WarCry's Official Review
By John Funk
Big-name game releases and hype are hardly strange bedfellows, but in some ways it seems that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (or WAR) has been placed upon a particularly higher pedestal than the norm.
Ever since November of 2004, when Blizzard irrevocably changed the face of the MMO market with their ludicrously popular megahit World of Warcraft, gamers and journalists alike have been searching and searching for a game that could be to WoW what WoW was to games like EverQuest and Final Fantasy XI - a title that could dethrone the reigning champion. Guild Wars, Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan and more all came and went. Some flopped, some stabilized with their own particular niche, but none of them were "WoW killers."
Yet it seemed that with every potential WoW killer that failed to check Blizzard's meteoric rise, there was an undercurrent of "Oh, but wait until Warhammer." While still barely more than an idea when Mythic announced the title in 2005, it seemed to have as perfect a pedigree as a potential title could get. Few would argue that Mythic's first MMORPG, Dark Age of Camelot, was a perfect game - but it was a popular, solid title from the pre-WoW era, with a strong focus on team-based PvP. The Warhammer brand name might not carry the same weight as, say, Lord of the Rings, but it certainly has a robust and devout fanbase - and thanks to a minor if constant squabbling rivalry between the 'Craft and the 'Hammer devotees amidst rumors and accusations of plagiarism, in a way the whole thing appeared to be almost destined. With the financial clout of industry big-dog EA behind the developers, if any game could possibly topple World of Warcraft, in the minds of many that game would be WAR.
Well, the Age of Reckoning is upon us at last, and gamers can finally start answering the question, "Does WAR live up to all the expectations?" In short, the answer is "not entirely."
This, however, is not meant to be in any way a slight against the game - rather, the burden placed on Warhammer was utterly unreasonable. Over the years, the hype for the game continued to build until it seemed that many gamers were somehow expecting WAR to be a flawless gem handed down from the heavens. WAR will not dethrone WoW as many were hoping - but Mark Jacobs and the crew at Mythic were never trying to make a WoW killer in the first place.
For those of you who are already well-versed on the ways of WAR, or those who just want the final sum-up without reading the rest of the review, here it is: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning is a damn good game, even a great one. The PvE part of the game is competent though not noteworthy and slightly dull, a problem that is exacerbated by the slow pace of the game's combat. However, that same slow combat shines in PvP, which is without a doubt the core of the game and its strongest selling point. There are some great ideas in Warhammer, though some of them suffer from flawed execution (Public Quests, I'm looking at you).
There are moments in the game that feel rough and unpolished, and one can't help but feel that pushing back the launch even one more month to do one final pass would have done wonders. However, while a lack of polish might dull brilliance, it can't mask it entirely - the core of WAR is very, very strong ... it just needs the kinks worked out.
That said, let's delve a bit deeper into the specifics of what works well in WAR and what, well, doesn't.