So, got the beast installed (2 dvd's!!) and took it for a test run.
Overall, I'm not very impressed with the game. Let me give you a taste of the gameplay so far:
*) create your account with EA/Mythic (note the name.. it becomes important later on)
*) start up WAR, wait for 45 mins for the 255MB patch to download (seriously?)
*) finally get the patch downloaded, start the game, agree to the license and ToS
*) begin selecting your character and deciding which set of tusks best describes you as a hulking minion of the Armies of Destruction
*) frown as the game starts to lag during the character customization phase until it gets so bad you just give up and hit the "PLAY" button hoping it'll go away
*) enter the game and begin walking to the first quest giver only to be struck by crippling lag after taking 2 steps
*) spend 5 minutes fighting through the lag in an attempt to get the visual config menu opened up and turning everything down to lowest possible settings
*) give up when that doesn't do anything, and try restarting the game
*) agree to the ToS a second time
*) re-enter game, resume your walk to the first quest giver, and get hit with crippling lag inside of 5 steps this time
*) hunt for the in-game help feature to report the problem, and experience a complete lockup of the game and a tone that sounds ominously like a flatlining EKG machine for 10 seconds
*) wait for lag/death tone to subside, hit the help button, and begin filling out your report only to discover there's a hidden character limit on the input box labelled "be as descriptive as possible"
*) revise your bug report down into "terribad lag, bad tone + lockup, plzhlp" (all the while experiencing said terribad lag... we're talking IRC on a 2400 bps modem here, folks) and have the game completely crash before you can submit it
*) sigh, and decide to use the web form to report the bug... spend a while typing in your WAR account/pass and your EA Mythic website account/pass before noticing that in order to report a bug you have to have an EA.com account
* register with EA.com, wait a few mins for warhammeronline.com site to accept your new credentials, and submit bug report
* go whine about the whole experience on your blog that only 2 people read
It's not a very fun game, so far. :)
In seriousness, though, I did get a chance to kill a couple of dwarves and get to level 2 before things got too bad. It's got some major differences from WoW... the two big ones for me are that there's no autoattack (ie, you have to use an ability from your action bar for each swing of your weapon) which slows things down with what appears to be a 1.5s cooldown between swings. I'm thinking that it's going to be tricky to get into a button-mashing groove later on and such grooves will depend on your action bar layout as much as your talents. Hrm.
The other complaint is the orc quests are written in orc "flavor" language... which is some funky hybrid of Cockney, Sottish, and gangsta rap. It's kind of difficult to tell what the hell the plot is, and tempting just to read the list of stuff you need to go grab.
The interface is pretty well laid out, and it preserves a lot of controls and features from the WoW interface, so... at least that transition has been eased. I find the compass much easier to read, and there's a lot of stuff there natively that you had to rely on add-ons for in WoW.
Not too bad.
Other than the sever, crippling lag thing. And the byzantine maze you have to navigate to submit a bug report.