Skaven And The Red Headed Step Child

Skaven Warlord

Dead Cat On Hip. New accessory by Armani.

Although I haven’t played Warhammer Online for a while I still follow news about it and have a second account setup for their endless trial (although I did receive a curious email not so long ago saying that my trial had expired meaning it wasn’t quite so endless after all… not quite sure what that was about). It’s a game that I remember being very, very excited about before it came out but then, after a flurry of passion, lost interest with it pretty quickly. Much like Age of Conan, a peer of its time, I always assumed an expansion with some juicy new races or classes would entice be back but so far there’s been nothing of the sort. Until kinda now there is.

In line with the two year anniversary of the game, Mythic are introducing a new campaign with new zones (check out Bootae’s blog – who actually asked for my thoughts on all of this via Twitter – or Werit’s site for some truly knowledgeable information on the subject instead of my half-informed ramblings) along with, drum roll please, the Skaven. Any fan of the Warhammer fantasy universe (does anyone know why they don’t exist in the WAR 40K lore?) will probably love these pesky rodent people and I have plenty of fond memories of painting Skaven figurines back in my incredibly exciting youth. Suffice to say my interest has been thoroughly piqued over the last few months what with all of the not-so-subject hints Mythic have been dropping about them making an appearance in the MMO.

Unfortunately though I can’t say I’m now overly thrilled at the way they are going to be implemented in the game. They aren’t a third faction, they aren’t even a true playable race or classes yet instead their accessed in a fashion akin to monster play in LotRO, granted to both Order and Destruction sides as temporary characters. Either due to time or money restrictions (probably both), the Skaven have been resigned to living on the porch back step like some sort of unwanted red headed step child. Gotta say, this makes Gordon sad.

Personally I’ve never been a fan of this type of thing in MMORPGs. To me, characters are a virtual avatar that the player wants to bond and grow with over the course of a long period of time. Jumping into the shoes of a temporary character or beastie has never appealed to me in the slightest and seems to contradict the whole roleplay ethos. It’s also, well, kinda lazy and just an easier alternative to providing the full well nourished content, backstory, equipment and abilities that a true playable race should have. No doubt Skaven will be fun to play and prove very popular initially but I have to wonder how many of them we’ll see running around in six months time.

I’ll probably talk about this more in a future article but I do think that the position with the Skaven is partially due to the fact that Mythic shot themselves in the foot a bit with their original race and class architecture. By integrally locking classes and races together and setting a precedent of four classes per race they haven’t given themselves much flexibility or room to maneuver. I mean, if they wanted to add proper new races or classes in the future (i.e. via an expansion) how would they do it? Would they have to add a new class for each race in order to keep things balanced or an entire new race with a complete four classes per side? That’s a vast undertaking for any developer and probably a large contributing factor as to why we’re seeing the Skaven appearing as an unwanted orphaned race. Let this be a lesson to all designers – keep you’re race and class set up flexible so you can easily accommodate the addition of a single one in the future.

However, oddly enough, none of this has actually put me off the idea of giving Warhammer another shot and seeing how things have progressed since my last bash. Maybe time for me to necromance my trial account and see if I can get my blasted EU client to hook up to our new US patch servers without re-downloading it all.


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  1. elleseven says:

    I wish Warhammer would go F2P. It’s hard to justify paying $15.00/month for it when you can’t even get into a scenario without a huge wait.

  2. CrazyLikeBusey says:

    First, I don’t know which server your free trial was on because they moved the free trial players off the Badlands server. Second, I believe skaven are so popular if they were only on destruction side it could cause server imbalances. I can say that SC pops on Badlands in teir 4 are damn near instantaneous.

  3. Everblue says:

    I agree with you that the race/class architecture in WAR is strange. I actually felt like it made the world less immersive, since it seemed like you were locked in to a few pre-defined roles and you had less freedom to develop your character the way you wanted.

  4. Werit says:

    I would love to have some sort of progression for Skaven, even if they don’t it should still be fun. They are avoiding a ton of balance issues by adding Skaven this way too. Think of them as special roles. It looks like they add some fun gameplay (tossing allies onto the walls), without the huge overhead of new careers for both sides.

    We will see how it goes though.

  5. ShadowWar says:

    You express similar sentiments to my own concerns. It’s an issue of lack of personalization and progression as I see it. But, as Werit said, the Skaven will at least fill a needed roll on the battlefield in the new RvR zones as specialists of a sort, used to attack, cripple, and capture keeps.

    As for their existence in 40k, there are multiple reasons depending on which year of canon you go by. At one point, GW said that the WHFB was actually on a planet that existed within the 40k universe, only that it was surrounded by a cloud of magic (or something) that kept it impenitrable from any outside forces, and thus was a world of it’s own free of influence. I think realizing that was a crap explanation, they decided to just say there are different universes entirely. The “role” (swarming race) of the skaven was more-or-less taken over by the Tyranids. Skaven just wouldn’t fit as well into the lore of the world, and I think it’s as simple as that.

    • Gordon says:

      I don’t know much about Warhammer lore but it still seems a bit strange that such an iconic and popular race as the Skaven has never appeared in War 40k. Think they will pop up at some point?

      • ShadowWar says:

        I would be surprised. There are a LOT of races in the 40k universe (as in the fantasy), and the conceptual “role” of the skaven are already being filled pretty nicely by an existing race (tyranid), and the racial theme is being is filled kind of well by a racial sub-army (the mechanicus being a type cyber-punk to the skaven steme-punk).

        There are significant difficulties as well to bringing them in. First would be to somehow create them in a lore-fitting manner I think. The origins of the fantasy Skaven are pretty location specific, and just saying “Hey a race of rats are in space!” probably wouldn’t go over too well. Secondly, how would they look? What kind of sci-fi twist do you give dirty, greedy, selfish, cowardly rats? With GW, I’d never say never, but if they were going to show up, I would have thought they would by now.

  6. RanknVile says:

    WAR goes into the annals of one of my most played MMO’s, yet the news of the Skaven disappoints.
    You are also talking to an old school, 1st edition Warhammer Fantasy RPG player when I was a youngun. The role of the skaven in this new “RvR pack” is a blasphemy to me and to the IP.

    I decided to leave this month and let the game go. I will return when the RvR packs come, as I feel it will be a new game…but, I will be leery and watchful of the changes.


  7. Bhagpuss says:

    Totally agree with you on the “temporary” characters thing. I loathe it. It’s one of the few changes to an MMO that can actually make me stop playing, at least for a while. Mrs Bhagpuss and I left EQ for a year or so as a direct result of the introduction of “Monster Missions”.

  8. [...] Fly Spitfires has a few words about the Skaven addition to WAR.  Some of these words have more than one [...]

  9. Scythe the Deadly says:

    Mythics Epic fail at giving us Skaven keep up the BS mythic you’ll never get my money. WE ASKED for them as a playable race for Destruction not this cheap cop out. This is one player that wont return

  10. Stabs says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Skaven. I love the Gottfried and Felix book Skavenslayer, I think the Skaven army book is the peak of Warhammer miniatures creativity I even larped as a Skaven for a while (damn, that mask was sweaty!).

    I feel Mythic really dropped the ball. Overall they captured the feel of the Warhammer world very well but omitting what many people think is the best part of their IP was just plain daft.

    I’m not sure if this implementation is enough to lure me back. If it were a playable race and a third faction then hell yeah. But they seem to be basically pets which utterly defeats the lore. It’s like having a pet Bond villain, just nonsense.

    • Gordon says:

      I think they were just pushed for the time or money. It seems to me that they had plans to bring them in as a true playable race (maybe along with Wood Elves or Snotlings for Order?) but then just didn’t have the resources for it. Kinda a shame in my opinion.

      • Snave says:

        What if Mythic wrote something new in the lore explaining the Skaven joining destruction and the Lizardmen joining order? Something that makes sense though.

        • Gordon says:

          I’m sure Mythic would have been up for that but the problem is they need Games Workshop to OK everything and they are very pinickering with the lore. However, there’s still no reason why we couldn’t have had Wood Elves or something else like that.

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