After watching Yahtzee
take apart the XBox 360 game "Too Human", I saw a trailer for the new Warhammer Online game starting up, so I stuck around. Now, I won't be playing "WAR", as it's called, if for no other reasons than a) I'm still enjoying WoW just fine, thank you, and b) as is so often the case, I'm using the wrong OS. One WAR developer's mentioned with a wink that he's working on something important involving his non-Windows computer, but I take that with a Massively Multiplayer Grain Of Salt (MMGOS).
Okay, but I do read the blogs from the beta testers, and it looks like while WAR won't be a revolution in online role-playing, they have a few nifty ideas, and kudos to them if they make it all work. As I've said before, I've long grown out of the idea that my fandoms and other people's fandoms must engage in steel cage matches until only one can stagger out. But the point of this whole entry is the reaction I had to the trailer, a reaction that surprised me. While I might have been interested in the game under other circumstances, I hated the trailer. I had an intense negative reaction to it. Why?
WAR has two 'factions' one can play: Order and Destruction. In the trailer, we see Destruction assault a capital city of Order. Death is everywhere, people dying of (bloodless) sword wounds, spear wounds, arrow wounds, magical fire, magical ice, and crushing mass. The trailer shows us the Dwarves, Humans, High Elves, Dark Elves, Greenskin, and Chaos forces slaughtering each other as the city is knocked apart around them. (I am somehow unsurprised that both Elven 'hero' avatars are females who manage to make it through the trailer unscathed, and in the case of the Dark Elf, scantily dressed.)
So, of course there's war. It's called Warhammer! But the video made something abundantly clear: in the world of Warhammer, Destruction wins.
It may not look like it. The last scene of the trailer shows the three Order races facing some huge monster, and we are led to believe that the resolution is up in the air. But look around the heroes. There are bodies everywhere. The city is smashed. Even should the monster be defeated, Destruction can just come back tomorrow, to a city that's still smashed and carpeted with the dead.
(Oh, I know that in the game, the city will reset overnight, buildings will spring back into existence, and the citizens will respawn. I'm not talking about the game, I'm talking about the fictional world.)
It takes years to build a city, weeks to construct a building, and decades to produce an adult warrior. It only takes hours, minutes, or seconds to end that existence. Destruction is easy. The years of food and housing and training and socializing that went into that warrior are countered with a single arrow. If all one cares to produce is wreckage, the world is quite willing to help.
(This, by the way, is why I had to give up on Battletech fiction after a while. Excellent games, and the individual novels ranged from okay to excellent, but they painted a reality where a star-faring humanity nearly pounded itself back to coal and steam, called a truce, recovered long enough to rebuild some technology, and then immediately resumed smashing everything within the reach of a Jump Drive. And they did this cycle repeatedly.)
Now, the game isn't exactly its fiction. Once online, Order and Destruction have nigh-infinite resources in the long run, and new weapons, warriors, and metropolises with the click of a mouse button. But the fictional background shown in that trailer is far too bleak and pointless for my tastes, and unless the WAR loremasters have something up their sleeves, this is a world that offers me little appeal.