From Beak to Butt - 5 Things to Know about WildStar

If you want to learn more about the Paths system, questing, elder game content, character progression, and the playable Exile races, then this episode of WildStar Week is for you!

WildStar Hands-On

WildStar Week Episode Two
From Beak to Butt – Five Things to Know about WildStar

In the first installment of our epic WildStar Week extravaganza, I attempted to tackle the heaviest question out there when it comes to the wacky world of gaming: is it fun? While fun is often hard to properly quantify and is based more on a combination of reaction and reflection than a bland list of scientifically quantifiable criteria, I took a stab at doing so regardless.

For example, taking the garbage bins out to the curb each week isn’t something I’d necessarily quantify as fun. Sadly, a lot of MMO questing systems tend to devolve into the virtual equivalent of that type of repeatable, boring task. The good news is that WildStar is indeed an incredibly fun game to play. If you haven’t already taken the plunge, be sure to check out my updated hands-on impressions to discover why that’s the case.

Today I’ll be honing in on some of the key concepts that I briefly touched on in that particular article. So if you want to learn more about the Paths system, questing, elder game content, character progression, and the playable Exile races, then this episode is for you. So grab a frosty mug of the consumable liquid of your choice, sit back, and enjoy!

The Path System

There are currently four known Paths in WildStar: Soldier, Scientist, Settler, and Explorer. You could almost think of Paths as a secondary class you’ll be able to select from the outset, complete with its own advancement system, quest lines, and specialized gameplay.

Of the four Paths, I had the opportunity to play as both a Soldier and Explorer through a good portion of the newly revealed Deradune map. Basic descriptions for these Paths along with some of my thoughts on the experience of playing each can be found below.

The Soldier Path

This path is largely combat-focused and allows you to “find and fight the toughest foes in the galaxy”. One of the ways this is achieved is by triggering and completing a series of Soldier Holdouts. You could almost think of these like public quests that only soldiers can trigger.
Even though it takes a soldier to kick start the waves of enemy spawns, anyone in the immediate vicinity is able to participate. The more players that show up to the party, the more challenging the holdouts become, but they also become more rewarding as a result.

In Deradune, there were a total of 16 holdouts to be discovered. As you scamper around the map, you’ll be alerted to any holdouts in the area, and from there you can set your quest tracker to point you to their location. So even though this path is largely combat-focused, you’ll still need to do a bit of exploring to discover each of the holdouts on a given map.

The Explorer Path

The official description for the Explorer path notes that you will be able to “travel to the darkest corners of this mysterious planet while discovering the locations of ancient artifacts of immense power” and that you will “climb higher, dig deeper, and go farther than anyone in order to claim territory in the name of your faction.”

In a nutshell, if you’re the type of MMO gamer who hits a new map and runs directly past the quest NPCs to see what that shiny thing is on a distant hillside, or truly enjoys climbing around the terrain to see where it might lead you, then the explorer path is for you. This Path suits my playstyle perfectly, so it was my first choice for hitting Deradune on my spellslinger.

The official description here is pretty accurate. Of the explorer quests I discovered and completed in Deradune, some were essentially elaborate jumping puzzles that culminated in planting a flag for my faction, while others allowed me to open up a massive underground tunnel system.

The latter I found particularly interesting because it not only opened up a sizable chunk of new content in the zone, but the tunnels also served as a means of fast travel across the map. I would discover a new entrance which would trigger a short quest, ultimately allowing me to exit the tunnels in a different location in another part of the zone. This was somewhat reminiscent of the way sewers worked in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines for those of you familiar with that game.

Questing

WildStar is an interesting specimen when it comes to questing. For those MMO gamers who have come to expect that each new town or outpost will have a number of NPCs milling around with an exclamation mark floating over their head, that approach is certainly available. While most of these quests I picked up were standard fare in terms of the activities involved, you could almost think of these more obvious quests as a means of pointing you in the direction of additional, less obvious content.

For example, as I wandered the arid savannah of Deradune killing critters, huntress NPCs could be seen wandering the map. A UI indicator informs you of their approximate distance, and the closer they are while you defeat creatures, the better your experience will be.

Not only that but engaging creatures in combat could trigger additional challenges. So say you’re beating the snot out of a group of malverines. Above your normal quest tracker you could randomly have a challenge alert pop up informing you of the number of malverines to defeat, with a countdown timer indicating how long you have to complete the challenge.

So the idea here is that an NPC back at the outpost might have asked you to thin the malverine population, and in doing so you could trigger additional content that can lead to even more rewards if you do so in the vicinity of a local huntress. There are plenty of other variants on this type of branching content to discover while out and about, so for those of you who don’t necessarily dig the whole outpost breadcrumb questing thing will still have loads of things to do while out exploring.

WildStar Preview

Elder Game Content

As executive producer Jeremy Gaffney pointed out during a brief presentation proceeding my hands-on time with WildStar, the elder game / endgame experience in MMOs over the years has been lackluster at best. A lot of the time the process of trying to get to the end sucks, and actually getting to the end sucks too.

Carbine will be hitting this from a whole boatload of angles, and intends for the elder game to be just as rich with interesting content as the early game experiences. A few ways this is being addressed include:

Raiding – I hail from a time when raiding was an epic experience consisting of massive groups of players. While raids in WildStar won’t be quite as huge as old EQ raids, if you’re one of those MMO gamers who miss the 40 person raids from vanilla WoW, Carbine has you covered.

Competitive Raids – New raid challenges will open up each week, presenting you with more meaningful reasons to play through a given raid beyond the basic loot carrots.

Solo Dungeons – The Carbine team feels that story needs to advance on a monthly basis, so there will be a regular deployment of new solo dungeons for those of you who want meaningful elder game content, but don’t necessarily dig the whole raiding thing.

Warplots – This will extend elements of the housing system to allow players to create their own PvP areas to play in. While details on this system are still somewhat sparse, I’m keenly interested in seeing what kind of impact something like Warplots will have on the PvP aspects of the game.

Character Progression

If you’re like me, then the old concept of variety being the spice of life applies directly to what you hope to find in an MMO. While WildStar will no doubt have its fair share of players who equate hitting max level in the least amount of time as the pinnacle of character progression, I’m one of those gamers who enjoy a game most when there are numerous parallel progression paths to tackle over a longer period.

The Path system is one of the most obvious and direct progression systems beyond your base character class. While the build I had the chance to play has since seen a decent amount of iteration, the basic concept here is that you will gain experience for your Path independently from your combat class. Along the way you will unlock a number of things which may even include new combat skills. And since your Path is advanced separately, you always have the option to focus on class XP first, doubling back on Path progression if you prefer.

In terms of the mighty XP bar, many of the usual progression suspects apply here. Leveling up allows you to unlock new skills and Milestones, which is sort of a fancy term applied to builds based on various attribute thresholds.

For example, during my hands-on time I played two different spellslingers. On the first I decided to stick to more single-target combat, and had unlocked The Big Guns milestone based on meeting the requirements of having 20 Strength. By using this milestone, I increased the damage done by my weapons.

On my second spellslinger I opted to focus on multi-target combat. The key milestone here was Get Outta’ Dodge which was based on my current Dexterity attribute. The concept behind this milestone is that, should I take too much damage, it would grant me a burst of speed allowing me to gain some distance from my foes.

The milestone system shows a ton of potential, so it will be interesting to see how it has been tweaked through further iteration since my hands-on time (iteration being a key development philosophy at Carbine).

The Exile Races

There are two main factions in WildStar: the Exiles, and a second faction which we’ll be revealing in detail next week. Did I mention you should be sure to check back next Wednesday for the epic conclusion of WildStar Week?

On the side of the Exiles, there have been three playable races revealed so far, with at least a fourth hinted at. While I could certainly babble out some random thoughts on the Exile races, I think this awesome video does a much better job than I ever could:




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