The guys at Games Radar have dished up a three-page preview of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, based on a recent demonstration they received from EA Mythic's Paul Barnett.
This sense of a world on the edge of collapse is emphasized by one of the game's major new innovations: that of public quests. These are attempts to increase the simple joy of being in a multiplayer environment, by allowing players to interact in groups without anything as formalized as actually grouping. A public quest activates when players walk into an area, for anyone to join in on. It moves to a further stage and eventually climaxes, rewarding participants in proportion to their contribution to the event.
Two examples from the sections we played: in the Empire, villagers were being menaced by a group of Chaos Marauders. We rescued them and a wave of Norse berserkers arrived to be dealt with. Then, finally, a Chaos Giant strode in to be brought down by massed fire. War! Alternatively, playing as Chaos, we received a suitably monstrous mission to destroy a village. This involved first clearing a graveyard of guards, then going from gravestone to gravestone to set up a magical ritual. This summoned a demon of Machiavellian-bastard Chaos God Tzeench, which in turn led anyone present to attack the defending Bright Wizards of the Empire. War!