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Waging WAR: RvR packs, the "wait and see" edition

Greg Waller

This week Waging WAR rides the double rainbow of gameplay customization via downloadable content and takes a cursory glance at the RvR packs being teased by the folks behind the development of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Let's follow along and see what Greg can unleash this time.

It is difficult to talk about the future of WAR right now. Not because it doesn't have a future, but because the availability of information regarding it is not exactly easy to find. Actually, information on the future of WAR is all but non-existent, surrounded by controversy on all sides, and steeped in rumor, speculation, assumption and misinformation. The best I can put together is that we, as players, can look forward to some sort of set of three different "RvR Packs" allowing us to "customize" our gameplay experience moving forward. The packs have been called "Power," "Progression," and "Personality." What exactly each contains is a mystery, although the few talking points I was able to find regarding these RvR packs are speculatively disappointing at best. Although Carrie, Andy, and anyone else involved with the Mythic development team have said time and time again that they are not discussing moving toward the free-to-play business model, what they're proposing with these customization packs looks suspiciously like the item shop established by Turbine, implemented in Dungeons & Dragons Online and soon in Lord of the Rings Online as well. V.I.P. membership, anyone?

Although concrete information is scarce and difficult to find, let's take a look at the most commonly referenced points of interest after the break.

Mythic has been absolutely clear about one aspect of the coming RvR packs: Players will be able to continue to play through until renown rank 100, although no base levels will be added. Now, I've been caught in situations like this before, situations in which I want to assume the implications of a change, based on logic. In this case, I'm honestly afraid to make any assumptions, but why the heck not. One would assume that 20 additional levels of renown rank could result in possibly another two mastery points and maybe another boost to the character's AP pool. Along with those rewards should come the possibility of another set or two of armor to wear at the highest levels. These sets could feature anywhere from three to 11 pieces (with 11 pieces being full gear plus four pieces of jewelry) and could possibly offer another ward (or two) above Supreme. Logic would also lead us to believe that we could expect these highest levels of armor to also have split counterparts similar to the latest sovereign sets; thus, presenting a total of four possible new sets of armor (at the very least). Finally, it would seem straightforward to believe that another set or two of scenario weapons could become available for ranks 85 and 95. Despite clear trends in the game's recent development direction and its current state, Mythic is bound to prove all of the above completely and totally wrong. Oh yes, we'll be able to grind up to RR100, but all that other stuff? Pfff, you wish. Four sets of armor and two sets of weapons per career sounds like a lot of work for Mythic – who can't even release all of the first batch of scenario weapon art in one patch.

Another feature being added via the RvR packs (although the information is nowhere near as concise as the new renown ranks) is the addition of the Skaven race as a playable alternative to the current Order and Destruction character career options. Regarding these playable Skaven, we've been told virtually nothing, except for the fact that they will not be anything like the Balaur from Aion. Most players believe that the option to play Skaven will more closely resemble the monster-play feature from Lord of the Rings Online. Mythic has been clear, however, that these Skaven will not be playable from level 1 and will have some sort of cooldown timer for switching factions. Additionally, from what I can tell, they'll only be playable within certain areas or zones.

"Yes-yes, the rat men will trade anything for Warpstone, even temporary alliance, but the idea of Dwarves tolerating them for any length of time [...] is absurd."

I've said in the past that "if warlock engineers ever become playable, I'll immediately shelf my archmage." But now, given the information available and the strange resonation of truth regarding the monster-play-esque style featured in LotRO, I somehow doubt that the draw of playable Skaven will be nearly as powerful, for me at least -- if it is even existent at all. This is primarily because the idea of Skaven operating alongside Order characters seems wholly out of place lore-wise. In fact, it seems to me to be completely wrong. Yes-yes, the rat men will trade anything for Warpstone, even temporary alliance, but the idea of Dwarves tolerating them for any length of time (beyond their lifespan as a collection of rotten heads-on-poles) is absurd. My lore research leads me to believe that the Skaven, although pretty much despised by everyone, are exceptionally hated by Dwarves and Lizardmen in particular. The only conclusion I can draw in this regard is that the development team at Mythic is cutting some pretty serious corners here, and I have no idea what's going on with the people at Games Workshop. For them to squat on such an important aspect of the IP's lore like this and let loose such a stream of Rat Ogre pellets is almost infurating. But I can probably expect a response somewhere along the lines of, "Well then, don't buy that particular RvR pack."

Now, I'm accustomed to BioWare's interpretation of what a paid DLC pack is. I've paid for a few Dragon Age packs and all of the Mass Effect 2 packs so far (despite the questionable amount of content and pangs of guilt I feel when I buy them; that game has spoiled my single-player RPG experience -- I love it so much). I even intend to shell out for the new ME2 pack coming out in September. The key with these packs, though, is the fact that I don't pay a subscription to play Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age. I can simply plug in the new DLC content and go. Since ME2's release, there have been six packs released (about one pack every 1.3 months) and one planned for September. The total average monthly cost is about $4 per month, up through October, for a total of 2560 BioWare points. Including the upcoming DLC in September makes for a sum of around $32 dollars, depending on how many points you buy at a time. But by the looks of things to come for Warhammer, and taking EA/BioWare's influence into consideration, Mythic could very well be asking for a subscription on top of the cost of these "packs." Their worth will be determined by their regularity, content, and pricing. And I suppose this is where the real "customization" comes into play. Some players will choose to fork out a couple of dollars for a few weapons; others will not. Some might kick and scream about "microtransactions this, that, and the other thing" and refuse to remit monies out of principle. Others still might apathetically accept the "trend in the future of MMO gaming" and pay for the content simply because they feel they ought to.

Whatever the case, I'm sure these packs are going to continue to be a hot-button for debate among players for quite some time to come, or at least until GamesDay: UK (September 26, 2010), which is when we're told we can expect more details regarding the RvR packs to be revealed. Do you have something to say? Leave a comment!

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