Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Carefully Chosen thoughts

Now that the full game is out and running, I've been running around the Old World enough now to, imo, competantly comment on WAR. At least in it's early stages.

I'm now Rank (level) 15, Renown rank (RR) 13 so far on my main career (class), a Chosen. What is a Chosen you (didn't) ask? Read on.

To put it simply, Chosen are unholy frontline warriors. Kinda like Paladins, but in reverse on the morality scale. Where pallies fight for the light and to protect those weakest, Chosen crush the weak and serve Dark Gods (in this case Tzeench). While these two classes are at polar opposites of one another in terms of morality, they share some simple game mechanics together. I'll get back to this in a minute.

First, lets talk about the careers in the game. Think of these as WoW's classes. Unlike WoW where you can have a warrior be any race besides BE's, each career can only be played by 1 specific race. Bright Wizards (think pure fire mages) can only be empire humans. Shamans can only be gobbos. To complement this, each piece of visual gear that you wear (excluding weapons) has a visual look for your career. The goal of this is so you can visually recognize what is coming at you from a distance without clicking on the individual. You can easily tell a Squig Herder and a Shaman (both Goblins) apart based on appearance, as well as any other race/career. Additionally, to keep things fair, while each side has an 10 individual careers, each one is mirrored by another career on the opposite side. For example, a Black Ork (tank, uses a combo system for moves) is mirrored by the Elven Swordmaster (Elf, uses similar combo system for moves). While each career has a mirror, there is generally enough differences to make each unique. For example, a Squig herder is ranged DPS with a pet, and a White Lion is a melee DPS with pet.

The unfortunate thing about this is that, while different careers look distinctly different, players of the same career look largely the same. It also doesn't help that equipment within a given tier all basically look the same, with only gradual improvements as you get more powerful. To combat this, you can go to any merchant and dye your armor with a primary/secondary coat. You don't have to have your entire armor set match a scheme, you can go for a rainbow look if you want. There is also trophies you can wear to decorate yourself, but those have come far and few in between so far for me and are generally pretty small.

Getting on with my Chosen, here is a pick of what he looks like currently. IMO, pretty bad ass for someone who is an equivalent to lv 25-30 in WoW.

So, the Chosen. Simply put, he makes me think of WoW's Paladin class, except unholy. Chosen are a part of the destruction side, worshiping the Raven God, Tzeench. They are one of the two tank like classes the forces of destruction have. They wear heavy armor only. They can also equip a sword and shield or go with a 2 hander like I have above. They have a number of abilities that further assist in tanking and DPS, most often both. What reminds me of paladins is that the Chosen have auras. However, their auras not only benefit himself and his allies, but it also effects enemies. For example, Chosen has a buff that increases it's toughness level (think armor, but just reduces incoming DPS by a flat amount in addition to armor) by X amount. At the same time, any allies within range will receive the same buff. Any enemies within range will actually be debuffed by the same X amount of toughness, making it easier to DPS them. You don't see enemies loosing X amount of Armor in WoW should the Devotion Aura is up.

Playing as a Chosen is a lot like playing a tank. I have given up the two hander you see in the pic to a 1 hander + shield approach, even in PvP. You see, Mythic went to some trouble to ensure that people who enjoy playing the role of a tank have a place in PvP, and in my opinion they hit the nail on the head. One aspect of this is implementing collision detection in any PvP environment. That's right, you cannot just run through your enemies to get at the squishies. You have to go around them, and when you have someone actively getting in your way, purposefully using snaring abilities to slow your progress, it makes you feel good to be a tank. A Chosen also has the ability simply called Guard. All it does is place a buff on you and a friendly player, allowing them to split 50% of their damage to you, while you split nothing to them. Top it off with your not-insignificant-dps, and you can imagine this further emphasis that there is a place in PvP for tanks.

Lastly, lets not forget one of a tanks classic traits. Survivability. Unbuffed, in between my armor (currently reducing 42.7% physical damage), mitigation (27.2% between block, parry and evade(dodge), Toughness rating (-35% of all incoming DPS), and resistances (roughly 15% reduction to all magical damage), I can take a pounding. When buffed and actively twisting (more on that in a second), I increase my resistances to about 30 I have successfully warded off 4 melee classes charging for our flag carrier for a 1 minutes or so, despite being constantly beat on. Their damage was all under 100 per strike, I have about 3.8K health in RvR, and my shield will completely absorb all the damage on a successfull block. I also used a Moral Ability that increases my block percentage to 100% for 10 seconds, making me virtually immune to them. Plenty of time to pop a potion that has a HoT for roughly 1/3rd my health. After I reached 1/3 health the second time, both armies clashed at our location and with the help of a healer, I waded through the battlefield like an impenetrable tank.

Ok, last 2 things before you get bored to death. First, Chosen can "twist" their auras. When you switch to a different aura, it doesn't just shut off and the other one comes on like a Pally. Instead, the old aura lingers for 12 seconds, at the same time the second aura is applied immediately, giving you the benefit of 2 auras for 12 seconds. Combine the resist aura plus toughness aura together while I basically just stand there and take it, means I'm gonna take it for quite some time.

And for Moral abilities, think super powers. As you fight in battle (PvE or PvP), you gain moral. When you gain enough for the first tier, you get to use your t1 moral ability. You can save it and continue fighting and get your T2 ability and so on. Using any moral ability, regardless of tier, drains all of your morall and places a cooldown on all moral abilities, currently set to 1 min. Also, if your out of combat for any more than 3 seconds, you start loosing moral at a very rapid rate. I estimate you could lose a full 100% bar in about 10 seconds. Shield Wall is my T2 ability fyi (currently don't have any higher yet).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The drums of WAR are loud in my house....

I'll have to admit, I have neglected anything WoW related for the past few weeks and have been going whole hog in the Warhammer Online Beta. Not multiboxing it or anything, just running around as the forces of chaos, slaughtering the weakling Empire and the occasional elf or dwarf that stands in my way. It's gotten to the point where I am pretty much sold on the game, and have reserved it so I can get into the live head start on Monday. I have a few personal friends doing the same, so I will try to get on the same server as the rest of them.

That leads to WoW, which the decree from on high states I will not be paying for both WoW and Warhammer at the same time, at least not all 5 accounts. I don't know the path that I will take, but right now I am planning to cancel at least 1 account untill the expansion comes out. Grinding dungeons for loot or leveling up yet more people through the same exact content is starting to wear down my senses, and WAR brings a fistfull of excitement I haven't had since I have started multiboxing.

The real downside is that Mindy refuses to play. She tried the beta for about....10 min and decided it wasn't for her. It's going to hurt on the enjoyment when I can't play with her, running around the countryside pillaging defensless townsfolk for no reason.

Anyways, since It's been awhile, I wanted to make this huge ginormous post on the differences between WoW and WAR, both good any bad.

So.....lets start with the bad.


1. The graphics. In my opinion, it's not as good as WoW. I am comparing the two at max detail. Of course, there is a chance that the graphics we have seen in the beta are not the finial graphics, those bieng unlocked for the full release. But as it stands now, it's not something that I would write home about. That said, WoW's isn't exactly Crysis quality either, but out of the two it comes out on top, mainly by having just better polish.

2. Stability - I kind of wrap up this from anything from CTD's to unkillable mobs due to bugs to the game not loading properly. I haven't encountered a lot of this stuff. In fact, it's been pretty rare and it's gotten fewer and fewer as I have played on and patches made. The main killer right now is taking a flight between zones, where it occasionally won't load, forcing to kill the game and restart. Annoying.

3. PvE - By itself, with the questing, is fairly weak. The mechanics are basicly stripped strait from WoW.

The Good

1. It is different - Everything is something new to me. Sure, a lot of the mechanics are the same, such as "go to this, kill X to obtain Y, and come back". But while that keeps the gameplay familiar, all of the cosmetics are different. The classes are all different. The lore is different. What your fighting against is different. The enviroment is different. All done in a good way.

2. Public Quests - There are little area's scattered around the world where you can perform a Public Quest (PQ). In this area, as many people can participate and everyone gets a chance for some good loot. You do not need to be in a group to participate. Each PQ has usually 3 stages. First stage can be solo'd, and generally requires you to kill a bunch of mobs or destroy certain things. Once you hit the second stage, you have to start fighting Champions (think elites), making it very much difficult to solo with any class, but 2 or 3 people can do this without worry. The final stage is where a Hero (boss) comes and you got to take it down, and your going to need around 5 peeps to do it. Once you finish the boss off, everyone gets a score that is based off of how much they participated. That score is then paired up with a random dice roll. The final score determans who gets the phat loot from the boss, and usually your looking at like 4 people. The loot generally consists of Green quality gear that is above average quality than what you normally can grab at your level.

3. Influance. This goes with the PQ's above. Every PQ is tied to a chapter. Not every chapter has just one PQ, most of the time there is 2 or more. Anyways, when you kill mobs and participate in a chapter's PQ, you gain influance in the same way you get exp. There are 3 tiers of influance, basic (a potion), advanced (average equipment for your class) and elite (excellent equipment for your class). Once you gain enough influance to reach a tier, you can go to that chapter's Rally Master (inkeeper like guy, you set your binding (hearth) to him) and grab a reward. You can only have 1 reward per tier per chapter. So, basicly you can just grind the first stage for each PQ in that chapter and eventually get Elite, netting you some awsome gear.

4. RvR - This is a big point. The meat of WAR is it's PvP aspect called Realm vs Realm. This is done in a few different ways. First, there are seperate tiers (lv 1-11, 12-21, 22-31, 32-40 I'm guessing). Each tier has 3 scenarios (battlegrounds) that are tied to each racial paring (Empire vs chaos, Ork vs Dwarf, Elf vs Dark elf). Participating not only nets you experiance from killing players (unlike WoW), but you also gain Renown (think like another, parralel form of XP level). With Renown comes Renown points which you can spend (think talent points), and Renown gear you can buy (think Honor rewards). You buy this gear with regular cash, your renown level and your normal Rank (regular level) determans if you qualify to purchase it. There are generally two tiers of gear within each renown tier (so far).

Also, you have RvR spots scattered around the world. Entering them flags you as a particpant automaticly (like on a PVE server and flagging yourself PvP). Usually there is quests in there that you have to accomplish, making them generally populated with players. Unlike Scenarios, there is no balancing numbers wise. A horde of 50 orcs can come in and stomp all over your band of 1, and there is nothing you can do.

On the higher end (t2 and above), you have keeps and castles that are scattered about. These are also RvR areas that you must take, hold, and defend. This is important, because from T2 and on, if you want renown rewards, you have to purchase them in these keeps, and you can't do that if the enemy has them!

Lastly, every scenario, castle, keep, and player kill contributes to your side's war effort. Once it gets strong enough, you can assult the capital of the opposing force. Coolbeans.

5. Accessibility to RvR - This is what keeps all the neat stuff I just said neat. You see, unlike in WoW, there really isn't any level disparity in any RvR. Even as lv 1, you can enter a scenario and participate. Once in, you are buffed to lv 8. All of your abilites and stats are buffed to 8 (unlike WoW, your abilities/spells increase in strength in each level. ie: once you learn fireball, you never get a new rank from the trainer. It increases in power each time you rank up). The only think that doesn't level up is your equipment, which can be painfull since your now lv 8 with a lv 1 starter sword, going up against potentaily "real" lv 8-11 players who have decent quest/PQ/renown gear and more abilites than you. However, you can still kill them. It's nowhere near like a lv 1 vs a lv 11 in WoW. You will always be no more than 3 levels lower than the max rank in RvR. Even the open RvR areas like keeps or whatnot will buff you to the appropriate level if your below it.

Oh, and because you gain XP from killing players, there is no Twinking, or at least, no permanent twinks that remain in a bracket except the last one.

5. Lore - I'm a big fan of lore because it makes horrible games decent, and good games great. WoW has excellent lore, and so does Warhammer. It's not quite my favorite (Warhammer 40K universe is the best lore I have ever gotten into), but it's deep and rich with all kinds of stuff. The tomb of Knowledge is awsome that fills out everything that you do, and details anything and everything. It does a lot of other stuff too, but the lore portion is what sticks out in my mind.

6. The Races - Last thing that I like is the individual races of the game. Each one has a distinct personality and fills it's nich with reverent fevor. Take the orks for example. Unlike the Orcs in WoW, these beasts are virtually a complete opposite. Where WoW's Orcs are intelligent, honor bound, tightly organized and fiercely loyal, Orks are just crazy baby eaters who just kill until they are dead themselves. They are all pretty stupid, but smart in a preditory cunning kind of way. And they speak in a southern brittish slang and treat nothing seriously. If your dead, appearently your "lazy", and I've never cracked up so much seeing a big brutish ork say "Oi Oi Oi". The only thing that I think that is similar is that both favor Shamanism, but it's a loose connection at best.

Then there is the Chaos people, humans who worship the dark Gods for favors and power. In WAR, the player character's particular God is Tzeentch, the god of change. Evil to the core, all people that serve chaos are murderers who crave power. Unlike Orks, they retain (usually) thier intelligence. They use the undead, sorcery, and mutations to augment thier forces. Very nasty.

Lastly there is the Dark Elves that round out the forces of Destruction. Think what normally elves are, self centered and prude, then merge that with dark sorcery and sadism/masochism on a level that surpasses the chaos worshoppers.

And then there is the forces of order, Human, Elf, and Dwarf. But I could care less about them. For Chaos!

So, that raps up my look for Warhammer. I wouldn't say it's better than WoW, but it is different, and it gives a shock to the system I haven't had in a while. We'll see how things play out in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My, Does Time Fly

I’ve devoted a large chunk of my Labor Day weekend plugging away with my team, and Ive gotten quite a few upgrades.

Cain has gotten the most significant, bringing his total defense up to 475 along with a total spellpower of 218 and 10.3K health unbuffed. Abyl is sitting at 1165 +healing, 318 Mp5 and 8.4K mana. The mages range from 629-666 +damage and 8.4K - 8.6K mana unbuffed. Slowly but surely, I am making my way to being sufficiently geared for heroics.

I even had the liberty of running a heroic as my tank for a little bit on Saturday. Some Guildmates tried doing a heroic run of ramps, but lacked a competent tank to do heroic ramps with. Specifically, they had some idiot warrior who ran in pvp gear and no shield. Could not keep aggro to save his life. So, since I was on, I decided to give it a whirl.

In short, I was able to hold aggro much, much better. Instead, my main problem is health, as I had roughly 10.5k unbuffed at the time. Regardless, I was still able to tank the first two bosses. It felt very odd playing just the tank, as I found my self smashing Ctrl-1 (my fireball keybinding) almost after every pull.

Nazan, however, owned me. Fire damage for 4.7K? Yikes. Time to start building a FR set. We even brought in Amanda with her more epicly geared pally tank, and still lost.

That said, this run again reminded me why I don’t like pugging. Immaturity was the main thing. People pulling stupid things when they shouldn’t be pulling. Using aoe abilities when surrounded by CC’d mobs. Things like that. In short, I felt out of place not being able to control every aspect of the fight. Guildies not excluded.

Besides my heroic run, I was able to add some more bosses to my personal progression. I cleared Steamvaults solo on Friday, and again on Sat, making it my first lv 70 instance that I can do entirely solo. I also did the 1st and 3rd bosses in Mechanar, and the first boss in Botanica. 2nd boss in mech requires just way to much individual movement, combined with lots of threat reducing abilities makes her impossible for me. The second boss in Botanica wasn’t as hard, but more of a gear check. By the time he does a second tranquility, my mages have no mana and are unable to burn down the adds.

This was all before I got revered with Shattered Sun and got a major upgrade for everyone’s weapon. Now I just need to get a good offhander for my casters and I’ll be set.

Now, I am wondering how to proceed a bit in terms of what to buy first with my money. Right now, I have two money sinks. 1st, is my epic flying mount skill which I am more than 1/5 done (cain’s has been bought). 2nd, and less expensive, is the Battlecast hood that my Priest can make. I already bought it for Furfur, and it provides a significant boost and is probably the best helm I can get prior to Badge or heroic gear. The problem is that it costs nearly a grand to make in materials (8 primal might’s each, ouch).

Personally, I am leaning to putting a hold on the mount skill and purchasing the materials for the helm. With the helm means I can finish putting the needed gems in my caster’s gear, which will close the gap they currently have and bring them all towards 640ish +damage, up over 100 damage since last weekend. It will make instances that much easier to progress through and one piece of gear that I can scratch off my list.