When Dark Age of Camelot launched back in 2001, I felt it was EverQuest, only without the parts that I didn't like. By the same token, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning might be World of WarCraft: PVP Done Better.
Comparing WAR to WoW is inevitable — there are too many similarities to be dismissed. Both feature Orcs with cartoonish armor, both use similar fonts, and heck, even the names are similar. According to Games Workshop — the owners of the Warhammer name — Blizzard ripped them off. That might well be true, since my knowledge of Warhammer is limited to taking a look at a friend's miniatures and thinking, "Painting all of those must have been a hell of a lot of work." Even if Blizzard did borrow heavily from Games Workshop, because WoW launched first, Warhammer Online will be inevitably compared to WoW. However, the similarities are largely visual, as the actual gameplay of the two titles is quite different. While WarCraft has PvP, it's easy to avoid, and even on the PvP-specific servers, it doesn't feel like an actual war is happening, but rather that a gank-fest is in progress.
Mythic's strong point is Realm-v-Realm combat, so I think it'll best WarCraft in that regard; depending on your viewpoint of how well Blizzard did PvP, that might not be hard to top. There are four types of PvP in Warhammer: Skirmish — incidental combat, where you run into a member of an opposing faction; Battlegrounds — objective-based battles, where you might need to control an area; Scenarios — where you'll go to an instance to perform a point-based objective; and Campaign — RvR sacking of the capital cities. Unlike Camelot, capital cities aren't the main hubs for your faction — they're more like Relic Keeps, where the goal is to steal a relic (which boosts certain powers for your realm), and the former owner needs to reclaim it. By sacking the other faction's city and capturing the King (like the Relics, you'll need to steal him back), you'll get special loot.
There will be safe areas in the city, so even though you may have lost control of the city, you'll still have access to the crafting areas, bank, etc. Battlegrounds in WAR are different from the ones in Camelot. Sanya Weathers, Mythic's director of community relations, explains, "Battlegrounds in Camelot and WAR are focused, level-restricted places to play with a central objective to direct the fighting. WAR's have the added interesting benefit of being integrated into the surrounding zone, instead of in a separate zone. You can't be flagged for PvP content unless you cross the invisible line into the area, but fights can and will spill outside the battleground, because your flag doesn't turn off until you've been out of the area for a bit. Think about the implications!"
Weathers also gives some insight into the scenarios: "It's basically an instance where the game will match your group with another group, using a point system to determine strength. The game won't make you wait until an enemy comes along that is similar in strength, though. NPCs called Dogs of War will be added to the 'weaker' group until the sides are even. The scenarios are goal-based, meaning when one side captures the flag, the scenario ends." Hopefully, the bots will have decent AI so they actually help out.
When you receive quests, the color of the quest will indicate how likely you are to encounter PvP: green denotes a safe area with no PvP, yellow indicates that there could be PvP, and red means that PvP is guaranteed. One unique quest idea WAR introduces is a public quest. When you enter an area, you might get a pop-up that'll tell you to kill 20 of some monster. All players in that area get the same quest, and their kills count towards the total, but you don't actually need to kill anything to get the reward. The hope is that this will help players form groups, since you're all killing the same stuff anyway, but I'm not sure how well that's actually going to work. While it might not have the side-effect Mythic is hoping for, it's a good idea for non-grouped players in a zone to work together. Similar quests can be found in the PvP areas, where you might have to kill 20 dwarves, and the other side needs to keep those dwarves alive.
There will be 33 zones, with the good and evil sides intertwined forming a progression towards each faction's capital city. There exist two realms: Order (armies of the Empire) and Destruction (armies of Chaos). Humans, Dwarves, and High Elves belong to Order, while Chaos is composed of Dark Elves, Humans, and Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins). The races have been organized into "racial pairings," in the hopes of making it easier to locate fights: Empire versus Chaos, Dwarves versus Greenskins, and High Elves versus Dark Elves. However, players are not limited to these racial pairings for RvR combat; members from any realm can travel to the ancestral lands of any ally to fight any foe. So far, Mythic has only announced the classes for two of the races: Dwarf Ironbreaker (tank), Hammerer (damage), Engineer (ranged damage), Rune Priest (caster/healer), Greenskin Black Orc (tank), Shaman (caster/healer), Squig Herder (damage), and Berserker (ranged).
One personal area of concern for me in any MMO is the death penalty because nothing sucks out the fun like losing several hours recovering from a mistake. When asked about the death penalty, Weathers replied that it would be "low to medium," since it's a PVP title and people are expected to die quite a bit. WAR is still a year or so from launch, so they'll have plenty of time to address little details like death penalties.
I'm curious to see how Mythic addresses RvR after launch. Camelot leads a dichotomous life, where you PvE for the 50 levels, and then you focus on PvP. While Mythic has added more low-level battlegrounds and allowed players to gain XP by killing other players, the meat of RvR doesn't start until level 50. Expansions in Camelot have largely been PvE-focused, with the possible exception of Trials of Atlantis, which many players believe threw RvR combat totally out of whack. The New Frontiers expansion wasn't what I'd consider a true expansion since it remodeled an existing area. Because the war seems much more upfront in Warhammer, I hope as it expands keeps intermixing the two types of play.
Because the E3 demo was heavy on PowerPoint and light on actual gameplay demonstration, it's hard to get a feel for more important items, like how much fun it'll actually be. To be fair, however, it was playable in the booth if you were lucky enough to grab a seat. Warhammer Online is expected to go live in 2007, with a beta starting this fall.
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