Thursday, October 02, 2008

Warhammer Online: 2-week Impressions

It's been exactly two weeks since the official launch of Warhammer Online (not including the head start). And I thought it was about time for another post. Most of it will be complaints (because the annoying bits seem to stick in my memory), but I give the game a thumbs up rating overall!

In my last post I bitched about the dumb way that Mythic decided to roll out their servers, and I still stand by that.

My guild had initially chosen Skavenblight as its server of choice. But since that server wasnt open until the official launch date, it has a very low population. So low that we felt forced to switch servers. There just wasn't very much PvP action. And to top it off, Destruction had a great than 2-1 advantage in numbers, making our chances of finding a fun fight very slim. We switched to a more populated server (Ostermark), and even though we're a week behind most of the larger guilds, both in guild rank and character levels, our intra-guild activity is at an all-time high and everyone seems to be having lots of fun. Encounters with enemy players occur often, and the keeps come under siege from one side or the other on a regular basis.

Skavenblight is still a low population server to this day. And its unlikely that this status will change anytime soon. Most players want interaction with other players in their MMO, particularly when its focused on PvP. So new players will gravitate towards the more populated servers, leaving the low-pop servers out in the cold.

The interface needs a lot of work. Chat tabs have lots of issues (hopefully somewhat alleviated with todays patch). You're unable to customize what you see in the frames (for example, the large player pictures next the their status bar). Text sizing within frames is independent of frame size, so if I shrink down a window, the text shrinks with it, making most text unreadable. There is a lack of real options for the action bars. I can only have 1 2 or 4? Not 3? I can't turn them sideways? Or have them active but hidden? I'm sure some user mods will come out with these features, but since the game is only two weeks old, the mod community is still in its birthing stage. I installed a mod that gave me different unit frames, but then it screwed up my ability to edit the interface, so I had to remove it entirely.

I've also had horrible, horrible graphics lag in major RvR encounters. I've tried all sorts of changes to the graphics settings, but oddly, the one that seems to work best is using the default 'balanced' setting. Manually turning all the settings down and turning off the extra fluff seemed to actually make things worse. I also had someone suggest that I remove my combat log tab, which I've done. We'll see if that makes any difference.

Another issue I've run into with my guild is a severe lack of guild vault space. I can fill up our entire guild vault by myself after a couple of hours of PvE and Scavenging. There are just so many varieties of crafting materials. And for a large guild with 100+ players, this really becomes a major problem. We've ended up using the Guild Auctions as storage space instead. It's also pretty annoying that you cant stack items in the vault. You have to pull things out to your pack to get them to stack properly.

The amount of gold/level selling services spam via tells and in-game mail is pretty ridiculous. I reported them at first, but that doesn't seem to have much effect, as I find myself getting spammed by the same people the next day. Hopefully this will die down, as gold really isn't very useful in WAR once you get your mount. But this ties into my next point

No right-click functionality within the chat window. Right-clicking just brings up the options for opacity and such. I cant actually interact with the text in the window at all. I'm used to WoW where I can do such things as party invitations, sending tells and reporting gold spammers, all with a quick click. I have to say that I'm pretty surprised that such functionality didn't make it into WAR.

They just changed the way scenario queuing works other day so that you can queue for any scenario for your level from any zone pairing or the same Tier. This means that I can queue for the Chaos and Dark Elves scenarios without leaving my preferred Greenskin lands. This is an excellent change for those who love playing in the scenarios, but overall, I have found that I'm enjoying scenarios a lot less due to this alteration. No longer do scenarios have racial flavors. I used to go into the Gates of Ekrund and find that at least half, if not 90%, of the players were Dwarves or Greenskins. I knew that I could encounter my hated enemies there. Now its just a random mishmash of players from all over the world. All racial flavor has been removed. Also, this change has also had the undesired effect of pushing the average level of characters in scenarios up quite a bit. Now a large percentage of players are at the top end of the level range, making scenarios much less enjoyable for lower-level players.

Open RvR can be quite a bit of fun, provided that both sides show up for the fight. And though most large fights are reminiscent of the old Hillsbrad/Southshore battles back in the old days of WoW (ie. pre-battlegrounds), it has become apparent that there is room for tactics to play a part in the results. Using terrain to your advantage both to hide your own forces and to force the enemy into choke points is a viable strategy. Flanking maneuvers can also be highly successful. For example, a few nights ago there was a keep under siege by the forces of Order. We ran out there and went inside via the back postern door. But sitting in a keep waiting for the door to fall is not something I particularly enjoy, especially since I didn't have any siege equipment on me. So we sallied forth, catching a couple of players who were trying to camp the back door and then moving around towards the front. This resulted in some initial success, as we pulled a few players over and tore them up, but soon our foes realized what was going on and smashed our ranks apart, sending us back to the warcamp. After a couple of run backs and more defeat, the Order forces finally broke through, took the first floor and began trading long-range fire with the Destruction forces camped inside. Myself and several other players took positions out front, attacking any Order reinforcements that tried to run inside. A few of their stouter characters managed to get past our blockade, but we effectively blocked and/or killed the majority of them. This in turn forced those players inside to try and clear us out, which in turn gave the upstairs defenders an opening to push down to the first floor, and in-between our two groups, we crushed the remaining Order forces and drove their army back to their warcamp! Good times!

But beyond any issues I listed above, I am having a lot of fun, which is really the most important part of any game. All of my complaints can be fixed by Mythic to one degree or another. And in spite of those, I still login daily.

We have a large, active guild (which makes a huge difference), and there is almost always at least one warband engaging in RvR somewhere in the world. Just so long as I can get my graphics issues worked out, I see myself continuing to play this game for quite some time. My WoW time is way off in the distance of my rear view mirror and I wont be looking back that way again!