Something I haven’t really talked about in WAR is gear. Not the benefits and stats (I haven’t seen enough of how the game pans out at the level cap to decide how the recently announced progressive gear sets will affect things), the important stuff: how it looks.
Both a strong selling point, and something of a limitation, for WAR is the Games Workshop IP. Other settings like Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan don’t really have fixed visual templates for characters; illustrations vary, films might inspire some styles, but need a bit of expansion unless you just have the one class of “barbarian”, all players as Schwarzenegger clones, and only two pieces of armour in the game: “leather posing pouch” and “a couple of leather straps”. In WAR, most of the classes are taken from the tabletop game, with a bit of tinkering to fit an MMO, and that gives you the appearance: a Warrior Priest looks like a Warrior Priest, a Witch Elf looks like a Witch Elf. With the inextricable link of race, class and appearance, your choices can be somewhat limited; if on the Order side you want to be a ranged healer with a bit of DPS, you have to be an Elf; if you want to be an Orc, you have to be a Black Orc, thus a tank, and each class has its own distinctive look (see also “how to recognise Destruction tanks”). Most MMOs have types of armour: light, medium, heavy, cloth, leather, plate, that sort of thing, usually with several classes sharing an armour type. There might be some class specific pieces, or gear with stat bonuses only useful for a particular class, but WAR is a little unusual in that almost everything (cloaks and jewellery apart) is only usable by a single class, reinforcing the distinctive looks from the tabletop game. In other games, a warrior could don some robes for a bit of a laugh, even if only a madman would do so for protection, in WAR there’s no way for a Chosen to dress like a Zealot.
One downside to this is no Hat News Now Today, I’m afraid. As a Bright Wizard, I can’t pop a Witch Hunter’s buckled hat on for a giggle, and the armour in my own head slot isn’t even a hat, it’s a high collar (probably a good thing, wizard’s hats can be a bit daft, and might mess up my mohawk). I suppose I could snap pictures of other people’s hats, but it wouldn’t be the same. Perhaps more widely than just odd people with a hat fetish, it limits roleplaying options a little, there don’t seem to be any casual options for kicking back in your capital city, but then WAR isn’t really a casual kicking-back sort of game.
The distinctiveness across classes does come at the cost of similarities within classes, you don’t have many ways to fundamentally differentiate yourself from others of the same class. As you level up, the gear gets slightly fancier, but the basics don’t really change, you keep that class look as you go; so far, at least, pictures of the high level gear sets look quite reasonable, nothing is ludicrously oversized. This could be a pretty serious issue, character customisation, making yourself stand out is definitely a factor for some MMO players (like me), but WAR treads a fine line; perhaps it’s a bit like the Uncanny Valley, the more similar two characters are, the more you notice the slight differences between them, but you’re not all clones. Again, the inspiration is from the tabletop game, where a unit is comprised of similar, but not identical, figures, which can be painted as desired, painting being reflected in WAR’s dye options. Dyeing seems like such an obvious system, oft-called for in games that don’t have it, but I suspect it’s a bit of a headache for artists and modellers to actually implement well, so it’s definitely nice to have. The painting theme carries into the names of the dyes, taken from Citadel’s paint range. Standard vendors offer a limited selection of dyes, with the more desirable colours (black, the more vivid reds and blues) found as drops from mobs, or possibly crafted by alchemists. These uncommon dyes are fetching high prices at auction on my server at least, emphasising the importance people place on appearance; ideally, I’d really like a wider selection of dyes available cheaply from vendors, but you can see why desirable colours are kept as drops, and the standard selection is enough to at least give yourself a coherent look.
Another way of customising your appearance is through trophies, little medals, emblems and the like that you can hang from your shoulder armour or belt. These are a nice touch; they aren’t terribly obvious, you have to look quite closely to see them, but any customisation options are welcome. I haven’t found too many so far, a fair few look to be linked to tome unlocks, so something to work towards.
Overall, then, WAR does pretty well for character appearances, especially for something soon after release, as new items and gear are nearly always added to games as they go. Certainly compared to Age of Conan, which was terribly bland and generic initially, I believe there are new armour sets being introduced there even as we speak. I’m certainly happy with my Bright Wizard.