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The Digital Continuum: Dark Elf days in WAR

Kyle Horner

So we've gotten official approval to speak our minds early and often about the Dark Elf (High Elves too, but bollocks to Order, I say!) experience in tier one and two as much as we like. That led me to decide that it would be fun to give you my personal take on them. Especially considering that in the not-so-distant past I made my worries about Warhammer Online very well known. As worrisome as Mythic's decision to remove four cities and four -- but in reality, two -- classes made me before, I'm happy to say that overall my experience with the early Dark Elf starting zone has been a positive one.

From the moment you enter Warhammer Online as a level one Dark Elf surrounded by Black Arks and clanging metal, you'll be made to feel like an evil and menacing figure. This is done in various ways and I'm glad to say that it's never undone. One way Mythic invests you into your character is the first quest you ever receive and it's going to put a smile on a lot of your faces, unless you're an Order player. If you're an Order or player, you'll probably want to run into my sword for Malekith's sake. Trust me, it's really all for the best.

So what's the first Dark Elf quest, exactly? Kill your treacherous brethren in the name of the true Phoenix King, Malekith. Oh- and don't forget to enjoy yourself.

It doesn't stop there. Why would it? Not a couple of quests later you'll find yourself mesmerizing (via dark magical crystal) and subsequently capturing a High Elf so that you can throw him into a pit of slaves consisting of skeletons, corpses and other quavering captures still clinging to their hopeless existence. Pretty awesome, right? That's just the beginning. You'll get to raid libraries in order to find forbidden knowledge and release a particularly vicious beast onto unsuspecting victims. My personal favorite quest involves a certain High Elf pet classes' animal companion and your delightfully requested incisive action upon them.

All of this intoxicating madness is set during an epic-sized Dark Elf invasion, too. The followers of Malekith are determined to win back their original homeland, Ulthuan and enslave all of their snobbish, haughty and foolish brethren. In other words, you're playing within the middle of a brutal and bloody civil war. This is the kind of thing you'd expect to see at the tail end of a leveling experience in any other MMORPG but it's staring you in the face right after character creation in this game. This vicious in-fighting at your earliest presence in-game is sublimely beneficial towards cementing the fact that war truly is everywhere in Warhammer Online.

After the smallest amount of Dark Elf questing, you'll encounter your first Public Quest. It begins with you and masses of other evil yet pale Elven players killing off the equivalent of priests and protectors. These men and women are guarding something very important and you soon discover that it happens to be a weakened Sun Dragon. You see, the Dark Elves are so insatiably ruthless that they'd much rather stab at the heart of a pitifully weakened dragon than at one of a stronger and healthier Dragon. It really just makes more sense to them and adds that decidedly delicious sinister touch. Plus, the best part of it all is that you receive several elective rewards in the form of potions, green armors and eventually very nice blue pieces of equipment from participating in the unadulterated slaughter-fest. All Public Quests are designed this way. They consistently offer up choices among rewards, which is an excellent feature considering it's a rare occasion that everyone is satisfied by the same thing. I happen to love brand new 'stabby-pointies', myself.

You don't experience this civil war through PvE content alone -- of which there is plenty -- you also take this arguably exquisite war between brother and sister to the RvR battlegrounds and instanced Scenarios. The lovely thing about Scenarios is that they can be accessed directly on your user interface and from anywhere in the area that they're set in. This allows you to keep playing at your preferred pace while waiting on some good old objection-based PvP gameplay to start up. One of the things I noticed while playing through the first tier of Warhammer Online's Dark Elves is that you can mix and match your gameplay as you see fit. The game won't punish you for it. In fact, it almost feels like it's happy to oblige. I often found myself participating in Public Quests while waiting for a Scenario to fill up. Plus, as an added bonus, the game drops you back where you were once the Scenario is finished. It's all very slick.

All right, so here's the negative paragraph. Even with all the great things that I experienced in the Dark Elf starting zone, I could definitely feel a void where the Black Guard should have been. Unfortunately, the loss of the Black Guard and Choppa is made to seem worse having seen the art and read the concept designs for both classes. I know these guys could have been -- or are going to be -- awesome. I was planning on playing both of them, actually. One as my main and the other my secondary. Although, I'm probably in the minority there. While I can't speak to the Choppa -- seeing as how Greenskins are still under NDA -- I can say that I never even got a chance to play-test the "raw meat and potatoes-stuffed" Black Guard. Thankfully, the lack of a Dark Elf tank doesn't break the game. Far from it really, since all the classes are surprisingly flexible within reason in concern to their core role. Essentially, Warhammer Online seems to be balanced enough to handle the lack of a core class, which is a testament to the balancing Mythic has done up to this point. You can bet that I'll be waiting patiently for the day when we get our "Black Guard" patch, though.

So here are my initial thoughts summed up: Dark Elves -- so far -- are a wonderfully fun race set in a creatively crafted MMO with some rough edges. A whole lot of what's been promised is there, though: Public Quests, smart kill quests, cleverly entertaining quests, the Tome of Knowledge, open world RvR and engaging Scenarios. Within the first five or eight levels you're going to see and experience all of these things. Thankfully, there's still more for me (and you) to experience. I haven't yet gotten to experience living guilds, city raids, high-level RvR and or high-level Public Quests. Lets not forget the other two Destruction factions, either. So consider this a tentative thumbs-up and watch Massively over the next week or two for plenty more discussion on the game.

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