Impressions of Warfronts - Get'em!
"Warfronts" raised the level cap to 27, opened up two new zones and two instances, and introduced us all to warfronts. There was more to do in this beta than the others and most people probably haven't experienced all that we were introduced to.
I concentrated on warfronts after leveling to 27 and experiencing the new zones. Thus, I'm afraid that I missed out on the new instances. From talking to a guildie, the new instances still need a bit of tweaking. He commented that the fights were hard and sometimes epic (the last boss on the defiant side instance apparently took his group 30 minutes to down due to spawning crystals that healed the boss). Trion is already listening to feedback and has posted that they're fine tuning the instances and specifically that boss.
We were introduced to two warfronts and it appears that both need some work before release. There were various bugs in the maps and players could unfortunately afk and still gain favor. Both warfronts were at their base fun however and promise to provide fun play for instanced PvP. I have confidence based on Trion's previous efforts that they will fix the bugs and afk issue before release.
Black Garden is a game of hold the flag, where each team attempts to get to the "shard" in the center of the black garden and hold it for the longest. Raw footage that shows the overall structure of the game is shown in the video found online below.
There are strategic decisions to be made in the game. There are powerups on the map, but they tend to be so far from action that they're not worth getting at this point. If the shard is held towards the center of the map, more points are gained for every point tick. On the other hand, a weaker team can carry the shard up a hill towards their spawn point and hold it for less points, but in a more defensible position.
Keeping the shard in the center tends to get a bit boring as it's just straight fighting between the two teams with a little bit of line-of-sight thrown in due to the couple of trees and other objects around the center point. It would be nice if there was something about the center that required extra care (like a stream of lava or an occasional laser beam) in order to add a bit of strategy to center holding. There are a variety of classes with knockbacks and other skills that could be used if that were the case.
As an example, some of my bored guildies liked to carry the shard up the hill sometimes specifically because punting people off the hill was never tiring fun. However, due to the way points are accumulated in the game, that particular bit of fun is suboptimal.
The second warfront we were introduced to was a domination point game called the Codex. This particular game had 4 domination points with 2 close to the spawn points and 2 others located further away. The Vault point was over a bridge on an island and the Codex point was in the middle of two hills of rock where ranged classes could easily pick off people trying to cap the point. There are powerups on this map as well and they're actually located where they can be obtained without running off to nowhere. Raw footage showing this gametype may be found below:
I have mixed feelings about the Codex. While the warfront does not allow guild raids to sign up, many groups synchronously queued and thus pre-made raids were allowed into the warfront. Many of the Codex warfronts had a tendency to be one side steamrolling the other side due to this. It would be nice if matchmaking were implemented so that these pre-made groups would be able to fight others like themselves.
This particular warfront is very friendly towards rogues, who with stealth can ninja cap the points further away from their spawn points. There are multiple paths to any one point that allow groups to split up, although many raids had a tendency to run in a zerg from one point to another due to not being familiar with the map.
As I'm playing on a PvP server, warfronts are not the only PvP. Entering the new level 20-30 zones autoflagged us all for PvP. Gloamwood appears to be more friendly towards small group and solo PvP due to the large number of trees, fog, and overall cover provided. The thing that surprised me the most was how much PvP centered around the main city of the zone. This is due to the fact that most of the city's citizens are not elite or high level. I imagine that this means most crafting and other activities where people stand around will occur in the lower zone's capital city (which is in a safe zone).
Gloamwood Main City
My favorite PvP encounters generally were in world PvP and involved either solo or small group PvP. Watching guildies punt the opposite faction off of the cliffs in Gloamwood was somehow satisfying (yes, my guildies are never tired of punting people). I also had the pleasure of doing a 1v1 and watching a rare werewolf spawn run down the hill and kill the guy I was fighting while I slowly backed away. The dynamic events and rifts promise to be interesting for PvP encounters as more things of this nature are likely to happen.
During the GM sponsored events PvP picked up even further with large raids invading the opposite side. It would be nice if there were objectives to encourage raiding between the sides as I worry this sort of activity will dry up after release as warfronts promise more rewards. Placing wardstone spawn points for the opposite faction at more highly contested areas may be helpful, especially if there were rewards for holding the spawn for a specific amount of time. It would also be interesting for the leader of a group to be allowed to spawn a wardstone (with the ability on a long cooldown and with a largish distance between allowed spawns of these wardstones) that would eventually start sending NPC invasion forces out. through In general, it promised to be a real challenge for balancing between encouraging world and instance PvP.
Class balance will need to be worked on for overall PvP. Some class combinations were just much stronger than others. The thing that surprised me the most was that I was very rarely CC'd in warfronts or other PvP. I'm guessing that Trion raised the resist rates on many CC abilities for players and the CC that I did see was at an acceptable level. There were certain rogue combinations that allowed 2-shots, although these character tended to have a low survivability.
New Zones and the Details
I uncovered the maps in both new zones. Gloamwood is very dark, foggy, and forested as shown in the preview of the zone below:
The atmosphere is complemented by the arrival of death rifts, spiders, and even werewolves.
Stonefield is very different in that it looks like you'd expect a highlands area to look like in terms of many open green rolling hills, caves, large boulders, and even trolls. This was where I obtained my first really close view of earth rifts.
There is something special about watching stone piles/spirits fighting with the defiant forces and there was apparently one rift type that spawned... bookcases...
There are also birds in stonefield along with an elite stone warrior named Centius.
I quested primarily on the Gloamwood side and the strict linear progression of quests seemed to open up a little bit. There were a wider variety of items dropping from mobs that gave quests and there were rewards obtained without questing occasionally. There was a pile of rock that I clicked on a mountainside that gave me 50gp and there are posts from other players of a cave with goblins where you can take their treasure and a woman that you can save from goblins that will give you a sack of gold in return. In Gloamwood, tree branches can commonly be climbed and artifacts picked up.
The GM sponsored events became more difficult and involved. The events were truly a zone wide event that involved large raids. I was pretty happy that my computer performed well, although it did have a bit of slowdown due to the shear number of players located together in a single area. The Gloamwood event involved fighting off multiple elite spawn points and spawns over different parts of the map. Many of the spawn points were of werewolves and players attacked by werewolves had a tendency to turn into werewolves themselves. I wish I had pictures of an entire raid of werewolves running madly to the next invasion spawn, but I was too busy laughing to actually hit screenshot.
It's the little details like this that make the world more immersive and will really make the game memorable over time.
Editor's Note: Snoozle is the administrator of AionSource.com, the largest English-speaking community for NCsoft's MMORPG Aion.