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Warhammer Online, Wrath of Heroes: A Review
With Fire Warrior, Battle March, Space Marine, Age of Reckoning, Blood Bowl and most famously, Dawn of War, can we honestly say there's a shortage of video games based on the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universe? If you said "no", then how come we have another online game, Wrath of Heroes? I'm not entirely fussed by EA selling out with Games Workshop (point is they still do it though), and in all honesty they've done a good job with the latest addition to the franchises. Word of a new Warhammer game spreads fast, but only those truly in tune with Games Workshop or have held a codex in their hand heed the call. OK, so I'm not entirely the former as I painted miniatures horrendously and never bothered to learn the rules. But either way, I show great enthusiasm when looking at the miniatures and seeking new lore for a particular army or timeline. Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes was announced in America and Europe not long before its BETA release. I heard about it in March and decided, "what the Hell? Might as well have a look seeing as I'm subbed for WAR". Seeing as I was satisfied with the combat mechanics, voiced quests, friendliness toward my computer specs and the Warhammer world, I couldn't deny this.
Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes is a free to play PvP game, in which players take control of heroes of the Warhammer universe (some highly renowned, others newly added) and join a team filled with other races. The game is currently being developed by Bioware Mythic, the MMO branch of Bioware's tree, and Electronic Arts are moneygrubbing--, I mean publishing the product. Since early April 2012, the game has been in its BETA phase and many improvements are coming along and being taken in account. So I'll be giving it a review during its early phases, based on 5 days of play with my first character Lucian the Disbanded of the Empire Army! So what're you waiting for? Grab your gretchins and unmake those 'umies, we're going split-skulls first into Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes! WAAAAAAAAAAARGH!
One of the first things you'll notice is that there's no lobby. Instead, you'll start the game up with little more than some kind of multipurpose menu. Much like League of Legends, you'll be limited to what you can do. On this menu, you'll find your store page, your heroes to purchase and review, your progress, current quests, other statistics and a place to socialize through chat and Warbands. You'll start off with a single character, Lucien the Disbanded, who you will use in the rather uninformative tutorial. Indeed, the tutorial here could see better days.
In the first tutorial you're expected to learn one character's abilities and game modes. You play as the Empire Army soldier (arguable due to his backstory saying he's just an ex-nobleman and now a bandit), who has basic melee attacks including AoE and bleeds. The game doesn't tell you how useful/useless these abilities are nor even give you a good rotation. You'll practice hitting cows, which do no damage back and don't move - on the contrary, the game will be very fast paced and you'll have to keep mobile if you plan to hit anything and keep yourself alive. This fully voiced tutorial is helpful to some extent but gives you a sense of false hope. Yes, capturing artefacts looks easy and getting them to your base is a breeze. Until you play the game proper. You're not even given a chance to join players of your own level of experience, meaning you'll be cast out into the next 6v6v6 against random levels. It's like a schoolgirl from an "adult special interest flick" being sent into Ron Jeremy's conscience - your ass is no longer yours. You can't really learn any tips from the other players, nor from your surroundings, meaning that your only defence is instinct and seeing if throwing a rock does more damage than a twig. Basically, an intellectual and sophisticated PvPer is reduced to a mere caveman at this point.
Picking nails and stompin' Gretchins
While you're queing for a battle, how about stopping off at the store to see if you want a gold or XP boost? Maybe you'd like to have a look at some other Heroes if you're bored of the one(s) you already have? What about boasting your achievements, and looking at the trophy cabinet? Or you might just want to apply your mastery points to characters before you go into battle? Like many MMORPGs, there's a lobby for you to socialize in, walk to different stores and such. But here they didn't even bother doing a Crash Bandicoot. Instead you've got this menu screen in which you've got stores, heroes, statistics and other such joys for tabs which you can look around on. I'll admit it's OK due to queueing being so short, but that's another thing - you can't look at things while you wait because just when you get interested, your match is ready and you've only 20 seconds to do your thing or leave the queue. Not a brilliant system, I'll admit but at least it's everything under one roof instead of trying to navigate a huge city.
As the title suggests, Wrath of Heroes isn't about army painters (yet) or controlling huge squads and battalions. Instead, you control a single hero from the Warhammer universe - completely made up or a famous member of the Warhammer world. Unfortunately, I've only recently visited the Empire Librarians and haven't really found all that many famous characters except for Grimgor Ironhide (awesome story, by the way). Don't get thinking that this game works like Chaos versus Order, with the forces of good on one side and the antagonists on the other. This game allows heroes of all factions to be on the same team. While it may seem illogical to have a Chaos Archivist fighting with Korith the Wood Elven Shadow Warrior, it works and that's what counts. As you can tell right away, this goes against all lore and backstory you've ever known.
You'll start off with a single hero, Lucian the Disbanded, who is a soldier of the Empire.... or was. His backstory goes along the lines of being a nobleman who squandered his fortune on ale and women, or is it? Others say he's a bandit and a cruel mercenary, cast from army to army. In the end, it doesn't matter what he is - as long as he's on your team. He's the standard warrior character decreasing damage taken, dealing huge damage in melee and bleeding opponents. If he doesn't satisfy you, then tough.
However, there are three "free" heroes which you can play as, but you can't buy alternate skins or invest in their talent trees until you invest in them. Each hero has five abilities, each of which have different perks and boons to yourself and teammates. Abilities go as follows:
- Keybind 1 - No cooldown, basic attack
- Keybind 2 - 5 second cooldown, higher damage/heal
- Keybind 3 - 10 second cooldown, medium damage/heal, maybe a different effect like snare
- Keybind 4 - 20 second cooldown, but well worth the wait when you pull it off
- Keybind 5 - 30 second cooldown, often a good opener due to increased damage/healing.
Not all heroes have healing capabilities and not all have the best offence. For example, Lucian doesn't stand much of a chance on the field as he only has one buff that decreases damage taken, one buff to increase damage and a "bleed" ability. Glowgob da Green on the other hand has a projectile which deals circa 25 damage and heals anyone near him for 60 or so health. He also has healing overtime, a shield that damages nearby enemies over time and a 5 second cooldown AoE heal. So each character risks self healing for more damage, and vice versa. It's up to you which you choose.
Why should I buy Heroes?
For starters, you won't be able to use up all the gold you make after matches if you don't. Secondly, if you liked a hero that was free but no longer is (replaced by different trio), you might want to pay to have him/her/it back. For example, I'm loving healing as Glowgob da Green, but he's free at the moment. If I save up my 30,000 gold pieces (I'm getting a minimum of 50 per match) and then pay EA for their currency "gems", I can buy Glowgob da Green and heal with him without having to wait for him to become free again. Buying Heroes is all about extending the life of the game. I bought my first paid hero, Korith upon release, and I'm loving how he plays. In fact, if I bought Glowgob da Green, I think I'd be satisfactory before the game's proper release.
Having one character won't do you much good, so be sure to have a team ready. You may also need to do certain "quests" (like CoD's challenges, where you're rewarded when you complete them). For example, I have a quest where I need to get 5 kills as a Skaven Hero. That means I would have to wait for a Skaven Hero to become free, or buy one in order to get those 5 kills. When that's done, I'm rewarded with a certain prize. Then the next quest comes along, rinse and repeat. Whenever the team is short on healers, you may need someone like a Tomb King or a Goblin, or if it's the opposite problem where a Tank or DPS is needed, turn to an Orc or Dwarf for that! It's good to have the right tool for the job.
Combat: Melee and Casting
There are two different types of combat, neither of which require a resource like Mana, Rage, Energy or Diesel. As a melee character your range will be limited to 5 yards and most abilities will require you to face the front. Some characters have area of effect (AoE) abilities, which allow them to strike in all directions. Some characters also have the ability to attack from afar with spells as melee. Then there's the casters, who can blast spells from 100ft away (maximum) and don't have to worry about being too close. The only thing with these characters is that they have little armour and defence, so they're often found prancing backwards. There are different types of attacks - physical and magical. Melee characters and characters with thrown/bow weapons will deal physical damage, while spellcasters will use magical damage. What is important to know is that thrown and bow weapons cannot be silenced! To silence an enemy is to stop them from using magic spells.
Healing for the most part doesn't require a target, as it's mostly done through AoE. Characters like Glowgob da Green use "Shroom Toss", which allows a mushroom's explosion to fill the air and shower friendlies with healing energies. He can aslo lay down a totem which blasts healing spells for a short term. The Tomb King healer who has a funny name has a 30s cooldown spell which deals damage to an enemy, and heals friendlies around the caster. Some characters have self-healing when that isn't their primary role, and some "masteries" offer healing upon strike.
The Maps and Game Modes
At the moment there's only four maps, The Pyramid of Settra (based on Tomb Kings lore), Arena (based on Chaos lore), Mourkain Temple (no idea) and Black Fire Pass (Famous Battle with Grimgor Ironhide took place there, based on Dwarven Lore). The objectives will require you to work as a team rather than a mob of six stragglers, going in groups and combining your abilities so you don't end up with too much "downtime". If you need to know what that term means, downtime basically means when your abilities are on cooldowns. It's also a term used when the game is down for maintenance. Anyway, game modes are mostly flag capture ones, and you earn more points when you capture more flags. Some flags generate points over time, but the more you have, the more points you earn per kill. In Arena, you just have to kill or be killed.
Punishment and Rewards
When you finish a match, you get to roll on the "spinner". Think of this like a slot machine - there is a maximum of six criteria you can meet, and when you meet one or more of those criteria, you get to spin. If you participate in the scenario (the match), you get to spin. Get so many assists or captures? You get two spins! Win a scenario as well? Have another spin! Playing in a group? SPIN, SPIN, SPIN! You're most likely to get gold, but you can also get health potions, XP boosts and other things for your efforts. If you want rewards, the game modes and these prizes are a great incentive to keep playing. There's also a daily spinner which gives you one free spin and a particular item after your first match of the day. The more days you play consequtively, the better the bonuses there are for you!
Soundtrack and Graphics
The soundtrack is mostly that what you'd expect from any Fantasy MMORPG's PvP matches, with heavy drums, clicking and.... squealing guitars? Indeed, there are some Heavy Metal moments but I wouldn't try hearing them out. Maybe in Arena with the whole Chaos setting and when fights are tense, but it really doesn't suit defending an empty relic chamber in Pyramid of Settra. It's OK, but not brilliant. The voice talent however is awesome, and I like the fully voiced spell casts, taunts and alerts. Hearing Glowgob shouting, "OI STILL ALOIVE! BRRR!" at his enemies makes me burst out in laughter. But when I hear the Archivist saying "Scratch.... scratch.... scratch...." it just makes me burst out in flames.
The graphics aren't all that bad on the lowest details and the framerate handles fairly well on all settings. If you could live with Warhamer Online: Age of Reckoning's graphics, you'll have no problems here. And it shames to say, if you're OK with Rift, you can find a place here. As stated before though, they're not top notch but the gameplay overall makes you forget how muddy the areas and characters seem.
So now it's time to end my rundown of the game. Sorry to keep it short and not-very-opinionated, but I really must get back to playing it. I can't really say I've been bored with this because I keep coming back for more and I just love the fact this is one of few team based PvP games. A brilliant addition to the Warhammer franchise, which could probably give Dawn of War a run for its money! So now it's time for the scores. Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes gets an eight out of nine, as well as the "More bang for your buck" accolade! Why that? I'll tell you! Wrath of Heroes may be new, but it does everything you want in a PvP-based game and more. Quick queue times, a cooperative community, great game modes, HUGE replayability and everything you buy is well worth the money! What stops this game getting a full blown 9 is the lack of heroes and maps at the moment, but with this game being in open BETA, I can't expect more. Plus, some of the stuff is way too overpriced for those wanting to get in and play the game. So until the next time, I thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
Also, a huge thank you to the boys 'n' girls 'n' gretchins down at 6v6v6.com Fan Forums, as they've helped me attune myself with this game a lot better!
Thanks all again, and have a pleasant day!