WildStar Burst: Esper Hands-On Impressions
Over the next few weeks in each of my WildStar Burst features, I'll be taking a look at one of WildStar's classes. Next on my list is the Esper
I'm a little undecided on the Esper. It was originally the class I gravitated to throughout my following of WildStar and was, to all intents and purposes, a fantastic mix of ranged damage and healing I was hoping for. That isn't to say it's a poor class or is incapable of doing either of the above well, but having played the Spellslinger for extended periods of time first it unfortunately comes in second, though it is a close race.
My primary issues with the Esper revolve around its mechanic (Psi Points) and its Mind Burst skill. For the most part, the Spellslinger and Esper play relatively similarly: they both deal massive damage, are capable of healing well and have a variety of different skills to keep enemies at bay. As intended by Carbine, the Esper is much more static in its play due to its “builder” (Telekentic Strike) being a stationary attack. It does feel a little odd to not have free movement on your default skill and it does leave you feeling vulnerable and overly reliant on your dodges in a game based on movement. However, thanks to the all mighty power of Mind Burst (the bright blue bird) it's pretty much plain sailing all the way from 1 to 15 due to the sheer power of the skill.
Considering you're able to chalk up 5 Psi Points (1 Telekentic Strike builds 1 Psi Point) you only ever really need 1 or 2 to deal absolutely massive damage with Mind Burst. Based on the fact the bird acts like a heat seeking missile, it's pretty hard to miss and there's very little that survives your initial skill rotation. Unfortunately for you and I, I'm unable to discuss how Mind Burst scales past level 15, but during the early levels it's mandatory and makes everything just a little too easy.
Speaking of Esper skills, I must admit they're so much more satisfying and punchy compared to the Spellslinger. Admittedly there's only so much you can do with the “pew pew” of twin pistols, but seeing giant blue psychic weapons zipping across the battlefield is incredibly satisfying. Make no mistake, the Esper really does deal massive damage and thankfully, the players I've encountered choose to do so rather than pigeon-hole themselves as pure support or healers.
When it comes to the Esper's class mechanic, Spectral Form is very much an “Oh Shit!” panic button. Although it can be used offensively, the fact it roots you to the ground and provides 100% damage mitigation for a period 5 seconds shows its defensive properties. For someone who likes to remain mobile (as mentioned above) it's annoying to be rooted in this fashion, but when combined with the Psi Points you earn every 0.5 seconds during it, the potential to wipe out players or enemies really is significant. Yes the cooldown is long at 2 minutes, but it really is very powerful and also has a pretty animation (always a bonus).
One of my favourite things about the Esper is the fact some of its skills have Ability Charges. Concentrated Blade is one of my favourite skills in the game because it allows you to stack your damage spikes when you want but also compliments some of the rigidity of the class. Concentrated Blade has 2 charges which you can use as and when you see fit. Using a charge will summon a Psi Blade that attacks your opponent after 4.4 seconds. This might sound like a lengthy delay (it is somewhat) but the entire premise is to pre-arm these skills. I love the rotation of conjuring 2 Concentrated Blades straight away, followed by Telekenetic Strike and Mind Burst. It's a spike that works wonders in PvP and PvE and really offers an alternative level of tactical depth missing from the likes of the Spellslinger.
Something that has surprised me and perhaps I'm just unfortunate, but I've only seen 1 other Esper on my travels and that was just today. The game is flooded with Spellslinger's, Medic's and Stalker's but Esper's seem a really rare bunch. Even in PvP I've never seen one, though I'm not quite sure why. They heal exceptionally well, are capable of dealing massive damage and the spells they fire look fantastic. The only I can think of that puts people off is the fact you don't physically use your Psi Blade (I'll get to that in a minute) and you're very stationary due to your autoattack.
Going back to the Psi Blade, it is a bit of an odd choice of weapon. Yes some of the skills project this image to attack with, but for the most part it does nothing but dig into the back of your head (which is very annoying). Players like to hit things with the weapon they wield, whether with blades or bullets and I can't help but wonder whether the choice was an error on Carbines part and that they should have gone for something a little more fitting. Perhaps a floating crystal that changed colour depending on whether you're using an offensive or defensive skill? Just a thought.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Esper but until I got my hands on Spectral Frenzy, it all felt a little constricted relying on Telekentic Strike while still taking hits to the face. If you're used to playing a mage type class, though, you're in for a treat here. I just hope they improve the collision detection on the Psi Blade, because unless you enjoy seeing your character with a steel spike through their skull, you might struggle to get used to it.