That element is the Public Quest. There's a great explanation of what Public Quests are over at the official Warhammer site, but there aren't a lot of gorey details. What's it like to complete one, for example? How long does it take to fill up your influence bar, and how do you get loot after the PQ finishes? We had the chance to play through two early-level Public Quests during our time at EA Mythic, and we're here to report back. Read on below for details on all of the above, plus a reflection on the question "Why Public Quests?"
Participating in a Public Quest is so easy, it's worth it to repeat the experience. The first time you jump into one, though, you probably won't realize what's going on right away. A simple, unobtrusive goals window pops up in the upper-left hand corner of the screen. It'll let you know what the goal of the quest's current phase is, and how much has already been accomplished. Though later PQs can get extremely complex, early game goals are incredibly easy. The first quest we had the chance to take on was described quite artfully by Paul Barnett in the famous "bears, bears, bears" production video. Very close to the Greenskins' starting warcamp there's a flat, low area right near a bridge leading to a Stunty fortress. Darn dwarves, always going underground just when the fun begins.
The Dwarves just won't come out and play, no matter how many times you ask nicely. So instead, you'll have to do some persuading. There's this great honking giant wandering around, who'd be a big help in this encounter. To get him on your side, you'll need to do a bit of legwork first. So, first order of business is to kill 30 squigs, which should be enough to get the giant out of his foul temper.
The Squigs come in several different puke-variety colors, rotted and fetid teeth poking upwards from their grinning maws. Despite their hellish appearance, they go down easy, like Suntory. Those reprobates out of the way, the only thing remaining is to find payment for your massive stooge. Thankfully, a nearby dwarven encampment has just what the doctor ordered: many, many kegs of beer. Wrestling the kegs around summons more squigs, which you'll likely want to slay as well.
The giant's annoyance salved and his thirst quenched, he moves forward with grim purpose. He grasps a massive bomb and walks it straight into the enormous doors of the dwarven fortress. Rightly peeved, the commander comes stalking out with his personal guard of Ironbeard dwarves. He orders the attack, and several waves of Dwarven soldiery comes rushing at you across the bridge. They're stout-hearted, but surely no match for Greenskin blades. That pushes the commander over the edge, and he rushes you with his elite guard at his heels. Their end is ... not pretty.
The first Public Quest in the High Elf area is even more simple than that. Valiant High Elven soldiers are desperately trying to hold back the onslaught of some Dark Elven attackers, and they need your help. Pitching in and clearing out the problem prompts the corrupt elven leader to send out some heavy artillery: a many-headed Hydra. The creature is enormous, and very tough. Luckily, the High Elves have some artillery of their own: ballistae, very conveniently placed within firing distance of the Hydra. Pumping the creature's scaly hide full of massive bolts is incredibly rewarding, and should see you contemplating your rewards soon enough.
At the end of every public quest, the participants are ranked by their level of participation. Characters that slew more baddies, did more damage to bosses, or turned in more items will be placed higher on the list. The results of this tabulation are put up on a leaderboard screen that pops up. The higher you are on the list, the better you've done. The top participants not only get to feel good about a job well done, they're likely about to be rewarded. Divvying out loot from a PQ is done by a random roll.
The catch is that the top participants on the leaderboard get significant bonuses to their rolls. The result is that everyone has a chance to earn a prize, but the people who put in the most time will be most likely to get the big rewards. While the roll is random, the loot is anything but. As in almost every case where you're given a reward in Warhammer, the loot you have access to is tailored to your class and the difficulty of the PQ. Winning rollers receive loot bags, inside of which are several shiny options. Players get to choose one item (be it armor, a weapon, or even just coin) that they want the most.
Folks who lost the roll-off need not worry, because they'll be rewarded as well. Nearby every public quest is an Influence vendor, a guy who's been watching your progress in the PQ and liked what he saw. Every time you participate in a given Public Quest, your influence rises. You can check your influence by looking into the Tome of Knowledge, getting the background on the PQ while checking your progress. At certain cutoff points, various items become available at the influence vendor. Lower influence items might be consumables like potions, while mid-tier items are likely solid level-appropriate weapons and armor; possible replacements if you've got a piece getting stale on your paper doll, but nothing to right home about.
Maxing out your influence, though, nets you a high-stat item dependent entirely on your class. High stat items are also the best rewards you can get from PQ loot bags, meaning you could end up with several high stat items just from participating in one Public Quest. At higher levels, it will take you some effort to earn the influence required to nab those rewards, but at the low levels we played at there was very little between your character and those high-stat items. Just two successful runs through the Greenskin PQ maxed out our influence bar, and sent us sprinting for the vendor.
You may be asking yourself now, "what's the point?" Why bother with all of this, given that you can get this basic sort of experience through a series of regular old quests. You can even get the nice loot, right? It's just a matter of itemizing the quests correctly.
When we spoke to Jeff Hickman last week, he cut to the heart of the issue. Jeff said, "I truly feel that Public Quests are absolutely revolutionary in the industry. Again, a hard thing to show because ... it's not that they're hard to get into, but they feel best as you progress through the game. As you're doing your quests and unlocking your tome, doing some crafting, doing your thing ... then boom you step into your first Public Quest and it's like 'oh!'"
While we're not sure the word revolutionary is rightly applied here, PQs are easily one of the most compelling things about Warhammer Online. The reason? Quite simply, Public Quests are raids without the bullcrap. They're getting together with other people to do something epic, having fun as a big bunch of people, and not having to wait on one guy for you to have fun. That seems to be the implicit question Public Quests throw out: "Why can't we have fun as a group without fear of jerks?"
The result, in our admittedly limited experience, is amazingly well realized. PQs combine the best parts of raids, reputation grinds, lore quests, scripted encounters, and human behavior into one wholesome experience. There are apparently over 300 of them in the game, and our hope is that significant resources will be spent after launch to keep new Public Quests coming in our direction. In this blogger's opinion, they represent everything great about the MMO genre. PQs, alone, are going to be worth checking out WAR when it drops this fall.
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