E3 2008 is underway, and we took the opportunity to sit in on a demonstration of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, the upcoming massively multiplayer game from newly rechristened developer Mythic Entertainment (formerly known as EA Mythic, formerly known as...Mythic Entertainment). All six of the game's races are implemented and under heavy testing from the game's loyal fan community, including the high elf and dark elf races.
We had a chance to sit in on an in-depth demonstration of the high elf White Lion character class, whose primary role is to deal as much damage in possible in battle while more-heavily armored allies receive the brunt of any incoming attacks. Interestingly, the class uses a "pet"--an actual white lion that grows as your character gains levels, from a young lion to a larger one with a massive white mane, to a huge lion outfitted with war armor. Interestingly, White Lion characters will have various "training" abilities for their feline companions, which are essentially fighting stances that can be toggled on and off. These stances will let the White Lion character alternate between being a more aggressive fighter with additional defensive bonuses who attacks from the front while the pet attacks from the side, and using training stances that command the pets to take charge of offense and their enemies' attention while the pet's master attacks from the side.
We also took a brief tour of a few different zones, including Altdorf, the capital city for the side of Order (Empire humans, dwarves, and high elves). This huge city is approximately a quarter of the size of the game's massive travel zones and apparently has a star-based rating (four stars, five stars, and so on) that can increase as allied players contribute to its upkeep by completing various tasks and quests. Higher-ranked capital cities actually offer more quests and unlock new areas to explore, including dungeons beneath the city that you can explore, along with the merchants and other social options that you'd expect from a hub area in a massively multiplayer game.
However, capital cities will also act as priority targets for large-scale invasions. Warhammer Online has been built from the ground up with competitive play in mind, specifically realm-versus-realm battles that pit groups of players on allied factions against one another. Sacking the capital city of the enemy is one of the greatest accomplishments that can be done in the game, given that it unlocks numerous rewards along with some pretty extensive bragging rights. For instance, the city of Altdorf is home to various institutions, such as the College of Bright Wizards and the Temple of Sigmar, in which friendly characters may receive quests and training, but they also represent powerful challenges for the armies of destruction (orcs, goblins, Chaos soldiers, and dark elves).
Interestingly, the game is also turning a developmental corner. It's now going into guild-based beta, which will let players form long-standing guild associations with other players. Guilds will not only be able to chat with each other while playing, but they'll also have additional bonuses, such as the ability to commission a guild banner, which can even be carried into battle by a designated standard-bearer. The banner will radiate combat bonuses to any friendly units nearby and may be planted in the ground in the case of a defensive mission. The studio also unveiled the game's massive quantity of art assets, which include some 400 different sets of armor, plus the ability to dye your armor different colors. Mythic president Mark Jacobs imagines that ambitious guilds will likely designate specific colors to their armor to distinguish themselves. This is just another facet of the game's innovative approaches to encouraging players to socialize within the gameworld. In addition, the game will also offer "public quests," which we've covered previously; these are quests that can be performed by any friendly players in the area. The game will further feature "open groups," a grouping system that will let you scan for any open adventuring parties and join them instantly, at which point you'll share experience and loot with your group members as you would in any other group. (And discerning players can designate their groups as "closed" and solicit individual members the old-fashioned way, if they care to.)
Warhammer Online now looks much more fleshed out and will offer plenty of huge, wide-open areas to explore and conquer. Content has been built for all six playable races, character classes have been implemented, and the open beta is just a few months away. We're looking forward to the game's unique combination of lore-based questing and hardcore head-to-head competition. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is scheduled to launch later this year.