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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

War never changes. Literally in MMOs, as regardless of how bitter a conflict is it all whittles down to a few games of Capture the Flag with the eventual putting aside of differences to save the world. However, in the gritty Warhammer World, everything - every zone, every territory - from Rank 1 onwards, is pretty much at war. And why shouldn't it be? The enemy is near you, and you've got the chance to fight for your realm.

While on paper it sounds like AOR will be a horrible gankfest, allow me to put your fears to rest - I am a die-hard PvP hater, and Warhammer Online has revved my siege engine.

Get To The Choppa
First choose a realm - Order or Destruction - and your army: the human Empire (humans), High Elves and Dwarves who support Order, or the Dark Elves, Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins) and the demonic hordes of Chaos (mutated humans, unique to Warhammer), who side with Destruction.

Your last task when starting is to choose an army-specific career. This sets your basic ability to deal, take and heal damage.

AOR trades on its unique and distinct personalities, though - so while each army will host similar careers, their playing styles will be very different. For example, the Orc Choppa gains morale as he fights, building into a berserker frenzy. His most powerful abilities will drain these reserves, so he must keep slicing and dicing to keep his beserker ability powered.

In comparison, melee combat powers the Human Witch Hunter's ranged attacks, so he must engage in and withdraw from hand-to-hand combat to be effective. Both are damage dealers, but have radically different styles.

The mastery system is EA Mythic's mishmash of Titan Quest's tiers and WOW's Talents systems, with a few tricks of its own. After level 10, you can specialise further, allocating mastery points across deeper abilities. If you play a High Elf Shadow Warrior, you'll be limited, at first, to killing from a distance.

With progress, and well-chosen masteries, the warrior can turn into an brawling beast. Furthermore, you can combine masteries to make complex hybrids - tailoring yourself to either RvR or PvE combat, or making an amalgam adapted to both sides of this rough-and-tumble MMO.

Waaagh! and Peace
The combat is a familiar affair, but while it still involves the tapping of hotkeys, the morale system shakes things up somewhat. Morale builds as a battle continues, accruing and opening up bigger and better attacks, with larger, more successful groups gaining it faster than a solo combatant.

This is a simple and intuitive system that adds another dimension to longer battles, replacing powerful abilities that - in other games - would take five minutes to recharge, with shorter ones that keep battle momentum going. For RvR battles there are abilities designed to lower opponents' morale, which is especially useful when a bunch of psyched-up Orc Choppas are about to go berserk on your hit points.

Another interesting addition is the tactics system, which allows you to equip enhancements on a battle-to-battle basis, possibly adding more damage against a particular army (for RvR) or beasts (for PvE), or weapon skills (for both). These item-like augments let you adapt your strengths, like adding more healing ability if a Warrior Priest wants to act as a group's medic, or more skill with hammers if they want to go solo - it's an easy way to specialise on the fly without the permanence of RPG skills.

Under Siege
EA Mythic are ensuring players won't be forced to spend months getting the best gear before they join the war. They want to pull together the disparate worlds of PvE and PvP into one game.

From the start you're introduced to Scenarios, AOR's battlegrounds, which are bracketed into smaller level groups than MMO players are used to. This way AOR gives all players a chance to play a key role in the PvP missions. Even Public Quests (see Public questing), can have PvE and PvP objectives. And unlike WOW, killing another player grants run-of-the-mill experience, as well as AOR's second levelling commodity, renown.

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