Waging WAR: Coming soon, to a theatre of WAR near you

We interrupt this week's scheduled career spotlight on Waging WAR to bring you Greg's impressions of the latest and greatest news from the floors of GamesDay: UK regarding Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and the new RvR content coming soon to a theatre of WAR near you.

OK. So. Take everything you know about the Tier 4 RvR Campaign in WAR and press the "Delete" button right now. In fact, press it a few times. Actually, keep going. Keep pressing it until all you're left with is three pairings with three zones each, each zone containing four battlefield objectives and two keeps, and two cities as the capstone for each realm. OK. Now access that part of your brain that stores silly words and euphemisms regarding "the problem with WAR." See that entry for "Waithammer?" Delete it. "PvDoor?" Press the button. Actually, just go wild. Take every criticism you've ever had for WAR's endgame and just throw it out. We're talking total tabula rasa here (and not the ill-fated game). OK, stop. That should do. With an open mind and absolutely no knowledge of in-game mechanics, you're now primed to understand what I'm about to describe regarding the changes that are on their way, and more importantly, why I believe those changes are so critical to the glorious future of WAR.

If your curiosity is even remotely piqued, click the "Read more" button.

My understanding of the new battlefield objectives is that they will be no more than a set of four unguarded flags in each of the pairing zones -- essentially what they are now, minus the timers and locks. It would make sense to imagine them without the NPC guards as well, but that's a stretch. In all the research and information pooling I've been able to do, none of my sources (Producer's Letter, WAR Aura, Official Forums, Bruglir, and Bootae) has anything to say about NPC guards at battlefield objectives. For now, I'll assume that they've all up and gone to their respective homes, leaving the objectives completely unguarded. In order to keep the objectives you'll have to defend them yourself, and they'll require nothing short of constant vigil. Once they're captured, the objectives will start generating resources, and with enough resources, the game will spawn a new type of NPC whose only purpose is to deliver the resources to the warcamp of the controlling realm. The resources the NPC carries can be stolen by the enemy realm by intercepting and killing the carrier. That's it. Pretty simple, eh?

Let's consider for a moment what kind of impact these new objectives and resources will have on how we will play the game in the future. Strategically speaking, for each objective, we'll need two teams: one for defense and one for escort, at the very least. Otherwise, our resources could be constantly intercepted, or we might lose the objective altogether. If we assume each team is composed of six people, then we effectively have two warbands in the field, one of which is constantly moving in four different directions, while the other is spread over four stationary areas, and that's just the friendlies.

I hope that the picture I'm trying to draw in your head is starting to look like a real game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, in which squad-based, small-scale battles will break out all over the map, sometimes overlapping, but with each squad assigned its own orders and direction. Imagine the possibilities for optimal squad make-up: Would four tanks and two healers for objective defense be more effective than, say, a squad of engineers? I wonder how much stacked healing a six-pack of Bugman's Finest can do for a party of drunken dwarves with itchy trigger fingers? Throw in a handful of turrets and the proposed 20% turret synergy buff coming for engineers in the next patch. Top it all off with more landmines and grenades than you would ever want to shake a stick at, a lifetime supply of napalm-glazed marshmallows, and enough barbed wire to reach the moon. Heck, throw in a single electromagnet for laughs. My gold piece is on the stunties -- nothing is touching that flag. Nothing. And until now, such a squad would have had no purpose.

But that's enough about battlefield objectives for now. Let's talk about the new Keeps. Thanks to the mind-wipe we did before the cut, your mental image of a keep should be that of a large building, with two separate staircases leading to the second floor, three floors, and a big wall surrounding it all. There are two doors -- one on the outer wall, one on the inner keep -- providing the only means for entrance or exit. That's exactly what you should be picturing, anyway.

When the new keeps come out though, the Keep Lord and his/her retinue will have resigned and left behind a single, simple flag with a 30-second capture timer. The keeps will start with a full complement of ready-to-use, fully functional and exceptionally deadly defensive siege equipment, and the doors will be impervious to all but two very specific sources of damage. Each keep also comes equipped with a state-of-the-art anti-resurrection aura that will prevent attackers from being resurrected inside the outer wall while the outer door stands. A second anti-resurrection aura serves as backup in the keep itself until the inner door falls.

The keeps will upgrade through five ranks as resources are gathered from the battlefield objectives. The first two ranks provide bonuses to the carriers, starting with armor and followed by a mount. At rank three, new offensive siege equipment is unlocked that can be carried by anyone and deployed anywhere on the battlefield (that's right, no more siege pads) and that is indestructible by all but two sources of damage (one of which is enemy siege weaponry). Take it to an enemy BO for an assault. Drop one off at a friendly BO for defense. Take a ram (one of only two sources of damage capable of destroying Keep doors) to the enemy keep. Take some siege equipment to a riverbank somewhere and try to figure out a way to use it to mine for fish. The point is that you will be able to take this new offensive siege weaponry anywhere you want and use it to deliver pain in hefty, siege-sized helpings in as many new and interesting ways as you can imagine.

At rank four, the keeps will spawn more offensive siege apparati along with Aerial Bombers. These griffon or manticore flying mounts will follow pre-determined rails over objectives, battlefield choke points, and finally the enemy's keep itself, and they have a GTAE bomb ability that will deliver terrible, terrible damage to ground targets. Players flying on these mounts will also be able to parachute off the mount at any time -- even over the enemy keep. Finally, keep rank five will unlock more bombers and more offensive siege hardware.

This is all part of the regular campaign. When players capture the enemy keep flag, the zone is captured and locked. All three pairings will be required to gain access to the city, which remains the same as it is now (i.e., extremely fun, dynamic, and loaded with renown and gear).

As before, let's consider for a moment how all of this will change the current RvR landscape and how battles might look and feel in the very near future. Close your eyes and imagine a battlefield being rocked by explosions everywhere from ground siege and bombers overhead. Constantly reinforced and highly defended keeps endlessly pour fresh troops onto the battlefield. Paratroopers float gently to the ground behind enemy lines while their flying mounts crash in a heap after taking anti-air ordinance to the face (or beak, in some cases). Suddenly, WAR is starting to look like war. And it will be glorious.

The cherry on top of this delicious RvR cake is the addition of playable Skaven! That's right, I said it. It's confirmed, official, full of win, and now with extra details! Sadly, I can't talk about them in this column because I've run out of space! However, I will say this: Hulking, monstrous rat ogres will be the only other force capable of damaging keep doors aside from rams. Permanently stealthed, fast-moving gutter-runners will be the only other way to sabotage and destroy enemy siege weaponry aside from friendly siege equipment itself. Conniving, supportive pack masters will be the only way to heal rat ogres. And devious, defense-building, warpflame-throwing warlock engineers will be the only way to repair destroyed siege hardware (will I be forced to eat my own words?). Oh, and Screaming Bells!

The future of WAR will be fresh, new, and exciting, and testing starts in October! Keep your browser locked onto the Herald and the Developer Forum for updates as news, more details, and fresh updates pour in over the next few weeks.

I know that's a lot to take in for now, so stew on it for a bit and get back to me with a comment below.
Every Saturday afternoon, Waging WAR hits the cover of Massively with the latest and greatest in all things Warhammer Online. From patch news to career reviews, Greg Waller writes about it all. Email comments and questions to greg@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.