Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes
The big news for Warhammer fans out of GamesCom today is the upcoming Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes!
For those that can put 2 and 2 together, this is the new shiny that BioWare-Mythic gave a handful of us bloggers a sneak-peak at last month.
I would expect we’ll hear more information soon, but let’s take a look at what we know about it so far!
Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes
First off, for those that weren’t able to watch the announcement, here’s a link to the official web site with the teaser video they showed at GamesCom. (Although, to be honest, that video does NOT show how much fun this game is to play. Hopefully we’ll see more actual game-play footage soon.)
Obligatory Disclaimer: As the game is just about to enter its Beta, everything we know is subject to change. In fact, some has changed since the Alpha build we played. Such is the life of a video game. My comments are based on what I played and what has been announced so far.
Let’s get something out there from the start: this is not an MMO…it is more of a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) akin to Defense of the Ancients(DotA) or League of Legends(LoL), but without the PvE. That’s a rather important bit right there. Wrath of Heroes is all about killing people in the face. And three-ways. Can’t forget the three-ways.
Like other MOBAs, you (your account as a whole) earn experience from the matches you play to progress and level. As you go up in Levels, you gain access to different Tactics you can slot for your battles to tailor your Heroes more to your play-style and their strengths, much like Runes/Masteries in LoL.
All the fights are 6v6v6 laid out in what WAR players would recognize as a Scenario-structure. Players queue for a battle from a “lobby” interface, much like LoL. At the beginning of the battle, you select your starting Hero, each team spawns in one of three locations on the map and then the fight begins. Heroes have access to five different abilities with various different re-use timers depending on their strength/functionality.
Again, like other MOBAs, players may be able to purchase/unlock new Heroes and alternate appearances for them (skins). Basically, as long as it doesn’t affect gameplay, you can probably expect to see it available in some kind of store at launch. (This was not something we got to see while we were there as it was still in development.)
That’s where a lot of the similarities with other MOBAs end though. There are no PvE mobs/creeps/distractions in WoH. No beating on inanimate objects that may or may not fire lazer-beamz at you. There is no gold, no item shop, no in-match leveling. This is pure, unadulterated three-way hostility that has you at hello and doesn’t let go. Say goodbye to gear-crutches and consumable-dependencies. Say hello to player skill and the ability to work as a team.
Fights are a battle to a pre-determined point-score with a maximum time limit of 15 minutes, just like Scenarios in WAR. Points are earned primarily from killing opposing players, but you can also accrue points slowly over time by capturing objectives or accomplishing tasks related to each map. Some maps may be familiar to WAR players, such as Mourkain Temple. In WoH, the center Temple holding the artifact is now surrounded by three flags surrounded by three spawn-in areas. (Great care was taken to make sure that the paths from spawn-ins to flags to the temple were equidistant so as to avoid inherent advantages based on which team you end up on.) Ownership of the artifact is gated to ownership of a flag. Lose control over the flag, lose the artifact and the points it gives you. This prevents teams from turtling in highly-defensible areas and waiting out a win. Control over things changes quickly in these battles, providing each team the opportunity to come from behind and win just about any match.
Something else that’s different from other MOBAs is that, upon death, you can choose to use a different Hero upon respawn. Is your melee Hero getting kited to death? Switch to a ranged Hero and give them a taste of their own medicine. The ability to re-adjust your team mid-battle like this makes each battle, and the game as a whole, much more challenging. Knowing each Hero’s strengths and weaknesses, and which Hero can counter them effectively, can be the deciding factor in any given battle.
As for the Heroes themselves, they run the Warhammer gauntlet of army types. When we played, there were familiar Races like Dwarfs, Empire, Chaos, Greenskins, High Elfs and Dark Elfs. However, there were also Trolls and Vampires. Basically, anything from the Warhammer IP appears to be a possibility Hero-wise. Keep in mind, these are NAMED Heroes, not generic Race/Class-types. Even if, in the future, they put in two of the same Race/Class, the two Heroes could be vastly different in terms of the abilities they bring to the table.
In the video, we get a sneak peak at the following Heroes and their abilities (again, these may or not make it into the final game):
Thagison the Disgraced – Slayer
Slash – Damage and grants Rage, increasing movement
Exhausting Strike – Damage, increased by Rage
Enraged Assault – Greater damage and grants Rage
For Redemption – Increases your damage and grants Rage
Grievous Harm – Roots the target and makes them vulnerable
Nethyss the Crimson – Vampiress
Blood Siphon – Damage, and restores your health over time
Tainted Blood – Damage, increased by Blood Siphon
Domination – Damage, and increases your critical hit chance
Quickblood – Grants sprint, and deals delayed damage
Seduction – Staggers enemies, and heals you
Korith Deathbringer – Shadow Warrior
Rapid Fire – Damages quickly
Takedown – Greater damage
Fell the Weak – Greater damage, improved on weakened targets
Festering Arrow – Damage, and damage over time
Vengeance of Nagarythe – Damage, and increases the damage you deal
Bax Dreadtoof – Black Orc
Clobber – Damage and grants Clobber, increasing damage
Where You Goin? – Sprint
Yer Nothing – Damage and reduces target’s damage
I’m Da Biggest! – Damage enemy and heal you, improved with Clobber
Down Ya Go! – Damage and knockdown
Felicia the Flamekissed – Bright Wizard
Fireball – Deals damage
Fiery Blast – Damage and knockback
Rain of Fire – Area damage and snare
Flame Breath – Close area damage
Conflagration of Doom – Area damage and root
You also see a Gobbo and a Dark Elf female on the selection screen, as well as seeing what appears to be a Hammerer, Sorceress, Engineer, Archmage, Marauder, Troll and Shaman at various points in the video. Also, the images on the web site show a Witch Elf. There’s definitely an endless array of possibilities in terms of Heroes and their functionality. Snotling Hero anyone? How about a Chaos Chicken? Ard ta Feed? Gaarawarr the Naked Tank? ;)
That’s all well and good, you say, but how does it play?
Fantastic, in my opinion. I had an absolute blast play-testing this while we were out there and have been suffering from withdrawals ever since. As opposed to League of Legends, Wrath of Heroes matches are fast, fun, and have zero PvE. Can I get an Amen? :p
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy LoL for what it is, but sometimes the matches just drag on and on and on. Not so in WoH. The longest you’ll ever be in a match is 15 minutes. Period. If your team utterly decimates the others, then you can be out in 6-8, tops. Kind of like Team Gaarawarr does when it plays Team Mykiel. Just sayin’.
For my part, I played a Hammerer exclusively during our playtests. (What? There was no Ironbreaker. Dwarfs rule.) However, despite him being pure awesome, he had his counters in classes that could kite him reliably. This is where the ability to choose a new Hero on death is pure win. No matter what happens or how your opponents change up their group, you can always do the same with your team and counter them.
We exclusively played the Mourkain Temple map, which while familiar to us, was still different due to the adjustments to make it three-way friendly. (That’s my new favorite phrase btw: three-way friendly.) I have to say, I enjoyed doing this as 6v6v6 more than I’ve ever enjoyed it as a Scenario in WAR. Although, to be fair, I think that’s more due to the lack of item/level imbalances that come inherently as part of the nature of MMO progression than due to the three-way action. (Seriously, I can’t stop giggling.) We got a sneak-peak at another completely new map in the works with a different victory-mechanic and it looked to be just as fun and fast-paced as Mourkain was.
Of course, I’m not the only one that got to play/see it first-hand. Check out these other bloggers posts and keep an eye on their sites for more posts in the future.
I’m very anxiously awaiting getting to see how it looks and plays now, as I’m sure some of it has changed since then. Hopefully the Beta starts soon so I can get more hands-on time with it. Until then, as always…
Did you really think I wasn’t going to address the gigantic Chaos Elephant in the room?
Psshhh…I see it. I’m not blind.
“What does this mean for WAR?” “Stick a fork in it, it’s done!!1!” “LOUD NOISES!!!!”
Come on people, we’re not stupid. We’ve played WAR since it launched and invested countless hours into playing it and progressing our characters. (Seriously, I don’t want to count the hours…) We asked. We got answers.
James Casey’s Producer’s Letter addresses it a bit, but we had a bit bigger conversation about these things while we were there as this was definitely not what any of us expected when we were invited out to the studio.
The biggest concern right off the bat was if they had taken resources (staff, money, etc) away from WAR to make WoH. The answer was a resounding no. In fact, WoH production has actually already helped give resources to WAR. Apparently, WoH was designed and created in such a way as to allow them to share assets between the two games. This has already been seen in action with the adjustments made to the Mourkain Temple Scenario in WAR which opened up the Temple itself and put the artifact inside of it. This was done by the WoH team to help create the even, balanced fight that a three-way battle requires.
We’ve also recently been shown what is referred to as “Tier 7 Armor” for WAR. These are being introduced as appearance-only armor sets and were only able to be finished because of the shared art assets between the two games. Basically, from what I got out of the conversation, art assets for each game are almost completely interchangeable thus creating a much, much larger resource pool for both games than any one game would have on its own.
This has never been done with any MMO that I’m aware of. (Please, correct me if I’m wrong.) This creates the opportunity for a synergistic relationship between the two games that could be the best thing to happen to an MMO since the /ignore list. (MOBAs like LoL see active daily user numbers in the millions (1 million roughly for LoL with 15 million-ish registered). If they can pull off even a fraction of that interest in a Warhammer-based MOBA linked art and game-play-wise to WAR, they could see a sizable uptick in users and, ultimately, available resources for the game.)
The next big concern was if they thought people would unsubscribe from WAR to just play WoH for free. Obviously, it’s going to happen. Some people just play WAR for the Scenarios because they offer guaranteed fights in a fairly balanced environment and they’re over fairly quickly. A lot of those people will probably switch to WoH. However, while they’re still working on the exact details, there will be benefits for you as a WoH player if you have a subscription to WAR. This could be anything from access to extra/free Heroes, skins, store currency, etc. (This will obviously be a very important topic as the game nears launch. Hopefully they get the legal issues surrounding something like this settled in a manner that benefits both games, since that is the point after all.)
Ideally, the opposite will happen as well though: people that play WoH and enjoy the setting will end up subscribing to WAR. (One of the big things the WAR community has been pleading for is more marketing as they feel if more people are just made aware of the game, the sub numbers will go up.) The two games offer an entirely different game-play format and there’s definitely room for both in the gaming world, as we’ve seen. We’ll have to just wait and see in that regard though, but it’s not something to be disregarded lightly. As previously stated, the MOBA population is huge already and growing bigger every day.
At this point, with the game just being announced publicly and about to enter a Beta phase, we’ll all just have to wait and see what other information we’re given about how everything will interact. However, it speaks volumes to me that, unlike some seem to think, Games Workshop is still firmly standing behind BioWare-Mythic and the direction they’ve taken WAR and where they want to see it go in the future.