Monday, October 06, 2008

Byte: WAR! Huh? What's all the fuss about?

I've been playing a fair bit of Warhammer Online over the weekend and, well, you know all those Warhammer Online Angry Internet Men who get inordinately annoyed if people call WAR a WoW-clone? They're actually right. It's no World Of Warcraft. It's nowhere near as good.

Firstly, it's laggy as hell - I've not found a server that doesn't feel like wading through three feet of treacle. Secondly, a frame rate would be nice. The game doesn't even look that good: textures are gritty and drab, the polycount hardly rivals Crysis and it's not really going overboard on the special effects, either - so why the hell is the frame rate so poor? Thirdly, the animation is risible. With WoW I'm used to combat animations where staff thrusts don't sync properly with the actual hit rolls, but with WAR it's even laggier, and the less said about the ranged weapon animations the better. The Witch Elves' throwing knives are invariably totally invisible (the animation doesn't fire at all) and the arrow animation for the High Elf Shadow Warrior is beyond hilarious - the arrow arcs twenty feet up into the air before coming back down onto the target, even if he's only standing eight feet away. I know I only have a degree in Physics, but I'm fairly sure that arrows don't fly like that... Fourthly, queues. Server queues, RvR queues... I waited an hour to get into the Khaine's Embrace battleground, only for the whole thing to be over in five minutes, because the team balance was so poor, we (Destruction) had no healers at all and the Order side were roughly 50% healers (on average about 3 or 4 levels above our players, too). How annoying is that?

Beyond that, the game is totally grind-tastic, and the much-vaunted Public Quest system, while fairly neat, has a couple of flaws as well. Namely, unless you want to get totally screwed over by the loot rolls after you finish the third stage of the quest, you have to wait in the PQ area and grind through all three stages. Which, depending on how many players filter through the area, could take an hour or more. Oh, and I really don't like the interface. Surely it won't be long before half of it is modded out of existence.

There are a couple of things I like - the Tome of Knowledge is good, if mostly superfluous, and the way you can mark quest objectives with the general area you need to be in on the map is useful, and if you just want to play something where you can watch a dark elf run around in her bra and knickers, there's surely no finer game - but I'm not convinced by the game world yet. It's too compartmentalised by far - almost reminiscent of RF Online in that way - at least with WoW you have quest mobs intermingling and spreading over a larger general area. I'm also not that keen on the art style, either. It doesn't grab you by the lapels and shake you shouting "this is awesome, look at me!" Most of the opening map areas in WoW have a sense of wonder about them that transcends the polycount. WAR on the other hand isn't that vibrant and feels dull by comparison.

It's still early days, of course, but there hasn't really been anything I've seen so far that would convince me to subscribe. I'm going to stick with it for a while yet - I've still got to see a capital city yet, and I'm told that's where things start to get impressive - but I don't think that this is my kind of MMORPG. Still, it fills in the time until Wrath of the Lich King comes out, so that's okay.
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