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Waging WAR: And a pinch of warpstone, yes yes...

Greg Waller

After being slightly disappointed by the lack of response to last week's challenge, Greg was worried that he wouldn't have a topic for Waging WAR this week, and suffered a short-term bout of writer's block. But Serendipity and Providence once again shook hands, and two new announcements were made on the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning developer forums on Thursday and Friday earlier this week that would supply him with plenty of fodder for discussion in this week's column. Now, armed with the facts and a tall glass of creative juice, we can set things up properly, in all their italic glory.

The upcoming patch (1.3.6) for Warhammer Online promises a hefty amount of content, balancing, and changes. Highlights include the new armor vanity slots, the sovereign set revamps, the addition of the Against All Odds mechanic, and several class changes that have been needed for some time. In fact, it seems this latest career balancing pass has affected nearly every career available, and full mastery point refunds have been handed out to a whopping eight careers. The list doesn't stop there. Players will enjoy a new sticky targeting system, auction house interface, and loads of other new features including another batch of new art for the scenario weapons, and a revamp to the victory point system in the RvR campaign. There's even more still. You can read the full patch notes for patch 1.3.6, test the patch yourself (it went live on the PTS yesterday), or even take part in the developer lead focus tests on July 30th at 4 p.m. EDT and August 6th at 8 p.m. EDT.

But, of all the changes promised in the patch notes, one specific set of related changes has sparked my imagination for the future of WAR more than the rest. Find out what I'm talking about after the break.

The first change I'm referring to is a lead-in to what excites me about patch 1.3.6. The Land of the Dead will only be available to characters of level 32 or higher via the flight masters, as all summoning to the zone will be disabled. Whether the summoning will be removed altogether (or will return in the future) remains to be seen. For now however, the zone will finally be restricted to level-appropriate characters. What this means is that Tier 2 and 3 players will no longer be racing for the Necropolis of Zandri every time the zone is controlled by their faction for the XP boosts they were previously enjoying. This single change is likely to have more of an impact on mid-level RvR than anything else the developers could have done. Most mid-level players would often leave the main progression path and head for the Land of the Dead simply because everyone else had done so; thus, a hole was left in the potential populations of RvR T2 and T3.

As a side-note, this is also a boon to the current invasion mechanic. As of patch 1.3.6 it will no longer be possible to summon a very low-level character directly to the Tomb of the Vulture Lord (inside the PQ-locked door, even) in order to invade instances. The new Window of Perpetuity (seen above) will still present problems to the invasion mechanic, as far as non-attackable, solo invaders or defenders are concerned (read: griefers), but at least part of the main issue is being addressed.

The foundation for the future of WAR is being laid in small installments. First, career trainers retreated to the safety of the cities, lest they catch the Red Plague that was rumored to be spreading throughout the Empire. Now, the RvR lakes of Troll Country, Ostland, Talabecland, and High Pass will have new, fast-spawning Skaven mobs that offer advanced XP, renown and influence rewards. Additionally, High Pass and Talabecland will also be home to a randomly spawning, stealthing, Skaven Gutter Runner which, when killed, will offer experience, renown and influence roughly equal to the amount gained by capturing four battlefield objectives. Power-levelers, rejoice! With the combination of the new mobs in RvR and the Against All Odds mechanic, leveling through these lower tiers could become fun again. It is conceivable that these mobs (and camps) will be the objects of constant contention. What might start as a 1v1 feud over a few mobs (as players will inevitably be attracted to these areas in order to level and maintain a capped renown bar and more reliable access to elite influence items) could potentially grow into full warband-on-warband action -- the breath of life that T2 and T3 RvR needs.

What follows is pure conjecture on my part, because I simply have to ask: "Where is all this Skaven and plague nonsense going?" I can't help but feel the imminence of patch 1.4 -- as though something truly big is coming for WAR. I don't want to hype, and clearly, neither do the developers, since they've all been pretty tight-lipped about the whole affair. But this latest development in the plotline has sent my imagination on a long stroll down Fantasy Street, and the possibilities quickly overwhelm my passion for the future of WAR. Mark my words: if ever warlock engineers become playable, my archmage will immediately get shelved. Otherwise, I'm going to try to stay hype-free on this one, and chalk it up to being a simple solution to the T2/T3 leveling problem, and nothing more.

Without more information or first-hand experience, it is difficult to tell what kind of impact these changes will actually have on the game, especially considering the worrisome news of having the forums merged into the Bioware Social Network. Ultimately, I think the implementation of 1.3.6 and announcement of 1.4 need to happen sooner than later, as promises are starting to wear thin from a lack of substance or delivery. I have faith in the Mythic team -- I always have. Hopefully some news regarding patch 1.4 will come forth shortly after 1.3.6 goes live. In the meantime, there's reason now, more than ever, to roll up that scavenging alt that I've been putting off for forever and a day.

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