Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning - hands-on

A dominant feature of WAR is the public quest; there are more than 300 of them throughout the game, and you’ll run across them in both capital city raids and in open-world dungeons. Public quests are area-based quests that anyone within range can opt to participate in; when you enter a public quest area, info will pop up on your screen to let you know. And while you needn’t complete all the public quests in order to finish a dungeon, they are a great way to gain additional experience and earn some loot. Public quests have a variety of stages - no fewer than three, and sometimes as many as seven or eight - and as the stages advance, so do the number of people required to successfully complete them. In each stage, all participants are working together to reach a collective goal; for example, you might be assigned to kill a certain number of a creature, so everyone participating can defeat enemies to add to the total. You can jump in no matter what stage the quest is currently in, and each quest is infinitely repeatable.

As you fight, you’ll earn both experience points and influence (needed to get to the final boss fights for each dungeon) for your individual kills, and participants will collectively be awarded experience and influence for completing a stage. After successful completion of a public quest comes the awarding of loot. Everyone who participated rolls for a chance at a limited number of loot bags; for example, there may be 10 people and only three or four bags. Those who contributed more to the public quest will receive bonus credit that will weight the roll more heavily in their favor, and those who win will each get a chance to select one item from the bag. A smart loot system ensures you’ll always be able to pull something you can use.

Our time in WAR ends with the last boss battle against the Keeper of Secrets, an Amazonian bondage-clad foe who rains down both pain spells and pleasure spells (which slow your character down). She also throws out elements known as desires, which can amp up your profession’s abilities and help you defeat her; but imbibing them too liberally can have nasty repercussions. And while our time with Oneye and Skullsmasha is over for now, we’re definitely looking forward to more dungeon-crawling exploits when the game comes out later this year.

One of the best things about completing a dungeon is getting a nice set of armor that offers visual proof of your prowess. While dungeons aren’t the only way to get armor sets in WAR - you can also earn them through realm-versus-realm combat, invading your enemy’s land and capturing the king, and assorted public quests - all of the dungeons in the game on launch day will have their own special sets. Get ready to start crawling, collectors.

Late-Breaking News!

Four of WAR’s initially planned 24 classes (and four of its six planned cities) have been nixed from the game. The Choppa (Greenskin), the Hammerer (Dwarf), the Blackguard (Dark Elf), and the Knight of the Blazing Sun (Empire) are all out. Asked to comment, Executive Producer Jeff Hickman says, "We'd rather make the 20 [that will be in the game] rock solid and really great." Rock solid and really great, as opposed to rushed and half-realized due to time constraints? Sounds good to us.

Aug 4, 2008