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WoW, meet WAR

It’s here. I played it. It’s fun.

EA’s “Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning” (WAR) was recently released for the PC, an MMORPG that’s supposed to rival “World of Warcraft.” It’s really fun, but the thing is… WAR basically is WoW, except it takes existing features and makes them better.

My witch hunter is only level 11, so this is certainly not a comprehensive review. But I’ve already engaged in the WAR equivalent of, well, pretty much everything WoW has to offer. And, by the way, witch hunters are damn cool. They’re kind of like Dante from Capcom’s “Devil May Cry” franchise – they run around with a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other. I haven’t actually hunted any witches yet, but I’m kind of addicted to the pistol’s fierce sound effects and shiny visuals.

The Review

The game is heavily PvP based, and you can actually do a lot of leveling simply by participating in battlegrounds (not the WAR terminology but hey, I’m used to WoW). And the best part is, your character’s stats and gear are scaled to match everyone else in the battleground, so you’re never completely helpless.

Of course, you can always go the standard PvE leveling route and do a lot of quests. WAR uses the standard formula that by now can be turned into a rather boring mad lib: go kill [number] [malicious creature]s and return to [name of quest-giver]. However, it adds a few innovative features never before seen in an MMORPG, most notably public quests.

A public quest is essentially the same thing as a regular quest, except you don’t pick it up from an NPC. You simply enter the public quest zone and start completing the objectives, which can be anything from killing spiders to burning pirate boats while defending a beachhead. Anyone can enter the public quest zone with you and help you complete the quest, even if they’re not in your party. The quest takes place in stages that get progressively more difficult. If everyone completes all the stages, the top players (those who contributed the most) are given rewards and bonus experience.

On RvR (Realm versus Realm) servers, PvE leveling is much more difficult. It’s the same basic concept as WoW’s PvP servers – still annoying as hell because of the ganking, but again, WAR improves it. The game’s two factions, Order and Destruction, are constantly vying for control of entire regions. This in turn can lead to control of certain fortresses strategically placed throughout the game world. Icons also appear on the world map which are representative of a battle’s relative size and intensity, so players can easily see where the craziest battles are taking place and rush to the excitement.

There are also quite a large number of more minor improvements. For example, you’re constantly gaining access to cooler items not just by completing quests, but by racking up different types of points. There are points for killing players in PvP combat (Reputation) and points for participating in public quests (Influence). Each unlocks unique rewards, and it gives players something constructive to do while leveling, and it feels much less like a grind.

WAR is also much more approachable for those who can’t play for large chunks of time. The player can enter a battleground from anywhere in the game world. The battleground depends on which region you happen to be located in, but you can hop on and play a quick match before logging off again. And, as stated previously, you don’t have to invest huge swaths of time in order to be viable thanks to the scaling system.

Oh yeah, and the graphics are better than WoW’s.

The Commentary

If you’ve actually read this far (which I profoundly thank you for) you must think it’s pretty obvious which game I plan on investing my time and money in. But you’re probably wrong, because I think I’m going to continue with WoW.

WAAAH?! BUT WHY?!

For one, the fabled pre-WotLK patch 2.5 is almost here. Rumor has it that it will be released in, well, a few hours. We’ll soon found out whether that’s true or not, but I tend to think it is, considering how much of a threat I predict WAR will pose to WoW’s fan base. I’m pretty sure Blizzard is going to study WAR very closely and do everything in its power to one-up it. We’re talking about the developers who all but scrapped a project that was years in development because it didn’t live up to their standards. At least, that’s what the press releases said. Rest in peace, “Starcraft: Ghost,” we’re all looking forward to your mythical next-gen offspring.

Basically, I’m being optimistic and hoping that Blizzard will start going berserk adding new features. They’re not the type of company that churns out crappy game after crappy game just to earn enough of a profit to make one that’s actually mediocre. I’m giving THQ the evil eye with my mind right now.

But the main reason is I’m not leaving WoW just yet is (drum roll)… my computer is shit. That’s right, I haven’t actually been playing WAR on my own personal computer because it doesn’t meet the system requirements. WoW’s requirements are precipitously less daunting for my old, wrinkly, wheezing processor. And I don’t really think WAR’s graphics justify the hardware leap anyway. But they are quite nice.

I think I’ll give Blizzard one last chance to improve WoW’s gameplay beyond WAR’s quality. If it can’t do it with WotLK, it looks like I’ll have to buy a new computer so I can get started on my witch hunting. My pistols are just so freaking shiny!

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