With the open beta officially shut down and the game going live soon, I thought I'd give my thoughts and reactions. This isn't a review so much as a quick list of points and thoughts. Couple things to note right off the bat:
I raced through both character creation and most of the content to try to see as much as possible in the couple of days that I had.
For that reason, I wasn't really satisfied with my character, but a buddy from my WAR guild took the same concept and totally nailed it. I think I'm just not used to the depth of options available (what do you mean there's another set of drop down menus for each major costume area?) so more practice and exploration with the character builder should fix that.
Also due to my rushed play style, none of the quests really grabbed me. Seemed like lots of the usual for MMOs, which isn't bad. If I do get the game, I'll take a lot slower approach and actually read the quest text, look for extra quests, etc...
With that in mind, on to the reactions!
I'm fine with the starter zones. Coming from Guild Wars, I'm familiar with the multi-zone mechanic. If the game is good for it (Champions and GW both are, WAR would never be) it works just fine. The tutorial city is okay, though nothing really grabbed me. The crisis zones are both much better and feel more like "real" zones.
PQs (fine, fine "Open Missions") are a great feature and I'm really glad that another game has picked up on them. The one in the tutorial city zone even gets past the "3 waves of enemies" formula, mixing in resource gathering and defend the objective instead.
Everything is better with a friend. I leveled 3 toons through the tutorial city. the first and third I did with a guild group, the middle one I did by myself and didn't enjoy near as much. When you're beating down a wave of mobs and each champion has their powers firing off and such, the game just feels more awesome. Individual mobs of my level up to level +2 didn't seem to be much of a threat (I could usually one-shot my level normal mobs), so bring a group and round up the aggro.
The multi-role system sounds very interesting to me. I like the idea, but I think it would be highly dependant on the power set and the way you built your character to determine how nice it will be for a given toon. My Might/Force guy could probably switch easily between DPS and tanking. My Sorcery one isn't going to have the Constitution and Endurance for that. Maybe there will be mobs who have primary attacks that are better defended by Ego or Intelligence, in which case it would make more sense to "tank" with my Sorcerer.
I love try-before-you-buy abilities. Appeals to my min-maxer nature.
Also love the travel powers, all of which struck me as interesting or useful for various concepts. Acrobatics was the surprise fun one for me; I didn't expect just running and jumping to be so entertaining. Ooo! Time to make the Prince of Persia!
Mass combat (15+ players against mobs) stinks. Nothing is going to really threaten you unless it's a super villian. So no real challege there. Also, the graphics bogged down trying to display the multitude of power effects getting thrown around. For me, the 6-man group was the perfect size.
I dislike the heavy black outlines. And bloom effects. So I turned them off. No biggie.
Dualing you're guild buddies is fun. I wish WAR had this feature because I had a blast just pitting myself against other characters and concepts.
Button mashing gets old. At level 8, I had 3 powers to use in combat, plus my block and travel power. While it's nice to get a perk or power every level, it felt strange to be so far along and still not really gotten access to much outside of the level 1 powers. It also makes it difficult to define your concept. My sorcerer was supposed to call forth minions taking the form of the enemies worst fears. But I couldn't get enough powers until after the crisis zones, several hours into the character's time played.
So what does this all boil down to? Well, in my mind, an open beta is a trade between the game company and the gamer. They get to test stuff on a large population, and we get to try the game in it's almost-completed state to see if it's something that interests us. For me, it's highly dependent on how many of my guild friends are playing. The social interaction (talking about power sets, checking out character ideas, and running zones together) is more than enough for me to work past the minor gameplay issues that I have.
Final verdict: Wait and see. If 4-6 people from my guild go for it, I'll probably give it a buy. Otherwise, I'll just hang where I'm at with WAR and DDO.
It took hours of work and concentration, as well as tremendous personal persuading on the part of the warband leads, but we finally got it together and pushed all three forts in rapid succession recently. The second one opened up only 5 minutes after the first, and the third followed another twenty minutes later. An hour later, we had only captured one fortress, and the organization was breaking up. Why, you ask, with such superior numbers and excellent coordination were we kept out of the Inevitable City? Dumb bad luck and taunts on the Lords.
To elaborate, I'm going to chalk up any player mishaps into the category of dumb luck. Pull too many guards, forget to guard the healer, accidentally hit the challenge renown instead of the shield, etc... are all mistakes that people make in the heat of the battle. I'm not looking to court martial anyone for it, and I really don't want Mythic to make any allowances for it. Stuff happens, we learn from it, we move on, and we succeed because of that learning process.
But I really can't chalk up 7 or 8 failed attempts on the various Fortresses to bad luck. And I saw the number of Destruction players that were defending; they performed well, but not well enough to hold off the sustained effect of rolling warbands into the Fortress zone. Order's organization and execution were there, but we had some griefers in our midst. By taunting the Lord, a cross-realming player can shut down a fortress attack. With the sheer number of effects going off and the low frame rates that always accompany these attacks, it's almost impossible to figure out who the malefactor is most of the time. And it's killing the chances of invading the enemy city far too often by changing the Fortress Lord from a powerful defensive unit into a tactical nuke. This is further compounded by the fact that we didn't get a second ramp up to the Lord's room, as the keeps received.
Since we're all about solutions here at the WnP, I'd like to offer up one: Change the enraged attack from an AoE to a single target. Let the Lord go berserk on the player that taunted, and then return to his normal behavior. This would punish the taunter for his impudence without punishing the entire attacking army for what could be a griefer tactic. If there are concerns that the Lord will now be too easy, then Mythic could give the Lord a small heal (say 10-15% of their total hp). That way it would take a lot more work and coordination to force the attack to fail. The game would still have plenty of incentive to avoid making mistakes, since it can be difficult to impossible to get back in to the Fortress zone in time if you have to run back, but it would stop rewarding people who's loyalty belongs to the other side. We'll see what happens with Fortresses in the next patch and how Mythic addresses these issues.
Woohoo! I won! So that means I've signed myself up for another round of WAR blogging. Unfortunately, due to the insanity that is fortress sieges (a second ramp for Forts seemed like a no-brainer), I'm not able to provide my promised interview of the defeated Destruction Lords. En lieu of that, I'll instead give my impressions on an actual city siege under 1.3.1, with me in the role of heroic Altdorf defender since Destruction managed to beat us to it.
I logged on to find that Altdorf was under siege and a solid guild group was online defending. I jumped in the warband and queued for the instance, hoping that the rapidly dwindling siege timer would hold out long enough for me to get in. Took about fifteen minutes, but I made it in with about 50 minutes left on the siege; plenty of time to get my feet wet in the new system. Turned out we were routing Destro pretty handily, though I must applaud the group or so of Destruction players that never gave it up. They fought hard and tried to hit the BOs, but with such a disparity of numbers, Order was able to sit on 2 BOs for the duration.
With the BOs securely in hand, it didn't take long to flip the PQ to the second stage and bring out the General, who was promptly ignored. Those guys are tough PvE content all by themselves, and it doesn't help that his Hero minions insisted on chasing our healers all the way back to the Order spawn point in the market. Odd pathing aside, I still don't like that even with 2-1 population in an instance, it still doesn't seem viable to beat the General down. An unchecked lion, or an accidental taunt, and the battle field is immediately littered with allied corpses. "Why bother with that?" seems to be the consensus. We can just hold the BOs, kill the few destro that stick out their noses, and wait. Destro doesn't need to really defend the General, they can just follow in his footsteps and mop up.
We finished the PQ twice; add in the 2 crests for successfully defending the city and I got 4 crests for an hour's defense. Not horrible, but I'm still left sitting on a grand total of 10 Invader crests. I've got 999 Officer Medallions ready to go, but until I can get into another City Siege or get lucky fighting in RvR, my gear progression will remain where it has been for the 4 to 5 weeks: 2 Invader/ 4 Conqueror for RvR. I'm RR 57 now, and the inability of my server to get to a City Siege has been a bit of a frustration the last couple weeks. It's got to be even worse for the folks even higher up the Renown Rank ladder.
Well then, you're probably asking, what would I do? Here ya' go:
I would have added a second ramp for Fortresses. What's good for the Keep goose is good for the Fortress gander, and I'm personally of the opinion that if you let your side get dominated so badly that you're depending on the Fortress Lord to keep the other side out of your Capitol, you need some incentive to make sure things don't get to that point. Go guerrilla, get mobile, leave BOs before the second tick, and otherwise shake up your strategy to annoy and confuse your opponents. It's too bad that they didn't take this opportunity to try to improve the Forts, but they are promising something new in terms of Forts and the campaign in patch 1.3.2, so we'll see.
I would have toned down the General. Are we mice or are we men? When the General arrives on the scene in a city siege, it's pretty obvious that all these lauded "heroes" and "champions" as we players like to fancy ourselves are able to contain him as well as a wet paper bag. Forget killing him, we can't even make it so that he doesn't kill us in one swing. I'm okay with the idea that the Generals of the armies in WAR would be immune from our taunts. What I don't understand is why this needed to be translated into an immediate "General goes freakishly insane and kills everyone" response. Especially now that the BOs are in place, the dominating side is going to win the second stage by virtue of being able to field a full defense of the Objectives. I don't see a reason for the General to still be so stupidly powerful.
I would have run more QA/fixed QA processes. I've defended Mythic before when the issue of bugs comes up, saying that some bugs aren't going to be found until you get a full population load and see it in the wild. That's still true but now we seem to be getting lich bugs; bugs that were quashed before and have now returned because nobody destroyed the phylactery of poor source code management and testing. I work in software development and I know how easy it is for someone to check in old code on accident. But we shouldn't be saying that a bug that was fixed before has now returned almost a year after launch. You shouldn't even start a project, especially of this size, without a very strong source control system and testing procedures in place and ready to go.
Complaints aside, this patch was a nice big step in the right direction. The new siege is more fun and based on what it should have been all along: killing enemy players. I'm encouraged that Mythic has a plan for Fortresses, despite what seems like a wasted opportunity to redo them a little now. We'll see what they come up with. I've got an idea or two myself, but I'll save that for another post.