Choose My Adventure: Marching off to WAR

The readers have spoken! More specifically, the fans of Warhammer Online have spoken, and so the game is my destination for the next several weeks. And what a surprising speech it was, especially given that I, my editor, and my co-workers all assumed that with RIFT on the ballot we might as well just close up the voting after half a day. But the forum thread on the official boards kept people coming over and voting, and thus I'm heading over into the world of Order and Chaos.

I'm glad to see Warhammer Online as the selection, as it's long been a game and setting that I've found interesting even though it's never quite made it on my list of things to play next. The game has certainly seen its fair share of hardship over the past several years, so it's going to be interesting to take a look at the game as it exists now. So click on past the break to start me down the path that leads me into the game and check out my usual disconnected ramblings.

Watching the poll was absolutely fascinating because it was one of those great races with an obvious frontrunner and a complete turnaround. After the first day of voting, it looked like RIFT had the game in the bag -- but truth be told, I was already impressed with how many votes WAR had managed to pick up. I had expected it to trail heartily, but after the second day of voting, a thread went up on the official message boards for WAR and ahead it went, winding up with nearly half the total votes.

Here we shed a single tear for Free Realms. Not only did the game lose, but it managed to come in behind even Sword 2, which I expected to get a dozen votes at most.

I will note that the comments made it clear a lot of people were also interested in seeing an opinion on RIFT now that the game has been out for a while and the novelty has died down a bit. Perhaps it'll be on one of the subsequent polls for the column series, but for now, it's been left beaten and broken by the zealotry of WAR (although you can catch up on our RIFT experts' ongoing thoughts in our weekly column Enter at Your Own Rift). So enough nattering about the losers of the batch -- on to the struggle marking the Age of Reckoning.

Launched in September 2008, WAR has subsequently become pretty much the first bullet point in any list of reasons that launch impressions don't necessarily translate further on down the line. The game's launch reviews were spectacular, praising the depth of PvP, the strength of public quests, and the game's overall aesthetic and design. Unfortunately, the game's launch hype had promised a number of features that didn't turn out to be implemented to anyone's satisfaction. (For reference, I shall acknowledge bears.)

The game peaked at a high of about 1.2 million players, after which the population began falling off, servers began merging, and interest began dropping. If you want a list of reasons WAR rose and fell so quickly -- enough to be labeled a "failure" by most pundits and hangers-on -- you can find no shortage of explanations. Balance issues in PvP, factional balance, lack of a third faction, lackluster PvE content, hype crashing back to reality, too much focus on PvP, not enough open PvP, bears... the list goes on.

As has been pointed out before, however, the game is not a failure in the sense that it's still running. Players are still in the game, and if the poll demonstrated anything it's that the players involved are still passionate about the game. And the game's open factional warfare is the closest thing we've gotten to Dark Age of Camelot in many ways -- you might not be on a PvP server, and you might not be at risk for constant ganking, but you are in an environment defined by the conflict of players, and sooner or later you're going to have to take up arms against another person.

See, I like that. I don't like an open PvP environment because it's generally the opportunity for a bunch of bullied nerds to log in and be bullies to others, something that I will no doubt talk about at length in the future. But I like the thrill of PvP combat, the test of skill, even learning better techniques from watching others take you out. The blend in WAR always appealed to me, even as other games took away the majority of my attention.

Plus, I've always liked the Warhammer universe. It's a neat subversion of standard fantasy, the type in which the villains are every bit as bad as they're made out to be but the heroes aren't really a whole lot better because they're so hopelessly extreme. There's no moderation, no compromise, nothing but a relentless need to grind down all who oppose you until they stand no taller than ashes.

So it's time for me to start in on the mayhem, but I can't do it on my own. Or more accurately, I won't do it on my own, because this is Choose My Adventure, not Watch Me Choose An Adventure And Then Come Back To Read About It Anyway. So let me know how I'm going to get this party started with the polls below, and check back in next week to see how my inaugural bout of WAR went. Until then, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go get some Rise Against albums to play on loop.

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What happens next in Eliot Lefebvre's adventure? It all depends on the choices you make on Choose My Adventure! What path will he choose? Only you can determine that! And the best part is that you can keep reading every Wednesday until you've made not one but several different choices for him!
This article was originally published on Massively.