As of December 15th War of the Immortals launched after a highly successful closed-beta in November and the open-beta starting in December. The game presents players a chance to save the world from the oncoming of Ragnarock—the final battle between good-and-evil from Norsk mythology—as a hero resurrected at the hands of the Valkyrie. The game draws heavily on Norse mythology for many of the names, places, and things but there’s a great deal of multicultural affect spread through the rest of the worlds.
As of its launch, WoI was free-to-play and it’s slowly growing in popularity and community. Of course, this is expected because it’s a title from someone we already know well. This fast-paced action-MMORPG is brought to us by Perfect World Entertainment, a prolific free-to-play studio who also publish Perfect World International, Forsaken World, Rusty Hearts, Ether Saga Odyssey, and the upcoming Blacklight: Retribution.
Much of the game is focused on pet mechanics and not just the solo-content of the eight classes and also puts a lot of emphasis on guilds and the social structure of competitive and cooperative play. As a result, it looks like PWE is attempting to revolutionize the way that people form guilds, play together, and develop strategies for gameplay.
Gameplay: A Diablo-esque game with an emphasis on pets
To start the game, there’s a choice between eight different classes: Berzerker, Champion, Duelist, Enchantress, Heretic, Magus, Ranger, and Slayer. The different classes each have somewhat unique abilities and focus on different roles such as ranged DPS, melee DPS, soaking and tanking, AoE damage, hit-and-run, and the like. The range is actually quite staggering and there’s a few mechanical differences between many of the classes; but there’s very little learning curve for anyone who has played an MMORPG before.
At first glance, War of the Immortals is an isometric action-oriented MMORPG extremely similar in design to Diablo and it borrows a great deal of its UI and mechanics from games similar to it. This is a tried-and-true game design and WoI uses it gracefully.
The first thing you notice is that while you can rotate and zoom the camera, you cannot change its angle of pitch. This is because it’s partially isometric (in a true isometric there would be no rotation) and that sets it apart from a similar-to-Diablo game. Zooming in can give you a great deal more detail on the fight; but zooming out will give you a better idea of where mobs are sitting and how to get at them. Single-target classes might prefer one view over classes that depend on AoE. According to the developers, the Duelist class is unique in that it deals damage by stealing energy from enemies.
From the get-go I noticed that the game includes autopilot features to move you between different quest objectives. Just as it as WASD movement, it also has click-to-move available. We’ve seen this in quite a few of the recent Korean free-to-play MMOs that have hit the market. The minimap also shows nearby quest targets and turn-ins, but it’s just easier to click on the autopilot from a quest and let the game run you there.
A big component of the game is pets.
Every player, no matter what class, receives a pet who will assist them in combat. Pets are infinitely customizable and can be infused with “souls” that take on red, blue, and yellow focuses. Between these, pets can be boosted in certain stats and even taught new skills. As a result, a player who plays a particular style can have their pet augment their style: a healer or massive-DPS player can make their pet into their tank, a tanking player can make their pet into a healer or DPS to assist them in burning down enemies, and so on.
When I played through with my high level character my pet was a kangaroo wearing sunglasses. Some of them might be silly but many are fierce and ferocious. The different types of pets available to players allow for some extra customization.
The game also spends a bit of time pushing the envelope when it comes to guilds.
Upon joining the game, players are given a clan (guild). Once they hit level 40 they can leave that clan and join another of their choosing. Across the server there are larger factions which are broken up into the smaller clans. Factions can dominate and control sections of the world map—each section of the map provides a specific resource that only that faction can farm; these resources are used by factions to build housing, items, and earn bonuses. The idea is to produce a competitive market where different factions will either trade resources with one another or compete over these regions of the map in order to farm the resource.
As clans do instances and clan quests they gain prestige and that gives them special bonuses and allows them to purchase exclusive items.
Factions themselves gain prestige as the clans within them level up and this allows them to grow. The servers themselves offer benefits and boons to the players also based on the level of the characters in the server, as the players push the curve of levels, the server will level up with them adding additional benefits and advantages to people playing on the server.
Graphics and Sound: Characters can get quite small, but are very detailed and smoothly animated
The developers of War of the Immortals went a route that Perfect World Entertainment games often go: highly stylized, vibrant, and detailed armor sets to develop an aesthetic sense that sets apart high-level and competing players apart. Many of the in-game avatars have distinct armor sets with flashy colors and animation that make them look like epic characters. During my run through with a high-level enchantress, she received armor that had amethyst crystals extending and receding into the shoulders like towering purple, crystalline pauldrons.
Initially, there are very few customization options for characters—probably 4-5 hair styles, 5 or so faces and that’s it. Aside from that the game asked me for a birthdate for my character, adding in a zodiac element that we’ve seen cropping up in quite a few MMOs (such as Lucent Heart and others.) I haven’t seen it yet, but I think it might figure into monthly bonuses or boons in the game when the proper zodiac sign is in ascension. The lack of customization is belied by the massive amount of amazing armor and weapons that can be looted and bought in the game, probably driving players to stylize themselves with their gear rather than their prowess in a character creator.
The maps are full of 3D isomorphic architecture and highly detailed props that stand out or sometimes block the camera view—although most of the time these are just pillars or other bits standing out in the world, for the most part maps are open and make it easy for you to see where to go and how to get there. In fact, in the heavenly realm, the maps themselves are architectural features floating in the sky and you can see the world below. Other maps take place in forests, beaches, and instanced dungeons go into ruins and caverns.
There’s always mild environmental special effects in any given region. Small zinging little droplets of light slicing past, the spray from a waterfall tumbling down nearby. At first glance, the maps seem somewhat simplistic, but the texturing on them is designed to give them a life of their own. They look good from close up with their detailed textures and they’re also very nice looking when zoomed out with their motifs and the outside environments.
The sound effects are a bit staccato and reminiscent of the last generation of isometric games, short clips that give you a warning of what’s about to happen, grunts, groans, growls, yelps, and etc. issue from attacks and monsters. There’s no shortage of sound FX for the various attacks that can be initiated by players or enemies and you get used to them very quickly. The quality is very good and doesn’t bother me at all.
There’s music in the game, but unlike many of its brethren, it actually stops. This means that when you move from place to place you’ll eventually notice music playing—a sort of subdued underlying pretext to the environment—but you won’t get overwhelmed by something on a short loop. This is a very good element of the game that I appreciate.
Freemium: Perfect World Entertainment game, buy things with ZEN
Like most Perfect World Entertainment games War of the Immortals runs on an in-game virtual item cash shop and that is funded by the PWE microtransaction currency ZEN.
The offerings in the cash shop seem varied and there’s quite a few. They run the usual gamut from equipment to consumables, there’s also a nice selection of high level pets that can be bought to accompany the player. There’s also many aesthetic items including a coffin that can be worn on the back, angel wings, bat wings—and if you’re into the festive holiday season there’s also a huge red ribbon or a red sack with toys and Santa Claus on it.
The interface adds “suggested items” to the side of the inventory when bags are visible offering items that can be purchased for ZEN. This seems to be a pretty effective incentive and a good advertising tactic for the game to get users to buy into the cash shop. The items displayed are level-appropriate and are often consumables that will benefit the character with buffs or boosts depending on their style of gameplay.
Conclusion: A new game with content in development, lots of classes, and a bustling community
Like we’ve come to expect from Perfect World Entertainment projects, War of the Immortals has already gathered itself a notable community and some players have already reached level 97. The rankings boards are full of people vying for attention by killing, gathering, and playing the game to its fullest extent. Already there’s about seven instances available for dungeon crawls (having a clan is good for this) and there are many more already in development.
As episodes roll out in WoI we can probably expect the content to continue to expand.
During my playthrough, I experienced an instance with a multitude of scripted events and towering enemies. If all seven instances have such an interesting mechanic within, they’ll prove to be fun challenges in the storyline.
Overall, WoI fits all the molds of a Diablo-styled game and adds on some elements that give it that vital edge. Like most PWE products, War of the Immortals has the highly stylized armor, lots of aesthetic value, and a penchant for some new mechanics.