As people walked toward the crowded Warhammer Online booth at the New York Comic Con, the only words that could be heard out of their mouths were Slayer and Choppa. The excitement surrounding these two new classes was certainly noticeable at the convention, and with good cause. They both look like fun, simple damage-dealers that can break into the frontlines in battle with incredible force. Associate Art Director Adam Gershowitz showed us the two classes and talked with us about the Call to Arms live expansion and the massive Patch 1.2, and Warhammer fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.
Gershowitz started out by explaining the Orc Choppa and Dwarf Slayer shown at the convention were in-development alpha versions that were literally being worked on by developers at the same time. Test versions will be available for players in the coming weeks so you’ll be able to get a first-hand look at these classes very soon. For those of you who would rather just wait for the official launch of the characters, Gershowitz said they will be introduced in the Bitter Rivals live event, which should kick off either at the end of this month or the beginning of March.
Gershowitz said the Choppa and Slayer are the last two careers to go into the game at this point, but that doesn’t mean they won’t consider adding more in the future. "These are the last two obvious ones players would ever even be expecting out of us," he said. Both are melee DPS and use the Berserk mechanic to operate, although the mechanic’s name may change for each class.
“The mechanic is super, super simple,” Gershowitz said, noting they initially pulled the Choppa out of beta because having Berserk tied to morale wasn’t a good idea. Instead, they reworked the mechanic completely. The minute you get into combat with a Choppa or Slayer, their Berserk meter quickly begins to fill up and can max out in 10 to 15 seconds. As you enter the three different areas of Berserk, you gain increased damage, but you’ll eventually start to take penalties as well. Gershowitz explained it is similar to an RPM meter; some players will stay in the middle level, which is called Fury, to constantly receive smaller bonuses, while others will “red line” to the top of the Berserk meter to gain other bonuses. This may be subject to change, but you currently receive a 50 percent damage bonus for being fully Berserk. Of course, being fully Berserk also gives you penalties such as reduced armor and resistances.
Gershowitz said the mechanic loans itself to a “set it and forget it” play style, or just playing it a little bit. After seeing it in action, I have to say it seems to work for these classes. After all, they’re supposed to just be furious warriors causing damage to everything in their path, so it wouldn’t make sense for their gameplay to be too intricate. Basically, it’s all about players smashing things, and I’m fine with that.
The classes certainly have a lot of character and humor, which I enjoy. “If you don’t mind dying a lot, they’re a blast to play,” Gershowitz said. He then jumped right into the Choppa, which he admitted still needed a bit of polishing, to show us some of its unique abilities.
Gershowitz showed us the three mastery lines for the Choppa based on th e Berserk mechanic. Path of the Savage is a straightforward mixed path, Path of Da Hitta is the big-hit spike damage path, and Path of Da Wrecka is where you go all the way to the end of the Berserk meter and focus on area of effect (AoE) damage. He gave the example of the Lotsa Choppin’ ability, which lets you hit the person in front of you really hard, but you also have a random chance of hitting enemies around you just as hard. Just picture an Orc wildly chopping away and that’s what it looks like. “It allows these classes to break into the front line and flail about wildly. It’s very appropriate for them, but it also makes it really hard to heal against,” he said.
Gershowitz said tanks should be able to keep aggro pretty easily since a Choppa’s damage is sporadic and tightly contained to the enemies around him, while other AoE classes are doing constant damage to a wide range of enemies. Gershowitz did say, however, that a fully Berserk Choppa or Slayer can have the best single-target damage in the game for PvE fights, especially if they can keep the aggro down.
The Choppa and Slayer have limited crowd control, although they do have snares and may have a couple specialties in their mastery lines. But Gershowitz showed us a fun move for the Choppa called, appropriately enough, Git to Da Choppa. Most of the time it’s simply AoE damage, but every now and again he’ll hook somebody with his axe and pull them in a little bit so the enemy will be hit by the second swing. I certainly appreciate these little details and the Warhammer sense of humor.
Mechanic-wise, the Slayer is very similar to the Choppa, but Gershowitz showed us some of the differences. The main one revolves around armor. The Slayer was initially going to be in the game at launch, but it didn’t work in the game’s paradigm of collecting armor. Since fans and the developers love the class so much, Gershowitz said they worked with Games Workshop to figure out a way to make the Slayer work in the game. Everyone agreed Slayers don’t wear armor, so instead they assume Slayers are naturally tough and let the war trophies, boots, bracers and other items add some sort of protection. “But it’s not directly armor,” Gershowitz said.
Tattoos will be part of character customization and there are at least seven Mohawks in the game at the moment, as well as two unique Slayer-only beards. Personally, I’m thrilled that Mythic and Games Workshop work so closely to ensure that the Warhammer vision is kept intact in the game. They could have easily thrown the Slayer in at launch and ignored the fact they don’t wear armor, but instead they took their time and planned a way for it to work. Also, the classes with have signature morale moves found in the tabletop game. For example, a Slayer can whip both of his axes out on chains.
Both Slayers and Choppas have abilities that cause reflective melee damage to enemies whenever they’re targeted. For example, if a Slayer is hit for 140, the enemy may be hit for 120. These numbers could easily change, however. Gershowitz said this won’t work with ranged attacks, but it helps them break through the frontlines of battle.
While the new classes are certainly an exciting addition to the game, Gershowitz said, “We’re not forgetting everyone else.” More mounts will be added in an upcoming patch, and three or four of the skins will be exclusive to guilds. High-level guilds in the next patch will have access to armored steeds that are harder to get knocked off of and run a little faster. They will eventually be offered in RvR and PvP as well.
The live expansion arc will span three to four months and really kicks off with Bitter Rivals, although it technically has begun with the current Night of Murder event. Bitter Rivals will have the Chaos-themed Twisting Tower RvR scenario, the first vertical scenario for the game. “Yes, we’re aware of knockback and we’ve been testing it fairly significantly with knockback in mind,” Gershowitz said.
He said there will be three, or potentially four, live events released throughout this expansion. The first will be Bitter Rivals, then one that hasn’t been announced yet to continue the back story, and then a third to unlock the Land of the Dead. “The Land of the Dead is really open RvR,” Gershowitz said. Sections of it will be public, but a lot of it is instanced. He said the biggest difference is players, once they have control, will be able to go into other players’ instance and forcibly kick them out.
Gershowitz said that if the first live expansion arc goes well, they’ll keep doing them. If it doesn’t go well, they’ll investigate why to see if it can be improved. “We’re definitely looking to continue with live events no matter what, and big expansion arcs for free for players as well,” he said. While it’s difficult to comment on until Call to Arms kicks into high gear, I enjoy the live expansion model and hope to see it continue. Unlike console games, MMOs allow players to participate in a dynamic world that has the possibility to change. It adds constant excitement and keeps things fresh.
Gershowitz also wanted to comment on players’ concerns regarding balance and drop rates. “The 1.2 patch is going to have a lot in it. There are a lot of good things in there for players; not just the Slayer and the Choppa,” he said. An example of a small fix is that Chosen and Knight of the Blazing Sun will have their auras changed to only work on enemies engaged in combat. There will be “a ton” of new itemization and drops, the capital cities will be getting improvements, “and we’ve got a whole bunch of crafting stuff down the line as well,” he said.
From talking with Gershowitz, it really seems the developers are listening to fans’ concerns and are attempting to create a fun and interesting experience through the live expansion and addition of the two new classes. I know I’ll be checking out the Slayer and running right into the frontlines of battle.
Darryl "Togikagi" Gangloff