I think reviewing an MMO, especially in its infancy, is practically impossible. So bear with me and be well aware that I have experienced very little of the overall Warhammer experience. That being said, let’s dive in.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is NOT WoW. It is not a WoW killer. It is an MMO. If Warhammer is WoW, then WoW is Everquest or Anarchy Online, or Diablo even. Warhammer Online is WoW like Halo is Battlefield 2. There are differences that may seem subtle, but they exist. I personally believe there’s something in both for everyone and I don’t understand the great time devotion battle.
Now I could go off on a rant about the MMO warzone, but to prevent that, I’m going to break the game down and talk about it as if no other MMO exists, so bear with me as I struggle to clench my teeth.
Art-wise, Warhammer is gorgeous. The model quality and textures are outstanding, but this comes with a price. Obviously there’s a system requirements hit, and, even during the game’s smoothest moments, the lowest settings (which I’m stuck using) have jerky, unattractive animation, and I’ve heard a lot of complaints about this not improving on more powerful PCs. As an art whore, I’m a sucker for the style and fleshed out worlds, but as a gamer, I’m annoyed that my game doesn’t run smoothly, so it’s a mixed blessing.
The game itself is quite wholly an MMORPG, with all the gameplay elements of an MMORPG with a few new elements that really make it worth trying out. Things like Public quests, which allow strangers to group together and accomplish a common goal without all the “gotta find a group and commit” kind of restriction that generally irks me. Additionally, the emphasis on cross-faction PvP is exceptional, if that’s what you’re into. The realms of Warhammer really ARE at war, and you get experience and loot for participating, which encourages players to band together and fight for their own nations. The game’s system of balancing stats when entering a PvP area works well, but still encourages lower-level users to level up their characters because their gear is weaker and they don’t have a lot of the unique higher-level abilities. Finally, the game really allows people to flesh out the lore of their Warhammer experience, if they want to. Entering certain huts, exploring certain areas, and killing certain creatures all unlock entries in your tomb of lore. This doesn’t force lore onto you; it allows you to enjoy it or ignore it at your own leisure yet gives you incentive to explore the well-sculpted world.
Despite a lot of really strong ideas, the implementation in Warhammer isn’t always great. Once you’re a higher level than a lower tier, you can no longer fight there, or in any of its battlegrounds. The only way you can join any friends you left behind is by creating a new character. The PvE in the game exists, but it is very simple and spaced awkwardly. Quests lead to more quests, but you may not be a high enough level to compete in the area and must find stuff to do elsewhere. These, and a few other problems, can make the game unfun to play at points, but it’s all stuff that has the potential to be fixed, as an MMO in its infancy is a fragile, confused being.
I really enjoy the time I spend in the Warhammer universe, but it’s really only fun when you’re in a big guild with people who do a lot of stuff together. I’m just biding my time until some of the problems have been fixed, and I can get a higher-end machine to play the game on. Until then, I’ve got Wrath of the Lich King to look forward to, and way too many top-notch titles coming out for the holiday season.