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Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning Review

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Warhammer huh!, What is it good for?

★★★★

By their very nature, massively multiplayer role-players live or die on the strength of the contribution made by the gaming public, and reviewing any MMRPG in the early days of its lifespan – with woefully underpopulated servers – can never do justice to the developer’s vision. But while Warhammer Online is a hugely promising release that’s sure to evolve into a ridicously popular online war game by the end of the year, a handful of flaws will stop it achieving the same levels of fevered fandom inspired by World Of Warcraft.

Having spent years in development, it’s no surprise that Age Of Reckoning has captured the Warhammer mythos with style, offering a vibrant fantasy world that delivers the scale, grandeur and atmosphere you’d expect from a modern role-player, but with a strong nod towards the pewter figurines and tabletop combat that gave birth to the franchise. The familiar roster of fabled heroes and villains – from the haughty High Elves to the brutish Green Skins – also give players a good variety of character classes to tinker with, offering plenty of variety and a huge range of skills to master. And while the solo and public quests used to develop your characters are easy to get to grips with and navigate, where the game really shines is in its player vs player skirmishes; staged in the open world, these colossal battles featuring hundreds of gamers are intensely exciting to be part of, the battle lines constantly shifting back and forth as opposing sides struggle to gain ground, in turn giving players the authentic war experience missing in other fantastical MMRPGs.

However, when it comes to creating a sense of community, Warhammer Online drops the ball. Taking part in solo and public quests is more than enough to pump your heroes’ stats for the serious business of the battlefield, meaning there’s little incentive to make your way to major cities to evolve your avatar and removing the random interaction with other players that made World Of Warcraft so enticing. The bewilderingly sparse open worlds – designed specifically to accommodate the sprawling PvP battles – can also be a chore to traverse when playing alone, and the sluggish combat animations of certain characters mean you’ll often swing wide of your target and leave yourself open to attack in the heat of battle.

But with ever-growing server populations, years of fanboy hype heralding its arrival and a thrilling focus on large scale battles, Warhammer Online has the potential to be 2008’s most gripping MMRPG. Not as good as World Of Warcraft, granted… but then again, what is?