As the European WAR beta finally sputters into life, belching smoke, making slightly alarming clanking noises and leaving a light sheen of oil behind it, but moving nonetheless, I’ve finally managed to play a bit. Not very much, I haven’t even managed a public quest yet, but I’ve tinkered with character creation and a bit of the very early content. Some games break you in gently; City of Heroes has a separate tutorial zone taking you through the various controls and interface elements, Age of Conan wouldn’t even let you see another player until you’d had a bit of a single player run-around, but Warhammer either figures everyone’s pretty much familiar with these MMOG things or wants to get you straight into the action, and pitches you right into the thick of things. You do get the old pop-up question marks explaining some stuff as it happens, the basics are nice and familiar (run around with WASD, press numbers to activate abilities on hotbar), a bit of random key pressing found most things (‘I’nventory or ‘B’ag? ‘P’layer or ‘C’haracter?), so in fairly short order I was off around the zone, killing ten of anything with a red name and getting to grips with the Tome of Knowledge. A couple of clicks signed up for the Nordenwatch Scenario, instantly familiar for anyone who’s played Arathi Basin. With the first match (a hotly contested battle that Order just won) I remembered how much I enjoyed battlegrounds, and then a second was a timely reminder of their frustrations (we got caned, immediate death upon respawn).
Having decided (maybe) to definitely (probably) play a Bright Wizard at launch, after a brief run around the Empire zone I thought I’d head somewhere else to keep things fresh. I figured a Dark Elf Sorcerer would be handy for getting used to the style of play while meeting and setting fire to new and interesting people, so wandered off to the Blighted Isle, and queued up for a scenario there. The first Elf scenario is slightly different to anything from WoW, being similar to the “Double Domination” game type of Unreal Tournament: there are two control points, and a team has to capture both and hold them for ten seconds to score. The terrifying forces of Destruction sprinted forth from their starting point, and had soon captured the closest control point. Then the terrifying forces of Destruction with incredibly short attention spans were unable to stand still for more than a couple of seconds, and everybody ran off towards the other control point (including me, I wasn’t going to hang around as a solitary level one defender). The valiant forces of Order were clearly just as deficit in the attention department, and as we triumphantly seized the undefended second control point, so they took the point we’d vacated, and it was back to square one. Quite literally, as the Destructive horde barely paused once the point was under control before heading back towards the other side of the map. Add the Benny Hill music and play everything in fast forward as the process was repeated a couple of times before finally a few of us actually stuck around a point long enough to catch a glimpse of the enemy. Either wary of a trap, or just confused by people actually standing by a control point, the Order players hung back favouring ranged attacks and sacrificial lions, giving enough of a delay for Destruction to capture the second point. Triumph! Victory! Or 100 points, with one side needing 500 to win (not sure what else scored points; kills, possibly, or just holding a point). Things settled down into a stalemate after that, with a general brawl around one of the points and neither side managing another capture, the clock slowly ticking down to finally bring a blessed halt to things. It’ll be interesting to see how the scenario pans out once people are more familiar with it, but I’m not sure it’ll be my first choice.