Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning PC Review page 1
[img]warhammeronline_pc_1[/img]When you look at EA as a game company, you see the largest third party game publisher and producer that basically has their fingers in every pie possible. Whether it's sports, shooters or real time strategy, if there's a big market for something in games, EA are there to capitalize with, if not quality, then at least terrific marketing. That is, except for one very significant market, the MMORPG market. While EA have certainly tried to tap into MMO's in the past, little success has been granted to the gaming
giant when things start going purely online. Motor City Online, anyone? With Activision and Vivendi Games merging to create Activision Blizzard this year, hence bringing the MMORPG sensation World of Warcraft into the grasp of their largest competitor, EA needed to respond, and perhaps something to finally once again establish a foothold in this booming genre after the success that was Ultima Online. This has arrived in the form of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning,
which comes from the MMO savvy developers in Mythic Entertainment, and while Activision Blizzard may not be shaking in their boots quiet yet, EA should enjoy some new found market share with this quality MMORPG.
Rather than establish a new intellectual property, EA have instead opted to partner with an already very well established name in the fantasy gaming world with this title - Games Workshop and their Warhammer franchise. With the Elves, Trolls and Dwarfs (amongst other beings and creatures) that occupy the fantasy Warhammer world, it's not hard to see how easy and well suited the hugely popular Games Workshop brand fits into the scope of MMORPG [img]warhammeronline_pc_2[/img]gaming. With that said though, gamers shouldn't
expect anything overly groundbreaking with Age of Reckoning, as much of the game relies on traits traditional to the genre without running the risk of redefining much if anything along the way.
Of course, before stepping into the world of Warhammer Online, gamers must get their subscription in order and create their character. The retail game comes with 30 days of free access to the servers, which are located in the US, Europe and Oceania, which is good news for us Aussies. However, regardless of the free 30 days, you will need to provide a means to be billed for the next period before you start. In other words, even though you are given 30 days with the retail game, you can't proceed
to take advantage of these free 30 days until you've setup your account with a payment method, like a credit card or a prepaid Warhammer card. Of course, you can easily cancel the subscription before the free 30 days are up and you won't be charged a cent extra, so there's no real commitment, but you should be aware before nabbing the retail game that a valid payment method is required to even play at all, even though this is somewhat standard. If you do choose to continue with the subscription, then you
can expect a US $14.99 fee per month, which again is at the standard rate for this genre.
Once you get all the nasty payment hassles sorted out, which are actually quite hassle free thanks to an easy to use online accounts system, then it's time to choose a server and get your character ready. As stated, the server locations are quite thorough and will cover most gamers worldwide quite well, with North America, Europe and Oceania accounted for each with multiple servers, which themselves cover the game's three main modes of play - Open RvR, which is unrestricted player vs player maps,
Role-play, which is for the hardcore role playing gamers who want to always remain "in character", and finally the much more mainstream Core, which is the standard mode featuring safe zones for PvE and specified zones for PvP. Naturally, the server you choose for any given character is the one you'll need to stick with for that character from there on out, so it is obviously a fairly important decision. The game will give you an idea of the character count on each server for each of the two realms,
'Order' and 'Destruction', so you have the ability to try and avoid queues by selecting from less populated servers.
When it comes to the actual range of classes that gamers can choose from for characters, AoR has a fairly well supplied amount of options spanning across these two realms, which obviously represent "good" and "evil", light and dark respectively. However, the classes are basically molded in typical fashion for the genre. You have the usual range of classes best used as 'tanks' and 'healers' across the game's races (Dwarfs, Empire and High Elves for the Order, and Chaos,
Greenskins and Dark Elves for the Destruction), so class wise there isn't really too much ground breaking going on here, but with that said the twenty or so on offer do each have their own unique characteristics and attributes, so there are plenty of clear distinctions to be made, even if a lot of the classes are pretty standard for a MMORPG game like this.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning PC Review page 2
[img]warhammeronline_pc_3[/img]While your class choice will naturally have a large impact on the game, ranging from what items you can equip to how you go about defeating bad guys, ultimately the game remains the same at its core regardless of class. At the heart of AoR is a massive world to explore, broken down into three major areas, each of which are designed for the game's major race conflicts - Dwarfs vs Greenskins, Dark Elves vs High Elves and Chaos vs Empire. It is in these areas that each realm fight each other for control
over the maps by being the most active, which grants special bonuses and advantages to the winning realm. Each area also has four tiers which in turn each have at least two maps which, again, in turn cover at least two chapters. The tiers more or less act as a means to separate players based on Level, as a lower level character won't last very long in an upper tier, whilst a higher ranked character will have restrictions in lower tiers, such as being unable to enter the RvR areas of maps they clearly
out rank (with a hilarious consequence if a player ignores the warning and does it anyway).
The beauty of the maps and areas in AoR besides their massive size is the fact that, despite what race and class of character you choose, you can travel to just about anywhere in the game, providing you're prepared to travel there. While parts of the game will have swift access through a Travel Master, this method won't get you everywhere, so expect a fair amount[img]warhammeronline_pc_4[/img] of running around in this game. It isn't absolutely vital that you do travel to different areas in the game, but your character's home area
won't likely feature enough XP opportunities alone, so unless you want to move up to the next tiers unprepared, it's usually a good idea to maximize the XP potential of each tier before moving to the next which includes visiting as many areas as possible.
However, while traveling around is somewhat vital to keep ahead of the curve, that's not to say the game lacks means to generate XP, in fact, just about everything in AoR will grant you XP. This of course includes slaying enemies and completing quests, but RvR gameplay and even just exploring areas will help towards increasing your character's level, not to mention participating in the game's many public quests, which can be very fun. Throughout each map you will come across areas which allow you
and anyone else in the area to join together and participate in a public quest, which are completed in stages. The first stage might be something like killing 100 of a specific enemy type in the area, where as stage two might mean killing 8 champion class enemies, and then finally perhaps a last stage or two taking on a boss class enemy. These public quests can be very difficult and will usually require a cohesive effort by players, ideally in a party or warband, but are very rewarding when finished both XP wise
and items wise, granting gifts to those who participated the most in the quest. Even if you fail to register enough of an impact however, you will almost always at least be given 'Influence' points, which can be used to gain rewards from leaders in each chapter, usually consisting of quality items or potions.
While naturally XP and leveling up is a central part of AoR like it is any MMORPG, there is more to the game than just completing quest after quest. The game has a lot of depth in most aspects, featuring an in-game auction system for items and of course a fully fleshed out merchant system to buy and sell goods. As you move along in the game, you will also be able to gain crafting skills, allowing you to create potions and talismans, as well as gathering skills, used to collect elements and items for
use in crafting. When you reach level 20, you will also be able to move about in the world with greater pace by being given access to transport, with varies depending on your character's class. For instance, a Dwarf with have a helicopter like propeller backpack, whilst other classes may have a creature to ride around on like a horse.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning PC Review page 3
[img]warhammeronline_pc_5[/img]But all of that just covers the PvE gameplay - one of the biggest selling points for AoR and its gameplay is the fact player vs player, or Realm vs Realm as it is usually referred to in the game, is seamlessly integrated into the game's main Core mode. While as stated you can choose to play on an Open RvR server, the more popular Core mode has a setup where most areas of maps will be free from the threat of other players attacking you, but specific designated areas will be flagged for RvR, which
means once you step into the zone, you're free game. However, each tier in the game also has its own RvR 'scenario', which is a separate smaller map you can join at any time (after waiting in a queue for the next round), basically acting as a team death match mode within the game.
While AoR certainly has a very fleshed out Player vs Environment component, there is no doubting that the RvR elements to the game were also very key for Mythic, so gamers who would prefer to spend most of their time battling against other players will find quite a lot of action and features here. In fact, your character even has its own level/rank specifically for RvR, known as the 'Reknown' rank. This is a separate level and XP system from the main PvE one, granting the ability to spend points on
specific abilities you can deploy on the RvR battlefields, which are spread out over most maps, featuring strongholds and outputs to fight for control over. In many ways, the RvR/PvP elements to Age of Reckoning are like an entirely separate game within the game, offering a change of pace for those who seek it.
When you sit back and look at it, it's really quite hard to fault the gameplay in AoR at all. While much of the game is unsurprisingly based on tried and tested formulas that are not daring or risky at all, the areas where the game does offer something in the way of unique qualities such as RvR seems to be just as sturdy and well implemented, combining for a very solid MMORPG experience. There is always a lot to do, a lot to see, and plenty of fun [img]warhammeronline_pc_6[/img]and action to be had, and it's very hard to
fault that. While I'm sure a MMORPG gamer much more savvy than myself will find a couple of faults here and there, throughout my time with the game very few negative experiences were had. I guess if I had to complain about something, it would be the occasional glitchy quest, and perhaps the fairly predictable NPC enemy AI, which makes it easy to coax targets away from packs, but really, Age of Reckoning is an extremely solid game with few bolts that need tightening.
Visually the game isn't anything too special but then the MMORPG genre isn't usually considered to be a pioneer in PC gaming graphics, nor do most MMORPG gamers expect as much, so the fact AoR isn't DX10 rendered eye candy isn't really a very big deal. Of course, the positive with this is you won't need a killer gaming PC to play this game. With this said though, it isn't like the game looks bad - the environments add to the atmosphere nicely, changing with good variation from area to area and not just
relying on any one theme throughout. Perhaps more important than the graphical quality however is the user interface, which is not only well implemented with its floating window based design but also highly user-customizable, allowing you to tailor your screen to your own liking. For a game as deep and complex as AoR, it's a good thing you can shift through screens and boxes with ease and efficiency.
EA and Mythic have teamed up to produce quite a MMORPG with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning This is a savagely competitive market and it's typically unlike many other genres where a gamer will buy a few competing titles - with subscription fees and the likes, many MMORPG gamers may be more inclined to stick with one title at a time. So, with this in mind, Age of Reckoning certainly has its work cut out for itself to compete with the big boys, but with the depth and quality on offer
here, it shouldn't have any trouble shooting towards the top of the MMORPG world and becoming a favorite of many worldwide. Whilst it's true much of the game is fairly traditional and not overly new from that standpoint, when it's done as well as this, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. Provided the so far exceptional support in the form of servers and updates continues, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning should be a high priority for any MMORPG gamer that may be looking for a new game to try out.