I'm not in the Warhammer Online Beta, but I've been watching the various sites post information avidly. Here are some of my thoughts:
You have to pre-order the game to get into the Open Beta. Seriously?
It's a weird decision, because it's a very short Open Beta, so it's more like advertising, only you're advertising to people who've already purchased the game. Seems odd to me, but whatever.
The single most interesting thing about Warhammer appears to be their approach to grouping. Open Groups and Public Quests (see Tobold for more info) are extremely unique mechanics. I've posted before about social aversion to asking strangers to group. By eliminating that barrier, grouping might become a lot more common.
I think how loot is handled will be issue that makes or breaks Warhammer's grouping system. We all know the issues with ninjas in WoW; what's it going to be like when the ninja can join your groups without permission? If ninjas become a big concern, then all groups will be closed, and all the advantages of an open system will be lost.
The other loot issue I see is how Public Quest loot is distributed. They use a /roll system with modifiers depending on your performance. There are three concerns here.
First, performance is often very hard to quantify. Already sites like Massively are advising classes to AoE as much as possible in order to push themselves to the top of the meters. I'm sure the tanks will be overjoyed by these tactics. Essentially, it's the problems with damage meters and healing meters obsession in WoW, only people actually get rewarded by being at the top, even at the expense of the group.
Second, it seems like the rich get richer in this system. The better your gear, the more powerful you are, which means you're more likely to top the meters, and get the best reward. That means you're even more likely to top the meters in the next event. It's interesting that almost all player-driven loot systems are designed to prevent this, to spread loot more evenly.
Third, Random + Modifier still has all the disadvantages of a random system. You can be the best player in several PQs and still roll terribly. Given that many PQs will happen, it is probable that some poor sap (probably me, knowing my relationship with Lady Chance) will end up with a terrible loot streak.
Healing looks very interesting as well. There are three types of healers: pure healers, healers who get bonuses to damage spells if they cast healing spells and vice versa; and melee-healers.
I predict the that the second type of healer will end up as pure healbots. As Keen is finding out, the real barriers to mixing healing and damage are time and resource costs. In Keen's words, "If you’re not healing constantly then people will die. If people die because you were doing damage... it gets ugly."
So, the melee healer is what is really unique here. They look very unusual, as you have to hit the enemy in order to build up the necessary resources to heal people. Despite the fact that I really should know better than to roll a healer, I'm strongly considering trying a warrior-priest when Warhammer comes out.
Mechanics and Gameplay
The basic mechanic for every class seems to be something like Rogue's Energy. This is a very intriguing idea. The Toughness stat also looks like a nice twist on basic combat mechanics.
However, issues like these give me pause.
Keen has a really good video showing off an in-game siege. It looks very exciting. On the other hand, you can't help but notice that everyone is pretty much in the same position at the end of the video that they were in at the start of the video. (*Memories of 16-hour old-school AV matches rise up*)
Remember that I am not in the Beta, and am just commenting on the info that other people are talking about. Warhammer looks like a very neat game, with a lot of interesting ideas and takes on the MMO genre.
However, the whole "must pre-order to get into the Open Beta" thing is making me slightly nervous, especially after the whole Age of Conan debacle. In the end, I think I'll probably pick up Warhammer two to four weeks after it is released, and more information floods the Internet.
As a complete aside, I don't understand how people say that MMOs are too expensive to try out. They cost the same as normal game, and you get a free month, which is more than enough time to get in some decent hours. It's more or less the same price as buying a single-player game that you ended up not liking.