On PvESeptember 23, 2008
It seems that some people get an allergic reaction — the kind where you swell up and cough in a highly unpleasant way — whenever PvE is mentioned in Warhammer Online. Beyond that, some folks get incredibly riled up against the PvE content, as if it was a personal insult to their southern honor that requires a gentleman’s duel. In many of the journalistic and fan reviews I’ve read, PvE is cited as a weak spot in WAR, something to be tolerated at best and a whipping boy for a reason why to knock off a full number point from the final review score.
But is this true? Is PvE content so abysmal and forgettable in WAR that we should declare it a heresy and burn it at the stake? Or is this a kneejerk reaction that starts with an assumption and is unclouded by facts and unbiased gameplay?
Listen, there’s just no getting around the point that WAR was built with a gooey PvP core, and most all of the systems in place are there to support that. Most MMOs are a blend of PvE and PvP content, of varying ratios: 90/10, 75/25, 50/50. It’s a little tougher to sort out WAR’s ratio, since in many places the PvE content blends with the PvP and vice versa. Take competitive PQs, for instance — PvE content that, at the same time, has you competing against enemy players in a neck-and-neck race, and can often degenerate into actual PvP combat if people get flagged or in the mood for it. Or PvE objectives falling inside the RvR zones.
And while we can’t blame Mythic for promoting their title’s superior strength — it’s RvR focus — in contrast to other games, PvE got the punt to the back seat of the bus whenever the game was shown off (with the major exception of Public Quests). Still, Mythic assured PvE-types that there would be plenty of PvE content in for their enjoyment, and it would be completely possible to play the game from rank 1 to 40 without touching a lick of PvP, if so desired… they just weren’t going to spend a lot of time talking about it.
So we see that well before WAR launched, the public perception was slanted against WAR’s PvE — if Mythic wasn’t talking about it, it must not be that special. If Mythic is so proud of the option of being able to level to the cap solely through PvP, PvE must be an afterthought. Plus, many players heading into Warhammer were refugees from past MMOs where a stigma of PvE grinds turned them off to the whole “E” part of the equation together. It almost didn’t matter if it was the best PvE in the industry, it was tainted by association and they wanted no part of it.
Personally, I think this angle is unfair and unwarranted. I’m finding WAR’s PvE content satisfying, at least, with true bursts of gaming joy. It might not be the adrenaline thrillride that PvP can become, but there’s a lot of meat on this bone and it’s a shame for it to be thrown out entirely. Let’s take a quick look at what PvE WAR offers:
- Solo Quests: Ah, the old “Kill Ten Rats” quest. The “Go Find The Dead Guy” quest. The “Click On The Glowy Icon” quest. The dreaded “Escort” quest. The “Collect X Items” quest. The “Breadcrumbs” quest. MMO vets are well familiar with these all, and while they might moan and complain about their inclusion in WAR, the lack of PvE quests at all would be even more cause to complain. Quests, as I see them, are filler. They fill the gaps between PvP matches, between PQ chapters, between busy moments where your friends are all online. They give you something to do, an accomplishment to achieve, and they reward you decently: XP, gold, items, what have you. If you take the time to actually read the quest text (I know, I know), you’d discover some pretty funny and interesting tales to give the game world and your place in it context. I like how accessible WAR’s made its quests, with map indicators (the red rings) showing you the general area of the quest, the detail of the Tome’s quest description, and the 1:1 ratio of kills to drops that you need (no more killing 75 whatevers to get your 5 drops!).
- Public Quests: We’ve already talked about these at length, so I’ll let it go with this — for people who whine about quests being static and boring, you really have to close a blind eye to the dozens and dozens of PQs that are anything but static or boring. And the influence rewards… holy crap, how I love topping the influence meter for each chapter!
- Dungeons: Whereas I’d put WAR’s PvE quests on par with WoW’s (seriously), WoW still holds superiority in dungeons. I’ve yet to explore a WAR dungeon, although I hear they’re a different breed of animal: short, nasty and rewarding. Get in, kill to boss, kill boss, loot treasure. WAR needs a better way to hook people up for these and to get people interested in them sooner, if they want to be competitive in this regard.
- Tome of Knowledge: This encompasses both PvE and PvP, but let’s face it — the Tome is one giant solo quest log for you to hack away at. Between the Tome and Kill Collectors, Mythic aimed to give players more of a sense of accomplishment to their gaming time. If you’re anything like me, you’re more happy if you’re accomplishing to objectives at the same time, even more happy if it’s three simultaneously, and so on. Even if I’m a bit bored while doing a particular quest, there’s some part of me that’s happy knowing that I’m contributing to a couple different Tome unlocks and my effort isn’t going to waste.
- Capital Cities: I agree with Mythic — an online city in a MMORPG has never been done quite as extensively, intricately and life-like as the two in the game. If you haven’t treated yourself to a tour around these towns as part of your PvE experience, then more’s the pity.
- As A Funnel: Even if you’re the type like Snafzg who cares not one whit for PvE, there should be a soft spot in your heart for what Mythic’s trying to do with it. Namely, to funnel formerly solo-only PvErs into a group-based PvP environment. Everywhere you look, the PvE content nudges, pushes, entices or outright shoves players into trying a bit of RvR, if nothing else than to fulfill a quest requirement or to get a spiffy Tome unlock. And while it might be too soon to tell for sure, I think it’s working.
I’ve heard reports that higher end (T4) zones are far more noticeably lacking in PvE content, which should be addressed by Mythic as soon as possible. That aside, I don’t feel as though I’m missing out on any great PvE content that I used to have in CoH, WoW, LOTRO, etc., except for the occasional dungeon run… so if my PvE needs are being filled, that is a pretty good indicator to me that Mythic lived up to their promise to give players like me the gameplay we love. I guess I just don’t understand the criticism in this regard. Feel free to enlighten me.