Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Warhammer Online first impressions or, "Do I expect too much?"

Jon Hayter | 11 May 2006 15:54
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Mythic reminds me of that kid in school who would relentlessly raise their hand for every question the teacher asked - not necessarily knowing the answer, but fearlessly willing to make an attempt. Walking into their booth this year, I wanted to see what the follow up to Imperator's failed development was, and what - if any - lessons were learned by way of it. Surprisingly, it seems as if they're drawing from the same design playbook as their previous titles, adding very little in the way of innovation - which is depressing, considering the talent on their team.

Sitting down to play it, the interface was immediately recognizable as a combination of DAoC and WoW elements, under the style of the Warhammer franchise. Movement was identical to many other MMOGs, as was the PvE interaction. Walking around, quest NPC's were distinguishable by the glowing, floating bar (Not an exclamation mark!) above their heads, and speaking with one yielded a quest menu identical to WoW's. The demo quests that were available seemed to consist entirely of kill-count missions (Go to X location and kill Y of monster Z), though I only completed two. One neat thing was the special ability bar, whereby Moral is accrued over time in a battle, and can be used to execute one of several unique abilities. However, by and large this was the only innovative element demoed to us. Most of the rest of the game looks forged from the same mold as a half-dozen other MMOGs on the market, with DAoC and WoW dominating that sensation.

The highlight of the demo was the RvR system, which is strongly reminiscient of (again) DAoC and WoW, and consists largely of capturing points of interest and holding them against the attacks of opposing Realms. A colleague of mine and I sat down and began the task of capturing one of these POI's. Within moments, we had one, and successfully defended it against six other players, for the remainder of our time at the booth. This speaks strongly about the intuitiveness of the PvP system, but also about the lack of any new features to
complement it.

I left the demo with a feeling that if Mythic took more chances with their design philosophy, they might be able to leverage their substantial talent and experience to create something really exciting. However, there was little excitement, only the sensation that Mythic is still trying to get The Right Answer.

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