Massively goes to WAR: Every Warhammer class explained

Last week Massively.com had the chance to sit with developers Adam Gershowitz and Josh Drescher during our visit to EA Mythic. There for a tour of Warhammer Online in its entirety, we'd already covered the innovative Engineer and Shaman classes. The morning was quickly running out, and to compensate for the sheer amount of information we needed to pile through our demonstrators went into overdrive. For roughly an hour we moved quickly from class to class, visiting the highpoints of several different types of gameplay. Much of our discussion explored the karmic doppelgangers across classes; different races entirely that share similar roles or playstyles.

As our weeklong series - Massively goes to WAR - rolls on, read below for crunchy game details on every single class in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. At the end of the piece, check out the designers' take on why the Skaven (among other races) aren't in the game. And, if you're a fan of the recently announced White Lion class, make doubly sure to look below, because we have a few great details that should make you very, very well pleased ...

The key element that Drescher and Gershowitz tried to get across was that, despite these classes having many common elements, classes that share similar features might have completely different roles in the game. The best example they mentioned during our time together was our first pairing up for discussion: the White Lion and the Squig Herder.

The Squig Herder and The White Lion
  • The pet is, of course, the signature element of these two classes. Squig Herders get a frothing toothy creepy ball of puss as their charge. White Lions get majestic hunting cats.
  • Despite similarities, the two classes have completely different roles. Squig herders are skirmish fighters. The White Lion is more of a melee/brawler.
  • Masteries for the Squig Herder include long ranged attacks, skirmish (movement-based) attacks, and close-range attacks. This flexibility allows for a versatile class, but Herder attacks tend to be a bit on the weaker side. Their weakness is more than offset with a Squig at their side.
  • Pets have various AI states (aggressive, defensive), plus the ability to trigger specific abilities.
  • There's is a distinct pet associated with each of the spec lines. Long-ranged specialists will have a 'brawler' squig, skirmish pets have shoot-and-scoot abilities, and the close-attack specialist will get a PBAoE "farting" pet. The White Lion will have similar pet specializations ... though likely no farting great cats.
  • The White Lion, unlike the Herder, is a brawler aided by a pet. About this class, Adam says, "The pet's attacks work a lot like a Chaos Marauder's. The Lion himself debuffs his targets so the pet can do more damage. He has a pet that can distract his targets so he can move around and do more situational damage. He has abilities where he can do wide sweeps, his pet will attack his target and he'll attack his pet's target, and they'll cross over. Classes with pets tradeoff by being slightly less effective on their own. Without their pet they're not nearly as effective as the classes that don't have one."
  • A favorite White Lion ability: the pet runs up to an opponent and then tosses him backwards into the air to land at the player's feet for easy melee.
  • The designers are very much aiming to have pets usable in every situation.
The Black Orc and the Swordmaster
  • The Black Orc has actually changed quite a bit over the course of Beta. The orc is still a brawler, but the concept is now 'the smart brawler.' As the biggest and most tactically sound of the Greenskins, the Black Orc doesn't just hit people. He has 'da plan'.
  • Fast attacks set up combos. "Clobber? Uhh ... that's a good plan. Think I'll trip him up ... ah, dat's da best plan! Skullthumper to finish."
  • This stepped combo chain is very similar to the Swordmaster class, the Black Orc's karmic doppelganger.
  • The Swordmaster is hella fast, in comparison to the Orc's power. He'll hit you three or four times for each part of his combo.
  • The swordmaster will whittle down defenses a little bit at a time, while the Orc will drop them for a split second with a single powerful blow.
  • Swordmaster uses magical enchantments to improve abilities for a brief amount of time, while the Orc uses warcries and battlecries to buff himself and his allies during an encounter.
  • UI cues will show the player which stage of 'da plan' or the Swordmaster's dance he's in (similar to the UI elements behind the Shaman's Waaugh.)
  • This is one of the simpler mechanics in the game, making both of these classes more new-player friendly.
The Ironbreaker and the Blackguard
  • Ironbreakers have the "Grudge" mechanic. Their combat experience is all about building up grudge, anger at pain inflicted upon you or a party member. Adam compares the feel loosely to that of a World of Warcraft Warrior, with the key difference being that allies being hit cause Grude to build up as well.
  • Their mastery lines are: The Path of Stone (defensive abilities that spend grudge, throw yourself in front of opponents), The Path of Vengeance (offensive abilities, attacks grow more powerful as you hold onto grudge).
  • The "Buddy system" is a system used by many of the Tank classes. Here, the Ironbreaker has his Oathfriend; the Black Orc is mentioned as using a similar mechanic. Essentially it's a good way to have multiple tanks collaborating. "Offtanks" can assist the main tank by buffing up offensive or defensive abilities.
  • The Blackguard has Hatred, which is a 'flipped' mechanic. You gain hatred through your attacks and the attacks of your allies. By expending hatred powers are more powerfully offensive, by holding in hatred they play more defensively.
The Rune Priest and the Zealot
  • The Rune Priest is another class that's evolved a lot since early beta. The class was originally "crazy complex".
  • The class's main ability is the Oath Rune: it's an hour-long buff that also grants the other player a temporary ability. You can have up to five of them out at a time within your party. Good for giving out abilities that classes are weak on (PBAoEs for tanks, healing, etc.). Another Rune allows for self rezzing, but the priest can only have one of those out at a time.
  • Zealots use a similar system called 'Marks of Chaos'.
  • Both classes are 'flex healers'. The three mastery paths include offensive and defensive elements all within each line. What you're choosing along the paths are what kind of spells you'll be specializing in. One offers many bonuses to direct debuffs, direct damage, direct heals. one path offers Damage over Time, Heal over time abilities. The final path focuses on AoE attacks and heals.
  • These are the classes that are for folks who want to play 'pure priests'.
The Warrior Priest and the Disciple of Khaine
  • These classes are all about wading into combat and healing at the same time. They crack skulls, have a lot of AoE heals, group heals, and life taps. The Warrior Priest builds up a righteous fury by attacking, which can then be converted into healing power.
  • The Disciple builds up essence in much the same manner. Khaine is a greedy god, so he's not going to grant you boons unless you kill, murder, and steal life force in his name.
The Choppa and the Hammerer
  • "We're not really talking about their mechanic right now," says Adam. They're still "under the hood", but the general class role is that of the momentum berserker-brawler. They build up fury, bounce from target to target, destroying all in their paths.
The Bright Wizard and the Sorceress
  • Theses two are the classic "Glass Cannons" we think of as wizards in MMOs. They amazing damage from range, but they have to balance that by playing with dangerous forces.
  • The Bright Wizard has "combustion". The more spells he casts, the more powerful his spells become, but he has to watch his gauge ... if he's near the top one wrong spell can cause massive explosions. The caster here can actually be a hindrance to the group if the caster isn't being careful.
  • The Sorceress is almost identical, only she wields dark magic instead of pyroclastic fury.
The Witch Hunter and the Witch Elf
  • Both of these classes are are roguish positional DPS types. They use a combo points system, building up chains of attacks with big finishers that do massive damage.
  • The biggest difference between the two is that the Hunter has his gun. The elf uses poisons, damage over time effects, debuffs, and elixirs that self-buff her.
  • Jeff Hickman's favorite class.
The Chosen and the Knights of the Blazing Sun
  • These classes are heavy tanks, but with a split. In some ways they have mechanics that act somewhat like the Swordmaster, in that they enhance their attacks through magic.
  • The other major Chosen component is the Aura. Chosen can have can have up to three Dread auras active at a time, looping. The auras pulse out effects to surrounding players, some beneficial for allies, some detrimental for opponents. Some even do both; acting as a buff for you and debuff for everyone else.
  • The Knight has shouted commands, which operate in much the same vein.
The Maruader and the Shadow Warrior
  • These two classes have roles very similar to the Squig Herder/White Lion. The Shadow Warrior is a skirmishing character, Marauder is a straight-up brawler.
  • The Shadow Warrior has stances which can lead to very powerful attacks. The tradeoff is that he has to pick and choose what abilities he is focusing on at any given time.
  • Shadow Warrior mastery paths naturally move the character in one of three directions. Again, they'll be familiar to Squig Herder fans.
  • The Marauder is a Brawler, pure and simple. Says Adam: "He gets in your face and just punches you repeatedly, rends through armor, starts debuffing a single target. He has a straight up single-damage line sort of positional attack, he can slide around and jab you. Then he also has the melee AoE line, which is a bunch of broad sweeps that hit a number of people in front of him."
  • Full details on the Marauder can be found in our Spotlight on the Chaos Marauder article.
The Goblin Shaman and the High Elf Archmage
The Dwarven Engineer and the Chaos Magus
That, then, are all of the classes in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. At least, all of the classes that will be out at launch. We had to ask Adam and Josh, while we had the chance: out of all the IP material that isn't in the game yet, do you have a sense of what fans are missing most?

Josh: Obviously there are going to be vocal factions for whatever we don't have in the game. The minute we announced what races we are doing, we started getting petitioned by the Britonnian faction. The Skaven people have always been very vocal, and if you play a Lizardman army you're a Lizardman through and through. Anybody who has ever had an affection for the IP is going to have a core opinion of what needs to be there. We tried to target the races that we thought were most appropriate for the type of game that we're making. They help to establish a core element of the world, forming a coherent view.

We wanted to choose careers that built on that legitimate view of "this vs. that." There are a couple of places throughout the IP that have a tradition, a coherent sense of conflict. We picked three of them. There really is a traditional foe for these guys, there really is a sense of why they'd be doing this. There are plenty of races and classes we could have chosen, the Skaven are an obvious example. But they don't really make as much sense from the point of view of Realm vs. Realm. They're more like an infestation. A lot of those choices were made for practical reasons, some were made for aesthetic reasons.

We do have preferences, Mark definitely had preferences. But we had to pick, in the end. And we hear you guys every day, we hear you.

"We tried to target the races that we thought were most appropriate for the type of game that we're making. They help to establish a core element of the world, forming a coherent view."

Adam: An example of that is the good old Slayer, right? He was in a lot of our early artwork, but when we tried to make a class out of him he sort of started falling apart. When your whole intent and purpose is to give up all worldly possessions, throw yourself into battle, and then die ... it makes things hard. It raises questions like itemization, what happens when you die? There were issues with that. When it came down to it, we took some of the most popular elements from GW lore, miniature sales, that sort of thing. The one thing that Josh didn't mention was that we tried to take the races that were key Warhammer originals. Skaven, ogres, everything else ... those came after. Dwarves, Orcs, Empire, High Elves, Dark Elves, Chaos - those were all there day one. That weighed heavily into our and GW's decision. We polled them for what they wanted ...

Josh: "Nothing but Haflings and Chaos Dwarves!"

Adam: Big hats.


Warhammer Online Coverage Did you enjoy this? Make sure to check out all of our previous Warhammer Online coverage, and don't miss any of the rest of the articles in this series as Massively goes to WAR!
This article was originally published on Massively.