Thursday, October 09, 2008

Warhammer Online: Final Thoughts

I've pretty much decided that I'm going to drop WAR, at least after the first month runs out. It's a good game, with superb PvP and some interesting design decisions. A lot of the game mechanics are very well thought out. But I'm just not enthusiastic about logging in. There are several reasons why:

1. Starting the game makes me angry. Mythic, take a long hard look at the time from clicking the desktop icon to actually playing. Then take a look at WoW. In WAR, it's: login screen (which does not have focus for some reason), launcher, splash screen, splash screen, splash screen, intro movie, splash screen, EULA (!!), main character screen. (Why is there an extra button press if you want to pick another character? Why not go straight to the character select screen?)

In WoW, it's: launcher, login screen, character select. So much shorter, and it gets you into the game so much faster. It's like, "Hey, I want to play WoW" and then I'm in the game actually playing. Blizzard understands that when I click the desktop icon, I actually want to play the game, not fight my way through splash screens, movies, and EULAs.

Just starting a game of WAR is a hassle, and I find I'm always logging in slightly annoyed at the whole process.

2. Combat is not responsive enough. There's a distinct disconnect between pressing a button, the effect happening in game, and the animation on the screen. It's really bad on casters with long cast times, but it's noticeable even on melee characters. On my Witch Hunter, hitting an Execution (finishing move) has no relationship with firing my pistol. Often I end up firing my pistol at a dead body, as the Execution deals damage long before the animation actually happens.

3. A lot of basic functionality needs polish and basic fixes, especially the chat system. This is an MMO. It's defining characteristic is being able to play with other people. The chat system should be as close to perfect as possible. As it is, the chat system is mostly useless, and the game feels very quiet and lonely. There's lots of other subsystems with similar problems, like mail, etc.

4. Trade skills seem excessively complex and unintuitive. I don't think I like the design that requires multiple characters to function. I like being self sufficient to a degree. Even games with more intricate crafting, like A Tale In The Desert, allowed you to create things by yourself. Sure, it was a lot of work, but there's something deeply satisfying about constructing something all by yourself, from gathering the raw materials to producing the finished product. (And shuffling materials between a network of alts does not count.)

5. Probably the biggest reason is that I just haven't found a character class that grabs me. Mechanically, they're all quite well done. I really like the warrior priest mechanics, for example. But in a weird way, it might be because the WAR classes have *really* strong flavor. They're very specific: Human Witch-Hunter, Dark Elf Disciple of Khaine, etc. While WoW classes tend to be more general, more archetypical. Even paladin is a pretty generic class, with lots of room for interpretation. A rogue can be assassin, spy, thief, scout, swords, daggers, maces, dwarf, gnome, etc. But a Witch Hunter is a Witch Hunter.

You can see this in the armor. Looking at the first three paladin raid sets, you have Paladin as Golden Knight, Paladin as Dark Inquisitor, and Paladin as Gundam (not exactly a traditional paladin interpretation, but sometimes Blizzard is just weird).

I kind of like the freedom of the generic archetype. I like playing a Paladin, I'm not sure I like playing a Warrior Priest of Sigmar. Even though the mechanics of the Warrior Priest are superior to the mechanics of a Paladin.

But maybe I just haven't found the right class for me yet. Perhaps I'll check back in when Mythic adds the Knight of the Blazing Sun.

Anyways, this is not to say that WAR is a bad game. It's actually quite a good game, with lots of intriguing ideas and solid PvP. If you're thinking about trying it, I strongly urge you to give it a go. Even just playing it for only the first month is worth the money in my opinion. You might find it' s the perfect game for you. I just don't think it's the game for me.


  1. Very nice post summing up some of the issues the game has.

    I agree that it is a very good game. I'm loving the PvP and the Tome of Knowledge, but I've always been more into the PvE and Achievements in Wrath will fuel my completionist syndrome.

    Unlike AoC, I'm happy I tried it out and I'll definitely be following the development of the game, even after the free month is up.

  2. Started playing WAR too. My experience is almost the opposite. But I play Chosen - the chaos warrior tank. The Chosen in WAR has everything that warrior tanks in WoW lacked. Fair dps, longevity and lots of specialized options.

    I agree about the loading screens etc and I also have frequent computer crashes from the game. But just the feeling of open RvR is all that we wanted from WoW and never got. Not to mention the battlegrounds where you earn xp and renown (like rep).

    One reason I like my chosen is that I looooove to look cool. In WoW I only look good in my arena set. Otherwise I look like a rainbow.

    In this WAR suceeded in wnat Lotro tried - to actually like to look at your carachter.

    Well I havent tried PvE instancing yet. I do hope it will be as good as the rest of WAR.

  3. That's an interesting point you have about the deep characterisation of each class - and makes you wonder at how bland the classes in WoW are.

    I've found I've been skipping archetypes in WAR because I don't like the fluff that goes with it (basically all of chaos, or Bright Wizards), and certain fluff that does appeal to me, the classes just don't seem a natural fit.

  4. You know the process of getting into game is bad when people actually go to the trouble of coding a mod to disable the splash screens and opening movies. (That mod is available here and I don't think it's a keylogger, cause none of my characters have turned up naked and broke yet.) You still have to click through the EUALA (we get an extra A), though Mythic claims they're not going to make you scroll down to the bottom of it before clicking the button that says you have read it. They could hide a slash command that instantly levels you to 40 in there and it wouldn't be discovered for months.

  5. Nice summary. I haven't tried WAR yet, I'll wait a few months and a few patches. until the bugs and niggles are ironed out.
    I did read in the patch notes that they revised the chat system, did that not solve the issues you were referring to?

  6. Speaking as a lawyer, the EUALA popping up every time bugs me big time.

    I know why they're doing it. Basically, if it pops up every single time you log into the game, it makes it simply for them to say that your violation of the EUALA was intentional, since there's no easy way to say you never read it if it was in front of your face the whole time.

    If it only pops up one time, a violator could make the defense that yeah, maybe they should have read it, but they didn't. Should and did are two very different things. If it pops up every single time, the benefit of the doubt goes to EA, not the violator.

    So the purpose of that thing popping up every time is to remove a single possible defense from violators. That's it. We suffer through it each time just so they can more easily punish violators. How fun.

  7. I completly agree. I seems like it takes 10 minutes to actually get the games started. I cancelled my subscription last week. It was nice for a bit, but I still think it need a lot of polish.

  8. Are you running under Vista, it is even a bigger pain. My only launch control us under Vista's games section.

  9. I run WAR on Vista. I click the start button (the "orb"), and select WAR from the pinned list. Now the links to WoW I also have pinned, both regular and beta, and they both annoyingly show up as "Launcher". I have to hover over the W icons to see which is which. I don't ever use this "games" location (though I know it's there.)

    Yeah, startups are slow. I know I can Esc out of the movie, but the 3 other splash screens I can't skip do get old.

    And, yes, I don't like that I'm staring at my last character played first, and none of the others. When I log on I want to see and have access to all my characters on that server. Don't make me back out a level to see the rest. (They must not be altoholics up at Mythic. The 20s mail delay they originally had only proves that.)

    I've got a pretty good computer so I don't suffer from the animation lags. My wife got my old computer and there's some lagginess there I'd agree.

    There's some things I'd love to see streamlined, but right now the wife and I are really enjoying it. It's great to have an alternative to grinding dailies for cash in WoW.

  10. You addressed the biggest reason I'm not interested in WAR: Class. The classes are so specific and leave so little room for interpretation or individual adjustment, what it comes down to is that I am not interested in exactly that flavor of character, so the game doesnt interest me.

  11. Haven't played WAR, but I loved the Gundam reference.

  12. I like Warhammer a lot, but it is partly because I think it is a very different interpretation of classes from WoW. The War interpretation means the game is more dependent on teamwork, which is something solo players do not consider. World of Solocraft, bah!

    The Swordmaster is pretty cool to me, a good combination of DPS and tanking, but lacking the healing skills of a Paladin, so more like a Warrior class, and I can beat Chaos tanks to a pulp sometimes, so I am happy.

    Instead of having a Hunter class, with a pet and ranged skills, War has a melee pet class in the White Lion. Instead of having a Rogue 2-handed melee class, War has a 1-hand pistol and 1-hand sword class in the Witch Hunter.

    And instead of a Paladin class with decent armor for tanking, War has a light armored 2-handed hammer healer in the Warrior Priest.

    My Swordmaster and one WP can definitely smash Chaos tanks to a pulp. The idea is teamwork, teamwork, teamwork.

    Yes, the sign-on screens are an annoyance, but a minor one, compared to the dullness and grinding of WoW. Not that there is nothing wrong with WoW. I am just getting a little tired of it.

  13. I'm personally bothered by the lag between animation and when you actually pressed the button. But then, I'm the same way about sounds. If the sound doesn't sync up OR doesn't make me feel like I've just took a huge chunk out of the enemy, I'm less likely to play that character/game.

    Just a preference thing, I'm thinking, but it's along the same lines.