"We Want Negativity!": Five Things I Didn't Like About Warhammer

I swear to god, I got 5 IMs from people last night all saying variations of “Now I REALLY want to see the next part.” You people and your rancid negativity! (I include myself in that statement, of course.)

Ironically, there isn’t that much. Warhammer dodged a lot of possible pitfalls simply because it takes the road heavily travelled. Paul Barnett’s averrals to the contrary, Warhammer takes a lot of cues from its immediate ancestors World of Warcraft and (especially) Dark Age of Camelot. Much of the nuts and bolts of the game design is iterative, not revolutionary. So the parts where it falls down are mostly details of implementation. Like:

Grindgrindgrindgrindgrind. Yeah, this is the big one, and what is going to kill retention for Warhammer if anything not with the initials “WotLK” does. Anecdotal evidence from beta testers all claim that the levelling curve was radically “adjusted” immediately before the game shipped. This was a mistake. If there’s any game that shouldn’t be afraid of their users reaching max level, it’s Warhammer. Yet the last minute holy-crap-we-don’t-have-enough-to-keep-people-busy reaction from a development team seems to be a time-honored tradition of late. One could make a case that with many games, levelling is artifically accelerated in beta, then tuned to the release version just before shipping. That pretty clearly isn’t the case with Warhammer, since after the 2nd “tier” of content… you run out. Note: this is when you make levelling faster, not slower. It’s probably no coincidence that one of the first rewards granted to underpopulated realms has been faster levelling speed. That shouldn’t be a reward – it should be the default.

The Hibernian Protest lives again. It’s painfully obvious the High Elf and Dark Elf content pairings were… well… they’re kind of rushed. Of course the answer here is simple, just take your elf character somewhere else at level 1. But still, Mythic has a history of doing Elves at the last minute for some reason. And given history, I fully expect the first expansion to have the most lavishly rendered goddamn Elf areas this side of Rivendell.

Dude, Where’s My Balance. The game has some pretty clear balancing issues which PvP brings into sharp, immediate focus durning PvP levelling. Ranged DPS is generally king. This is somewhat mitigated by the two primary tanking classes, Black Orc and Ironbreaker, being Concentrated Awesome. Which probably means they’re overpowered. But melee DPS classes fare poorly, because they do about the same damage as ranged DPS (sometimes less) with the drawback of having to close to the target. This does seem to get better as classes gain levels (oh, sorry, RANKS) and gain access to more alpha-strike dump skills, but it makes levelling them pretty painful.  It’s hard to tell what balance will be like at the top end since, well, thanks to the grindgrindgrindgrindgrind hardly anyone knows what that’s like.  But I suspect Squig Herders will still be at the bottom of the food chain!

What do you know, PvE isn’t all that. I hesitate to ding Warhammer on this too much, because I suspect a lot of my fatigue with their PvE is simply my Being. Really. Tired. Of. Being. Told. To. Go. Kill. Six. Things. By. A. Generic. Fantasy. Character. I knew I was in trouble when my character turned a corner, encountered a vista of 5 or 6 NPCs all with the quest available icon over their head, and my first, immediate, unbidden reaction was “Oh God, no.” Generally, when you dread the arrival of more content, this is not a good thing. Of course, you can ditch PvE entirely and just play scenarios until your eyes bleed, but then that becomes yet another grind.

Community Shammunity. You know what Warhammer SHOULD have copied from World of Warcraft? The forums. Yes, I’m going to disagree pretty strongly with my homegirl here, because as a ordinary everyday average player, I don’t feel as though there’s a central zone of news and rumor dissemination. The “War Herald” is workable, but the news isn’t very detailed, and there seem to be a balkanization of forums – the primary forums SEEM to be Warhammer Alliance, but there isn’t a lot of traffic there, at least what you’d expect from 3/4 of a million subscribers. If anything, Warhammer’s convinced me that MMOs need officially sanctioned/operated forums just due to the perception that in the 21st century EVERY company does. (And yes, I am aware that Mythic operates or used to operate private forums, and I HOPE YOU SPECIAL PEOPLE ENJOY THEM VERY MUCH.)

So, yeah, not a whole lot of negativity there. I’m sure you’re all very disappointed! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m told we have magic cookie bars here at the office. Which is somewhat frightening.