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Waging WAR: Gamescom and Mythic's anti-hype

Greg Waller

In light of Gamescom coming next week (August 18th - 22nd), this week WagingWAR looks forward to what could be coming for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. But beware: Since Mythic has been so secretive about the future of WAR, we've been forced to compromise and offer mere conjecture. Unchained by reason or fact, we follow in the wake of that terrible beast known only as "Greg's Imagination."

With less than a week left until Gamescom, I find myself more and more excited by the potential of what Mythic could be set to reveal, regardless of the fact that it's given me nothing to chew on. I am hyped by the anti-hype. What follows is the result of that hype. There are no facts, rumours, hints, or tips to back up what amounts to totally unbarred speculation. I have organized the aftermath of my brainstorm in terms of what would excite me, from most to least, followed by why I believe these additions could make sense, and how they might be implemented. Keep in mind that some of what follows could simply be passed off as madness; it might be totally unfeasible, even by the most adept and well-financed of development teams. I'm fully aware of that. The point here was to just "let it go." And I did.

Crazy, or uncanny -- you decide. Follow along after the break.

Let's start with the most outrageous. The scale of the announcement of this one would be so big, that it would be released as a paid content expansion pack. It would be called something along the lines of, "The Age of Beasts." Included in this expansion would be a large amount of new content, the basis of which would be a new faction: The Forces of the Beast. The three new armies that would comprise the new faction would be the Skaven, the Beastmen, and the Vampire Counts.

As far as lore is concerned, the motivation for those armies to become involved in WAR would be as follows: The Skaven, led by the Council of 13, have decided that the Age of Reckoning in the lands above their underground home of Skavenblight has brought with it an excellent opportunity to unleash the Red Plague, as forseen by Lord Kritislik in a vision of the Great Horned Rat. At the same time, the Beastmen are called forth by Khorne and amass a great army to counter the Host of his most hated nemesis, Tzeentch. Meanwhile, the VonCarsteins, led by Vlad -- who, until now, has remained hidden from the prying eyes of mortals -- see another opportunity to smash the Empire, and mobilize their fearsome Black Coaches for war.

A set of new zones for the first three tiers would be added, through which characters of the new faction could progress, and another set of new zones added in parallel to the current campaign's fourth tier, rather than adding questing chapters, keeps, and warcamps to the existing zones. RvR throughout the tiers would be fought in a trio of faction pairings -- Order vs. Destruction, Order vs. Beast, and Destruction vs. Beast. A new 5th tier would be added and would feature free-for-all three-way RvR, all centered around a gated RvR zone featuring PvE content set in the Dungeons of Drakenhof Castle.

Finally, to top the expansion off, it would release with 12 new careers. The armies, archetypes, and mirrors (as I envision them) are outlined below:

  • Skaven. This army appeals to me to be one steeped in duplicity and betrayal, and as such, it would feature a stance-based approach to combat.
    • Stormvermin: A stance tank, mirroring the swordmaster/black ork
    • Grey Seer: A stance healer, mirroring the zealot/runepriest
    • Warlock Engineer: A defensive, ranged, pet-based DPS career, mirroring the engineer/magus
    • Assassin: A stealth-based melee-DPS career, mirroring the witch elf/witch hunter
  • Beastmen. I see the careers in this army being consumed with Khorne's eternal rage and bloodlust, and I imagine the careers looking something like:
    • Bestigor: A Bloodlust-based tank, mirroring the Hatred and Grudge of the black guard/iron breaker.
    • Bray Shaman: A melee healer, mirroring the warrior priest/disciple of khaine
    • Gor: A berserker melee-DPS career, mirroring the choppa/slayer
    • Ungor: A short-bow-wielding, physical ranged-DPS career, mirroring the shadow warrior/squig herder
  • Vampire Counts. This army appeals to me as one driven by cunning, necromantic immortality. The careers could be:
    • Blood Dragon: This would be the anti-magic aura-tank, mirroring the chosen/knight
    • Lahmian: Using Seduction or Repulsion, this female-only healer would mirror the High Magic/WAAAGH! mechanics of the archmage/shaman
    • Strigoi: These feral vampires would be a melee-DPS career, mirroring the white lion/marauder
    • Necrarch: These wizened immortals would possess the dangerous black magic of Necromancy, and would mirror the bright wizard/sorceress

OK. Fine. Let's assume that a paid expansion on that scale is completely out of the question. My imagination still hasn't run out of juice. What if Mythic only announces a pair of new armies in a free expansion? Well, I imagine the new armies would be Skaven, who would align with Destruction, and the Lizardmen, who would align with Order. The story for the Skaven would remain the same as above. Meanwhile, the Lizardmen -- sworn enemies of the devious Skaven -- become concerned by the stories told by their Slann Oracles, and have come to Karl Franz and the Forces of Order, offering their support and medicines against the Red Plague. The careers would remain the same for the Skaven except for the melee-DPS, which would be the plague censer-bearers instead of assassins. Also, the Skaven careers would provide mirrors for the mechanics used by the Lizardmen, rather than for existing mechanics. The careers available would be something like:

  • Saurus (or temple guard): This would be the tank archetype, and would feature a mechanic that allows them to switch to unarmed feral combat.
  • Slann: These mage-priests would be the caster healers for the army. Their mechanic would feature their ancestors and the sun as a theme.
  • Skink: Those choosing this career would wield blow-pipes or spears and would fill the role of ranged-DPS.
  • Kroxigor: These brutal monsters would fill the role of melee-DPS and would feature a disarm mechanic similar to the berserking mechanic of the slayer or choppa, except the penalty for going feral would be that the Kroxigor would drop his weapon (luckily they have weapon chains) and become unable to wield it until control is regained.
Since the new character experience has already streamlined the starting zones for all races and pairings, there's no need for new zones with this type of expansion. Simply plug in the new careers and go.

But just for the sake of argument, let's consider reality for a moment and take a look at the past and what the competition has done. Blizzard introduced The Burning Crusade, a full, paid expansion pack for World of Warcraft in January of 2007, only two years and three months after its original retail release. It featured two new playable races, a raised level cap, a new crafting profession, arenas, a new battleground, outdoor world PvP objectives, and an entire new continent of zones filled to the brim with quests. Funcom released the Age of Conan expansion, Rise of the Godslayer, on May 11th of this year, almost exactly two years after its launch in 2008; it also contained several new zones, a new race, faction gameplay, and a considerable amount of other assorted endgame content. If we take this 2.00- to 2.25-year trend to have any meaning, then the Gamescom reveal from the Mythic booth should have something along the lines of a paid expansion pack complete with races, zones, and endgame features ready for release sometime around December of this year or January of 2011, two years and four months after WAR's launch on September 18th 2008.

Maybe my original wild ideas were not so far off. Will Mythic be outdone and give us only a single zone? Or less? We'll have to wait a few more days to find out. What do you think? Leave a comment and tell us.

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