Amid the death and destruction that will befall the high elf land of Ulthuan when Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning releases later this year, there is a little bit of love. Hailing from the land of Chrace, the newly revealed white lion class will raise a war lion from a baby cub to a valiant beast of war. Players will be able to name their pet, choose distinctive fur patterns, and train it in the art of battle. Eventually, the war lion will grow into a loyal companion on the battlefield, elf's best friend. We sat down with Adam Gershowitz, associate art director and lead of combat and careers on Warhammer Online, to get the skinny on the new white lion class.
GameSpot: We are proud to unveil the new white lion class, which joins the swordmaster and the archmage as classes of high elf. Give us an overview of these beast-masters from the north.
Adam Gershowitz: In short, the white lions of Chrace are more savage than their southern cousins, striking out with great axe and claw to rend through their opponents. They fill the role of the melee damage-per-second (DPS) or "brawler" career for the high elves. Their most unique feature is the war lion that accompanies them. While capable fighters on their own, the white lion really shines when working together with his feline companion.
In WAR, we've chosen to delve deeper into the lore of the white lions of Chrace, working with Games Workshop to fill out the backstory and history of these noble hunters from the north. The most notable part of the backstory is the concept of the war lion and how certain courageous and skilled white lion warriors train these beasts to be powerful and loyal companions.
GS: It sounds like training your personal war lion allows for an even greater level of customization. What are the different ways to approach raising your lion? Will they become sad without enough tender loving care, like the puppies in Nintendogs?
AG: The war lion is meant to be a long-term companion unlike the disposable (yet lovable) squigs the squig herder gets. As such, we wanted to give players more options on their pet since they will only get one. These options are fairly simple but significant and include naming your pet and choosing distinctive fur patterns and markings when you first receive your lion. This allows for different white lion players to have semiunique war lions to accompany them. These distinctive markings stay with your war lion for the life of your character and dictate what your fully grown war lion will look like. Yes, I said fully grown; and yes, you get the war lion as an adolescent, and it grows as the player grows.
GS: We've talked a lot recently about the different paths of mastery available to each class. What additional skills will the white lion master have access to?
AG: The white lion, like all careers, has three paths of mastery available to it. The path of the hunter, the path of the axeman, and path of the guardian. Each of these emphasizes a particular aspect of play style for both the master and the pet.
The path of the hunter focuses on equality between elf and war lion; both stride into battle side-by-side, lashing out in powerful combination attacks that can hit multiple opponents at once.
The path of the axeman focuses the offensive role onto the player, while the war lion takes a more defensive role. This line focuses on large, single-target damage, causing the player to rely on his or her war lion or group mates to distract opponents so that the player can make a flank attack.
The path of guardian focuses on helping defend your war lion or group by disabling and reducing your opponents combat abilities and reducing the threat generated by your allies. This allows your war lion or group to take a more offensive role, striking harder with less fear of retribution.
GS: It sounds like the white lion is a cross between the members of The Gray Company in Lord of the Rings...and Siegfried and Roy. What was your inspiration for the new class?
AG: Choosing the final high elf career was one of the most difficult choices in development. The high elf lore is filled with so many awesome and iconic regiments; we were literally on the fence for months. What finally put us over the edge was a shipment of miniatures and the new Army Book from Games Workshop in June of 2007. Immediately, we were presented with two completely and utterly awesome concepts that outshone everything else. These were the dragon mages who rode ancient dragons into battle and the powerful white lion chariots drawn by noble but savage war lions of Chrace. Long story short, we had some issues with 40-foot tall, three-ton dragon pets. (They tend to want to eat and sleep a lot.) So we opted instead for the equally cool but much more compact ball of fur and fury. With the help of the folks over at Games Workshop HQ, we fleshed out the bond between hunter and war lion, and thus, the white lions of WAR were born.
GS: Tell us a bit about the white lion's homeland Chrace and how it fits into the universe of WAR.
AG: Chrace is the northernmost of the high elf kingdoms; it has a bleak natural beauty with high mountain peaks and thick forests. The population consists primarily of elves that prefer more natural surroundings and a less hectic, less urban lifestyle. Elves of Chrace are hardier and more independent than most of their southern kin, and when they march to war, they do so wearing armor overlaid with thick skins and wielding stout woodsman axes. Due to its location, Chrace is constantly under threat from dark elf raiding parties and is frequently the first defense against invasion from the seas. In the Age of Reckoning, Chrace has been besieged because the dark elves have landed many black arks in the nearby Blighted Isle.
GS: We like how powerful characters will grow and change as their age and skill increase, like how powerful orcs develop surging pecs and biceps after crushing armies of dwarfs. How will the white lions change as they level up throughout the game?
AG: A white lion's visual growth and power is determined less by the player and more by its war lion. Obviously, the player will gain access to cooler and cooler armor and weapons, but you know how badass they really are when you see their war lion.
War lions start out as younglings, and as the player grows in power, so does his or her pet. A war lion will move through four stages of growth; each having a different appearance that stays true to its distinctive markings that were chosen in its infancy. These stages are youngling, adolescent, mature, and elder. An elder war lion, for example, is the most physically imposing and is adorned in armor, while a youngling hasn't even grown a mane yet!
GS: What are the best ways to utilize the white lion? And, if you're a dark elf, what's the best way to counter a man-eating feline besides enchanting it with a pile of catnip?
AG: The war lion is a very flexible pet; since players have access to all of the "training" strategies, they can choose how their lion behaves on the fly. However, each of the pet behaviors is designed to complement a player's mastery. So players who have chosen a specific play style will generally have a pet that's stronger at complementing that play style.
Fighting against a white lion is all about observing its strategy. You need to identify what type of play style it is using and take out the bigger of the two threats first. There are some obvious indications [as] to who is going to put the hurt on you first. Generally, it's the one trying to circle around you to get an exposed flank!
GS: It seems the white lion is a bit more down-to-earth than his snooty high-elf brethren. How do the white lions fit in the high elf hierarchy?
AG: While the hunters of Chrace are more aloof from society than most high elves, they still serve with great distinction as the personal guard of the Phoenix King. During the civil war between high elf and dark elf, King Caledor the First was beset upon by a troupe of dark elf assassins just moments after he learned he was elected to ascend to the throne. If it was not for the timely intervention from a party of Chracian hunters, the Phoenix King would have been lost and Malekith would rule all of Ulthuan. Since that day, the Phoenix King has never been without an escort of white lion troops.
GS: High elves seem like the most powerful magic users in the game. What manner of sorcery do the white lions bring to the fight, considering they are so attuned to the natural world?
AG: The white lions of Chrace are the least magical of the high elf careers. They tend not to have any overt magical powers. Instead, their innate magic revolves around their bond with their war lion. The link between master and pet goes deep, allowing them to sense each other and react with unnerving coordination and speed.
GS: Finally, what type of player do you think will enjoy using white lion the most?
AG: The white lion is a very attractive career for the player that desires a strong solo experience but also prefers to get in the thick of melee combat. It's one of those careers that is very "new player" friendly but has a lot of depth and takes a good bit of strategy to master.
GS: Thanks for the time.