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Anti-Aliased: WAR, huh, what is it good for?


Well, Warhammer Online, in the very least, let me get away with putting that song in the title.

We're in the thick of it now -- WAR has launched and been installed on the machines of many. Some proclaim it to be the new timewaster, others find it to be a rip-off of World of Warcraft, and still others believe that it is, in fact, the digital messiah.

Well I don't know about digital messiahs, I just work the game design angles. And when it comes to game design, WAR is filled with new ideas. I like new ideas as much as the next person, but new ideas aren't very good when they don't work. Does WAR go the distance? I'll be glad to tell you, and you know I'm not going to pull punches.

Before getting into any game mechanics, I'm going to first say I'm located on the Skull Throne server with my guild. Skull Throne is one of the 4 most overpopulated servers in the game, one of the servers that had itself entirely copied into a brand new server and still somehow has wait queues. I say this because it is important to keep in mind during some of my analysis below.

"It's about time people didn't hold fun stuff back until high levels, and WAR really starts up with some neat stuff right away."

First up are the public quests. The good news is that they're a pretty fun piece of design. Play a public quest twice or three times, and you're bound to have a good time. You get to sack cities, fight dragons, attack mage towers, and that's right from level 4 and up. It's about time people didn't hold fun stuff back until high levels, and WAR really starts up with some neat stuff right away.

Now for the bad news. Public Quests are game design that require a good number players to actually care about them or be present for them. And now, just a short while after launch, I can run in and find completely empty PQs. As much as I may want to do them, I can't without the aid of someone else. Without some sort of fix from Mythic, this aspect of the game isn't going to be able to compete with the other aspects of the game. It's a very awkward internal struggle for your attention.

But, the reason people may not be in PQs is an entirely good reason -- there's an abundance of content in the game that keeps you moving forward and enjoying yourself. Don't want to quest? Do a public quest. Don't want to do public quests? Go for unlocks in the Tome of Knowledge. Don't want to do unlocks? Go do some scenarios. The point here is that everything you can do in the game is extremely accessible. There is almost no reason to complain of boredom in this game, which is actually pretty amazing. Not even the grinds for influence during the PQs feel like grinds, mostly because there's also an abundance of PQs you can go participate in. You don't find content in WAR, content just seems to find you.

"Now I get to walk around as the great Zosunira, 'Ow My Eye.' It's just silly enough to work."

And on the topic of content, the Tome of Knowledge seems to take care of everything you ever needed in life. The only thing the tome hasn't done for me yet is cooked me breakfast with a side of bacon. The breakfast with the side of sausage was pretty good, but serving me good breakfasts a game does not make.

It's actually fun to have random unlocks pop-up from the tome. It's an interesting form of reinforcement, mostly because it comes on a random, unpredictable schedule. One of my unlocks was clicking on myself 100 times! And I got a little experience and a title for that. Now I get to walk around as the great Zosunira, "Ow My Eye." It's just silly enough to work.

Past the random unlocks, I'm a big fan of the story and setting function. I can read the story behind the area at my own leisure, and even get quotes and insight into the NPCs around me, making the world come alive and become deeper with each page read. It's not forcing anyone into story they may not want to read and the standard gamer may never even pop open the book, but people like me who like having that option can have it without getting into anyone's way.

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