Saturday night found the entire cast of the Twilight Dandies in Warhammer Online looking for adventure or maybe a musical number.
Scenarios were out. I think we have all hit the point where they are still fun, but perhaps not something we want to keep doing over and over and over again every time we get together.
Open RvR was a possibility, but a look at the map showed that things were pretty quiet in the world, at last up through tier 2. We owned all the keeps and most of the control points in the various RvR zones.
That left PvE as an option. We thought we might see what Warhammer Online dungeons were all about, so we flew to Altdorf to see how we might fare in the instanced sewers under the Empire’s capital. The team available was:
Bluelinebasher – Level 10 Ironbreaker
Earlthecathree – Level 10 Swordmaster
Denrohir – Level 13 Archmage
Chicken – Level 13 Shadow Warrior
Varsoon – Level 14 Warrior Priest
Meclin – Level 16 Ironbreaker
Stardoe – Level 17 Warrior Priest
Seven people and we were not quite sure if there was a limit on how many people could do an instance. So we formed a warband and decided to give it a shot. We all entered the instance.
Six of us were in the same instance while Bluelinebasher was all by himself in another. That answered that question: Six people per instance please.
Well, it looked like Bluelinebasher was not going to be part of our story for the night, so he ran off to greener pastures while we looked at what faced us.
This wing of the sewers is for levels 12-15 and we found ourselves facing a series of champion mobs in the level 13-15 range grouped in threes for the most part.
The sewers themselves looked good enough. They were somewhat reminiscent, to me at least, of some sections of the Freeport Sewers or Qeynos Catacombs in EverQuest II, at least in style. Size is another matter. Here we are piling in for the first time.
Looks very sewer like…
Getting 3 champions on us did not make for a huge, hairy fight and we were able to contain things for the most part with only a death now and again, but the limitations of the ironbreaker’s taunting ability was somewhat exposed. Challenge, the skill available to Meclin to keep mobs on him has a 30 second cool down and fades after 15 seconds, so mobs were getting off the leash more often than we would have liked.
Couple that with the awkward targeting (no target forwarding off of the tank unless you /assist) and the lack of group/raid targeting functions and the whole thing felt a little more “wild west” than it should have. This is 2008. Haven’t we solved all these problems in other games? Do we have to go through a voyage of discovery as another company learns how to implement group mechanics?
We plugged along through what we assumed was a very short segment of the first wing of the sewers which consisted of 18 or so champion mobs, some normal mobs crowded at one end, and a boss mob off in his own little room. We cleared the champions and killed off the boss without too much ado. There were two deaths in that battle, but we were all in close so figured it might have been an AOE attack.
Here we our with our first WAR instance boss slain.
Who is your hero now?
In the fine tradition of bosses dropping items that nobody in the group can use, this one dropped a nice piece for a bright wizard.
After the boss, we turned our attention on a hoard of zombies that were at the far end hall. They were guarding what I would call a “zone swirl” where we expected the instance would continue. The zombies were all normal mobs and were dispatched easily enough. We then entered the swirl.
And we found ourselves back out in the street again in front of the entrance to the first wing of the sewers.
That was it.
One very small zone, a couple dozen trash mobs, and a boss. Elapsed time: 20 minutes.
I guess that is what passes for a dungeon in WAR. Not exactly on par with, say, the Deadmines for a first dungeon experience. Nobody can accuse Mythic of trying an Age of Conan bait-and-switch on when it comes to instances. They served up crap from the outset in this regard.
We decided to give the second wing a run. We were obviously not out of time at that point.
The second wing was a bit more of a challenge, but only because everything was higher level. One improvement was that the linked groups of three champions were not all identical, which made focusing on a single target easier for the group. Fights went on. Deaths happened. Finally we reached a boss named “The Bulbous One.”
And there we were thwarted.
The boss was tough, but via what we agreed was pretty much a screw job mechanic.
Basically, the boss has a zone wide AOE. Everybody in the party takes damage all the time. We did enough runs at this boss to experiment with different ranges. We fought in close. We put the healers at extreme healing range (150 feet). Chicken ran around the corner and back towards the entrance to see if he could escape this relentless barrage. But it hit everybody every tick no matter where they were.
Can you hit me now?
The boss in the first instance probably had this same mechanic, only weaker, so were were able to power through with only a couple of deaths.
This time we did not have the firepower to take him down fast enough and even with three healers we could not keep people alive long enough to wear him down.
So after a number of runs, we gave up.
I am not sure we missed much. The second wing looked to be identical to the first with just a change to the mobs.
All I can say is that if that was an example of the instanced, dungeon crawl experience in WAR, then no other game need fear WAR as a competitor in that regard. And to those who will say, “Well, WAR is really about RvR…” I ask, “Why put such a half-assed feature in the game then?”
Giving up on instances, probably for good in WAR, we decided to go look for some open RvR. A good keep battle seemed like just the tonic to cheer us up after the sewer fiasco.
A look at the map showed that all of the keeps were ours and that none were under attack.
There appeared to be two open RvR objectives to take in the Shadowlands though, so off we went to the tier 2 High Elf area.
When we got there and checked the map again, the two objectives in question appeared to be under Order control already. Somebody either grabbed them really quickly or the map isn’t as accurate as one would hope when it comes to remote zones.
Then we were alerted that one of our keeps was under attack! We ran headlong to defend it… and found one Destruction player in the vicinity. He didn’t live long as the word “gank” was demonstrated to him in real time.
So we stood about and wondered where all the open RvR action had gone. In tier 2 Order owned literally everything. The Destruction steam roller, and all the fun, had apparently moved on to tier 3.
To find the fun, we would have to get to tier 3, which seems to mean running scenarios and doing public quests ad infinitum. At the mention of that, half our party called it a night.
Three of us stayed on a bit more and tried a public quest, but we did not have enough help in the area to have a hope of finishing it.
So ended our evening. Fun seemed to be at low ebb or playing elsewhere. Our own arrival at tier 3 looks to be weeks away at our casual rate of play unless we get on the endless scenario treadmill. And the PvE content in WAR, billed as a playstyle option for the game, continues to show itself as not very fun to play and not incredibly viable to level up.
Looking for the “fun” entry in the Tome of Knowledge
And, the final insult… no false Kendricke AGAIN! I may have to let that joke die if we don’t have a spotting next week. Of course, we didn’t see many other people at all playing in tier 2 at prime time on a Saturday night. It was kind of spooky.
WAR, we’re trying, but we’re not hard core enough to stay in the fun curve it seems.