A Keep Too FarAugust 30, 2008
With the advent of a new patch, the beta servers shoved all of the playerbase to level 31 (36ish when we had the battle boosting level buff on) to test out the tier 4 combat. Unfortunately, that put a dead halt on my newbie zone “First Impressions” series (8 careers to go!), and I felt reluctant to leap into higher level content — I wanted to save that for when I first experienced it as the game went live.
But boredom, as it so often does, won out, and I quickly chose a Bright Wizard template to fight with. It was a bit of a hassle to get into the game, as you have to train up all of your skills and masteries without really knowing what any of them were for or did. I just closed my eyes and clicked on the “train” button until it was wheezing and gasping for air. Good enough, let’s go.
I headed out into Reikland, checking over the map to see how it was divided up between the dual PvE zones (western side of the map for Empire, and right side, presumably, for Chaos, with the contested RvR area in the middle). I couldn’t find a vendor for a mount, so I hoofed it over to where the action was, hit the “open grouping” button to join a Warband of 35 people, and engaged the enemy at the foot of a largish keep.
Two thoughts immediately impressed themselves into my brain. The first was that this was the first taste of massive RvR battles, and it was just downright awe-inspiring. It wasn’t mass chaos, not really, but instead two large armies pushing forward and falling back, trying to hook around to flanks, taking out the exposed idiots who ran ahead or fell behind, Engineers laying down a defensive line, ranged dps having fun, and tanks forming a wall. It wasn’t perfect, mind you, but to a newbie’s eye, it looked as if people instinctively knew what role they were supposed to be playing and stuck with the team. Spells, shots, clangs and grunts were everywhere. It was exciting.
And completely unplayable. That was my second impression. I’m not sure how many people were on the screen at one time — 100? 150? 200? — but it was enough to stutter my computer down to a slow crawl. I still didn’t have my new graphics card in, so I was relying on my old GeForce 6800 (which did me just fine in WoW, Tabula Rasa, LOTRO, Mass Effect and so on). Plus, at this point in the beta, Mythic had set the graphics to one untweakable setting (or so I assumed: I tried to fiddle with things, but it all looked the same). And who knows how far the code will go to smooth things out — or what the real working code is at this point? All I knew is that I wasn’t able to do much in terms of actual combat.
Part of the problem that I’ve been encountering in scenarios and whatnot is that the enemy targeting circle ‘n pointer is far, far too dim against the colorful screen. It’s tough to tab-target someone and figure out just where they were, and even when I manually clicked on a guy, he often got lost in the mob. It got so bad I didn’t know which way to face at times. Plus, I’m just not too experienced with the skill activation and feedback. It’s sometimes hard to know whether you’ve hit a button right, whether it is firing off, or if you can’t hit another button because of the cooldown (which forces you to constantly be flicking your eyes to your action bar). Granted, a lot of this is lack of experience with the character, but I just ended up trying to target someone in the mob, mashing my number buttons, and feeling pretty ineffective all around.
It worries me if the code can’t get those battles smoother, because people with faster processors, more RAM and (most importantly) better graphics cards will be able to hold a distinct advantage in PvP over the rest of us. And since Mythic’s trying to get WAR into as many hands as possible, they have to be straddling a sane line between graphic fidelity and graphic performance.
After a little bit the game lagged to a halt and crashed on me, and I couldn’t summon up the urge to log back in just to be frustrated again. Don’t take this as a denouncement of all things RvR — I really can’t wait to fight in those types of battles when my machine and the game can run a bit smoother, and it looked absolutely fantastic. Here’s hoping *crosses fingers*