So I played WoW for about a year a few years ago. I must’ve stopped in 2006 or so, and I’ve not really played an MMO since. I had a fling with City of Heroes and The Matrix Online, but nothing for more than a few months at a time, an nowhere near the timesink. I think it’s important to come at this from that angle, as I’m looking at this with a rather critical eye. I burned out on WoW big time, and I’m looking for something vastly different to get me back into the MMO genre. I’m looking at you, Champions and World of Darkness.
So when I say that WAR has taken me by surprise by being rather a lot of fun, that’s a bit of a surprise in it’s on way. It’s very similar to WoW in that it plays the same, and it looks similar, and all the shortcuts are the same, but it’s applied in a totally different way that is both refreshing and mildly suspicious. I’ve played both Black Orc and Marauder so far, and both have been a lot of fun, in that they’re entirely different classes but with similar roles. The Marauder seems to be an adaptive damage dealer whereas the Black Orc seems to be a damage tank, and that definitely comes across in the different between playing them. Regardless, I don’t really thing talking about how the classes differ will get across the feel of WAR.
There’s a big clue in the name of the game; it’s entirely about beating the other side into a pulp. This is made almost ridiculously easy, and it’s near unavoidable, so if you’re looking for a pve experience, look elsewhere. Pve is there, but it’s merely a vehicle to get you to pvp. After the first zone most of your questing is done in pvp areas, so you have to kill enemy players if you want to survive. It’s like someone took WoW, slapped it in the face and said ‘grow some balls and let people be people’ i.e.; fight one another. Excepting the starting zone, every zone has multiple battle objectives and strongholds that can be overrun and protected. They form a natural point of battle that makes fighting the enemy mean something in a way that pvp requires. If you don’t fight the enemy they will eventually overrun your camps and deny you the oppurtunity to quest and earn experience.
Because the focus on pvp is so strong it becomes a bit of a mixed blessing. If you don’t have enough players populating the servers you’ll have a large problem, and if you have one side being heavily favoured (as is the case at the moment with the Destruction side outnumbering the Order side seemingly 2:1) then the battles become a little one sided. So the success of WAR relies on… the success… of WAR. Huh.
The other wonderful thing the game has done is the public quests. These are areas of the map where you’re given an objective that everyone in that area can work towards, and eventually culminates in a large boss battle. After that dice are rolled that are affected by how much you contributed to the quest over it’s stages, and loot is won. Personally, due to my usually abysmal dice rolls, I’d prefer it to be entirely contribution based, but where’s the fun in that? Again, though, these are usually impossible without at least 5 or 6 people, so a lack of players would make this similarly useless.
Ironically, WAR seems to be doing what Blizzard are known to do; namely taking something and polishing it until it gleams brighter than it did when it was brand new. All the faff from WoW; the sitting around waiting for your health to recharge, the deterioration of your weapons and armour, the wandering around trying to find your quest objective and the running back to your corpse when you die, all have been thrown out of the window in favour of creating a more enjoyable experience. Because of this it’s a lot more fun to just hop into WAR for an hour at a time rather than a 12 hour stint, even though you’ll probably find yourself leaning towards the latter due to the engrossing nature of the game.
Ultimately, WAR has done what I didn’t really think was possible; got me interested in a fantasy MMO with a clicky click fighting system again. For that, I guess it deserves a bit of praise.