Don't Believe the hype ! The only unbiased review you need to read
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Firstly ignore all the reviews from people giving this game a 10 after only 2 days playing - no one really knows how good an MMO is until after its been out at least a year. My review below comes from my first impressions playing since launch. Secondly, I have never played WOW beyond level 10.
Out of the box Warhammer comes on 2 DVD's and is a pretty large install weighing in at nearly 12gb. Upon install, there is the inevitable first patch to download which was a further 820mb and look 3 hours (presumably because the patch servers are very busy).
The game manual is pretty poor and tells you very little about the game other than the bare basics, which if you have played an MMO before you will know anyway.
When you finally get up and running, there are 20 classes to choose from across 6 races. The goodies (Order) and the baddies (destruction) are mirror images of each other.
Due to the lack of info in the manual, its a matter of looking at forums and word of mouth in deciding which class to play.
However before doing this you have to choose which server to play on and there is a massive list. Server selection is very important, because you dont want to get to level 30 and then find out the Server is not for you. Again there is very little information about how to select an appropriate server - everything in this game seems to be trial and error.
Once you have selected your race, its on to the character creation screen, but this is certainly no Oblivion or Conan - the options to customise your looks are limited to 10 faces, 10 scars, 10 skin tones, 10 eye colours, so pretty much everyone looks the same in the game which is pretty poor for a title coming out in 2008.
Once you get into the game, you start with some PvE in the starter area. There are a number of typical MMO quests - "Go kill 10 (boars) and bring me their hides" etc, but generally the PvE quests are linear and unimaginative.
The game interface is very good- one of the best I've seen in an MMO so far.
Generally the graphics are pretty but uninspiring, having similar styled (but better) cartoony artwork to WOW. I was severely diasappointed with the graphics which simply do not compare to more recent MMO's like Conan, Tabula Rasa, Lord of the Rings or Guild Wars. Obviously Mythic have purposefully made a game that is not overly taxing on hardware in an attempt to steal the WOW fanbase who are more likely to have older rigs.
In addition to most of the characters looking the same, the animations are terrible - combat is slow and clumsy, it really does spoil the fun. Even watching your toon run around is a horror show. It's very similar (if not worse) than WOW in this respect.
Anti-aliasing simply doesnt exist in this game and there are lots of horrible jagged lines. Also there appears to be no gamma/brightness setting and the only way to resolve this is through the Nvidia control panel, which does require some technical knowledge.
What's odd hovever is that the graphics seem to improve when you get out of the PvE realm and enter the RvR(PvP) world.
With regard to gameplay its your typical MMO fare, although the game is incredibly confusing, and complex in places and you are often left wondering what to do next.
The grouping system is absolutely excellent and it is incredibly easy to find fellows.
The world map is also great - it shows you exactly where to go for your quests, although some would probably say this ruins exploring, I like it a lot.
With regard to combat, as stated above, it is slow and clumsy. The AI in places is terrible. You can often stand next to an enemy for a couple of minutes before he realises you are there and start to attack you. On the otherhand there appears to be a glitch where a mob 100 feet away will teleport next to you and kill you.
The classes are generally imbalanced as well. For example the sorceror I have rolled is very difficult to play as the casting times on the spells are so long it makes it very difficult to fight. The healer I have rolled has so few decent attacks, it seems the only way to level up at a decent pace is to play in a group, which in turn cuts out most of the solo PvE content.
With regard to the community there appears to be virtually no social chat, but this is because the chat zones are so small, but even in a group, people just dont want to seem to talk. This doesnt help when you need a raid leader to explain tactics. It's even difficult to find a guild - no one responds!
This game is really about Realm v Realm play, and given comments I have already made above, it lends me to think that RvR was designed first and the PvE element was bolted on later as an after thought.
RvR is a good concept, split into tiers dependent upon your level, and once there are more players and they level towards the cap, I can see RvR being tonnes of fun. At the moment though there's little happening and its hard to find a fight as most players (on the servers I am on anyway) seem to be concentrating on PvE as levelling in this title is very slow and PvE is the quickest way to rank up to get ready for high tier RvR. Also most players have rolled destruction classes - there are very few Order players so when you attempt RvR it simply doesnt happen as there is no one to fight against so you end up fighting NPC's who are put in place of real players - so in effect its not PvP at all! So if you're buying this game solely for PvP , its not like guild wars where you can just dive in, but you are effectively forced to play the PvE just to rank up.
There is a queue sytem designed top quickly join RVR in a battle ground instance - But it ain't so quick! I've tried it on several occaisions and the wait in line has been well over an hour.
Other than the the usuaul PvE, there are also scenarios. These are incredibly boring and require you to gring 100 identical looking npc mobs in a group. It takes around 20 minute but the only reasion for doing it is it gives quick xp and a good loot drop from a chest at the end.
Essentially this game gets pretty old fast. You find yourself repeatedly gringing the same mobs day after day either in PvE, Scenarios or RVR (due to lack of human enemy plyers). Same areas, same mobs, same bore.
Bag space - very few slots - always a problem in MMO's and is particularly bad in this one.
Crafting is incredibly confusing and is probably the worst Ive ever seen in an MMO.
Auction House - nothing to report - typical set up except people rarely use it as it is quite easy to get decent armour & weapon drops.
Travel - fast travel anywhere in the world via a flightmaster even if you are level one or not visited the area before - ridiculous idea.
Quest log - this is a horror - while the design of the Quest log in the form of a tome is good, there are quests all over the place and this unfortunately is one of those games like Conan which allows you to zip around all over the world map irrespective of your level so you inevitably have a constantly full quest log, and end up deleting half of the quests you have half finished, particulaly if you get bored of the neraby RvR area you have been using.
Sound leaves a lot to be desired. There is very little background ambient music giving atmosphere to the game. The sound consists of repetitive screams, wails and grunts. Also when running you have the constant sound of your footsteps which is incredibly annoying.
Stability is proving to be a problem. If you play in the middle of the night, there are no issues, but over the weekend during the day when server populations are high, I've experienced frequent server disconnects (which in the middle of an RvR fight isnt very good!) and random crashes. This is incredibly frustrating and I found for about 3 hours I simply couldn't play due to server issues.
Another annoying thing about the game is that every time you log in you have to sign the End User Licence Agreement.
On the whole this is a fair game, certainly worth playing. I don't think it is worth a long term monthly subscription or lifetime purchase. It is certainly not a game for mature players and it pains me to say that it comes across as if the target audience is the 12-16 age bracket - there is simply a lack of seriousness to this title, unlike say Guild Wars, Conan or Lotro. It's a no brainer grind fest.
I feel it will have a good few years longevity due to the massive Warhammer fan base, but I expect numbers to dwindle quickly, so the community will eventually be left with a hardcore base of Warhammer fans. The first month comes free and you dont have to register your credit card to begin playing. It will be interesting to see how many continue with the game once they have to start paying a monthly sub.
I suspect if you are a WOW player you will love Warhammer but there are much better MMO's out there.