Thoughts on the Warhammer Vermintide Beta

warhammer-vermintide-logo

So I’ve talked about the new Warhammer game coming from Fatshark Games a few times already, be it here on the blog or on the Couch Podtatoes podcast. I pre-ordered at the beginning of the month, which isn’t something I usually do, but the price was right and the wait wasn’t too long. Having preview information at my disposal, I knew I would enjoy the game so I pulled the trigger. As a pre-order bonus, we got access to the game a little early, as the Beta started this past Friday and the game releasing on the 23rd. I put a few hours into the Beta so far, and I have some thoughts that I’ll share with you now.

Gameplay is tight. Though I did manage to find one bug so far, overall the game runs smoothly, things work as you would expect, and there aren’t any drops in framerate even while streaming. The melee combat is visceral. Swinging an axe feels as it should. Blocking with a shield and then swinging it at your attackers to knock them down is very satisfying. Rapiers are quick and nimble. 2-handed weapons are slow yet powerful. This isn’t rocket science, but it feels right. Ranged combat is equally tight control-wise, but seems less effective in most cases. Crossbows are slow to reload, but pistols/shotguns and long bows feel much better. I haven’t tried out the Fire Mage just yet, but the ranged abilities coming from staves seems to be very effective at range.

The variety of Skaven is nice. Not only are there differing skins for the regular grunts, there are various types that are bigger and badder than their normal counterparts. Fighting a Rat Ogre for the first time was a magical experience. The armored Stormvermin come in packs and are tough to take down. The gunners, hook rats and assassins are a pain in the ass, as are the poison cloud creating variants. There’s no lack of challenge either. Normal difficulty still takes its toll, and the hard difficulty is almost too hard, at least at the lower levels with crappy gear. But there’s a couple of extra difficulty levels that I haven’t even seen yet, so there’s going to be plenty of replay value in this game.

As is common with most first person shooters of this era, you have a global experience level. The interesting bit here is that it’s not tied directly to any of the game’s five classes, so you don’t have to level each individually. Each level you’re rewarded with some gear, but each time it’s for a different class, so none are completely left out. Also, when completing a level, there is a dice game where you get the chance to earn better gear. The devs chose to keep with the traditional Diablo/MMO formula of color coding rarity, and so far the best I’ve come up with is a set of blue swords for the ranger class. Each time you level or dice roll, the gear can end up being for any of the classes, so that’s a nice way of avoiding an annoying individual grind. Gear is primarily weapons, though there are slots for trinkets, and you can change out your helmet, though I haven’t seen any of these drop just yet. Outside of the RNG at the end of levels, there are supposedly gear drops within the game, and you can also find extra loot dies that will help with your end-of-level rolls. At the very least, this system gives quite a bit of replay value if you’re the sort that wants to completely kit out your characters (I am).

The Beta only gives a taste of what’s to come though. Three levels are available to play at this time, though a handful more are scheduled to open at release. Of the three levels, I enjoyed the The Horn of Magnus level the most, but the others were fairly interesting as well. Each has a distinct feel to them. The Horn level sees you traversing a whole city, blowing through a gate with several powder kegs (a mini-event in itself) and finally blowing the horn and surviving an onslaught of Skaven. On Smuggler’s Run, you have to clear the Skaven out of the sewers and then escape yourself. Finally, on Supply and Demand, you fight through part of town and collect sacks of grain while being attacked by all manner of Skaven. Each of these game types varies ever so slightly, but are different enough to give you something new to do each time you play.

After each level and dice game, you’ll have the option to vote for what comes next. You can replay the same level, move onto the next or go back to the Red Hook Inn, where you start your journey in the first place. Here you can access your inventory (swap out weapons and gear) the mission map (where you can choose which level to play next) and access the forge – a powerful tool. The forge allows you to fuse, upgrade and disassemble items. Fusing requires five items of the same quality, and combines them into one item of the next quality up (5 whites = 1 green and so on). Weapons earned from the dice game often have locked traits that you can unlock in the forge, upgrading the weapon with passives. These upgrades require essences earned by disassembling items. It’s a basic system but it works well and I have seen some decent stuff come out of it.

Overall, I love the game. It’s been compared to Left 4 Dead, and I can say that it has a similar feel, though these small systematic upgrades give it a better replay value than L4D did, and the devs have already stated that more levels and classes are yet to come. I’ll be playing and talking about this game for a while to come. On Friday, I streamed for a while and uploaded the full uncut stream to my YouTube account. In that video, I only played on the Horn of Magus map because I was matched with a damn good team and we were just grinding for gear. We managed to beat the level on normal a couple of times, fail on hard once, and then complete hard mode. It was a blast, but I wanted to break so the video ends. I checked out the rest of the maps without recording, but I’m sure I’ll make some more videos before long. Here’s that stream for your convenience:

If anyone picks this title up, let me know. I need co-op partners!

WAR Newsletter #26

As I mentioned previously, I signed up for the beta for Warhammer Online. Part of the registration included signing up for the monthly newsletter, which I gladly did. I can’t seem to get enough info regarding the game, and the more I learn about it, the more I can’t wait to either get into the beta or for the game to be released (or both).

It seems the newsletter has been going for quite a while, but this is my first, and there was a bit covered. Here’s the brief list:

  • Video Production Podcast – covered RvR and Fortifications/Siege Weaponry.
  • Career Mastery Q&A – If you’re a EQ vet, think Achievements.
  • Producer Letter to Beta Participants – Didn’t watch this one, not in beta.
  • New Career; Dark Elf Disciple – Sounds like a mix between a necro and a shaman.
  • First Look; Dark Elf Sorceror/Sorceress – Didn’t watch this one.
  • Zone Overview; Ellyrion – Some cool art.
  • Then some ads for getting in beta and clothing.

The points I really want to focus on here is the career mastery, and the RvR balancing. One of EQ2’s major downfalls (in my opinion) is that the game separated PvE and PvP content; putting each on different servers. The lackluster Arena (which was pretty much unused since the expansion after it was released) is the only PvP area on PvE servers, and on PvP servers, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy PvE content without getting ganked over an over. Personally I enjoy PvP, and I would like to be able to participate in it when I want, and do general questing/xping when I want. In EQ2, this is impossible. In WAR, some of the very concepts myself and other PvPers discussed on forums and in game, are being implemented. Apparently, Mythic has been doing PvP this way since DAoC, though I never played the game.

WAR is going to have open world PvP, though there’s going to be more to it than just seeing an enemy player, and ganking them. More to it than getting a group or raid together to go to opposing territory and ganking other groups or raids. There’s a lot more going on here. There will be capture points, and as a faction captures certain areas, fortifications will be built upon the point. Higher tiered forts will be manned by NPC guards, that will hold the fort for you while you are out and about. When the forts get large enough, opposing factions will need siege weaponry to break into them, and it will take a lot more effort to take the objective down. So open world PvP is a lot more complex in this game.

There will also be instanced PvP, but they’re working towards a balance so that each PvP mode is desireable to earn “Victory Points”. Apparently there is a point system used for all RvR combat, and factions earn points to earn the right to sack an enemy city. Sounds like it’s going to be really fucking cool when it’s all settled. PvE quests will also play a role in earning victory points, so those folks who suck at PvP and are afraid of the gankfest, can still contribute to the overall victory of their faction. Sounds like balance is a high priority for the devs!

The career mastery system also sounds pretty cool. Upon a certain experience level, players will gain 1 mastery point per level gained to distribute in a tree, which will enhance available abilities, or provide new ones. The system is complex, and I don’t quite understand all of the intricacies yet, but I will figure them out in time. For now, suffice to say there’s going to be a fair deal of character customization in WAR. It is a bit of a double edged sword, though. In EQ2, you can gain multiple Achievement Points (the equivalent) per level, provided you do enough things that rewards AA XP. Having sub-skill points earned like experience is a cool idea, and is nice if you know what you’re doing. However, if you don’t, then you may end up far behind in the end, thusly it can be a pain. Having the points given to you every time you level, means that everyone will be on a balanced playing field throughout the game, as everyone will have the same amount of points as their level. The only bad side, is that you have to wait a whole level before getting another point. Both methods have their pros and cons, but I’m thinking for a RvR centric game, WAR has done the right thing leveling the playing field.

That’s all that I really care to comment on as far as the newsletter goes. If you haven’t signed up, and all this is interesting to you, visit the WAR website and sign up.

I’ve been doing some research on the table-top Warhammer game, and I’ve found some online stores that are selling the goods for a better price than the official Games Workshop site. I also used the GW Store-Finder, and found out that a store here in town carries the products. I’m planning to head over there and check out the stock this weekend, because I really want to get started with the game. The part I can’t figure out, is whether I’d like to buy the Rulebook, and read up on it, or buy some miniatures and paint them. Both would be entertaining, but I need both to play the game, and I’m not sure I have the cash to spare at the moment. Ah, predicaments.

/Camp. /Delete.

MMOs are a strange thing. They suck you in, making you want to play them all of the time. You think about playing your game while you’re at work. You think about it when you’re at home but not playing it. You think about what it is you want/need to do, in-game, all the time. And then there comes a point where you can’t play. Or maybe you take a little break to play a different game. And then the longer you go without playing your MMO, the easier it is to not play it. Sooner or later, you end up not even caring about it. And then, you quit altogether.

For some of us, when we get to that point of not caring, it’s because of one of two reasons. The first and most common, is burnout. The second, is something bigger and better has come along. For some, it may be a combination of both. For me, I believe it is.

As I mentioned previously, I had rolled a couple characters on the Nagafen (PvP) server. An Assassin, and a Shadow Knight. Both were fun to toy around with, and both had reached the mid-teens. Last night, I decided to log on, and toy with them some more. Up until that point, I had yet to see any PvP, and from what I had read on the boards, it seems a lot of players are avoiding it at all costs, to keep from leveling. So the fix of GU#41 was a double edged sword. Anyway, I logged into my Assassin, and as I was staring at his journal, trying to figure out what to do, something in the chat box caught my attention. There was a discussion going on about 9/11, conspiracy theories, the military, Bush, and other politically charged topics. As I read, I realized that 95% of the people on that server, at least in that level range, had to be 15 or younger. Not my kind of crowd. On Butcherblock, I have seen flame wars going on throughout the tiers, but they tend to be short lived. And most of the people I talk to in-game are older than me, so I know that most of them are unlikely to waste their time with out of character conversations. Regardless, I felt dirty having read all of the filth going through the channel, and I /camped. The two PvP toons I had made were promptly deleted.

The conversation in the channel wasn’t my only problem with the server. I was also not feeling like leveling another toon (or two for that matter) up to cap, and the lack of PvP targets during my normal playtime was also reason for concern. I thought about it over my weekend, and I decided that I should concentrate on only one server, and probably only one character. The addition of CoD4 into my life has also lessened my time spent in EQ2 land, so I figured I would cut my losses.

Call of Duty 4 is an amazing game. Once I start playing it, I find it harder and harder to pull myself away. I’m currently sitting at level 32 out of 55 levels. Yes, there is an experience system in the game, and ranks that you can achieve, along with many interesting challenges along the way. Gaining levels gives access to more powerful weapons, along with upgrades to said weapons. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m finally to the point where I can own, instead of having my ass handed to me over and over. The gameplay is much more realistic than it’s predecessor, and that’s a great improvement. No more running/jumping head shots with sniper rifles, that’s for sure.

There is another reason for my lack of interest in EQ2 recently. Aside from the burnout factor, and the secondary game factor, there’s a new game that I’m finding quite appealing, coming out next year. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, otherwise known as WAR, is one that I’ve been researching over the past few days. I’ve also looked into Age of Conan, another highly anticipated MMO, but I’m not too impressed with it. WAR seems to be exactly the game I’m looking for, doing things that EQ2 doesn’t.

In EQ2, I love the PvE game, but I also love the PvP game. I’ve enjoyed playing on both types of servers, yet there is no server that includes both game modes. Of course, you’re thinking I’m an idiot, because the PvP server includes PvE content; all of it in fact. Here’s where I make a comparison to a game I really cannot stand, but has what I’m talking about. World of Warcraft has servers (called “normal” servers) that include PvP action inside a PvE server, but you get to pick and choose when you wish to access it. On EQ2’s PvP servers, you don’t get to choose when to PvP, it’s a constant threat. I used to enjoy that concept, but now having 2 characters over level 70 on a PvE server, I wish I could PvP with them. In my game of choice, this is not possible. If I was playing WoW, it would be. This is the major downfall of EQ2 for me, making me want to look elsewhere for the solution. WoW is not the solution, because the PvE bores me, and the PvP is severely unbalanced. So I began my research last weekend.

WAR seems to be the solution. Not only does every server include the same gameplay, but the gameplay involves both PvE and PvP content. Apparently you will be able to pick and choose when to PvP, or can avoid it altogether. Some of the PvP will take place in instances (much like the Battlegrounds or Arenas of WoW), and some will take place in the open world. The races and classes in the game seem very interesting, and all seem very playable in a PvP aspect. The game looks damn good graphically too, and seems to me a combination of EQ2 and WoW graphics; not as cartoonish as WoW, but not as realistic as EQ2. I signed up for the Beta, though I doubt I’ll get into it. I’m crossing my fingers.

But, seeing as how the proposed release date for WAR is in Q2 next year, I have to keep myself occupied in the meantime. A part of me said “cancel your subscription to EQ2 and just play non-MMOs until then”, but another part said “just play your main on EQ2 and try to have fun with it until it’s time to part ways”. Of course, this gives me loads of time to experience the rest of the new expansion, and do whatever until WAR comes out. So I’ve decided that I will continue on with EQ2 until then; but since I’m a one-at-a-time MMO player, WAR is next on my list. There’s a chance the game will suck and I’ll come back to EQ2, but for now, this is my game plan. Maybe some of my friends will come with me.