Warhammer: Age of Reckoning — Evolution, not Revolution

Well, I have the game and I’ve checked it out. I haven’t had a chance to play that much (several trips home and some LotRO gaming have got in the way), nor have I read up on some of the nuances of the game… I understand what’s going on, but in some places I’m not 100% sure WHY it’s going on.
But still, I’m going to talk about it a bit.
How’s it feel?
In terms of it as an MMO, it’s a good solid game. I haven’t run into any major bugs of any kind, and the gameplay is pretty intuitive. Basically it’s going to feel very familiar to WoW or LotRO players, although there are a few more screens available in WAR, so there’s more keybinds. I don’t know why they mapped so many things to the same keys, and then chose to map just a few things to wrong different keys (I’m looking at you, mister “P for the Character Pane”), but that’s easily fixed stuff.
In terms of the game as an expression of the Warhammer Intellectual Property (IP), it’s also pretty darn good. The game feels a little more like Warhammer Fantasy Battles than it does the Warhammer Fantasy RPG (or at least the Warhammer FRPG in my head), but that’s fine — the Fantasy Battles game has contributed a lot more to the IP than the RPG has over the years. The forces of Chaos feel appropriately alien and nasty… the Greenskins are nasty, brutish, and (mostly) short… and the Empire is note-perfect. (Can’t talk about the dwarves or elves yet, as I mostly haven’t played them.)
The graphics are somewhere between WoW and LotRO in terms of tone, and not-quite LotRO in terms of quality. Everything LOOKS very Warhammer, though.
You can dye your armor and equipment right off the bat, and… get this… all the dye colors are the color names from the Official Games Workshop lines of miniature paints.
Speaking of custom looks, let’s talk about…
Character Creation
Okay, so each of the two factions in the game (Order and Destruction) have three representative races. Order has Dwarves, High Elves, and Humans. Destruction has Greenskins (orcs and goblins), Dark Elves, and Chaos (basically humans in service to otherworldly gods of corruption and decay).
You pick a server, then a faction and race within that faction first. Know that you can’t have characters from both factions on the same server, but you can make other-faction character on some other server.
So you’ve picked your race, and now you pick your career. Each race has either three or four careers to choose from. Don’t worry too much about balance here, because what it boils down to is that each faction has a total of 10 classes, and each class has a almost-direct counterpart in the other Faction.
Let’s see if I can remember the classes:

Classes Races Role Note
Chosen/Ironguard Chaos/Dwarf Tank Uses toggle-on auras
Runepriest/Zealot Dwarf/Chaos Pure Healer Lots of buffs
Squig Herder/Shadowhunter Greenskin/High Elf Skirmisher (ranged, mobile, with some melee ability Squig herders have a pet, the elf doesn’t
Marauder/White Lion Chaos/High Elf Melee DPS White Lion has a pet, while the Marauder has mutating limbs
Shaman/High Mage Greenskin/High Elf Healer + Ranged DPS Casting one type of spell builds up buffs to the opposite kind.
Warrior Priest/Disciple of Khaine Human/Dark Elf Healer + melee dps Fills their ‘mana’ pool back up by beating on things.
Sorceress/Bright Wizard Dark Elf/Human Glass-cannon Ranged DPS They build up power that they can expel in big blasts… or potentially blow themselves up.
Witch Hunter/Witch Elf Human/Dark Elf Somewhat squishy melee DPS Chained combinations of skills make their target go splat.
Engineer/[Something In Chaos] Dwarf/Chaos Ranged DPS with stationary ‘pets’. Pretty squishy.
Black Orc/Swordmaster Greenskins/High Elves Tanks ‘Decent’ attacks open up ‘better’ attacks when they hit, which in turn open up ‘great’ attacks when they hit, then the escalation starts over.

I think that’s most of them.
The main thing to note here is that the basic Faction vs. Faction are:

  • Chaos vs. the Empire (humans)
  • Dark Elves vs. High Elves
  • Greenskins vs. Dwarves

… and that none of the racial careers have their direct counterpart in the faction they will fight the MOST. For instance, if you play a Chosen (chaos tank), your direct counterpart in Order is a dwarven Ironguard. Now, maybe you’ll run into one because a dwarf has run over to this Empire allies to help them out, but TYPICALLY, you won’t see an enemy who has mostly all the same tricks that you do.
Also notably, each class pairing has some kind of special mechanic that doesn’t work like any other class pairing. That really makes each class in your faction unique and cool — you might really like playing one kind of career, but not like another, and that really makes sense here — they do NOT play the same way, and it’s a MUCH more profound difference than say, a Scrapper and Tank in CoH, or a Hunter and Guardian in LotRO. (Yes, a guardian and hunter do very different jobs in the game, but their MECHANICS are basically the same… that is not the case in WAR.)
Finally, you figure out how your character is going to look. The level of character customization is right around the same as Lord of the Rings and WELL past the customization in WoW. (Obviously it’s far below CoH and CoV — that’s just the nature of the game — that level of customization would be totally pointless in any genre in which ‘found loot’ is relevant.)
One thing I think is interesting here is that each of the CLASSES actually has its own set of looks to combine and play with — you and your buddy might both make humans of the Empire, but if you make a Warrior Priest and he makes a Bright Mage, it is completely impossible to make those two characters look the same. Forget the default clothing: what I mean is that the hairstyle options, facial forms, tattoos, scars, accessories, and even in the body shape is going to be different between those two classes, despite being the same race. You can pick out a fire Bright Wizard from 100 yards away, even if he’s just standing there.
Put another way, in LotRO or WoW, if you make a dwarf warrior and a dwarf spell caster, and you pick all the same “look” settings for both, they will look identical to each other if they’re standing there in their skivvies. In WAR, they won’t even be close.
What you’re doing
There’s about four different activities you can do for leveling in WAR.
PvE Quests
These are your basic solo missions and quest chains that lead to the rare team-required quests with nice rewards. The stories here are pretty good, and the the way they show you where to go on the map to perform the quest is GENIUS, but the basics of the questing is nothing new here. (One nice thing? You never kill a boar and find out it doesn’t have a tusk that you need.)
Public Quests
Let’s see if I can explain this in terms of City of Heroes.
You know those Rikti Invasion fights? Or really any of the CoH special events, like snow men or the hoodlums burning down buildings?
Okay, let’s say those things could happen at any time — that they were keyed to certain locations and tended to happen both randomly and/or when a lot of people were around. Sounds pretty much like the events in CoH.
Now, let’s say that when you walked into an area where one was happening, you saw a message like “The Rikti Are Attacking!” and you got a Public Quest temporarily assigned to you, like “Stage One: Stop the Scouts!” You could ignore it if you wanted to, and keep doing your thing, or just leave, or you could jump in and help.
If you help, and the people ‘in’ the Public Quest successfully did whatever it was they needed to do, everyone got quest completion XP, divided by total participants (with a bonus for being part of a group instead of solo). Repeat for several “Stages”, and then there’s an End Boss who shows up.
After you beat the end boss, a chest drops, and everyone gets a turn at picking one thing out of the chest… first pick goes to the person who contributed most to the entire Public Quest, and on down from there. Some of the loot is really quite good.
That’s a public quest, and they’re ALL OVER THE PLACE in Warhammer. War is, indeed, everywhere.
PvP Scenarios
Every zone in the game as a PvP scenario associated for it. You can ‘queue’ up to participate in these things — tactically important areas in the region — and continue to work on whatever it is you’re doing. When there are enough people on BOTH sides queued up to do the thing, a big battle horn sounds and off you all ‘muster’ to the battle area (or not: you can chose to just not go when it’s time, if you’re busy). You can get xp from this, and in addition your character actually has a ‘PvP level’ that can advance, as well as a ‘normal’ character level, and those two don’t have to be kept even. They’re fun, they’re short, and the rewards are, again, pretty nice.
When you’re done, the game pops you right back to wherever you were before the Scenario, and you can keep doing what you were doing (even queueing back up for the next one).
Oh, and the Scenario System auto-levels you to a ‘competetive’ level for the Scenario, if you’re a little level 2 guy trying to play in a “levels 1 to 11” scenario; so in that way, WAR even uses a genre-useful kind of CoH’s Sidekicking.
You’re basic closed-instance adventures, with maximum group sizes ranging from six to 24. Again, these are nasty, brutish, short, and filled with some nice gear.
How you’re keeping track of it
Every character has a Tome of Knowledge. Think of the Tome as a combination of CoH Badge-tracker, Quest log, collection of game fiction on all the important people you’ve seen, monsters you’ve faced, pictures of places you’ve been, and a source of new quests.
What’s that? Accomplishment-borne quests? Yeah, it is pretty cool: say you’ve been fighting chaos beastmen for awhile. While fighting them, you end up killing, like, your fiftieth one
– In WoW, nothing notable happens.
– In CoH, you’d get a Badge. (“Bane of Beastmen”)
– In LotRO, you probably get a title (“Bane of Beastmen”), plus it opens up a similar ‘advanced’ challenge to work on (“Kill 150 MORE and you’ll get a bonus to your Determination Trait.”)
– In WAR, you get a title (“Bane of Beastmen”), plus it opens up a similar ‘advanced’ challenge to work on, and there’s a chance that (a) you’ll immediately get a quest to go talk to Someone Important (b) you earn a new minor ability (“Bonus to killing Beastmen!”) (c) you get some special piece of gear.
Basically, the Tome is a combination of every kind of Character Accomplishment Tracker in every MMO I’ve ever seen, with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. Take Note: Regardless of how well WAR does, this is going to be a game aspect that players will expect in all their MMO play from now on.
Is it the end-all-be-all of MMO gaming? Nope. But it’s a good game that takes the current state-of-play from a lot of good or successful games, and improves or adapts it to make their game better.
Is it my next 2-year game? I don’t know, but I’m definitely going to play it for more than the first free month. (I’m looking at you, Tabula Rasa & Age of Conan.)