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First Impressions of Warhammer Online – Part 5: Plot and Writing

by: J. F. Amprimoz ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Nice graphics and sound don’t do much if they don’t have a story to convey. How does WAR hold up?

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    WAR is Everywhere

    The basic elements work well, if they are less than original. What is important is that they underpin a massive conflict containing three racial conflicts. It serves the game well: in a game driven by Realm vs. Realm conflict, a story that took a long time to develop just wouldn’t cut it.

    Whatever race you choose, you start the game at an outpost or small village with sounds of battle in the distance, and NPCs immediately have some kill quests for you. Also, the delivery quests they offer you usually involve ammunition, supplies, or communication that need to be taken into a prickly area, and the recipient NPC doesn’t pass up a chance to have you kill some stuff on the way out.

    The clear nature of the conflict drives away complexity from the main story, but individual Quests offer some variety.

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    Quest Specific

    Beyond the more standard kill, delivery, and gather quests, some have fun elements tied to their associated race that help them be more than just a mechanic to advance your character. Dwarfs spend about as much time carting around beer-kegs as they do powder-kegs, for instance.

    Elfs by nature are more melancholy than Dwarfs, and quests such as the Futility strand bring home their noble sadness. They don’t take these things lying down however; several quest strands involve using their affinity for nature to unleash some furor on their Dark Elf kin. Having your enemy torn apart by a herd of deer or dropping a malicious spirit in their campfire and watching the thing go to town on them are both a lot of fun.

    The Empire quests will quickly let you know there is more to them than your run of the mill fantasy good guys. Early on you are sent to recruit farmers for the front lines. Some are oozing loyalty and sprint off to die, but others are more reticent; they attack you. Actually, a good deal of quests are based around putting down rebellions.

    Are they dirty disloyal traitors? Based on the quests that take place in Altdorf, such as having a petition for lower taxes dismissed somewhat ominously by a minister and collecting rat meat for a fellow to put in sausages and sell; the rebels might have a case.

    Just running around Altdorf will actually fill you in pretty well.

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    Dialogue and Interaction

    When discussing Art a couple articles ago we mentioned that Altdorf does a great job of combining fantasy and a surreal late-medieval city. One thing devs got right was that cities back then were dirty and people were poor. The statements of residents back that up. The Rat Catcher is always mentioning how his chase is going.

    My personal favourite is a comment by a guard on Sigmar, the Empire’s main deity: “May Sigmar watch over you; ‘cause I ain’t gonna do it!”

    The Elfs and Dwarfs also have typical lines that reinforce their demeanors. Elfs great you with “I have read of your ancestors” while Dwarfs are typically gruff with things along the lines of “Who are you, then?”

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    Because RPGs Are About Stories, After All

    And an MMO should be no different. Though many of the personal stories that come from gaming are different from those envisioned by developers, the game at least needs to at least provide a framework. WAR does this very well if not in all that unique a way, and quests and dialogue are generally good and often worth a chuckle.

    Chuckling at quests is quickly drowned out by swearing at the UI if the latter isn’t up to snuff though, so we will take a look at that next.