good game, but… really, not perfect or as “polished” as we think we remember.

    I won’t debate you that WAR has bugs; it does, and we need to keep reporting them like crazy. To Mythic’s credit, they have proven over the past couple months that they’re willing to fix these pretty darn fast after people report them.


  16. […] play it long enough in beta for a proper review, and 2) everyone on the internet has been exploding with that information since the NDA belatedly dropped this morning. I suggest you hit any one (or all) of […]


  17. […] Read More… […]


  18. Agreed, WoW had lots of issues on release. One example I remember: falling through the world on numerous occasions, usually due to fear mechanics running you into some BAD world geometry. There were plenty of others, falling through the elevators in UC, etc.

    WAR is definitely playable right now. Probably as much as WoW was on it’s release. Let’s just hope that WAR does avoid some of the initial server nightmares that WoW had at release – not all their fault, they blew up and went gangbusters with overpopulation.


  19. This is in response, not to the actual post, but to the response made by Blackwings. Pretty much everything he said is entirely untrue.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what one person finds frustrating, another finds enjoyable, but RvR is, according to my own opinions and very nearly everyone I’ve spoken with, more fun than anything previously encountered in an MMO.
    TTK (Time To Kill) is actually pretty high for all classes, including glass-cannon DPS. Speaking as a Warrior Priest with only HOTs at my disposal, I’m usually able to keep DPS up, unless there are more than two people on him/her.
    Tanks can do significant damage if wielding a two-hander. I would know, I’m usually on the receiving end.
    Healing classes, especially Warrior Priests and Desciples of Khaine, can outlast most other classes in a one-on-one confrontation. However, we are much less potent in a large-scale battle, which is how the majority of RvR playes out.
    The majority of serious (game-breaking) bugs, including the “disconnect/unable to log in” bug, have been squashed (at least, for me).
    I’m not trying to be a fanboy. Just reporting on my own experience with the game.



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