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Archive for the ‘WAR’ Category

That doesn’t stop me from finding a way to be one in my gaming life. I greatly enjoyed my time as an Engineer and Magus in WAR, and first gravitated toward the Ritualist in GW (subsequently getting my beind whipped because I’m lousy at build creation — I got better!), and now I’m fairly certain that I will be bringing my non-skill to a new main character in GW2:

ArenaNet introduces the Engineer.

Now, with more walking!

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To Sum Up:


Yes, Mr. Randomessa and I have pre-ordered Rift, including one Collector’s Edition box for the goodies. No, we will not be taking Trion up on their generous multiple-month subscription discounts. Resolutions to keep, and all that.

Although we’re pretty much sold on the game, we were really waiting to try out this weekend’s Warfronts, something it turns out I will barely be able to do, what with my extended work schedule that always seems to coincide with beta weekends. A part of me shares Syncaine’s concern that, like Warhammer, Rift will not be able to withstand the population behaving differently at launch than they are in beta (a behavioral change I admit I don’t understand, but then I am that odd gamer who is neither competitive nor reward-driven).

On the other hand, I wouldn’t have traded my headstart and first six months of Warhammer Online for anything, and if the absolute worst Rift can do is give us six months of rip-roaring fun, that’s a bet I’ll take.

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Now that SOE seems to actually be stepping up the exposure of DC Universe Online since they are on the final stretch to opening their beta to all customers who pre-order on either the PC or PS3, I’m finding even more footage and coverage and my excitement level continues to grow. DCUO has a great podcast devoted to the title, in DCUO-Unlimited (their site is unfortunately a bit FUBAR while they do some database mojo, but backups of all but their latest issue can be found at Blubrry here). There you can find snippets of interviews with the dev team and bits of information I’m not sure even gaming sites have reported on (like the bit about secret identities being a key part of the game, not that you heard it from them, of course).

As excited as I am to have a new game to sink my gaming talons into, not to mention one that Mr. Randomessa wants to play with me – a rare combination of events – I look back upon my gaming history and wonder how DCUO might avoid becoming one of those games I used to play. Conversely, I might find signs pointing to DCUO being precisely one of those games. We’ll see!

  • We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and we like it that way: It just might be the case that I can’t quite immerse myself in a game that isn’t high fantasy, or at least swords and sorcery. I couldn’t get into Fallen Earth for long, I’ve already expressed my difficulty in watching my ship do things in Star Trek Online, and even Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t helping me shake the feeling that I just won’t enjoy being a Jedi all that much, Wizard-like as they are. I did enjoy my time in both City of Heroes and Champions online, despite other issues, but my time with them was so brief that I can’t say I would have stayed on even if all else was perfect. Maybe the presence of sorcery in DCUO, and characters like Circe, will make all the difference… maybe not.
  • Something to play while the Spouse is away: Big problems with Champions Online and Star Trek Online were that there was really only one path of advancement (10 levels in the Desert/Canada and Klingon PvP notwithstanding), and this meant that if I adhered to the Spousal Leveling Contract, I didn’t have anything to do if Mr. Randomessa latched onto a single-player game for a week or two, or wanted to PvP when I wasn’t in the mood, etc. With DCUO there are both hero and villain paths of advancement, and each side has three mentors to choose from who provide completely different storylines. This worked for us with Warhammer Online where I had an array of alts and was still able to play with my partner when we had the time for it.
  • PvP is more than stun-locking or cage-fighting: PvP is one of the activities Mr. Randomessa and I enjoy, but we prefer either the balanced arena type, such as scenarios if you’re Warhammer-minded, or objective-based, such as keep raids. DCUO appears to promise both, with the added bonus of iconic PvP taking gear out of the equation and making the whole affair entirely skill-based, something like Guild Wars’ Costume Brawl. I plan to stink up the place with my lack of aptitude, but appreciate the option nonetheless. As long as we don’t spend the entire match stun-locked, as occurred in certain Ettenmoors that shall not be named, this should provide us with several evenings’ worth of entertainment.
  • Crafting isn’t done AFK: I appear to be part of a strange non-audience who simultaneously looks forward to games that are casual-friendly with ease of travel, low death penalties, and heavy story-based formats, while still enjoying activities typically considered mundane such as crafting. The recent revelation that crafting in SW:TOR will be done entirely by one’s companions left a sour taste in my mouth, not because I enjoy being a merchant or career crafter, but because crafting is a non-combat, non-questing activity that doesn’t require me to log out of the game when I tire of one or the other. In games like Everquest II where crafting is a minigame, I rather liked making rush orders as an opportunity to stay in one place and yet have a chance to actively participate in something.

    DC Universe Online, too, has indicated that crafting will not be a part of the game, yet I feel SOE speaks to my condition a bit more closely when MMORPG.com notes that there will be a system that provides players with the chance to participate in something that is not combat or questing. I hope I am not just hanging my dreams on a cloud, here. If there isn’t something satisfying and peaceful for me to do at the end of a killing spree, I’m going to be a sad superhero.

With these points on file, it becomes more apparent why other games have failed to stick with me (or, in the case of unreleased games, why certain ones have failed to interest me more). I will have to watch my beta time carefully to see how “sticky” DC Universe Online proves to be in the long run.

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There’s a bit of a meme going around the MMO blogosphere, forums, and news site comment sections about the Dynamic Events ArenaNet has described as a new mechanic they have implemented for Guild Wars 2 (go on, read the link about Dynamic Events up there. Don’t just mouse over it, or open it in a new tab to read later, or skim it. Please – just read it. Yes, now. Yes, the whole thing. I’ll wait. Okay, back? Good). The meme goes something like this:

  •  Dynamic Events are just glorified Public Quests
  •  Mythic said exactly the same things about their Public Quests that ArenaNet is saying about Dynamic Events
  •  And we all know how that turned out, amirite?

I will attempt to address the point that Mythic overhyped their Public Quests, which then under-performed, and therefore there is no reason to take ArenaNet at their word about any of the things they describe about their Dynamic Events. The rest will follow from there.

In my search for evidence, I read the following interview with Jeff Hickman by Massively, dated May 30, 2008 – right before a press demo and nearly four months prior to release:

Massively goes to WAR: Jeff Hickman’s view of Warhammer Online

In it, he describes Public Quests as follows:

“Some of them are bigger and cooler than others, some are smaller and more intimate, but they’re all really interesting. The whole concept of ‘I walk into the area and it’s a mini-raid’ is great. You’re having fun, it doesn’t require coordination. As you gather more people it becomes easier to do, you can do some if it alone, and if you have a bunch of people you can just overrrun it. Even that’s not bad, though, because you get that feeling that you’ve just destroyed your enemies. And then it resets and you can do it over again.”

Hickman also declares that they are “revolutionary in the industry” for the hype angle, and that there are “over 300” in the world.

Note that in his description, he reveals that

  • You can’t do all of a PQ alone
  • It is possible to overrun it
  • It resets and you can do it again

Having taken part in several Public Quests, I have difficulty singling any part of this out as dishonest except for the subjective bits; of course it is spun to sound positive in every respect (really? It’s “not bad” when you overrun the quest with massive numbers and trivialize the whole thing?), but even the much-maligned “reset” feature is admitted to openly. In fact, most of the problems players had with Public Quests is noted right there in the interview: since they cannot be completed solo, most PQs were left abandoned once the population in areas (and, later, the entire game) began to thin.

So, maybe Jeff was finally being “more” honest about Public Quests because he was about to demo the game and couldn’t get by on pure hype. What was Mythic saying about the game before people in the press had a chance to play it? How about back in January, 2007?

EA Mythic Event: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

“Everyone in the zone automatically has the same quest! The group objectives are up on the screen, and it keeps track as you do your part (or not – you don’t have to help!). After the public quest finishes, you can go over to the “leader” of the area, and he’ll reward you for helping out. A couple of minutes later, the public quest starts over again.

“You can do the same one over and over to build your reputation with the leader, or you can follow them as you go up in levels and get new, cooler stuff – stuff that’s tailored to you and your class.”

I’m not seeing anything misrepresented about Public Quests here. Further, this is not what ArenaNet has said about Dynamic Events. Certainly, the descriptions of Dynamic Events are loftier and more expansive and even address the concerns about repeatability and population issues, but the hyperbole, such as it exists, is not the same between Mythic and ArenaNet.

Here’s an article from April 2007:

Massively Online Gamer’s Warhammer Exclusive

Saying the same things: kill 300 orcs, kill 25 mauraders. Paul Barnett says that Public Quests pass his “genius test.”

See, if the argument here is that Public Quests were not as cool as they sounded, then well played. However, they worked pretty much exactly as they were presented, so any additional hype really existed in the eyes of the beholders. For what it’s worth, I adored Public Quests when the conditions were right. In the first month or two of Warhammer’s existence, my better half and I would roam the land calling for open groups to do PQs with; we would join groups mid-event, throw heals around, tank for people, and every time a PQ ended, we’d check to see who had maxed out their influence and throw out grats. Most of the time, everyone would stick with the group until everyone had maxed out their influence, and then would come the question: “want to go to next chapter?” Usually the answer was yes.

For myself and my better half playing as a stubborn closed duo, this was revolutionary. For us, having never raided in another MMO, being able to take down a seven-headed hydra with thirty other people by level 5 was revolutionary. I have rarely seen it argued that Public Quests were a bad idea; rather a good idea that suffered from poor implementation and lack of failsafes against the things players inevitably do (like abandon open areas in order to chain-queue scenarios because the XP gain was faster).

Of course, then we played City of Heroes/Villains and found that zombie invasions were very similar to Public Quests. Whoops, Mythic, you got caught out there!

My point here is that I am seeing it thrown around that Dynamic Events are like Public Quests as though that is some sort of terrible thing. Public Quests are not terrible and they were not a terrible idea. I applaud any game that takes the idea started in City of Heroes/Villains, iterated in Warhammer Online and copied in Champions Online/Star Trek Online, and tries to improve on it as ArenaNet is now attempting to take to the next level with Guild Wars 2. From the looks of it, Mythic did not even mischaracterize Public Quests in their descriptions of their impact, duration, or contents, so to dismiss ArenaNet’s extremely detailed blogs and interviews about the way Dynamic Events  will work (trust me, most of your questions are answered there) as dishonest on the face of it seems more than a tad overly cynical.

Frankly, if Dynamic Events turn out to be as true to ArenaNet’s words as Public Quests were to Mythic’s, then it will have been Mission Accomplished, no more, no less.

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I have been putting many more hours into Guild Wars these days than I have since the release of Eye of the North so many moons ago. After a particularly embarrassing snafu in which I roped two acquaintances into helping me with the Riverside Assassination mission without realizing I needed to do the prerequisites before legitimately receiving the quest (this is why, boys and girls, if you are going to reference the Wiki for something, you better go all-in rather than hope to be surprised by the content later), I have taken a break from the War In Kryta festivities and turned my focus toward bettering myself as a player. For me, this has meant taking my main character through more of the Factions campaign and getting a couple more elite skills under my belt.

As noted in my byline, I am an easy mode gamer. I find anxiety in competition and stress in defeat, and I am not reward-driven; as a result, my main goal in most games is not to be the best, but simply to be good enough to get by. What drives me, then, to continue to improve in Guild Wars, even when I am beating myself against a seemingly impassable mission wall, is that I must know what happens next. For all the claims that MMOs aren’t meant to have storylines provided by external sources like the game developers, I have not found anything else that presses me on to become more efficient, faster, more aware of my surroundings, to acquire the right tools and the right NPC companions for the job, as that single factor. What is behind that wall? What happens to so-and-so? Will the lovers be re-united? And so on. Yes, I read the quests. Yes, every one. And I never skip a cinematic.

Realizing this about myself has helped me to see what I failed to see in previous MMO purchases, and explains why I quit Age of Conan after my level 30 destiny quest was completed, and LOTRO after I couldn’t get a group together to finish Book 2, and Warhammer Online after Tier 2. I hit the wall in Guild Wars after the Searing, and again in the Maguuma Jungle, and again in the Southern Shiverpeaks and later in the Eye of the North itself. I returned each time, determination renewed, vowing to get it right next time, because I can never leave a story unfinished.

So I find myself back in Cantha, plotting the downfall of Shiro Tagachi and making nice with the Luxons, not for the elite armor set, or the Allegiance title, but to acquire a few new skills and push myself a little past mediocrity so that I can return to Kryta, wipe that White Mantle scum from the face of Tyria, and find out just what the heck is going to happen next.

I’m suddenly faced with more content than I have time to consume, and not a title grind in sight!

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I have tried out a number of MMOs, both paid and free to play, and I can’t say I’ve noticed any stark differences between the two styles as far as the fun factor is concerned. I’ve even subscribed to a few games, and/or bought longterm or lifetime subscriptions to others. But I am beginning to feel more strongly as time goes on that no one game can appeal to all of my gaming desires, so it is not reasonable for me to buy into one game and play it to the exclusion of all others. I just don’t want to have to pay subscriptions for all of them, when I play them so sporadically!

Currently I am playing Star Trek Online (year-long sub), Wizard 101 (free until I purchase more content), Aika (as further betas allow), and am trying to get back into Lord of the Rings Online (lifetime sub). Now, if I could continue to play any of the following without paying additional subscription fees, I would gladly pop back into:

  • Warhammer Online: the thought of a free T1 experience was appealing to me until I discovered that only Empire vs. Chaos lands could be accessed. I would be back in a heartbeat if Mythic enabled me to, say, pay by the tier – if I could purchase T1 access and have access to all three lands forever (or even one fee per pairing; I would pay that, too!), with all of my characters. If they would add fees for access to T2 through 4 in the same way, I’d be all over that. They could take from DDO’s model in this way, such that anyone could obviously bypass the Tier For Fee option and just pay a full subscription for access to the whole game.
  • Age of Conan: I loved the Tortage experience, but even so, I’m not that big a fan of repetition and after playing through the 1-20 game with all four archetypes, I feel I’ve exhausted that content. The addition of new content through the Rise of the Godslayer expansion has me really tempted to return and try running through with a member of the Khitai race, and really itching to try out the lands of Khitai for their contrast to the existing continents. But again, it would be really nice if I could buy this content. I would even be willing to pay extra on the price of the expansion if I could “own” access to the lands of Khitai. Heck, charge me $25 over the expansion box price and let me progress only through the lands of Khitai, stopping at level 40, but have access to that area forever.
  • City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online: My partner and I had a lot of fun with CoX, though, as many others have said, most of our time was spent in character creation and we never really made it past level 12 or so (though I have a level 21 character that I soloed with). Again, it seemed just a bit too much to maintain a subscription for the amount of time we were spending with the game, and feeling compelled to “get our money’s worth” on the subscription tended to make us feel a bit sick of the content early on (I doubt I would have felt the mission structure was as repetitive as I did if I only attempted one mission in a week, instead of trying to get in 4-5 per night). Champions Online was my solo game, and I had enough fun with it that I felt sad when I canceled my subscription after one month, for the aforementioned reason.
  • Vanguard, Saga of Heroes: Now, here is a game that I feel would benefit from enabling permanent free access to the trial island. Between my better half and I, we couldn’t even make it to Adventuring level 10 in the two-week trial period, let alone in the other two spheres. I do have a concern that we game in too short of spurts to really make it far in a game of such sprawling landscapes and dungeons as Vanguard, but I would like to try, and would happily pay a one-time per-area fee for that opportunity.

Someone on the Massively forums said, in response to a player bemoaning the lack of American players’ ability to pay by the hour when playing games the way they do in Asia, that “if you play enough” the subscription fee is a bargain. Yes, it certainly is – if you play enough. Right now the only option with subscription games is to either play “enough,” overpay for sporadic gaming schedules, or not to play at all.

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In my search for a F2P alternative to play when I cannot duo in Star Trek Online, I have come across Aika, the new offering from GPotato that isn’t Allods Online. Aika has just begun its second Closed Beta and has a planned release of Spring 2010 (then again, Allods still shows a planned release of Winter 2009 according to the site, so take that as you will).  Aika initially caught my attention at around the same time as Allods, but at that time Allods was entering CB and Aika was not yet ready for prime time players, so the decision of what to try was made for me.

The two games claim to scratch different itches for me: Aika with the familiar anime-style graphics, much like a poor-man’s Aion, advertises Realm vs. Realm (vs. Realm vs. Realm vs. Realm) combat on a massive scale of thousands on the battlefield, lag-free – something Warhammer Online tried and seems to have failed to deliver –  so I wonder if it will pick up any refugees from that game. It also promises small-scale battleground action, and, according to the forums, PvP is quite well balanced for a game of this type.

Allods, on the other hand, appealed to me with its WoW/Warhammer lovechild graphical style, interesting races and lore, and its engaging instanced tutorial that bade well for future encounters with PvE. The end-game seemed rather exclusionary to me, however, as do many games of that type, and the open PvP post-level 20 soured me somewhat on keeping up with the beta development. I know now that PvP flagging is live in the game, but I’ve kind of moved on in the meantime.

Right now Aika seems like a better choice for me to solo, but only time will tell and I don’t expect to reach any level of consequence during the short CB2 period given my playtime schedule. I’m a bit put off by the gender-locked classes and lack of customization, but I also realize that it is due to these very shortcuts that the game client is only 500mb in size and can support the large battles they advertise. The style of quest delivery is remniscent of unvoiced post-Tortage Age of Conan, which provides at least the illusion of an epic story that I can unravel by completing the quests in my log. If I can ignore the Lolis Clerics falling down and giving fanservice everywhere, I sometimes feel as though I’m playing Guild Wars, or a near cousin.

Oh, and unlike many other Korean games of its ilk, Aika allows you to turn on anti-aliasing from within the game, up to 16x worth. Of course, this is not worth anything if you forget to use said feature, as I did for the first half of my play session.

Verdict: Too early to tell, but shows promise. I have yet to get my little buff fairy (pran), as the quest to obtain her is a hour-long timed scavenger hunt and I had to get going.

Ack! I forgot to turn anti-aliasing on!

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My gaming partner and I have been rather inactive on the MMO front recently, due to Real Life(tm) constraints. We play infrequently enough that we only racked up 7 days played out of our 14-day free Vanguard trial, and did not make it off the trial island during that time. I also logged on to the Allods Online beta a few times, playing a different race, class, and faction than I planned to at launch so as not to burn out; unsurprisingly I was then unable to form an attachment to the character I created specifically for its disposability (although those Gibberlings sure are cute).

The more I learn about Allods, the more I realize it won’t be a game I will be able to enjoy due to its open-world PvP and group/guild-driven content. It looks and plays beautifully and I wish it every success – especially in breaking the common stereotype of free-to-play game inferiority. Given the limited spans of time in which I have to play, however, I simply cannot get heavily involved in a game that requires large amounts of group collaboration to proceed. This will probably result in my playing anyway, but having several characters parked around level 20. This is actually fine with me.

We miss Vanguard, and intend to return to it at some time in some capacity, but with Star Trek Online on the horizon we don’t consider it worthwhile to potentially maintain two subscriptions for games we barely have time to play (again I register my protest with the subscription model for requiring me to make decisions like this). Instead I am brushing up on my STO information, watching vidcasts and leaked beta footage, reading every piece of news and every interview that the developers see fit to release.

The last time my better half was excited enough about an upcoming MMO to pre-order it was when Warhammer Online was about to be released, and we had nearly six months of rip-roaring fun in that game. This was before shifting populations, class imbalances, and the server-merging tango caused us to cancel our subscriptions. But on the scale of Game Chosen to Fun Had, he’s 1 for 1, so when my partner makes excited noises about commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise via Gamestop pre-order, I know well enough to simply follow along and offer the services of my Borg bridge officer (courtesy Amazon.com pre-order, of course).

I still have reservations about several aspects of the game:

  • Ships are boring: Space combat looks boring to me, though I realize there are several complicated factors taking place at any given time; I am certain to suck at it because I suck at things I find boring and complicated. No, I never really played space games as a kid. Heck, I even sucked at Asteroid.
  • Moving like a plastic doll: Ground combat still looks a bit unpolished to me, but it’s getting noticeably better. The more beta footage I watch, the better I feel about it, so I’m open to changing my mind about this one.
  • Pretty Pretty Princess: I love the Star Trek franchise, for watching, but I’m not sure how much I will enjoy living in it. I haven’t had much success getting excited about games outside of a fantasy setting (sorry, Fallen Earth!), largely due to the lack of resources to dress my characters as prettily as I like. If there is a social clothing option for hanging out at the spaceports/Quarks equivalent, and/or the ability to dress my Captain in a TOS skirt uniform, this will go a long way to alleviate my worries. (I’m not a fan of the miniskirt per se, but do I like skirts and it certainly is a skirt)
  • What do you mean, “content?”: Will this game suffer from the lack of content issues that plague(d) Champions Online, and how will this manifest in a game that is said to have procedurally generated planets for exploring and episodic mission content? Would that mean that there are no planets to explore at launch, or only three out of thirteen Episodes are complete? How will this impact me, a 5-10 or fewer hour per week player?

However, I do love the following: 

  • NPC Bridge Officers/Away team members: Oh, Guild Wars henchman model, please allow me to make out with you for a moment. Thank you for letting me have the option of joining my better half’s away team, or join up with him with my own team of NPC pets for planet exploration. I think I love you.
  • Art style: It seems most people are either in the love or hate camps for the Champions Online graphic style, but I was rather on the fence about it once I realized I could turn cell shading off. The style Cryptic has gone with for STO is much preferred, however, and I find myself wishing they had gone in this direction for CO as well. I especially like the look of space – I don’t care if space isn’t as busy in real life – this is worlds more fun to look at, and I’m here to have fun.
  • These quotes:  

“Some of the systems you discover will have combat and others some will have non-combat missions. Many involve acquiring and delivering certain commodities like industrial replicators or medical supplies. There are also thousands of points of interest throughout space and on planet surfaces that can be scanned.

“You can bring this data back to planet Memory Alpha. Collect the right data, and you may learn how to create something new, or you may peak the interest of a prominent Bridge Officer who may offer to join your crew.

“What you can expect is that your Bridge Officers will often work something like mission Contacts. For instance, if you fly by a spatial anomaly, your science officer may speak up and say he detected some unusual activity, and prompt you to explore it.”

            Oh, please be like that for real, and not like the “bears, bears, bears” of Warhammer Online. If you can do this, Cryptic, I’m yours.

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Well, I dusted off my Warhammer Online discs, patched the thing up, and raced to log in with my new trial account, only to find that…. the flight master is disabled for trial accounts.

That’s correct, not only do you start in the Empire vs. Chaos lands, you have no ability to leave them either. I have to say that deflates my desire to romp around in T1 by quite a lot; I was having fantasies of open RvR battles in all three starting lands, public quests in all three lands, Tome unlocks in all three lands…. in other words, I thought the wealth of content between the three would keep me interested for some time. One land will wear thin rather quickly.

I understand that this is meant to be a trial only and that Mythic/EA is not necessarily looking to cultivate a “community” of perma-T1 freeloaders, but encourage people to subscribe to “see” more of the game. I guess they’re not losing much if I reconsider whether or not I want to play, since I wasn’t planning to subscribe anyway, and if I don’t log on, they don’t have to maintain my avatar or its strain on the server. But I’m disappointed, because what I thought would be a fun, but limited, experience, turns out to be far more limited indeed.

It’s just as well, I suppose. Good luck to the Warhammer team and I hope they achieve their aim with this unlimited trial, whatever it may be.

(In the meantime, I have a closed beta key for Allods Online that starts Nov. 10, so I’ll be busy enough for the next little while!)

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Anyone up for Perma-Tier 1?

I already said this in response to a comment on this post by the Ancient Gaming Noob, but I’d like to go on the record in support of a community of players who choose to stay and play indefinitely in Warhammer Online’s Tier 1 unlimited free trial. This reminds me of the community of Perma-Pre players in Guild Wars, and I can have an experience like that in Warhammer, I’m all for it!

I’m excited just thinking about it; constantly populated public quests, ongoing back-and-forth between battle objectives in all three pairings, maxed out Tomes of Knowledge without fear of out-leveling the content…. I know my better half and I will be back to test the waters, so here’s hoping there’s an injection of new, long-term blood in T1.

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