Welcome to Postcards from WildStar, a look at Carbine's new MMO. Catch up on our previous postcards, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.
It's become a Thing with a capital T to make MMO gameplay more active and engaging than the "stand in place and cycle through three of your 47 abilities" combat of yesteryear. WildStar reduces the clutter of hotbars to a single set of eight abilities, and focuses its moment-to-moment gameplay on positioning and movement. This is a game where you will constantly be on the move and looking to reposition.
When you or an enemy attack, the ground will display a pattern marking the impact area of an attack. A long-range straight shot might appear as a rectangle stretching forward from a character's feet, while a close-range blast could show up as a wide cone. These light-up displays are referred to as "telegraphs." As you progress you'll discover bigger and more complex telegraphs, not only in your own repertoire but from your enemies as well. I found myself excited every time I saw some new attack with increasingly crazier telegraphs, with dungeon bosses in particular offering up some absolutely insane obstacle courses.
The upside: At least the locations and things you see along the way are visually stimulating. From cool oceans to lush jungle, rolling hills to burning forests, laboratories full of Cthulhu-like plant monsters to underground caves inhabited by giant bugs and smiling, dancing vegetables, WildStar is full of visual style.
Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and rainbow-haired mouse-people. Stats and character attributes are a bit of a hot mess in WildStar. First, they're divided into two types: primary and secondary. Brutality, Finesse, Moxie, Tech, Insight and Grit are your primary attributes, which in turn affect secondary attributes like Critical Chance Rating, Critical Hit Severity, Magic Resistance and Deflect Chance (though there are tons more).
The primary attributes correspond fairly nicely to the more common DnD-based set of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, Intelligence and Wisdom, but they're not a perfect comparison. You might think of "Brutality" as a simple semantic change from "Strength," but not only are those words not synonyms, Brutality actually does different things depending on your class.
Since each class in WildStar can fulfill two roles – one always being DPS, the other being healer or tank depending on the class – there are two main types of spells and abilities; Assault abilities and Support abilities. Looking at my Esper as an example, increasing her Assault Power will make her a more potent killing machine by bumping up her damage output. If I want to be an efficient healer however, I want my gear and stats to reflect a focus on Support Power, which increases the potency of her healing spells. Sounds simple, but remember: Classes gain different benefits from the same attribute. You need to remember that, while high Insight is great for a healer Esper, it's not something you want to focus on as a DPS Stalker, for example.
It's a complex system, and I found myself referencing multiple online guides and tables to develop my character the way I wanted. Out-of-game studying isn't necessarily a bad thing, but this isn't some secretive feature reserved only for the pros, this is basic character progression. WildStar tries to organize the system by keeping Assault, Support, Utility and Path-related abilities separate from one another in the character menu, but it still feels overwhelming.
I can't say I'm a fan, as it's not immediately apparent why the same attributes need to have different effects for each class. There may be a detailed and thoughtful explanation for why things are the way they are, but thus far it has eluded me.
The Settler Path is awesome. I sampled the Explorer path and enjoyed turning this tightly-controlling MMO into a 3D platformer, but I'm downright hooked on being a Settler. As I move from area to area, I find new materials strewn about, ready to be collected as if they were Easter eggs full of money. And drugs. Addictive, addictive drugs.
But hey, at least they go to a good cause: almost every town or encampment has a Settler station, where myself and other followers of the Settler Path can dump our collected materials to build buff stations for our fellow players. That spiffy-looking cylinder that gave you extra HP? A Settler made that.
Being a Settler isn't always so serious, though; sometimes it's just nice to tidy or spruce up the joint. Settlers can alter the aesthetics of their environment by erecting faction flags, planting flowers, fixing broken barricades and more. Truth be told, these have been the least impactful of my actions, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for playing sci-fi housekeeper.
Speaking of housekeeping, stay tuned for next week's postcard, as I explore WildStar's housing system and PvP. Until then, wish you were here. Love, Sam.