Sunday, 29 January 2017

Return of Reckoning

In 2008 I was over the moon at the highly anticipated release of the MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I have played MMORPGs since about 2000 and really enjoy the long term development play style they promote, the opportunity to also play as a character from the tabletop world in which I spent so much of my spare time was just the icing on the cake. From a sentimental point of view this is where Warhammer Online was so special to me. Despite all the various bugs and issues with the game that annoyed the crap out of hard core MMO gamers I always loved the game simply for the fact that it allowed me to play my painted models in a digital RPG format.

As the saying goes however; 'all good things must come to an end'. And as such in 2012 Mythic Entertainment and Games Workshop, the game developer and the owner of the IP respectively, announced that they were parting ways. This sadly meant the end of Warhammer On-line and all servers were shut down.

By this time I was rarely playing Warhammer On-line so it wasn't such a terrible loss. I still enjoyed dropping into the game from time to time but if I were to add up the time I spent in-game it would have been less than an hour per month. Once in a while though I still get nostalgic about the game and find myself looking up screenshots for painting references or scenery references.

I happened to be doing just this a couple of months ago when I stumbled across a Youtube clip of a tutorial on how to develop a new character in the game. On closer inspection the date on the video was from 2015, well after the closure of the game. This of course intrigued me and eventually as I crawled further down that rabbit hole I arrived at this website:

So Warhammer Online is back! From what I've read it appears that a dedicated group of enthusiasts have set up a private server in France and are attempting to improve the various bugs and balance issues in the game that Mythic never had the time or money to resolve. As such it's currently listed as being in Alpha testing but the game plays pretty much the same as it did before it shut down.

It's probably no surprise when I say this game has taken up a lot of my time recently, probably more than it should have, but when I get all nostalgic about something like this I can get a bit carried away. If you've never played Warhammer On-Line and have wondered what it's about then here's a brief run down of what I've done in game so far:

Like any MMORPG your first port of call is the character selection. This is also the first point at which Warhammer On-Line differs from other MMORPGs. You pick first from 6 different races; 3 for the Realm of Order (Dwarf, Human, High Elf) and 3 for the Realm of Destruction (Greenskin, Chaos, Dark Elf). Once you have picked a race then you pick a class, however, each race has 4 different classes that all function in their own way. They fit loosely into the categories of Tank, Healer, Ranged DPS and Melee DPS but no two work the same. They all have their own unique skills and spells and their own ways of generating them in game. Being that I was a Dwarf player in the tabletop game I not-so-surprisingly went with a Dwarf character and I picked an Ironbreaker as my class. I've always loved the dead-hard look of Dwarf Gromril armour and hence was looking forward to seeing my character decked out as such. Apparently though that armour must be earned because this is what my Ironbreaker looked like to begin with:

Once you're in game you begin your journey, like most MMORPGs, by completing quests for people. In Warhammer On-Line you will find people all over the world offering you quests mostly standing in warcamps, villages or just hanging out by a road.

The quests require you to do a variety of tasks such as visiting parts of the world, finding strange objects, locating people and of course killing stuff. Once your quest is completed you visit the right person (not always the person who gave you the quest) and receive your reward!

One of the things I love most about Warhammer On-Line is the amazing scenery. It's a little comicy in appearance (this game is almost a decade old) but it reminds me so much of the art from all the Warhammer Fantasy books I've read.

Hanging out in the wheat fields.

Imperial village.

I got a horse!

Horsing around in a pub...get it...ok I know that's bad.

Some Chaos Hellcannons.

Wandering around the map you can also stumble into characters from the Warhammer Fantasy world.


Gotrek and Felix.

Apart from the sentimental aspect of this that might appeal to tabletop gamers like me there's not much difference in the questing from a regular MMORPG. The biggest change between Warhammer On-Line and other MMORPGs is the Realm vs Realm fighting. Once you choose a Realm; Order or Destruction, your interaction with others on-line is limited to your own Realm. The only time you'll meet up with people playing for the opposite Realm is in the various Realm vs Realm instances. And the only reason you'll meet up with the opposite Realm is to beat the snot out of each other. Player vs. player combat is a huge part of this game and it's initiated in interesting and unique ways. There are parts of the map dedicated to Realm vs. Realm fighting where you can join up into warbands and fight over strategic locations, there are scenarios you can enter where you are required to complete certain tasks while fighting the enemy in order to score points for your Realm, there are even castles you can besiege and claim for your Realm, or alternatively you can defend if it's your castle that has been besieged.

Capturing a port in Nordland Realm vs. Realm. I've picked up some better equipment by now.

Laying siege to my first keep. A Dark Elf one I believe.

All in all I've found it to be one of the most unique MMORPGs I've played and the sentimental attachment to the IP just makes it so much better. Be warned though, if you're considering giving it a go it's not without it's problems. The biggest complaint tends to be around the imbalance in Realm vs. Realm. Winning locations or capturing castles can depend a lot on which Realm has the most people on-line at any given time. For people looking for a constant even balance this leaves a lot to be desired and leads to them raging a lot on the forums. I've never had much of a problem with it, even when you're outnumbered you can still win fights, you just need to be a bit more strategic. It's likely you'll lose the war but you can pick up plenty of experience in winning the battles you do choose. Alternatively if there's just no way to win you can just go questing outside of the Realm vs. Realm zones until more people log on.

To me though, this game has always been primarily about the scenery and the interaction with characters and monsters I am familiar with through my wargaming. I'm really enjoying being able to immerse myself in the Warhammer world again. Ever since GW decided to wipe the slate clean with Age of Sigmar I've felt a little sad about the lack of support for what was an incredible world they created. I spent so much of my teenage years absorbing myself in this fiction; painting models, playing games and reading books, that it's become a part of my life in a sense. So it certainly makes me grateful that there are such amazing people out there with a similar love for this world that they will put in the time to keep games like Warhammer On-Line alive just so that people like me can reminisce for a time.

Thanks again for reading and do drop in again later for more posts. It's difficult to find time these days but I'm getting posts up on a semi-regular basis. As a closing shot I'll leave you with a screenshot of my character at level 26. Slowly but surely I am getting closer to that full suit of Gromril armour...

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