Warhammer: The Cold Equation

There’s a piece over at Tobold’s place today about whether the many WAR players will be skipping out to return to WoW within the next several weeks. He himself is leaning toward doing so, and his reasons are solid, even though I myself don’t really see much in them that would lead me back to WoW. But then, I don’t see much of anything that would lead me back to WoW at this point.

It’s important to note that I’ve had a wonderful time with WAR, thanks in large part to the excellent camaraderie from the Casualties. But it’s also worth noting that it was partly due to certain prodding that I was motivated to even try to sign in last night, and I didn’t try so hard as to bother checking after a couple of hours to see if the servers were back up.

The bottom line is that I’m bored with Warhammer.

Now, maybe I just dumped too much time into it too quickly – that’s very possible. Maybe this will pass. Maybe I’ll come out of the weekend swinging for the fences for Emperor Karl Franz. But since Sunday I have been far more motivated to sign into and play EVE than I have Warhammer. I would like to stick with it; I’ve made excellent progress so far. But the nature of a subscription MMO is that you’re either in or out; either you’re getting enough play and enjoyment in to keep paying the monthly fee, or you’re not. And I’m not one of those that lets subscriptions continue on games I’m not playing. Ever.

The fact that Destruction and half the class options in the game became unexpectedly unplayable is part of the problem. I love the Bright Wizard and the Ironbreaker but every other class I was interested in was on the Destruction side, and the failure of the game’s delicate balance across faction and tier on Thorgrim ensured that the part of the game I was most enjoying – the RvR – just didn’t happen there. It’s not unplayable in an absolute sense, of course – but it was and is unplayable for me.

Also, and I’m being blunt here, the game lacks depth. Something I’ve been praising it for is the fact that it drops you into the main thrust of the action almost right away when you start playing. This is a wonderful way to keep low-level players interested and involved after the early adopters have moved on, but it has a downside, too; the game doesn’t evolve much as you move up in rank. Play in Tier 3 is pretty much the same as it was in Tier 1, and if there are more scenarios to play, it doesn’t really matter if two thirds of them never fire. All of Warhammer’s positive innovations in open grouping, Public Quests and living guilds mask the fact that its PvE play is really quite shallow – nobody is going to stick around with WAR if their experience depends on this aspect of play, and balance problems insure that for many, RvR doesn’t happen right.

WAR depends on balance. Balance between Order and Destruction, between different Tiers, and between PvE and RvR. It turns out to depend very much on balance in all these areas, and that balance turns out to be very delicate. World RvR just doesn’t happen every night, even in prime time, so you start playing more scenarios. This drives more people out of world RvR and into Scenarios, and the next thing you know, scenarios are all anyone is doing. Scenarios get boring after a while – you’re clearly intended to play a mix of scenarios, world RvR and PvE/PQs, but this is dependent on a mix of population doing all three. If the population shifts into one of these (as it has done,) the others become untenable, and the only alternatives become pure PvE questing or farting around with crafting. WAR’s PvE (outside of PQs) is good but shallow and its crafting is both good and deep but very narrow. It’s just not enough to keep people playing, and it’s certainly not as good as the PvE questing in EQ2 – or even in WoW.

Warhammer is a terrific game that launched well and appears to be moving in a good direction post-launch. It’s better – flatly better – than Age of Conan – and that game was itself much better than its detractors made it out to be. It’s better than World of Warcraft in my opinion, and it’s a wonderful addition to the hobby. But it needs time to smooth out a lot of issues, many of which are more than strictly mechanical, and therefore more difficult to fix.

I just don’t have it in me to shell out $15 a month for a game I’m not playing – or even for a game I’m only playing a little bit. I need to be able to get at least one good session or two a week in, and if I’m not enthused to play, I won’t get that. It has a little over a week to sell me again. A dedicated PQ group starting at the bottom of Tier 3 could do that. But without that or something like it, I’ll end up somewhere else after the end of the free month.

8 responses to “Warhammer: The Cold Equation

  1. A very fair assessment of the game.

    You were picked for the campaign ad because I wanted a CoW blogger who had an Empire main and a Greenskin alt. Wouldn’t a Bright Wizard look good in “fade to black and white on a close-up while ominous chords play in the background”? Or leave the reds but drop the other colors, that could be even better.

  2. Fear not – I took it in the good humor it was intended. Besides, it’s always nice to get linked by one of the Big Boys, sending me sweet, sweet hits.

  3. I have two thoughts on this post.

    First, I think it’s pretty much impossible to play 2 MMOs at once, unless you’re independently wealthy and even then it’d be a struggle. I started WAR with every intention of continuing to play LOTRO too, but have logged into LOTRO exactly once since WAR launched, and that was to pay upkeep on my house. So as soon as you started up in EVE I figured your WAR days were numbered.

    Second, about the shallow PvE. Can you elaborate on that? What makes the PvE here shallow compared to other games. Or if its easier, what’s an example of a game with deep PvE? I hear this “shallow PvE” critique a lot and I don’t really understand what people mean when they say it.

  4. I’ve often written about how hard it is to play more than one MMO at once. Not just to manage the time, but the harder task of maintaining enthusiasm for multiple titles. So intentions aside I see exactly where you’re coming from.

    As for the other comment, I’ll elaborate.

    WAR questing (outside of PQs) is typical kill, collect and courier quests. These are well done and less frustrating than equivalents in other games, and it works perfectly well as an adjunct to the other aspects of play as mentioned in the post. But when it becomes the sole avenue of play, it’s simply not satisfying. It’s just not rich, interesting or challenging enough to support a game experience unsupported by scenarios, world RvR and Public Quests. Again, there’s nothing wrong with it, but when other avenues of play get boring or become unavailable, it gets old fast, and it would have to be outstanding (rather than merely good) not to.

    In fairness, there’s more PvE to do if you branch out into the zones for the other races. But I don’t think you should have to do this, and in any case the questing in the other zones provides more of the same type of stuff. It’s about as good (albeit less annoying and time-consuming) as the questing in WoW without quite as much variety and fewer leveling dungeons (this latter not being a particular strength of WoW.)

    The obvious counterpoint here is EQ2, where you not only have a vastly larger number of quests, you have all different kinds of quests – collections, Heritage chains, Legend & Lore, and dungeons and world group content for almost the whole level spectrum. For this latter, finding groups presents a similar problem at many level ranges – but not managing that doesn’t shut the game down, either, and there’s plenty of interesting stuff you can do solo, including meaningful crafting. EQ2 also has a really big world with all kinds of neat nooks and such to explore. WAR’s world is much more focused around a single defining element of play (RvR) and is thus less appealing in this regard. Vanguard also has more and better questing, more and better group content and a far larger and more interesting world to explore, even lacking as it does many of the questing refinements present in EQ2.

    Is this somewhat subjective? Sure. But I’m not trying to speak for anybody else here, and besides, the point is that WAR is built around RVR, which is (and is meant to be) the most insteresting and challenging aspect of play, and when that breaks down (which is, as it turns out, unfortunately common,) the conventional play isn’t enough to keep the game satisfying.

    EDIT: Gods, am I windy or what?

  5. This is why I wish WAR had a lifetime sub option. I’d buy it. I only continue to play Lotro because its now “free” 😛 Fun or not I have a really hard time justifying spending 400$ for two or three years in a video game.

  6. Just to be really clear, I’m asking you to elaborate because I’ve been trying to understand this, and you’ve shown yourself in the past to be a patient tutor. 🙂 No good deed goes unpunished and all that. But I’m not asking as a backhanded way of challenging you.

    I appreciate your taking the time to reply. Thanks!

  7. Im in the same boat,im slowly getting bored of war mainly due to the imbalance..we start.destro tanks roll us over we lose 500-10 ..played 25 scenarios over the wkend and won 7..id agree the pve is shallow even @17 but i was hoping the rvr would make up for it..sadly tho ill not sub and am debating between eq2 and lotro…if i dont choose eq2 i will prob cancel my sa as with the exchange rate its getting to be an expensive luxury..:(