Part 1 of 3: The Good
First and foremost; I love this game. Even putting aside my titanic froth for the setting and IP itself, the game is everything I wanted WoW to be, to the point where it’s downright eerie how close Mythic’s mechanics are to conversations I’d had in the past.
That isn’t to say it’s perfect or a game for everyone. WAR is neither, by a long shot. So, before jumping in to the froth and a bit more detail, I’d like to call out;
WAR may not be for you. If you like and demand Blizzard’s level of animation polish or super low-end specs, you may not like it. If you can’t handle quite a bit of PvP-oriented end-game content, you may get bored. If it’s all about the carrot, you may find the game unfulfilling. If you like detailed crafting, a la Star Wars Galaxies or older games, it may not be for you.
That being said, much of the following will contrast WAR against WoW, both because of my personal experience (having played WoW about as long as all other MMOs combined) and the ubiquitous nature of the game.
RvR and Combat
Above all else (even the IP), these are what make the game for me. Combat, even at lower levels, is long and dynamic. The former, because a 1:1 fight can last minutes. Even running into enemy ranks with a softer character will usually give you enough time to drop a few spells or possibly escape. The latter because of the very high number of effect-based, low cooldown abilities and relatively useless autoattack. In effect, it makes the game feel a bit more arcadey - almost like Age of Conan where you’re constantly micromanaging your autoattack, but unlike that game (which I found boring) you switch up attacks based on desired effect. My shaman, for example, would often lead with a channeled damage spell, go into a Strength reducing spell, drop a few dots, then begin a new cycle depending on the reaction; either back to the channel or a raw damage spell, or a knockback if it was a charging melee class (or someone on ramparts ). You’re constantly using spells/abilities, especially in RvR, so this may rub many WoW players the wrong way. The rhythm of combat usually doesn’t involve only a half dozen abilities and a consistent cycle, but rather conditional and *constant* attacks.
Also, uniquely amongst MMOs I’ve played, positioning and movement are *huge*. Tight circle strafing doesn’t work well, as collision detection allows you to simply step back and “catch” the strafe. This puts you in a perfect position to launch a few attacks, especially if they turn around to try to strafe again. Once players get the hang of it, movement in combat becomes a back and forth sort of thing, with a lot of short sidesteps as people still try to get out of your attack range. This also leads to a phenomenon in large battles where flanking becomes useful. In larger (30, 40+ per side) combats, a small group of three or a half-dozen can cause a full on rout/pushback by running right into the side of the enemy mass; the healers and ranged dps will pull back, and tanks and melee dps try to get back as they don’t want to get pinned on both sides by melee characters. This, along with the survivability of tanks and preponderance of HoTs tends to break the “stand and stare” stalemates pretty quickly.
A complete lack of chain stuns , snares, or stunlocking keeps things fairly dynamic as well. You’ll get locked down for a moment, occasionally, but nothing like seen in previous games.
You can jump into RvR from Rank 1, though the game guides you to it around 3-5, depending on the area. At Tier 4 (Rank 31+) RvR is absolutely insane and often centered around fighting over Keeps or specific world objectives. Though numbers certainly contribute, the nature of collision detection and class synergy (like a Tank + dedicated healers, holy shit…) can see a coordinated group making up for this. Also… defending a keep and goddamn oil can account for quite a bit.
Lore and Atmosphere
The game is very firmly Warhammer Fantasy Battle (rather than the gritty WFRP), and analogous to the Fourth and Seventh edition feel; not bright and high fantasy, but much more epic and contrasted than Third or older editions.
One of the great things is the sense of epic involvement and urgency. Your character begins, not in a tiny backwater as a nobody, but as a soldier on the warfront, often right in the thick of things. The Empire starting town is a frontline base of operations for the Order of the Griffon, under active siege, on the coast of Nordland. Explosions go off occasionally, while frightened peasants run about or man up and contribute to the effort. Your first quests are to help an artillery captain return fire at a Hellcannon battery, or retrieve peasants from burning huts under siege by Marauders. Later, you participate in a beach defense, burning Norse ships that are part of the vanguard of the Raven Host, or help disrupt a ritual of summoning to bring daemonic forces into the world.
The Chaos area is even more awesome. One initial questline involves harvesting undead brought back by the very presence of the Chaotic army and their magic, then delivering those to Hellcannons to fire upon a Bright Wizard in a tower.
There are plenty of “wow” moments, like finding a hidden area off of a river, with scorched burnt out trees and low-hanging mist. Climbing up a stump to a hill revealed a Rank 40 Champion Treekin, enraged at the destruction of his glade.
And then there’s the Inevitable City. You’ll understand when you get there for the first time. And maybe leave.
Part 2 of 3: The Bad
Up until an earlier beta phase the UI lag was atrocious. Think ten year old MMO. You hit a button, the UI feedback was all off, and it was nearly impossible to manage many close combat chains. This was fixed in a spectacular way, and the game now reacts as well as WoW. There are still issues, however, especially due to server stress. A server with 1800 to 2000+ people on will sometimes see casting lag, and RvR with 100+ will drop your framerate (to maybe in the 15-20 range, I haven’t checked - this is on an e8500, HD4850, 4gb RAM). I’ll be curious to see where this goes.
The Guild control panel has some issues; my biggest one is that Standard Bearer is a higher rank than Officer, meaning that only a SB or GM can reassign the standard. As you only have three people who can carry a standard and cap keeps, this creates scenarios where those people need to be on for a guild to get a keep. What happens if a crew hits one at 3 AM or other unscheduled times? There’s been a lot of feedback about this, so hopefully it will change.
This is the only thing that bothers the lore nerd in me, and is essential for gameplay, I suppose. It just bugs me that you can walk from Altdorf to Praag, through the Reikland. In theory, you’d have to go through Talabecland, Middenland, Nordland or Ostland, and half of Kislev to get there; these are all zones in game, so there’s kind of an invisible “teleport” to hop from Reikland to Praag. Minor, I know, but it bugs me.
They’re not horrible; vastly better than just about all MMOs but one. That one is a *lot* better, though. Jumping is stiff, animations don’t always link (some do, which is nice), and by default they ratchet down frames at a distance (like in DAoC). It’s a bit weird to see a dragon flap from a ways away in three frames, while you’re running smoothly along.
There’s also no draw distance (pop, surprise, a mountain!) and a weird bug where only a tiny square around your character has higher res ground textures. Textures also do a lot of pop in large scale RvR.
I’d imagine many of these issues will be fixed out of beta/stress testing (if not already), but ultimately I don’t think they’ll be on par with the “weight” and buttery smoothness of many in WoW. I know this is a game breaker for some, and probably the single weakest piece of the game in my opinion.
Part 3 of 3: The Questions
Q. Can anyone join a siege at any Rank, or only high-end people?
I didn’t get to play, but the way zones are structured, it’s likely anyone can join in the street fighting of a later siege, and probably get the “Bolster” buff (you get in scenarios and world PvP) to bring your base stats in line with an average Rank for the zone.
Q. I'm still a little fuzzy on the solo progression.Is there PvE content in the same sense as WoW, or is it all PvP all the time?
There’s plenty to do, especially at lower Ranks. It does seem to follow the earlier mentioned 80% PvE for the first Tier areas. What’s cool, is the game trains you (through PQs, simple grouping and Open groups, and Scenarios) to group up and coordinate with others to fulfill your class role. By the time you get to keeps (in Tier 2) and the PvE content shrinks, groups work pretty well together inherently, and gather around the stuff you need to do in a group. You could still easily solo or PuG your way through everything, though the endgame content will almost always be alongside groups of other people. Tier 4 is largely PvP content and 6-24 man dungeons.
Q. Any tips for moving through starting zones quickly?
Use your map. It shows general quest areas, so you can run through in order without having to backtrack.
Q. How does the Squig Herder handle?
I liked them on my Warrior Priest. I handled them pretty well there.
Q. How is the class balance? There aren't any 'warlock'-esque untouchables, are there?
Until the last phase, beta swung between Ranged being too strong, or Melee being a bit overpowered. The last phase has a few rough classes (Bright Wizard and Sorceress; damage is a bit high) but is largely balanced. It’s pretty impressive.
I’ve heard Squig Herders don’t have much to contribute, but I don’t know if that’s the case.
Q. How long will it take to reach level cap compared to, say, WoW? And will leveling through PvP be comparable in speed to PvE?
First five Ranks take an evening (for me, I’m slow) and you can hit Tier 2 (12+) in a week easily. I played a Rank 31 for a week (two hours a night, all PvP) and didn’t hit 32. I did get a Renown Rank though. The fastest way to level (or … Rank) seems to be through a mix; grind some quests, hop in a Scenario, do some World RvR. Doing lots of RvR will keep you leveling slightly slower than a mix (or maybe just PvE) though your Renown Rank will be very high.
Q. How "fast" does pvp move? Will I get killed in 1-2 shots in less than 5 seconds because I happened to reach for a drink of water, or will I be able to maneuver, plan and execute a course of action, even if taken off guard?
I hit on this above, but PvP moves slow, with you doing more in that period. It takes probably 8-20 shots to kill someone solo, which can take 30 seconds or *well* more if they’re a tank or healer. Thing is, you’re using an ability, on average, ever 1.5 to 3 seconds the *entire* time. You can pause and find a less-used ability or survey for a target pretty easily.
Q. I don't *need* to know this, but did anyone here get a chance to play with the cut classes? Can you provide any insight into specifically why you think they were cut from release?
No firsthand experience here.
Q. Colision detection. I know players don't act as actual physical barriers but I was hoping for some more information in how what's in there plays and if it makes a different in terms of how players approach PvP.
100% changes the mechanics of PvP and tactics involved. As in, there *are* tactics involved. Players quickly learn that getting flanked or trapped in sucks, and will try to be more nimble than other games. Circle strafing in melee doesn’t work. Stepping back kills the hell out of it. It also allows a small group of defenders to hold one of the many many chokepoints in game.
Q. Regarding standards, are they something that standard bearers are just able to spawn, or are they crafted somehow, and what cost (if any) is there in doing so? Also, are there any penalties for having your standard captured in battle, other than losing the buffs on the field?
You can buy them, and have to do so when one is captured or “used” to cap a keep. The bonuses stack, too .
Q. General question, but graphics and other things aside, is the game fun?
My time is limited to play right now, but if I’m not at work or giving the wife some time, I’m playing. I wanted to take a break this week, but that’s not working out too well.
Q. New approach to crafting: have you tested it, is it fun, does it make a difference?
I haven’t touched the crafting. RvR and PQs are too fun.
Q. We know you can get XP from PvP -- what about gear? Must you PvE for new equipment, or can you get it somehow through PvP?
You get PvP equipment through RvR and vice versa. PQ and quest loot works well enough in RvR, but if you have the Tier’s top Renown gear, it’s vastly different. That’s important to note, though; if you have a Tier’s Renown gear, you will likely be vastly better than others of the same level. This gear is *not* hard to get, though; a bit of cash and some time PvPing and it’s yours. So gear does make a difference, but more on par with the difference between using vendor gear in WoW, instead of quest gear.
Q. Blorks: great melee class, or greatest melee class?
I would have said best until I played a Chosen. Now I’m just confused. They’re all stupid fun.
Q. Does PvP involve jumping around like a maniac like WoW, or will be more about position and less about being hard to hit.
Casters auto face if they’re not cranking on the mouselook. Against melee classes, getting out of their melee arc works, but jumping doesn’t help, nor does circle strafing. A step back and jump forward when you attack method works best, with small sidestep maneuvers to get around the arc if possible. Combat moves a lot, but not in a spastic WoW fashion. Collision detection is more important to avoid than arcs, if that makes sense.
Q. What are the rules for changing gear or weapons while in combat?
I haven’t even tried this. Tanks may have reason to, but that’s about it. A damage specced tank isn’t going to get much benefit from going sword and board in RvR though, and vice versa.