Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is EA's first attempt to retake a piece of the MMO market it once dominated with Ultima Online. EA's own development teams have a history of Epic Fail with titles like Motor City Online, Earth & Beyond and The Sims Online - may they rest in peace. To make a stand against Blizzard, EA decided to buy a studio with a proven track record and a product already in development. Mythic Entertainment had a solid MMO already on the market - Dark Age of Camelot - and they had secured the Warhammer license, with development underway. So, did EA end up buying a turd, or has Mythic managed to put together something that would impress when all the rabid MMO fanatics attack?
MMO gamers have a tendency to rip apart anything tossed at them. When a new game enters to the market, everyone rushes to buy it, hoping it's the new messiah that avoids all the problems (real and imagined) that the game they are currently playing has. Then the nitpicking starts. Everything is compared to the current king of the hill, which can easily have seven or eight years of development behind the game with an expansion or two already out. Unfair? Perhaps, but that's the name of the game. Always has, always will. First everyone compared everything to Ultima Online, then to EverQuest. After that there were couple of squabbling camps fighting over the virtues of several post-EQ games until World of Warcraft dropped in and owned the market. So, the masses already have a game that keeps them occupied - sometimes so completely that MMO gamers tend to skip buying any other games, much to the disappointment of game publishers everywhere. To get them to drop the existing habit, the new challenger has to bring more than excuses about budgets and development schedules to the table.
Warhammer Online claims to do just that - no excuses, solid game. "War is everywhere" is the tagline, with the intent to specifically entice players who enjoy bashing other players. Unlike the earlier competition from Funcom, Warhammer Online doesn't immediately fail at the initial checklist; It's fairly polished, mostly stable, feels like a finished game and provides some unique gameplay innovations. All the basic functionality is also there and working - auction house, mail, groups, raid groups (warbands) and guilds. In fact, the guild functionality goes far beyond what World of Warcraft manages to provide and in addition to your character you also gather experience for your guild, unlocking additional rewards and benefits along the way.
Warhammer Online also has a deep and established backstory and lore, courtesy of Games Workshop. While the game itself isn't really based on Warhammer Fantasy Battles or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Mythic has used the setting and all the existing material well to create their MMO. On first look, Warhammer Online looks a lot like World of Warcraft with some high resolution textures added on. In fact, it could be said that Games Workshop is the exact same source Blizzard used back when they were dreaming up the Warcraft universe. They just didn't license it - they created their own unique world with humans, elves, orcs, trolls and other staples from the fantasy literature that just happens to have some uncanny similarities to Warhammer. Understandably the true Warhammer game may end up somewhat similar.
In Warhammer Online, forces of Order and Destruction are locked in endless war. Each side of the conflict has their own detailed storyline - initially with a counterpart race from the other side, but ultimately it's all part of one big red vs. blue battle like almost every game these days appears to be. Fundamentally Warhammer Online is very similar to World of Warcraft - roll a character, grab some quests, bash some monsters, collect some loot, get experience and level up. It just chooses to emphasize the "war" part of the name a lot more. Many have complained how the whole Horde vs. Alliance grudge match in WoW is not really visible. In Warhammer Online, Order and Destruction are fighting everywhere and the game is very much tilted towards constant PvP battles.
Previews: Warhammer Online - First Impressions Sep 12, 2008
News: Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March Announced Aug 17, 2007
News: Warhammer Online European Beta Test Signups May 31, 2007
News: Warhammer Online pushed to 2008 Apr 26, 2007
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