Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Updated Q&A - The Warrior Priest Class and the Empire Faction
Two designers from EA Mythic fill us in on the Empire faction and its warrior priest class.
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When Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning launches later this year, it will bring the rich universe of the Warhammer Fantasy setting to life as a massively multiplayer role-playing game for the first time. Players will create their own characters and adventure and battle in huge virtual worlds populated by monsters and thousands of other player characters. The battle lines are drawn between a number of colorful and memorable factions. The one that we might relate to the most is the human-based Empire faction, with its horse-mounted knights and medieval-like warriors. And one of the most unique units in the Empire faction is the warrior priest, a warrior that combines melee combat with holy-power abilities, such as healing injured teammates and strengthening them with magical spells that "buff" their abilities. The warrior priests can easily be identified on the battlefield thanks to their long robes and vestments, as well as their signature war hammer. To answer our questions about the warrior priest class and the Empire faction, we turned to senior designer Steve Marvin and content manager Doug Woolsey.
GameSpot: The big reveal this time around is the warrior priest class. Give us an overview of this character and its abilities.
Steve Marvin: The warrior priest is a follower of Sigmar and comes of age in the Empire, the human lands savagely beset by the forces of Chaos. He is part churchman, part soldier, part healer, and part justiciar. His realm, his race, and most importantly his faith are all in danger of extinction at the hands of a ravening evil flood of appalling monstrosities. He is the levee that will hold back that dark tide. This is no Friar Tuck; the warrior priest strides to the front line, singing the praises of Sigmar and inspiring his fellow soldiers to hold fast. His is a grim responsibility, and the only times he smiles is as his hammer slams a creature of Chaos to the ground.
Warrior priests revel in combat, with their blessed hammers sanctifying each blow to the greater glory of Sigmar and his inevitable triumph over darkness. As his faith and righteous fury rises within him, his god fills him with the power to heal and bless those who join him in his struggle. There is no sight like that of a warrior priest in the thick of combat, dispensing death to his foes and life to his allies.
His blessings deliver health, morale, and strength to all of those within range of his voice, which seldom halts in its righteous soliloquy. Any who stand close to a warrior priest for even a few moments feel their bodies refreshed and their faith renewed. In the height of his faith and fury, he can call upon Sigmar to heal the injured, purge taint and poison from the faithful, or even return life to the newly dead. He can also call holy power to his hammer to deliver devastating blows, or channel Sigmar's wrath directly into the hearts of his foes.
The warrior priest kicks butt and takes names. He wades into combat and smashes things left and right, building up his righteous fury ability with every blow. He then releases that pent-up power with heals, cures, and devastating attacks. Just being near a warrior priest buffs you.
GS: We understand that even though the warrior priest is the "healer" class for the Empire faction, the profession isn't about quietly sitting in the back of the adventuring party, casting healing spells. It's much more warlike and able to fight in the frontlines. Just how strong of a fighter will this character be, and why was this direction chosen?
SM: All of our healer careers work this way. We don't just want to avoid the creation of pure support classes; we want to make it positively counterproductive to play any career that way. This is Warhammer Online. Everybody fights. Nobody hangs back. There's no crying in Warhammer.
Now, will the warrior priest be among the strongest fighters? No, of course not. Though, he will be very difficult to kill because he can rebound from damage and purge debuffs. Since he can buff everyone in his party with his continuous blessings, he is likely to be a rallying point for his group. However, his most damaging blows come only when he has built up a reserve of righteous fury through combat and chosen not to spend it on his party's health. It is a trade-off the warrior priest must constantly assess based on the needs of his group.
Righteous Fury!GS: We understand that instead of using a reserve of magic energy to cast spells, the warrior priest gathers "inspiration," which can then be used to heal or strengthen companions. Tell us how this system works and about some of the abilities the priest can use by expending inspiration.
SM: Well, inspiration is a good description, but we call it righteous fury, and it is a combination of faith, rage, and indignation. Righteous fury is built up through the use of combat abilities, and this pool is used to increase the effectiveness of other powers. The abilities that use righteous fury include heals, group heals, some of his buffs, and some of his more devastating attacks. In addition, as his righteous fury builds, his blessings can become more powerful, even inspiring friendly troops outside his group.
GS: We understand that the team is building a substantial body of content into the game based on Warhammer lore. Tell us about how the warrior priest class fares against monsters and on quests.
SM: The warrior priest will undoubtedly be one of the favored careers for solo play because of his self-sufficiency. He can fight, he can buff and heal himself, and much of it doesn't even require specific casting. He particularly enjoys fighting Chaos but is at home against any foe. He will have more difficulty with ranged attackers, however, as he has few ranged abilities of his own. The warrior priest likes to stand toe-to-toe with his enemies and let his hammers do the honor.
GS: But as we know, Warhammer Online encourages competitive "realm-versus-realm" play alongside more-traditional "player-versus-environment" play. Tell us how the warrior priest fits into competitive play and also how this class complements the Empire's other professions.
SM: The warrior priest will probably hate fighting Squig herders, with their seemingly endless supply of pets and arrows. Stand and fight, you miserable vermin! Other than that, he is quite competitive. The Empire classes complement each other just slightly more than the careers of the other realms; the Destruction races just never learned to get along and cooperate in more than a desultory fashion.
The blessings of the warrior priest are especially potent in the fast pace of RVR in Warhammer Online. Because they operate continuously and without any specific action required by the warrior priest, you never have to worry about him "forgetting" to buff you in the thick of the action. Just stay close and reap the benefits.
GS: Now that the warrior priest and the already-revealed witch hunter, bright wizard, and knight of the blazing sun classes are out in the open, tell us about how these characters will come together to give the Empire a distinctive character on the battlefield. Considering that the Empire is composed of humans, is this perhaps the most balanced of factions, or do they favor magic or melee combat? Given the distinct abilities of its character classes, what kind of unique strategies do you see Empire armies using once the game is released?
SM: Many other games consider humans to be the default race, usually with the most options but the fewest special abilities. Warhammer Online, and Warhammer in general, doesn't really subscribe to that notion. In Warhammer, the humans are actually the latecomers, and only their fecundity and the strength of desperation keeps them from slipping over the brink of extinction. They have unique careers like all other races and work for the same things: power, wealth, and renown. What humans are very good at is working in concert, much like dwarfs. However, whereas dwarfs are superb when sticking together on the defense, humans are better at sticking together on the offense.
The Empire's on FireGS: From what we've seen, the Empire is essentially a medieval European kingdom paved with cobblestone roads, but one that's on fire from Chaos raids. Tell us about the layout and ecology of the Empire faction's lands.
Doug Woolsey: The Empire owes much of its base visual identity to medieval (and Tudor) Europe, but it levies a host of fantasy elements unique to Warhammer. The streets of Altdorf (seat of the Empire), for example, are twisting corridors of tightly packed houses and crooked towers that loom drunkenly over the city. At first glance, the architecture looks to be done in the Tudor style, but upon closer examination it certainly takes on a look of its own. It's grimy and crooked in a way that speaks to the grim aspect of the Empire. The warped architecture is enhanced by morbid flourishes of skulls, banners, laurel wreathes, and crossed bones. The prevalent use of skulls and bones in a decorative fashion is reflective of the pervasive feeling of doom that hangs over the Empire in the Age of Reckoning. Chaos invaders approach from the north, and the greenskins rampage through Black Fire Pass. The land is wracked by plague, and, in what is heralded as a terrible omen, Morrslieb, the Chaos moon, has turned red. As if that were not enough, beneath the cities and towns of the Empire lurk giant rats that walk on two legs! It is as if the end times have come and the pall of grim death stalks the land.
Living under the constant threat of utter destruction has taken its toll, of course. Empire folk are suspicious of just about everything and see signs of impending doom everywhere they look. Add to this suspicion humanity's propensity for corruption, and you've got the Empire in a nutshell.
Amid all this gloom and doom, however, it's faith that keeps the Empire together. While many gods are prayed to in the Empire, Sigmar is perhaps the most popular, the patron of the Empire and its people. When ill winds blow across the Empire, it's the iconic warrior priests of Sigmar that lead the call to faith in the time of darkness.
GS: Also, could you give us a general update on the game's development status? What aspects of the game are the team working on at the moment?
SM: At the moment, the design team is working on refining the Empire and Chaos careers and using what we have learned during the process to go back and further improve the dwarf and greenskin careers. We are about to do a big push on the user interface, both for PVE combat and for RVR combat. We've also begun to lay the groundwork for some interesting new features for guilds.
DW: The world development team is busy working on getting the final tiers of content in for Empire and Chaos. This includes work on the capital cities of Altdorf and the Inevitable City. We have also begun work on our quest and encounter plans for the high elf and dark elf zones, as well as firming up our visual goals for those zones. It's a very exciting time for us!
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the warrior priest, the Empire faction, or about Warhammer Online in general?
SM: The warrior priest is perfect for the player who wants to be an effective healer and buffer without sacrificing himself to those activities exclusively. If your groupmates complain about you getting into the thick of things, you can point out that if you do not, you won't be able to heal or buff nearly as well. I think we've managed to create a character that not only works well in a massively multiplayer online game, but also holds true to the original Warhammer concept. The great thing about Warhammer is that it is a one-stop shop for inspiration for our work. It has 25 years of success behind it, and there's always something we can use every time we return to the source.
DW: The warrior priest is one of the greatest characters in Warhammer Online. We use them in the quests and encounters to tell stories of hope amid desperation--a plotline that, for the Empire, finds its climax in their perilous journey through the Chaos Wastes. Warrior priests also make great targets for Destruction players. Who knows? Maybe a Chaos player could find a lone warrior priest wandering Reikland preaching the good name of Sigmar. And perhaps that renegade warrior priest would go by the name of Luthor Huss. It's just an idea...
GS: Thank you, gentlemen.