The Exiles of WildStar have seen their major project go on for a very long time now. It started with Brightland's rebellious activities, yes, but at the time, those were actions of protest. That was a long time ago now, down what seems like an almost unfathomably far road. The Exiles of today certainly aren't fighting to reverse policies or change the Dominion; they're fighting for a home.
We're introduced to the game's setting as a conflict between two opposing factions, but let's not mince words. The heart of the conflict has been over for a very long time now. The Exiles lost. What players will be jumping into is not the latest part of an ongoing struggle but the last stand of one faction that survives partly on the simple ignorance of its greatest enemy.
As with many of the historical bits in WildStar, we don't know all the details. We don't know exactly how long ago the split between the Exiles and the Dominion took place, but we know that the Gambler's Ruin is centuries old. We know it happened long enough for the Exiles to pick up three major allied races. We know enough to suggest that it has, in fact, been a very long time since the two factions split from one another. And we know that the Exiles have subsequently been on a long losing streak.
Think about it. Why are the Exiles putting down on Nexus? Because the Gambler's Ruin is failing. The ship is falling apart; it's the last remaining port in a very long-lasting storm. There's no discussion of stopping the Dominion, no thoughts that perhaps the Exiles can truly become a rebellion worthy of the name now. Nexus is the last, best chance the faction has at peace.
It's not hard to imagine how it happened. At the start, the goal was creating change within the Dominion, a change that the Dominion had no interest in. And as it turns out, despite early victories, it is really difficult to make a huge empire change its policies based on violent rebellion. Nearly impossible, in fact. When the Dominion showed up in force, the Exiles had to fall back for the moment. That turned into a longer and longer fallback over time, no offense, no goals short of surviving...
One of the most vital bits of information you get from the tutorial zones in the games is the fact that the Exiles see themselves as constantly dogged by the Dominion. They see the Dominion as a persistent threat. And the Dominion? They see the Exiles as an annoyance. An inconvenience. Problematic, to be sure, but something that can be dealt with, just a problem to be cleared away in time as the opportunity arises. More like an infestation than anything.
So the group that sparked this conflict is still fighting a long war against enemies that do not and have not considered them a real threat. This is the face of this war, and it is decidedly one-sided.
It also shows the difference in resources between the factions. It's taking everything the Exiles have to keep their heads above water. For the Dominion, the whole thing takes so few resources that some of the empire probably doesn't even realize the war is still going on. The resources lost to the Exiles are a drop in the bucket. It's a war of attrition, and the Dominion can afford to lose so much more than the Exiles that it isn't even funny.
Sure, that's not how the Exiles frame it, but ask yourself -- what ideals do the Exiles stand for? What policies did the Dominion implement that led to Brightland's rebellion? We don't know. I doubt the Exiles even know any more. I doubt that's even the point.
Am I saying that the Exiles are wrong? Heck no. The Dominion left a portion of its population so disenfranchised that a violent rebellion seemed like a good choice. I'm saying that at this point, it no longer matters how right or wrong the Exiles may have been at one point. That idealism is now buried under a need to oppose the Dominion, a need to survive, and a need to find a place for several races of people to settle down.
What's funny is that while the Exiles want to drive back the Dominion, they also need the Dominion. If the empire simply left them alone, what holds the alliance of races together? What remains to tie these ragtag humans along with their other allies? All three of the non-human races joined on with the promise of stabbing the Dominion in the back at every opportunity; how many opportunities have arrived may be questionable, but the fundamental goal is relatively straightforward.
But if the Dominion just left, there's nothing keeping things together. Suddenly the Exiles are just scrappy survivors without an oppressor. They're already rebels without a cause; next they'd be rebels without any authority to rebel against. It's only the presence of the Dominion that keeps them moving and fighting.
And maybe that'll be enough. Maybe, just maybe, the Exiles can make enough of a stand on Nexus. Maybe there's room enough for these wanderers to find their ideals again, find a reason to hope and to build something lasting. Maybe they can stop being exiles in practice if not in name.
It's a lower standard than the original target, but it's still a standard worth living with.
Feedback, like always, can be left in the comments down below or sent along via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let's talk about the era of active combat and how WildStar fits into that environment; the week after next, let's talk about how the game is in competition with absolutely no one other than itself.
Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.