It has been six weeks since Warhammer launched and we are just over two weeks away from the launch of the Wrath of the Lich King. Many WoW players set their account off to the side and picked up Warhammer. Since most people can’t afford the time and money needed to play two MMOs, you may soon be forced to make a decision. Do you keep playing Warhammer or drop it and pick up Lich King?
Fortunately for you, I am here to help you decide. I have been playing both games alternately for 6 weeks now. I have a level 80 in Lich King and a level 21 in Warhammer. While I obviously didn’t experience everything both games have to offer, I feel I have played both extensively enough to give you a direct comparison.
Ultimately your decision on which game to play will come down to your playing style. Do you like to do quests? Do you like raids? Do you like hard core PVP? How about dungeon crawls? I’ll try to break down the comparison via the various types of playing styles so that you can ultimately choose what is best for you.
Player Versus Environment
PVE refers to playing with other players against the computer, both outdoors and in dungeons. This includes solo and group questing, 5 man dungeons and raids. When it comes to PVE, Lich King is far superior to Warhammer. This should not come as a surprise since Warhammer is billed as a PVP game. Still there is extensive PVE in both games and it helps to compare them.
Lich King takes questing to a whole new level. Many quests involve solving interesting puzzles and using unusual tools. In addition, they have added quite a bit more animation to their quests, with many ending in amusing and entertaining scenarios. Things like helping a Goblin build his flying machine only to see him take off and blow himself up really add to the fun. You will often find yourself seeking out quests you don’t really need to do just to see how they end. Overall, Lich King contains some of the best quests ever conceived not just for WoW but for any MMO. The biggest disappointment to questing in Lich King is that anyone geared out in even decent gear (I am in the top honor gear) will find there are very few rewards worth getting until you are almost level 80.
Lich King also has a huge innovation they added to the beginning Death Knight quest series and the entire zone of Iceflow. Through a subtle instancing of the zone, you actually see the results of your quests as the zone slowly changes and your side takes over areas previously overrun by the bad guys. So when you are told that a hero is needed to turn the tide of battle and you move through the steps of the quest line, in the end the battle actually turns and you show up to see a new camp set up where before there were only enemies and as you enter the camp the residents there begin to cheer you. Seriously cool stuff.
Warhammer’s quests are far more pedestrian. Most are the standard run here and kill 10 of this and come back, with often painstakingly long distances between the two points. I know many people who have simply ignored the quests and leveled up totally through scenarios. Very few quests provide any serious challenge or offer any real innovation. In fact, by putting the locations for the next step of the quest on the map, they have made questing into more of a chore than a challenge.
The biggest innovation with Warhammer is the Public Quest, where you can just enter an area and work with whoever is there to accomplish a set goal and get a nice reward. This is a cool concept. The problem with the Public Quests is that I rarely see enough people in a quest area to actually complete the third stage, so if you are solo you end up just farming the first part to get reputation. Of course you can put together a group specifically to complete the quest, but that takes away from its planned spontaneity. Still Public Quests are by far the most interesting addition to Warhammer when it comes to questing.
Conclusion: There is really no contest when comparing questing in Warhammer and Lich King. Warhammer’s quests are something you do to gain experience and rewards and get to the good parts of the game. Lich King’s quests are the good part of the game. In fact, the quests are probably the best part of Lich King. If you love to do quests, Lich King is clearly the game for you.
Dungeons and Raids
WoW is a dungeon oriented game and for the most part Warhammer is not. I have not had a chance to play every dungeon in either game, but Lich King contains several per zone in much the same way Burning Crusade did. Warhammer only has a handful of true dungeons to play. The dungeons I have played in Lich King have not blown me away with their innovation, but anyone who liked the dungeons in Burning Crusade will likely enjoy Lich King just as much.
Most of the dungeons in Warhammer are for levels higher than I managed to achieve, so I am going more by what I have heard than experienced here. There are definitely some pure PVE dungeons in Warhammer, but not nearly as many as in WoW. As far as I know, many, if not most of the dungeons in Warhammer involve realm versus realm encounters. The PVE options do have the innovative aspect of the Public Quest with the ability to gain some serious rewards. This gives the game’s dungeons a different feel than you will get with Lich King. Nevertheless, WoW is still going to be the game of choice for high end raiders.
Conclusion: If dungeon crawling and raiding in predetermined encounters is your game, then you will probably prefer to play Lich King. There is simply more variety to be experienced. Still Warhammer promises some nice dungeon experiences at the higher levels, so if you are not there yet, you may want to keep playing in order to play them. This is not a clear cut choice. Both games offer some decent game play in this area.
Final PVE Conclusion. Warhammer is not really about PVE, so this probably comes as no surprise. Lich King is more innovative, interesting and just plain fun when it comes to PVE play styles. They have taken the WoW standard play and expanded upon it in various exciting new ways. This is particularly apparent when doing quests in the two games. If your game is questing, dungeon crawling, raiding, or just playing anywhere on your own or in small groups, then you will want to get Lich King and keep playing WoW.
Player Versus Player
This is where your decision making becomes much more difficult. Let me start by saying that I normally play on PVE rule set servers, but still love to play PVP, and have over 63,000 kills to my credit with my main WoW character. Still, my observations may not be as useful to players who normally play on PVP servers. My basic opinion is that WoW is a PVE game that has excellent PVP aspects to it. Whereas Warhammer is a pure PVP game that includes some PVE elements just to try to balance it out.
Lich King adds an entire zone for PVP called Lake Wintergrasp. They have also included various PVP areas within most of the zones with daily quests to help give you incentives to flag yourself and play. After several attempts at it, I find Lake Wintergrasp to be frustrating and boring. In order to win, it is almost required that you create a tank of some sort and use that to assault buildings and other players. I didn’t spend hundreds of hours leveling my mage to 80 and learning the nuances of playing it against other players just to drive a tank in the ultimate PVP area. Yet that is what I am forced to do. Also, as it is currently configured there is a two and a half hour delay between battles, which means that you will not get to play this zone that often. They still have time to tinker with it, but the current incarnation of Lake Wintergrasp does not excite me at all.
Lich King’s other outdoor PVP areas are scattered throughout the various zones. They are mostly daily quests that flag you PVP and then send you into an area where the other side is also doing quests hoping that you will fight each other. How well these will work may depend upon how many people on your server are willing to use these areas. In the beta server these are mostly empty.
Warhammer takes the expertise built up from Dark Age of Camelot and applies it well. Every zone contains multiple battle areas. There are incentives to encourage guilds to battle other guilds. Unfortunately while playing two games at once, I simply have not had enough time to experience the higher levels of Warhammer, but even at lower levels, the PVP is clearly well thought out. I imagine over time, as more and more players reach max levels, the outdoor PVP will become the centerpiece of playing Warhammer.
The biggest problem with Warhammer’s world PVP seems to be that many servers are completely imbalanced between the two sides. You can be the most skilled player in the world but if your team has three people and the other side has ten you are going to lose. Mythic has been encouraging people to change servers to address this, but I have a feeling this will be a problem for the life of the game. Another similar problem is that there is simply too much PVP content, which has the effect of spreading out the players and almost requiring prescripted guild events to really experience the PVP. Nevertheless, there is quite a bit more being offered for the PVP player in Warhammer than there is with Lich King.
Conclusion: If you are a hardcore PVP player, then Warhammer is probably your best choice. It simply offers more depth and variety of game play. However, given the daily kill quests that are built into Lich King, you may find a lot to keep you happy on a WoW PVP server as well. When deciding which game to keep, the best thing to remember is that – except for Lake Wintergrasp -- Lich King does not really offer a whole lot more PVP than Burning Crusade did. So if you were unsatisfied with it before, you are probably going to continue to be unsatisfied.
Warhammer Scenarios and WoW battlegrounds are essentially the same thing. You teleport into an instance, hook up with a number of other players and play a mini game against the other side. In addition to the four existing Battlegrounds, Lich King adds Strand of the Ancients. In this battleground you alternately attack and defend a keep using siege weapons to batter down various gates to try to get to the top. The use of the tanks in this is not as overwhelming as in Lake Wintergrasp, and you will find that most of the time you are fighting in regular battles trying to gain ground on the enemy. All and all I found it does a pretty good job of forcing true PVP group battles, and I had a lot of fun playing it. Still this is just one new battleground, which means that in order to get your new set of honor gear you will need to play all of the old battlegrounds hundreds of more times. If that thought makes you at all ill, you may well want to keep playing Warhammer.
Warhammer offers up a total of 15 scenarios that are limited by levels, so just when you start getting bored with one set you gain access to more. This is truly the strength of this game. I find myself looking forward to the scenarios even when the other parts of the game start to bore me. While some are more interesting than others, they are all set on a timer so that a single battle will never last longer than 15 minutes. This means that even when you end up with a group of complete idiots you only have to endure it for 15 minutes and then you exit and collect your points and can try again. This alone gives Warhammer the nod on scenarios. Scenarios also give you actual experience and build up a level system that gets you more rewards. In Warhammer, it is possible to play the entire game and do nothing but play scenario after scenario. Without question, this is the most fun part of this game.
Conclusion: If you love to play battlegrounds and scenarios, and have been playing WoW for a long time now, you will probably want to stick with Warhammer simply for the novelty. The scenarios are still fresh, new and interesting, with the strategies still evolving amongst the players. Coming back to Lich King just means playing the same battlegrounds you are already sick of, with just one new addition. In a couple months when you start getting tired of the Warhammer scenarios, maybe the old WoW ones will look like fun to you again.
Warhammer is probably the best MMO to come out since WoW, but it is no WoW killer. If you have enjoyed playing every aspect of WoW for the last few years, the odds are you will really enjoy Wrath of the Lich King. It takes all of the elements that have made WoW so much fun for so many and continues to expand upon them. Lich King is a multidimensional gaming experience that can be fun in so many different ways. If you enjoy quests, raids, dungeon crawls or any of the other aspects of WoW, you will want to run out and buy Lich King the day it comes out.
Warhammer is far more one dimensional, but that one dimension is very good. If you are really enjoying the scenarios and other PVP aspects of Warhammer, there is no reason to stop. If you get bored some day, you can always pick back up with Lich King. For pure hard core player versus player combat, Warhammer is probably more satisfying than Lich King. So if this is your thing, you will want to keep on playing.
If you are wondering what I will do next month when Lich King comes out, well I have the advantage of being able to play both games. However, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be devoting a lot more time to leveling up in Lich King than I will to playing Warhammer. I hope this has helped you make a decision as to which game you will be playing in a couple weeks. I have created a thread in the forums about this article and will be happy to answer your questions about either game.
-- Jeffrey Moyer