Reviewing an MMO is a pretty difficult job because of the masses of content available and the amount of time required to get to the higher levels. We've been playing Warhammer Online for a while now, but we're still nowhere near far enough to make any definitive decision on the game.
So we're sorry to disappoint you if you were waiting for a score out ten before thinking about picking up Warhammer Online, but the simple fact is we don't think we're able to fairly judge all of its merits, let alone the “end game” content where the most dedicated MMO players will spend the majority of their time.
It’d be like reviewing a film based on the opening ten minutes, or a book after reading only the first chapter and cover jacket – while we’ve got a fairly good idea of what Warhammer Online offers and where the rest of the game is generally heading, MMO players are usually in it for the long run, and that’s an area of the game which, as much as we’d have liked to, we just haven’t had enough time to play through to.
So think of this more as a “what to expect from the first ten levels” in Warhammer Online (WOAoR). While there isn’t a definitive score at the end, you should be able to see what you’ll be getting into if you decide to pick up WOAoR and invest the time and cash involved in playing an MMO. Now enough talk, let’s get down to the fightin’!
War Is Everywhere
Warhammer Online takes place in the same universe as the eponymous Warhammer table top game, played for decades by people with a passion for multi sided dice and painting expensive little plastic figures (most of them were metal! - Ed.) in excruciating detail. It’s a quasi-medieval fantasy world that’s so rich in lore thanks to decades of detailed army codex books and licensed novels it makes World of Warcraft’s five games worth of back story look threadbare in comparison.
Making the transition from table top to desktop are six of the most recognisable races, split into the usual two camps of Good Guys, also known as the Forces of Order, featuring the human Empire, stoic Dwarfs and snobbish High Elves, and Bad Guys, aka Forces of Destruction, with the warped forces of Chaos, crude Green Skins (Orcs to you and me) and emo Dark Elves.
Uniquely, each race has its own class (or career as WOAoR calls them) options, and although you’ll still recognise the usual staples of MMO classes like tanks, mages, rogues and healers, each race manages to put its own spin on the established MMO roles which make them that little bit more unique and more entertaining to play. Chaos’ Chosen tank class generate debuff auras, Empire Warrior Priests gain healing power by dealing more damage, and Dwarfish Engineers can construct sentry turrets to help dish out more ranged damage (although they won’t have to worry about spies sapping them).
While each class has a speciality it will excel in, Mythic (the game’s developer) has been careful to not make a class a one trick pony, so even healing classes, notoriously fragile in other MMOs, will be able to fight reasonably well, although obviously not as well as a dedicated combat class. This movement away from set class roles can only benefit players in the long run, with the option for your character to fulfil multiple positions while still excelling in one.
Sadly the actual character creation bit is a bit disappointing for a supposedly next generation MMO, and while there are some good options to change facial characteristics, hair and many many beard styles, each class has just one set body type and in many cases, just one gender, resulting in two players of the same class and race still looking practically identical. While I appreciate the need for classes to be recognisable in the heat of battle, a little bit more variety is always welcome, especially when you spend so much time levelling your character only for it to look just the same as someone else’s.
I think it’s at this point that it’s time to come clean and admit I’m not exactly new to this MMO malarkey, having played WoW pretty extensively with numerous classes to the tune of well over 40 days of actual play time before becoming frustrated with the grind for high level items and the difficulty of getting a decent group together to run high level instances. WoW and I parted rather unharmoniously after the fifth failed pick up group of an evening, and I hadn’t really reconsidered joining an MMO until Joe handed me the WOAoR box a few weeks ago.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that WOAoR is after the audience which WoW has carved out for itself, so I was anxious to see if WOAoR could tempt me back to the MMO fold.