My 10-day Warhammer retrial concluded over the weekend. During that time, I leveled a new Zealot to rank 12/RVR rank 10. What have I learned about the game?
The Challenge of Keep Siege Numbers
On my last night in game, I finally managed to catch up with one of Mythic's heavily touted "open RVR" (read: non-instanced) keep sieges. Mechanically, the warfare was relatively simple; try to protect the players with the battering ram until they beat the door down, and then zerg up the stairs to kill the keep lord. Hold the keep, or various other objectives, for long enough and you can expect substantial exp and RVR exp.
Unfortunately, the non-instanced nature of the battle reared its head pretty quickly. With equal numbers, fights devolved into zerg-fests, with neither army able to make substantial progress. Otherwise, the team with the larger numbers won, waited for the victory bonuses, and went off to attack the next zone. The team with smaller numbers either tried to hide behind friendly NPC's or retreated to attack a different zone. The open warband I joined took a number of keeps and battlefield objectives, and failed to take a number of additional ones, but rarely found that perfect, ideally balanced fight.
PVE is still filler?
I was also able to participate in a fair amount of PVE content, including the Hunter's Vale group dungeon and various public quests. From the healer's perspective, this content was all relatively straight-forward. The production values were decent, but it occasionally felt a bit simplistic; some public quest bosses simply damaged the local tanks faster than I could heal them, while in other cases I ended up spending most of my time doing (minimal) DPS for lack of damage to heal.
Overall, the group PVE content is reasonably well done, but I'm not sure that I'd take it over group content in any of the other games that I play. I could see this content getting frustrating pretty quickly if you were forced to repeat it in search of drops (which was required for keep siege gear at the game's launch).
What Mythic has done right
As I noted previously, Mythic has removed logistical barriers to group content, and also managed to make group healing fun for a longtime solo veteran like myself.
Beyond that, I have been very impressed with Mythic's willingness to leave no stone unturned in the quest to improve the game. It can't have been an easy call to remove Fortress sieges from the game or start all new characters in a single racial pairing to ensure population, but someone made the call that these changes were for the best.
Unfortunately for Keriak, the "Vegas style" loot distribution is still in the game - I walked away from this siege empty-handed.
The Bottom Line
I won't be continuing with the game for now. I'm at a point in my personal gaming life where I'm looking to decrease the amount of time I spend on rehashing repeatable content instead of trying new things. By design, Warhammer makes heavy use of repeatable content in an attempt to encourage grouping.
Even so, I'm glad I took the time to come back and make my peace with Warhammer Online. Over the year since its launch, the game has actually delivered on most of its promise. If the game had been in its current state at launch, we might be looking at a very different MMORPG market today.