|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Mythic||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: Unlimited||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning took the MMO community by storm when it was first announced. Since then, fans of the popular Warhammer table-top game and books have flocked. So, what exactly could another fantasy MMO have to offer gamers when there are already so many on the market? Interestingly, the potential for success has been highly debated for a long time running. Sure, Mythic Entertainment isn't necessarily breaking new ground with its design, but it has certainly taken that standard foundation and built an impressive structure on top.
Players are given the option of playing on the side of Order or Destruction. Trying to figure out who the bad and good guys are shouldn't be a problem. Both sides consist of three races, and each race has its own unique classes. While each class plays slightly differently from all the others, Mythic didn't hesitate to conform to the standard triad of character archetypes. The tank, healer, and damage per second (DPS) archetypes are all present. One of the first things players will notice when creating a character is that each class is designated as one of the three archetypes, helping eliminate the guess work.
The Empire, the normal humans, Dwarves, and High Elves are joined together to create Order while Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins), Chaos, the evil humans, and Dark Elves make up Destruction. The character creation in Warhammer Online is simplistic. Players choose their side, race, gender, face type, hair type, hair color, facial hair, and eye color. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be many options for each category, so creating a truly distinct character isn't necessarily a guarantee. On the other hand, most of these attributes end up being covered by the customizable armors and weapons that players can acquire, so the initial character customization isn't crucial.
Dyeing armor is a feature that reinforces the players' desire to be unique, and it does it well. There are a number of standard dyes that can be applied by most merchant vendors, and then there are uncommon dyes that are earned through quests or found by looting fallen enemies. Therefore, while many players may have similar armor sets, looking different is just a few dye changes away. Unfortunately, not all armor pieces can be colored. It depends on the armor and, in some cases, the type of item. For example, most capes, if any, can't be dyed a different color. But, this would make sense considering most capes would probably look the same. Meaning, once a player got their first cape, getting another one and changing the color wouldn't seem fulfilling since the aesthetics wouldn't change.
The visuals in Warhammer Online are a mixed bag. On one hand, the style should be applauded as being unique and interesting. City architecture and creature design are top-notch. Conversely, character models seem to lack the detail and finesse that was put into the other areas of the game. Weather effects and the day-night cycle will help keep the environment from becoming stale, but some areas of the world appear to suffer from "no-sun syndrome," making those areas less pleasing to the players who enjoy the scenery changes. Overall, Warhammer Online falls short without next-generation graphics, but when attempting to create large-scale combat between countless players, Mythic had to make some sacrifices. This isn't to say that the graphics are terrible or hard to stomach because they aren't dated for an MMO, but they aren't going to turn heads either.
The Warhammer Online game world is split into three main maps. Each map contains a pairing of races, Empire vs. Chaos, Dwarves vs. Greenskins, and High Elves vs. Dark Elves. Then each of those divisions is split into four "tiers," and each tier acts as a certain stage for the progressions of the players' characters. As players earn ranks and gain experience, they are eventually moved on to the next tier of maps. At first glance, the game world design feels very linear for an MMO. Most of the pairing maps show paths that lead in two or three directions, but the progression is always to the next tier. However, most MMOs tend to do the same thing, the only difference here is that Mythic is pointing it out and making it understandable. On top of that, players from each race have the ability to visit the other races' areas shortly after beginning, so players shouldn't feel too limited.
Another interesting design element to the tiered structure of the game world is how races from both realms will share each of the maps in the progression. One side of a large formation of mountains could be the Empire's starting area, while the other side could be Chaos' starting area. Each map splits the PvE and RvR areas so that both sides can have access to both without the two interfering. Additionally, players who would prefer to fight against players from the enemy realm can choose to play on what's called Open RvR servers.
One thing that really stands out in Mythic's PvE design is the inclusion of public quests, which are basically short-story quests that players can join and end by entering and leaving a certain area. When a player gets close enough to a public quest area, a short message will pop up. Public quests are completed in stages, and each stage adds tougher enemies until the last stage. Players earn both experience points toward their overall rank and influence points, which are gained by only doing public quests. As public quests are completed, players will earn enough influence points to receive standard items ranging from potions to weapons and armor. Moreover, during each session of a public quest, players will have the chance to earn loot based partially on luck and contribution.