And So It Begins.September 14, 2008
Last night I logged on briefly — oh so very briefly — to the beta servers to talk to a few members of a prospective guild I’m looking to join. While I was talking with them, I did the standard “run around but don’t actually accomplish anything” routine that I’ve gotten used to in beta. Only after I logged off did I realize that that was the last time I’d ever be in WAR beta (barring an expansion pack beta), and I didn’t really do anything significant for the occasion.
Over the past month and a half, I got used to being very detached from my beta characters. They got wiped, no biggie. I deleted them to try out new classes or to say hi to people on various realms/factions, no biggie. I didn’t care to read the quest text, to really gear them up, to accomplish anything other than being in game to talk to folks and get a cursory overview of WAR. I’m sure my characters thought me to be quite heartless, but I was only protecting myself from being burned, baby. You understand.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: with the launch of the game, players are only now going to really experience the full potential of WAR. It cracks me up that Eurogamer already posted a review of Warhammer Online — they haven’t played the retail version, but they’re quite willing to pass a review off as such. They, and us, have not yet had a persistent character to really invest in. They haven’t been gaming in a world where the economy is being molded, where guilds have planted roots, where the real struggle between Order and Destruction takes place. They just puttered around in a beta world of scenarios and Public Quests without a larger context to it. That’s like reviewing a book where you’ve only read the first half of each chapter.
I’ve seen a lot of people try to put out definitive “reviews” of WAR based on the beta, and I’ve ho’d and hum’d through most of them. You can tell they aren’t emotionally or socially invested in the game, because, hey, it’s beta. If I go to see a movie and someone tells me in advance that all of the heroes get killed long before the end credits and nobody triumphs, I’m just not going to enjoy that film. I don’t have anyone to really pull for — and the same is for the characters in beta. You can try to dissect all of the game mechanics and try to pull a review together from that, but it isn’t the same as really experiencing the live release with a persistent struggle and characters that we plan on being with us for years to come. We have yet to connect with our characters in very real ways, and that, to me, is an essential part of the MMO experience.
Just so you know, WAAAGH! isn’t going to post an official review on WAR. Do I need to? I have an entire blog centered around one game, so you know I find it interesting enough to play and talk about. My articles contain elements of reviews, sharing with you freely the strengths, weaknesses and changes as I play the game. For me to write a review would be completely redundant. If nothing else, know that I, Syp, have relinquished a four-year investment into my World of Warcraft characters to place my chips on WAR, and I have no regrets doing so. That should be all the recommendation you need from me.
The first impressions of WAR will make for great headlines over the next couple weeks, and much hubbabaloo will be made over official reviews and whatnot. That’s great fun, but for me, the big test is how enthusiastic we are well after that, a month or two or six down the road, and how many people show up and stick around for the war. I have a feeling it’s going to be a greater testimony to the game than any “Editor’s Choice” review ever could be.