Unlike with Guild Wars I didn't play Warhammer Online alone. Although the two friends I played with and I never teamed up to do things together in the game, but merely played it simultaneously, I am sure this makes a difference for how a game is perceived. This gives the opportunity to discuss the game with eachother and reflect upon it in a new way. Things that seemed bad might not have been so bad and things that seemed good might not have been so good. I'll say it at once though, I really liked Warhammer Online.
It bears a close resemblemance to WoW, at least on the surface. There are goblins and dwarves and dragons and whatnot, all taken from the pretty vast universe of Warhammer. I have played alot of Warhammer 40k, and would really love it if they did an mmorpg based on that universe as well. Finally something that isn't about demons and dragons eventhough there are plenty of demons in Warhammer 40k when I think about it...
In all honesty, it is actually WoW that looks like Warhammer rather than the other way around. The concept of Warhammer is way older than that of Warcraft and one can speculate that the Blizzard employees at that time probably tried to make a Warhammer-like computer-game which then turned into Warcraft. The medieval view of fantasy goes even further back to Tolkien of course.
In any case, they look alot like eachother. What differs lies in the details and I played Warhammer Online alot more than I did Guild Wars, I actually played it for its full 10-day trial duration. I tried a shaman if I remember correctly. One thing that immediately struck me and that I really liked was the fact that all classes used the same kind of energy system. Instead of stuff like mana, rage and energy every class basically used what could be compared to energy. I loved it since it gave every class equal opportunities to use their skills and forced for another kind of planning, just like energy does when compared to mana. When using mana you can cast as many casts you like withing a time frame and then none more until you have replenished, there is a limit to your abilities. With energy you can instead cast few casts within a time frame but there is no limit to your abilities in the long run. In the end mana works like energy because you don't want to go oom and therefore you must portion your skills like with energy, but theoretically there is a big difference. Imagine not having to think about whether your energy-source will run out or not when healing or caster dpsing? It would be a completely new way (for me at least) of playing that kind of class. I salute Games Workshop for daring to remove mana from the game, as it is such a common feature in these kind of games.
One thing I also loved about Warhammer Online was the rp-aspect they had implemented into everything in the game. I really don't rp much, but I really liked that they had named skills stuff like (and I'm just making up because I don't remember the names of the actual skills, but they sounded like this) "Is gonna be ok now" for a healing skill or "Raaaargh!" for a hard hitting skill. It makes the straight-forward sounding skill names of WoW like Charge and Flash Heal sound rather dull.
Warhammer Online also has a version of the recording system that was implemented in WoW with Wotlk. In WoW we can now see any kind of statistics about out characters in pretty minute detail and also achievements. Now correct me if I'm wrong but I think Warhammer Online was first with this idea. And when I played WO it also looked better than the info we get about ourselves in WoW. In WO we can also see information about creatures/areas/items in an extremely detailed manner, and they also keep track about what kind of quests your character does. Yet again there is more of a rp-sense to it than the boring listings of WoW.
The design, graphics and motion of the game were relly good, but there isn't much to say about it since it was alot like WoW really and nothing I put any thought into. The questing, killing and talking to npcs was alot like WoW, and maybe part of what I liked about this game. Not that it looks like WoW, but that both WoW and WO contain components that I enjoy in a game and present them in an interesting way.
One problem with the game however, was the server stability, or rather lack thereof. I didn't have much trouble with it since I was enjoying the game so much, but there was considerable delay on the servers when I played. This especially bothered Love, he is kind of elitist when it comes to things like that (fps, lag, delays) and needs it to be perfect conditions or he is annoyed. When playing on low levels like we did I found that some compensating for the delay still made the game playable, but I can imagine that in the higher levels this would be a major problem. Remember now that it was over a year ago that I played this and the chances are good that they have made something about this. Or that we were unlucky and had hit a bad server. Or something completely else of course. It wasn't a problem with out internet however, because our friend had the same issue and he played on a completely nother net.
Speaking of end game there isn't much I can say about it since I never got that far. I did however get to try the random-group-quest events that occur in this game, and what little I saw I enjoyed. From what I understood these group quests work alot like the AQ war effort even in WoW did, but on a much smaller scale. Instead of collecting 50.000 of X item, you need to collect perhaps 50 of an item that lies around in the vicinity. Anyone playing can do this collecting and when enough items have been collected (or another criteria filled) the event moves on to the next stage. The next stage is usually in the same manner, a kind of quest in which anyone can participate. The final part of this quest-chain in the area I was in was encountering a rather hard hitting and ugly company of npc dwarves (I played goblin) with an elite dwarf leading them. Anyone could partake in the battle to kill these dwarves, and as I understood it whoever had participated in the battle the most had the highest chance to win loot. I don't know how it determined who had done the most in a fight, considering healers, fighters and tankers participate in a fight in completely different ways. The end result however was a bonus to your roll for the extra-good item that dropped. I only tried this a couple of times and really liked the idea, but I can't really say if it works out well overall or not.
As a conclusion and going back to where I started I must say that I really enjoyed playing Warhammer Online. In fact I liked it so much that I still today consider buying it and playng it "for real", while taking a break in WoW. The only thing that has kept me from doing so so far is the fact that I would be completely alone playing WO, while all my friends play WoW. That is one of the bad and the good things about WoW, the social aspect. Since everyone I know plays it I'm kinda hooked to it. But if I ever decide to play another mmorpg instead of WoW, WO would definitely be my first choice.