Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning looks great, feels unique, and best of all... is almost done. The visuals are varied and lovely as expected (scorched villages, bloodshot eyeballs peering sidelong from tree-trunks, elves smoking opium, all the greats). There are no weak player classes (i.e., these healers also fight) and its tiered quest system is intriguing: players gain experience on progressively more elite quests just by being in the right area, whether grouped up with others or not. But even a few minutes of hands-on twiddling quickly reveals WO:AOR's greatest asset: its gleeful embrace of never-ending conflict.
The war in World of Warcraft is so… ornamental and sedate, the PvP an afterthought. By contrast, this Warhammer lives up to its name. This is Mythic after all, whose last two flagship MMOs, Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot, were both influential PvP milestones. Impish creative director Paul Barnett rattles off Warhammer's litany of methods for stomping strangers into the ground with the delirious abandon of a kid in a candy store (even waving a Crunchie bar around as he talks): Capture the Flag variants, murderball, domination, over 40 point-based, geography-specific, instanced, objective-driven battleground scenarios for up to 36 players a side, capital city assaults, and a ranking system that assigns NPC allies as necessary to keep teams balanced.
Instead of translating the rules system that came with the license, Mythic plans to focus on the idea that none of its races can stand each other. It's Order vs. Destruction, dwarves vs. orcs ("greenskins"), dark elves vs. high elves - it's not the most politically correct approach in this day and age, but it does feel natural. And though the PvE content is extensive (each race gets its own complete "storyline") and crafting will exist in some form, it's all only foreplay set against the backdrop of unending conflict. Modeled somewhat after Camelot's Realm vs. Realm system, Warhammer's ingenious approach ensures even lowbies will, in small ways, have global military impact. We're not sure what constitutes a small global impact, but we're still eager to try having one.
Basically, contested zones will change control based partly on the points acquired by players during battleground skirmishes. As a faction's territory expands, they gradually accumulate enough to enable armies of characters to storm the gates of enemy capital cities, sack them, and capture enemy kings, to be incarcerated in your home stockades and pelted with rotten fruit. Sadly, you can't execute them; after a while, they're simply reinstated to await further incursions.