Day two in our ‘post NDA’ world. Lots of bloggers have posted either complete reviews or shared thoughts on certain topics. Overall the response is positive, with a few SOE cool-aid drinkers in the mix (they must be waiting for that great SOE patcher to finish, 99% right?) making vague references about how WAR is too much like an MMO game or something…I’ve seen people break down both Public Quests (PQ) and the open group system, but never really mentioning why they work so perfectly together. If you dumped the PQ system in WoW, it would fail. Players would bicker about loot, everyone would be running around solo, avoiding death more than helping out, and it would generally be a mess. If you just dumped the open group system in WoW, it would go unused. Questing is faster in WoW solo, and groups are really only needed for instances, where it hurts to bring someone of lower skill due to the time/gold of a wipe.
With both systems in WAR, and other supporting features, PQs and open groups work perfectly. If you are in a PQ area, there is no reason NOT to join a group if available. Even on the beta servers, when everyone knows a wipe is coming and people will scatter to different servers at release, people are still working together. You join one PQ group, and often enough that same group will float to other PQs together, sometimes completing all the PQs in that chapter.
The PQs themselves (I’ve completed perhaps 20 or so) are a good mix and highly entertaining. As with many things in WAR, they don’t reinvent the wheel, but rather put WAR-colored paint over old design and give it a new shine. While not terribly difficult, certain PQs do have some tougher moments, especially if you have a limited number of people in the area. Hero-class NPCs in particular have a ton of hit points, requiring some good focus fire. So far (up to rank 20) I have not seen NPCs in PQs use any abilities, like heals or AoE stuff. Perhaps at the higher tiers they do?
PQs server a few purposes in WAR. They are a quick, random way to possibly get a nice upgrade to your gear if you happen to win a loot bag. If you get lucky and finish first in the roll, you might win something really great. Last night I got 1st in the Bell Tower PQ, and inside the bag found purple quality armor with some very nice stats. Other choices included a blue quality weapon, a decent amount of money, and some crafting ingredients. PQs are also a nice way to kill some time if you are waiting for a friend, or only have 30 minutes to play. Join a group, get into a PQ, and go at it. At worst, you will gain some influence points for the chapter, which work like reputation in WoW, and once you reach a certain level you can pick a reward. In the early game the influence meter is very easy to fill up (perhaps 2-3 PQs), but later on in tier 2 and beyond it takes more time. That said, the top level influence rewards are generally very nice gear, and worth completing some PQs for.
I’ve had nights were all I did was run PQs while waiting for the scenario queue, and the back and forth mix was great. If you ever get tired of questing, that is an excellent way to get a few levels and move on to the next area, while not sacrificing money or item gain too much.
One last point about open groups. I think it will take the majority of players a bit of time to adjust to using them. With so many players coming from solo-mode WoW, they might not instinctively think to look for a group as soon as they enter a new area, and only look for open groups when they need it. Over time however, I think WAR players will learn to search for open groups first, and if nothing of interest comes up, do the solo thing for a bit. I’ve made the adjustment myself, and whenever I log in, or enter a new area, the first thing I do is open the groups window (genius one click icon below your character portrait) and see what’s going on. Big RvR warband? Sign me up. A few groups doing some PQs, I’m in. If nothing comes up, a few quests and we search again.
While WAR has some really game-changing features that will quickly become MMO standards (PQs, ToK, RvR), I think even more than any of those, it’s the fact that everything else fits perfectly together that make it such a great game. You can tell, even very early on, that Mythic as a team crafted the game together, with each feature or system working together. Nothing in the game feels tacked on, like so many of WoW’s features did. Everything has a purpose, and is linked to everything else. Very quickly, you get the feeling you are playing a complete game, not a collection of mini-games, and that more than anything gives WAR it’s amazing feel and setting.