I had never even heard of Warhammer until just over a year ago. I had never seen the army pieces you could paint up or even played any Warhammer PC games. So when a fellow World of Warcraft guild member said it was going to be the best MMO ever because it was being developed by Mythic Entertainment, the people that made Dark Age of Camelot, I shrugged it off. I was too busy playing Ultima Online and never got into Dark Age of Camelot. He kept babbling on and on about "Realm vs. Realm" and capturing keeps with siege weapons. World of Warcraft was my game of choice and addiction at that time; I couldn’t imagine playing any other MMORPG. Time traveling forward to the present, my love of World of Warcraft is done. It was a great game, but it wore me down to a nub. All my time in the game was spent chatting in the trade channel, waiting for the arena queues to pop and raid groups to fill up. So, I didn’t hesitate one second when I received that golden ticket in my email that told me to come join the WAR.
You can bet that I played through Warhammer Online comparing it to World of Warcraft. I played WoW for years, and my recent burn with Age of Conan had me approaching Warhammer Online even more cautiously. The first thing I noticed while playing Warhammer Online was that the graphics do have a cartoony feel to them, similar to World of Warcraft. While the style of the graphics have similarities, the detailing in Warhammer far outweigh those of it’s predecessor. Whether it’s the massive buildings and cities, the vast environments or the armor and weapon graphics, the detail is everywhere in WAR. I kept having to tell myself this was beta and not the finished product.
Mythic has split the game into two main factions, Order and Destruction. Order consists of the Dwarves, High Elves, and Empire, while Destruction is made up of Greenskins, Dark Elves, and Chaos. This type of setup is identical to World of Warcraft as well. The differences are in how these zones are played out. Dwarves and Greenskins, for example, share the same zone and are constantly at war with each other throughout the game. It’s not uncommon to see other factions aiding you in your battles, as no one is limited to only one zone and can take advantage of the flight masters at the war camps.
The character selection in WAR is unmatched. You have ten unique classes per faction to pick from; that’s twenty for those who aren’t counting. Let me repeat this, ten unique classes available for each faction. The closest thing World of Warcraft has to this is the forced lore classes, the Tauren and Nightelf Druids. Just the idea of never running into my same class on the other faction had me tickled. The customization of characters is limited by the Warhammer IP and so you won’t find any characters with pink or blue hair. My most recent character I tested on was the Dwarf Engineer. He’s a stubby guy with a twisted love of guns and explosives. I gave him a long, braided beard with black hair, a couple earrings and nose rings and named him Engie (catchy, huh?). I loaded into the game and found myself in a massive, stone and metal area. Massive doesn’t really do it justice. If big is a White Castle burger, this was definitely the Hardee’s monster burger. It looked like I was in some type of juiced up siege weapon factory, with large explosions and machinery running. After taking in the sights and sounds, I wandered over to the initial quest giver and started my leveling.
Questing in World of Warcraft is boring and really does not tell a story until much later in the game. All of this is gone in Warhammer: the quests smash the lore into your brain and before you know it, you’re starting to resemble your character out of game. Maybe not that drastic, but you definitely get a better feel of the story through even the first WAR quests. My little Dwarf that could, Engie, picked up his first quest and was directed to run down and kill some squigs. Those pesky two-legged creatures are always causing problems. On the way down, I also picked up a quest to blow up a mine shaft and trap the greenskins inside. I killed my four squigs easily with a few ranged shots and smacking them with my wrench and proceeded into the mine to blow up the shaft. I found the trigger to drop the shaft on some goblins and I had completed my first two quests ever as a Dwarf.
If the questing alone has you excited to jump into WAR and smash some skulls, public questing should have your squirming in your chair. Public questing is currently unique to only Warhammer Online, but it is definitely something that every developer will be including in their future MMOs. PQ’s are just simply areas on the map that have objectives. The first objective is usually something easy, like gathering supplies or killing easy NPCs. After the first objective, the group aspect begins and you are asked to kill a set number of harder NPCs and finally down a boss NPC in the last phase. After the boss is downed, a window pops up showing everyone’s contribution in the public quest. Loot is distributed by random rolling and the top contributers gain a scaling bonus to their rolls. While it’s more likely that a higher contributor will win the roll, it is still possible that the last place contributer gets first place in the loot. Public quests vary in their difficulty and the loot from each public quest changes based on that difficulty.
Completing objectives and public quest phases earn your character influence points. Influence is earned in three tiers and opening each tier allows your character to select loot. I found myself farming these public quests with groups of people for the loot and influence.
Grouping is similar in ways to WoW, but differs in a few major areas that I noticed. First, group sizes are six and not five like World of Warcraft. Open grouping was the first major difference someone will notice. When your character is not grouped, there is always an icon located below your character’s healthbar. Clicking the open group icon will open up a list of all open groups in your area and anyone can click the button to join. This is great for those that don’t like to spend time finding a group or trying to start one, letting the group form itself. Private groups can be set in the group options, as well. The other major thing about grouping that I noticed was there is not a penalty for questing in a warband. Warbands are larger groups of groups of players. Many public quests start out with a few people and grow into a nearly full warband by the time it’s completed.
The loot system in World of Warcraft can bring a grown man to tears. Hours and hours spent in raids and groups, farming the same thing over and over, only to get beat on the roll by someone who doesn’t even need the item. Don’t forget that quest that took you three weeks to complete and only to find out that the item rewards are for a class that isn’t yours. Warhammer Online does all it can to squash these annoyances. Your quest loot is catered to your character; Chaos Marauder quest loot is for a Chaos Marauder. This also holds true for all loot from public questing. Don’t worry, though, there is still plenty of rare loot that drops off players and monsters that can be traded and sold to other classes.
The player vs. player (PvP) in Warhammer Online is something that reminds me of the old WoW days. You know, way back when the struggle wasn’t over arena gear and arena titles. Back when the players would line up, all different levels, and compete in a virtual tug of war in Hillsbrad. There was nothing to earn and no real reason to be there. Along came the battlegrounds and arenas, and PvP in World of Warcraft became all about the honor, gear, and arena ranks. What Warhammer does great is bring everything together in one massive RvR package. Every quest you complete, every scenario you win, and every keep you smash through and capture all play a role in your character’s, your guild’s, and your realm’s progression through the game. I must add that there is nothing as chaotic and fun as trying to storm a keep with a large group of players inside defending.
The Tome of Knowledge feature in Warhammer Online has recently sent Blizzard into a fury to implement something similar into their game. The tome allows you to track everything that your character has done. Kill twenty five boars and you get a popup with an experience reward. There are literally thousands of possible tome unlocks and trying to complete some of the more challenging could keep someone busy for months. Multiple unlocks include titles, and these range from the silly to the really silly. Mythic does a great job of adding their own sense of humor and keeping it Warhammer related. Even though the Tome of Knowledge is not Mythic’s own idea, the way they implemented it into the game is definitely unique. It’s a giant leap ahead of Blizzard’s upcoming achievement system. The tome is not simply about unlocks and rewards; it tells your characters story, where you have been and what you have done.
There are many other features in Warhammer Online that can’t be compared to World of Warcraft, simply because they are unique to WAR:
- Class trainers are able to train up any class in the game
- A character can queue up for a scenario from anywhere with the scenario button.
- Players have a small circular guide around their characters showing group members.
- Flagging yourself for RvR in a lower tiered zone will make your character become a chicken with one health point.
- Players automatically receive new storage bags as they level up and quest items are automatically stored in a separate bag.
- Players can fully edit their User Interface (UI) and customize it to their preference.
The differences definitely exceed the similarities and I have not ran into anything yet in Warhammer that makes me wish it was more like World of Warcraft.
Mythic Entertainment did the impossible with Warhammer Online: it made me go from a skeptic to a rabid fan in a matter of hours. It is what I have been waiting for in a MMORPG for a long time. It takes all of the best parts of other MMOs, adds a crazy Warhammer twist, improves it in a unique Mythic way, and rolls it up into a big ball of MMO goodness. The only question you should be asking yourself is how you are going to pass the time from now until September 18th. WAR is coming!