EventEA Mythic Event: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Developer: Mythic Entertainment
Publisher: Mythic Entertainment


Setting: fantasy
Warhammer, as a fantasy milieu, is to Americans much like a British candy bar. (Trust me; it's not my metaphor, but I'm going somewhere with this.) You see it, you think you know what it is, but until you taste it, you actually don't know what it is.

See? That makes perfect sense.

It made even more sense after I ate the Cadbury Crunchies bar that Paul Barnett, the creative director at EA Mythic (via Games Workshop, owner of the Warhammer IP, and publisher of such great games as Warhammer Fantasy Battles and the ever-popular Warhammer 40,000), gave me. I said "my, this has a much different texture and taste than I expected. Yet it is still quite very much good, and I would like to enjoy some more."

I guess British candies - errr, sweets - make me talk funny.

We had two presenters for the show. The previously-mentioned Paul Barnett (who, if you've been keeping up with WAR, you may recognize, such as from my con call article about WAR), who is the custard, and Jeff Hickman, senior producer, and, according to the slides, dry but factual.

In addition, Lance Robertson, a producer, played tour guide, showing us around the lands of WAR, and Destin Bales, content director, was there, too.

But back to custard. Custard is used, according to Paul, to make something barely edible into something more edible. That's the creative and imaginative side of Warhammer, with its British stylings of fantasy, humor, and horror. It's also what Paul considers the forces of Chaos - you take something normal, and add the "custard" (i.e. Chaos), and you've got something great.

I am getting a bit ahead of myself here. First, a status update.

WAR is deep into production. They have a team of 150 people working on it right now. The orks and dwarves have been deployed - if you remember from our E3 coverage, the orks were playable there. Today (actually, for the purposes of this article, "today" = "Thursday, January 25th, 2007") was the first day people got to play the Empire (aka Humans) and Chaos.

Humanity, in the world of Warhammer, is facing the end of days (at least, in the terms of the Middle Ages). They're constantly on the brink of extinction in a brutal world, forced to expand or die, to breed and fight. Humanity in Warhammer is all about the strengths and weaknesses of people, how they can do something, then completely over-do it, and how they are steeled against corruption.

Humanity is trapped - Chaos lurks in the hearts of men, orks threaten to wipe out entire countries, and other enemies lurk both inside and outside. Technology is improving - the Warhammer world is up to crude firearms - but it may not be enough to save the world.

As mentioned before, each race in Warhammer: Age of Reckoning will have four classes. These basically break down into "tanker, healer, melee DPS, and ranged DPS". Of course, each class can do more than just that - for example, the Dwarven rune priest that I played also had the ability to put a healthy smack down with both her staff and spells, as well as be the primary healer. But we'll get into dwarves in a bit, when I talk about PvP.

The four classes of humans (specifically, as mentioned before, the Empire, for you aficionados of the Warhammer mythos) break down as follows:

Knights of the Blazing Sun. These guys are the melee/tanker types, and show a combination of sun imagery with the skulls, knowing that they inevitably face death. Paul described them as "King Arthur meets Monty Python and the Holy Grail with more violence".
Witch Hunter. This is the melee DPS class. He's all about the hat - Paul thinks he has the greatest hat (I think) in the history of computer games. Coupled with a good coat, "kickass" boots, a flintlock and a rapier, he looks flat-out deadly. They definitely expect the Witch Hunter to be a popular class.
Warrior Priest. You may have seen this guy in the theatrical trailer for WAR. EA Mythic thinks just plain "healers" are dull. Thus, you have this guy - two hammers, and as he hits his enemies, he builds faith, which he can use to heal his compatriots. Bright Wizard. He's "buckets of instant sunshine". He explodes when he dies. He's not just a fire mage, he's a nuclear weapon. Even his skin is on fire. His outfit has torches built into it.
We got a chance to play a bright wizard for a while and explore the beginnings of the humans. You start off in a village that's under siege by Chaos. Immediately, you're put to the task - go and get the farmers rallied. As you talk to them, you realize some are Chaos marauders, and they attack you. Soon you've done that, and it's off to help heal the wounded. While running to do that, you realize that there's a public quest going on.

“What's a public quest?”, you may ask.

In WAR, occasionally something bigger than just you needs a-doin'. For instance, in this case, we need to kill marauders so that the militia can get its act together. Once we do that, we fight off another wave of the invasion, and then try to stop a huge Chaos giant from splattering us across the landscape.

"Who's this 'us', buddy?" you ask. "I like to solo."

I hear you brother! And I was solo, too - but it was still us. Everyone in the zone automatically has the same quest! The group objectives are up on the screen, and it keeps track as you do your part (or not - you don't have to help!). After the public quest finishes, you can go over to the "leader" of the area, and he'll reward you for helping out. A couple of minutes later, the public quest starts over again.

You can do the same one over and over to build your reputation with the leader, or you can follow them as you go up in levels and get new, cooler stuff - stuff that's tailored to you and your class.

(The big guys, such as the Chaos giant, will hold some "good loot" - that'll be randomly assigned dependent on how much contribution people made to the public quest. But that's just icing on the cake - the real rewards are the ones you get from the leader.)

After running around blowing stuff up as bright wizards, it was time to look at the Army of Destruction's racial enemy for humans – Chaos.

(Quick reminder time: Humans, dwarves, and elves make up the Armies of Order. Each race has a racial enemy that they start off in close, loving combat with. Respectively, according to enemy, these Armies of Destruction are Chaos, orks, and dark elves.)

Remember - Chaos is custard. It makes things better. It mutates them. It's daemon lords. It's a will to power - the fact that your will can influence the world. It's corruption, as the Chaos infects your form and mind.

There are four Chaos gods. Khorne is the blood god, the god of battle. You don't play as one of his guys, all they do is kill stuff and each other. Slaanesh is the pleasure god. You don't play as one of her people, 'cause there's too much nudity and crab claws and we don't want Chaos to have its own cyber-haven (think of Goldshire in most World of Warcraft servers, and make it Chaos. Yeah. Creepy.) Nurgle is the god of corruption, and he's fat and bloated and nasty and slow, so he doesn't work too well. Which means that you get to play as a priest of the bird god, Tzeentch - which means you get sorcerers on disks, casting lightning bolts.

Like all races, Chaos has four classes. Unfortunately, only three were revealed:

Chosen. He's the melee tanker. Big, huge armor. Big, huge weapons. Very scary. Probably has poor people skills, that is, poor skills that don't involve dismembering people.
Zealot. He's the magic healer - all about the scarecrows and totems. He's got a magic utility belt, making him the Chaos equivalent of Batman.
??? - HA! They didn't announce the melee DPS guy. Got an idea who it might be? Post it in the forums, remember, he has to follow Tzeentch.
Magus. The ranged magic DPS guy, he always, always, always flies on a disk. And casts lightning. And mutates and changes as he levels up. He has a big staff.
One thing to remember in WAR - if they have a staff, they cast spells. It's about silhouetting - in other words, it's about being able to see an outline of an enemy, and who know what kind of enemy he is. But don't think "staff = weenie" in melee - even casters get melee attacks. I was right in the middle of things a lot of the time. (Note: I never said I was a good caster.)

One other thing about Chaos is that it's all about an invasion. Chaos doesn't have cities (well, it does, sort of, in WAR - the Inevitable City, because it was inevitable that Chaos would need a city). Thus, you start off invading a human village, corrupting it, taking it over for your gods.

So those are the new races. After seeing them, and playing as both a bright wizard and a magus, it was time for the true test of WAR: realm versus realm combat!

It's not just Player Versus Player - it's your whole Realm, your race, your alliance, against the enemy! Remember the motto of WAR:

WAR is everywhere!

If you want, you can start in RvR from the very beginning!

Each racial pairing has five zones - one capital zone each, one allied zone each, and a neutral, contested zone in the middle. As you follow one of the four types of RvR, you gain points for your side. Those points let the front lines move back and forth, and if you're better than your racial enemy, you might even take his capital city, loot it, capture his king, put him in prison, and then move on to the next enemy race's capital.

It's about gloating. It's about winning. It's about saying "HA HA we're better than you!" It's the reason why the British have museums - to show off the stuff they won! (At least, according to Paul.)

The four types of RvR are:

  • Skirmish: This is "incidental" RvR - you walk into an area that you know has realm versus realm combat (you won't do it by accident), you fight with your enemies.
  • Battlefields: Now you've got a specific objective. If skirmish combat is like getting drunk in Nottingham and finding the fans of an opposing football team to fight with, battlefields are finding those fans' tour bus and taking it over. (Obviously, again, those are Paul's examples, so if you don't root for Nottingham or whoever, it's not my fault!)
  • Scenarios: These are instanced, point based, objective-led combat scenarios that use NPCs to flesh out the weaker player side.
  • All of these lead to the Campaign, which is the before-mentioned hope and dream of every little human, elf, or dwarf kid - and whatever the heck a young Chaos or ork is - which is to sack, pillage, and burn your enemy's cities.
There are 40+ scenarios you might participate in. From the standard "capture the flag", to Murder Ball, to Domination, to Death Match, they range in size from 6 on 6 to 36 on 36. We played two different ones: Mourkain Temple, where you strive for control of an ancient artifact and to kill your enemies, and the Gates of Ekrund, where you tried to control geographic parts of the wall. In both cases, it was orks versus dwarves.

Around Mourkain Temple, I played a dwarven rune priest - a healer type. One thing to remember - in RvR, there IS collision detection. So I'd try to buff my friends, heal them, and cast cleaving damage spells on my enemies. Then, they learned who I was, and when I'd walk around a corner, squigs ran at me, and all I could see where huge orks fighting for the chance to pummel me into the ground. I could blind them, I could fight them - but if my buddies were behind me, I was stuck! Then dead.

I was dead a lot.

Note: keep your rune priest in the back. Have your dwarves physically keep the orks away from them!

In the Gates of Ekrund, we played the orks. Here I was a Choppa - a big ole ork with two big ole axes. We fought and fought, sliced and diced, and had a heck of a lot of fun.

A note on death penalties: there isn't one, except time.

"Wha?!" I can hear some people (at least one of my guildies, I know) say.

You see, there's more to it than that.

Okay, say, you die. Don't worry, it happens to all of us, and some of us more than others. A box pops up. Click the box to respawn five seconds later, or wait and you'll automatically respawn in 45 seconds or so. Let's say you died in pitched battle, and now you're back at the starting point.

Okay. Now what? Well, you've got to run back to the battle! You better hope you've got friends around, and you don't run into the enemies - or you're dead.

One person can make a difference, but not that much of a difference!

So what's stopping you from suiciding?

Why would you?

You can't kill the enemy fast enough to get free kills from it. You'll just be pummeled down.

So? Maybe I'm wounded, and just want to get the "free" health upgrade.

Uh uh. You see, you regenerate health and action points so fast, you don't need to do that! You'll be healthy, on your own, without potions, in no time!

All you do if you suicide is inconvenience yourself and hurt your team. There are exceptions: for instance, in the Gates of Ekrund, you don't gain control of an area if enemies are around. So it makes sense, at times, to jump into a group of enemies to try to hold them off until your friends can show up.

But heck - I can't wait to launch myself out of a catapult. Yes, you can do that.

Well - that's about it for this write-up of WAR. We'll be patiently waiting to see what more news comes out of EA Mythic on this game as time goes on, but the more I see, the more excited I get about it.

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About the Author, Sean Michael Whipkey (A.K.A SeanMike)

I'm a 29 year old senior network and systems engineer for a consulting firm in the DC area. I'm mostly into MMOs and FPSes (on the console), and I'm a big pro football fan. In my other spare time I like to write and tend to read copious amounts of history and military sci-fi. I'm also into cooking and bad action movies.