Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Review
The story of Warhammer Online is taken from the Warhammer Fantasy setting (obviously). The story details the fight between the Realm of Order and the Realm of Destruction. The Realm of Order is comprised of the Empire (humans), High Elves and Dwarves, while the Realm of Destruction hold the Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins), Chaos (Evil Humans), and Dark Elves. Each of the members of each Realm hold an opposite that they are at war with. High Elves main enemy are the Dark Elves, The Empire against Chaos, and Dwarves vs Greenskin. The gameplay is heavily influenced by these battles and the story. How far you want to get into the lore is up to you but there are gameplay aspects that encourage learning of the lore.
Like most MMOs Warhammer has a pretty standard interface. You have an action bar at the bottom of the screen containing a number of skills, chat box etc. The core gameplay is also standard but it is a few new additions that sets this game apart from the rest. Unlike World of Warcraft, the War in Warhammer is very much key to gameplay. Each section of the world is broken up into battles between the various races. Each of these wars are broken up into 4 tiers. These act to break the game into sections for general levels. Tier 1 deals with 1-11, Tier 2 11-21 etc etc. Within these tiers are public RvR areas that are essential for the game(More on that in the RvR area.
The game sports unique classes for every race and the same class(Known in game as a career) will never appear twice, or outside its race. Instead of a standardized class system like most MMOs, the game sports archetypes. These archetypes represent the basic roles of a party, Tank, Healer, Ranged DPS and Melee DPS. Unlike MMOs like WoW where you find out during gameplay which type you are, Warhammer tells you from the start so there is no confusion with the type of game you should play. You might think that this obvious role placement would diminish any variety in play styles, this is where Mastery comes in.
Starting from level 11 players will gain what is known as Mastery points. These points are used to specialize in 1 of 3 paths for that class. For example, the Bright Wizard, the Ranged DPS for The Empire can specialize in immediate damage, damage over time or AoE(Area of Effect) spells. Another good example is the White Lion of the High Elves, a Melee DPS archetype that has a pet. With its specializations the player can choose to make the pet act like a tank while the player does the damage, make damage dealing equal between the two, or make the pet the primary damage dealer.
Each class also sports a mechanic that is unique to them. These mechanics range from the High Elf Swordmaster’s Blade Dancing, to the Bright Wizard’s Combustion. These mechanics work as a balancing act for most classes. The Bright Wizard deals with fire, and the more he/she uses these spells, the higher the combustion goes. Combustion will make the chance of critical hits more likely, but also increases the chance that the spell will “explode” damaging the wizard as well. Knowing how the mechanic works, and how to use them to your advantage is key in the game.
New to the MMO world are Public Quests. Public Quests are very different from the RvR or PvE that most games sport. Public Quests are tiered quests that anyone can join at anytime, simply by walking into the area. These quests hold specific story arcs for their given area and hold a variety of objectives. These objects usually fall into Stage 1: Kill X amount of this, Stage 2: Kill X amount of Champions/stop X amount of allies from dieing, with Stage 3: Fight a Hero or two. Now would be a good time to explain the Hero and Champion aspect of the game. Champions are monsters that are stronger than the average of their level, and generally needs a partner to deal with, while Heroes are extremely strong for there levels, and depending on the individual, can take a group of 2-3 to a completely full party, to sometimes a Warband(A bigger group made up of several groups).
Public Quests(PQs) will give you influence for killing enemies/completing stages. Influence builds up for each “Chapter” of the story of that race. There are usually 2-3 PQs per chapter so there are a variety of ways to collect influence. What is influence for you ask? Well influence is used to collect rewards from a Rally Master. There are three stages of influence(I assume to match the basic 3 stages of a PQ) each that gives you a reward. These rewards range from potions in the first stage, to armor and weapons in the other two.
RvR or (Realm Vs Realm) is Warhammer’s version of PvP(Player Vs Player). RvR takes place in two ways, scenarios and Public RvR. First, the scenarios. Scenarios take placed in their own little world, and are goal orientated. There are a scenario for each tier of the game, and 1 for every race. RvR yields two kinds of experience, Renown and Experience points. Experience points go toward you rank(Level) and renown that goes towards the renown rank. Renown Rank is your RvR rank and goes towards special stat buffs and special RvR gear. These scenarios are very fun and engaging, even from rank 2. The scenario will increase your stats to the base of for example in tier 1, rank 8. This allows for low levels to compete with the higher leveled players making it more enjoyable no matter your rank.
The Public RvR takes place with capturing points in each zone. These determine which side controls the zone. This is where the War aspect of the game really comes to life. Controlling a zone holds real consequences. If your side controls a zone, you have the ability to fly there from other zones, as well as attributing to the war effort. Controlling all the zones of each tier will allow you to pillage the capital of the enemy. So even at the lower end of the rank spectrum, it is important to contribute.
Tome of Knowledge
The game has a Tome of Knowledge feature that chronicles the story of the game as well as achievements. Filing the Tome of Knowledge will grant you experience point for every new entry. You gain entries for killing enemies, completing PQs, and exploring. Fulfilling some of these entries will give the player titles that he/she can display. There are a large variety of these titles that range from cool, to silly and just OK. There are also items through the world that hold a special story and finding them will add another entry into the tome. It is a nice feature that helps keep track of things through the game.
The game sports an graphics engine, that while not pushing the envelope of gaming graphics, is one of the better looking MMOs on the market. Its art style is somewhere between the cartoony look of WoW, to the more realistic design of Age of Conan. The game brings a war torn fantasy setting to life and it is fun to explore. The audio is well done with terrific atmospheric sounds, to the war cries of the characters.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is not only an exceptional MMO, but an exceptional RPG as well. The game is one of the best MMO experiences I’ve had in years and it is a complete joy to play. There are a few flaws with bugs, but these are taken care of almost daily and when you find one, it disappears. The PQs was a brilliant idea and the RvR in the game is the best in the MMO world. I highly recommend this game and I feel it is the best of its genre on the market.