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First Impressions of Warhammer Online – Part 7: Core Mechanics

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

With the game looking good so far, how does it actually play?

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    In Your Face Combat

    In most MMORPGs, if you aren’t traveling, crafting, shopping, or waiting for missing group mates, you are fighting. A game based around intense Realm vs. Realm conflict is obviously no exception.

    As such, the game’s combat mechanics obviously need to be up to snuff, and they are. Combat feels good; fast paced without being overwhelming and turning into a button mashing festival. The skills are varied enough in effect as well as being generally well balanced in Action Point requirements, cool down, and induction times. That means just spamming one skill is usually a bad choice.

    The Careers available to characters are all pretty different in terms of play-style and their skills available, both from other choices in the game and the choices we’ve gotten used to from MMORPG’s in general. For instance; Shamans and Archmages both heal and do ranged DPS, but their skills are quite different. A War Priest is a healing tank of sorts, though.

    So the characters are pretty original and fun, but they are also pretty balanced in combat, which is crucial in a PvP/RvR driven game. No character stands up as dominant, and a varied group will always outperform a group that lacks in a particular dimension, all else being equal.

    Unfortunately, all else is not always equal.

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    Scenarios, Open RvR, Zone Control, and Sacking the Enemies Capitol

    Scenarios run and can be queued for constantly, which queue you join depends on the area in which you are and your level. The queuing system works more often than not, and when it is your turn, you are teleported to the scenario. Equal numbers from Destruction and Order are brought in, but the level brackets are quite wide. Though it randomly works out to a fair fight sometimes, far too often one side or the other has a decided advantage.

    In Open RvR, a larger balance issue is revealed: Order is outnumbered on the vast majority of servers. This forces one side to achieve limited success while their opponents are denied the grand scale of conflict they were promised. Order uses guerilla tactics and simply goes elsewhere when Destruction arrives in droves. It is still early days, but looking at the Zone Control map shows Destruction in the lead largely across the board. Efforts at balancing are currently limited to queuing the sides separately so that once one side fills their side of the server, they have to queue, but the other side gets in immediately. A cynic would point out that one side has to arbitrarily wait to succeed too easily while the other has an immediate opportunity to get torn apart, which doesn’t really appeal to players from either side.

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    Altogether a Slight Disappointment

    Some little things that can be hard to get right for MMOs are the player’s inventory, merchant interactions, mail, and banking. In War, the first three all feel a little clunky, and the guild vault is very buggy at the moment. While the combat and character mechanics and balance provide a great framework for excellent gameplay, the grand scheme of the game, for the time being, does not.

    While the balance issue is serious and will need to be addressed by EA Mythic before it is fair to recommend WAR based on core gameplay, the game does tout many interesting features, implemented with varying degrees of success, to keep you entertained outside of Open RvR zones in the meantime. We look at these in the next articles.