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Postcards from WildStar: Come at me, bro

S. Prell, @SamPrell

Welcome to Postcards from WildStar, a look at Carbine's new MMO. Catch up on our previous postcards, and stay tuned for our final postcard next week.

Another week, another Postcard from WildStar. But I've got to confess, friends: The hiking boots are starting to wear thin, and we've covered my impressions of most of the game's many systems. First, I introduced you to my Aurin Esper Settler – or in layman's terms, my furry, psychic, summer camp counselor. Next, we talked about the game's stat system, revealing an intricate, sometimes confusing, set of rules that govern how characters are strengthened.

I also gave my impressions of WildStar's combat, saying that I found myself excited as enemies showed off new and more complex attacks via the game's telegraph system. After taking a break from the grind of quests and combat, I kicked up my feet and relaxed a bit with my home and floating crystal gardens. So what's left? You are.

This postcard, we go head-to-head as I check out WildStar's PvP. En garde!

Gallery: WildStar | 46 Photos

So, let's get right down to it: What does it feel like to play PvP in WildStar? Well, remember the game's telegraph system, which shows the path or area an attack will cover? Here's what you get when a bunch of players are all using their abilities at the same time:

Chaos, ladies and gentlemen. Chaos. I only wish I were Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park to make that proclamation more effective. Here's the thing, though: While it's certainly flashier, it's actually no more chaotic than the large-scale PvP of other MMOs, and in some ways feels less so.

Being the soft and squishy Esper that I am, I often had to run away if the mob of players began rolling toward me. Backpedaling isn't as fast as turning around and sprinting forward, so the best option for me was to often do just that. Because of WildStar's telegraph system, even if I can't see the baddie chasing me down, I can see where their attacks are going to land and – hopefully – dodge them.

I've been in plenty of MMO PvP fights only to get stunned, knocked down or straight-up killed by something coming in off-screen, so it was nice to be given more warning about impending doom. Not that it actually kept me alive much, but I'm attributing that to my own slow reflexes and lack of PvP skill than anything wrong with the game. Besides, the death of thine enemies is rarely what you want to focus on – victory in WildStar's battlegrounds is much more about teamwork and objectives instead of putting everyone you see six feet under.

The first battleground players can queue up for is Walatiki Temple. Here, teams sprint to grab a tribal mask placed near the center of the map and return it to their faction's base. If you're feeling sneaky, you can also steal a mask that's already been captured and claim it for your own. The first team to five held masks wins. It's essentially capture the flag with masks, and while it doesn't add much to that tried-and-true formula, it's functional and fun – so long as your team is focused on the masks more than going kill-crazy.

Personally, I much preferred WildStar's other battleground, Halls of the Bloodsworn. If Walatiki Temple is capture the flag, Halls is WildStar's version of king of the hill. Here, players stand on a central capture point to fill up a progress bar, moving on to a new map should they succeed. Teams are divided into attackers and defenders, and switch sides halfway through a match. At that point, the team that played defense has to capture the control point faster than the other team did.

Again, this mode doesn't add much to the king of the hill formula. Run to a spot, control the spot, rinse, repeat. However, because WildStar's combat is so heavily-rooted in movement, it becomes a tense balance between staying within the control area and dodging enemy fire. The way teams roll around and push the swarm of chaos reminded me of a cartoon where fists and feet fly out every which way from a tumbling, bouncing cloud of dust. I may not be much of a PvP player, but I've thoroughly enjoyed each romp through the Halls.

If you'd rather not worry about control points and mask collecting, then you want the arena, which is all about killing your enemy more than they kill you. Arena matches unlock at level 30, and feature much smaller player counts. Where battlegrounds feature teams of 10, the arena keeps things small, with bouts of 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5. Each team shares respawns, so even if you're the baddest mother this side of the galaxy, it won't matter if you leave your teammates to get slaughtered.

The arena is interesting, but it definitely attracts a more intense crowd. Players dissect one another's gear and strategy, and things get far more competitive here than in either of the battlegrounds. With the right focus and tweaks, Carbine could easily turn this into an eSport worth tuning into Twitch for. When it comes to actually playing though, this isn't a welcoming place, particularly if you're a class deemed too "weak."

I'm not a stats or gear expert. I couldn't tell you what's OP and what's the in-game equivalent of getting hit with a limp noodle. I can only tell you that classes felt balanced. However, this highlights another reason why I prefer battlegrounds. In battlegrounds, every class has its place in furthering the objective. Stalkers are particularly invaluable in Walatiki Temple, as they can set up ambushes for any players wandering too far into your base. Whereas the arena lets players unleash hell, making for a mess of abilities and telegraphs, battlegrounds funnel your aggression into constructive pursuits.

Unfortunately, I haven't hit level 50 yet, which means I can't give a firsthand account of WildStar's third form of PvP, Warplots. Instead, I'll give a quick overview of what they are and how they work.

The easiest way to envision Warplots is as the PvP equivalent of raids. If you're the war party leader, you'll structure your warplot much the same as if you were customizing your house. Just like WildStar's housing system, warplots have designated areas which you alter and tweak to your satisfaction. Remember how I talked about adding a giant cliff of floating crystals to my land in my last postcard? Same principle, only now we're talking things like giant killer robots and landmines full of toxic waste instead of barbecue pits and picnic tables.

Teams of 40 rush headfirst into these player-constructed death traps, in an attempt to either destroy all of the enemy's generators or cause the enemy to use up all of their energy reserves. See, your warplot has a limited amount of energy, and the bigger and deadlier your traps, the more energy they consume. If a team of enemy players manages to take out one of your traps, that's even more energy spent if you choose to repair it.

Again, I didn't get to try out the Warplots mode myself, so I can't say one way or the other how well they function. But hey, that's what comments sections are for, right? Feel free to discuss this player slaughter extravaganza and all of WildStar's PvP below while you wait for my next – and final – postcard from WildStar.
[Images: Carbine]

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