WildStar Burst: Stalker Hands-On Impressions
Of the last two classes I need to cover, the Stalker is next on my list. I'll freely admit to disliking “rogue” type classes, as I'm neither a fan of melee or stealth. Will the Stalker change my mind?
Perhaps its through my own ignorance at the class, but I had absolutely no idea that the Stalker had 3 variants on its Nano Skin. Similarly to the Engineers stances, a Stalker can choose a Nano Skin based on their specific circumstance. Interestingly, a Stalker can also stealth in combat and freely change their Nano Skin while stealthed. I must admit, in all the times I've fought Stalker's on my Medic I've never once noticed that they are capable of stealthing in combat. Perhaps its because of the fact you can, for a period, see their particle effects as they vanish, that it never really crossed my mind that they would go fully invisible (primarily because I nuked them down!).
Thankfully, I feel Carbine have balanced out a Stalkers stealth rather well (though I'll discuss why a little later). Each of the Nano Skins are powerful in their own right and although “Lethal” and “Evasive” clearly define themselves as the damage and tanking Skins respectively, Agile is a bit of a strange one. Providing greater endurance and dash regeneration, improved life stealing and 20% extra agility when you exit stealth, it sounds a good deal. However, it feels significantly weaker than the likes of the Lethal Nano Skin, which offers an enormous DPS boost. In the early levels (15 and below) I've not really found a use for “Agile” yet - even in PvP it isn't a deal breaker - though I appreciate it's early days and it might yet become more apparent as to how important it actually is later on. As it stands though, I've rarely left “Lethal” as it allows me to almost 1 shot every creature I encounter if I'm stealthed.
Having been playing the Medic for a long time now, the Stalkers damage really took me by surprise. It's such a huge leap that at first it felt a little too much. I'd say from levels 1 to 7 there's nothing that provides a challenge as you're more than capable of face-rolling packs of enemies at once, even with only Impale and Stagger. I'm not suggesting the damage as is too much, as I think in reality, the Stalker absolutely needs this level of output. It's melee range is without question incredibly close and contrary to what many during the #TeamFrost and #TeamPappy duels thought, it really does leave you incredibly vulnerable and it is no way advantageous over ranged.
Having digressed, I want to come back to the Stalkers stealth because I feel its a mechanic that has plagued the genre. Make no mistake, Stalkers are going to be your grievers. They're going to be the pain in the thorn in your side throughout your entire PvE experience. I'm sure we've all encountered the idiot that feels the need, when 10 levels higher than you, to stealth up and one-shot you as you're casually leveling. Sure enough, that will absolutely happen in WildStar. But and as a huge advocate of open world PvP, I really don't care. The reason I don't care is because when you go toe to toe with a Stalker and having now played one, it's clear that there are significant limitations to the longevity of their damage output.
Impale, which deals a huge amount of damage, can only realistically be used twice before you're completely exhausted of your suit power. While that means very little from the first strike (especially if you pair it with Analyze Weakness) it does mean that if you're fortunate to survive the first ambush or if you are particularly adept at dodging, the Stalker is particularly vulnerable if they've blown their suit power. If you're to excel as a Stalker, not only do you have to manage this resource with great care, but you also have to juggle your Skins and your orientation to your target. It really is a tricky class to excel with as in such a telegraph heavy game, you feel very fragile when getting so near to players.
I've no doubt that every single player who plays WildStar will rage, once or twice, at being ambushed by a Stalker and although their permanent stealth was originally a concern, it's not hugely difficult to detect them. It is however all the more hard if you aren't excepting one to sneak up on you.
What I will say is that the Stalker reminds me a great deal of the Thief in Guild Wars 2. Certainly not from a mechanic perspective but a play-style one. It's gadgets and mobility are much more akin to that than the rogue-likes of World of Warcraft or Rift, especially with skills such as False Retreat and Pounce.
Sadly for me, I haven't yet had an opportunity to try out a Stalker's ability to tank besides gathering together lots of enemies in a single location, but you can look forward to that in the next few weeks when the higher level NDA lifts. As to whether the Stalker has changed my mind about Stealth classes? I certainly feel less annoyed at a stealth class being in the game and I feel like Carbine have done a good job balancing out their 1 on 1 power. I'm sure I'll still rage being on the receiving end of the class, but I feel much more prepared now I know the skills and limitations of the class.
All in all, Stalkers are awesome. I'd just rather kill one than play one.