WildStar Burst: Walatiki Temple Hands-On Impressions
Walatiki Temple is one of only two Battleground's in WildStar, so there's a lot of pressure on Carbine for it to be a good'en. Read on to find out if it is.
There are some PvP maps in massively games that will forever be enshrined as “awesome”. Warsong Gulch (WoW), Arathi Basin (WoW), Nordenwatch (WAR), Battle of Khylo (GW2) and Forest of Niflhel (GW2) are immediate maps that spring to mind. All of these maps have tactical depth, clever use of design to intentionally splinter groups and objectives that create fierce fighting. From a PUG perspective (public user group, for those not in the know) they are still incredibly fun to play and from a pre-formed perspective, they take on a whole new level of play.
Up to level 14 in WildStar the only Battleground you'll be partaking in is Walatiki Temple. The objective of the map is to collect Moodie Masks and return them to your base, with the first team that has collected 5 being crowned the winner. Players having secured the Moodie Masks must the protect them as they can still be stolen by the opposing team. In terms of design, its a circular tiered bowl of green grass, surrounded by wooden spiked fences. Across the centre span two high-rise bridges (picture a hot cross bun) and below those, inside the bowl, are where the Moodie Masks spawn. It sounds on paper a relatively good design but in reality it's actually pretty poor.
To digress a little, I love PvP. In every MMOG I've ever played since the days of Ultima Online, I've always sought it out whether it's open world or in the confines of a Battleground. I've had success in WoW, Neocron and GW2 but have found WildStar a drastically different experience. Make no mistake, it takes considerable time to get used to the sheer quantity of telegraphs. Warhammer Online and the use of area of effect skills was pretty crazy at times but this just feels a whole other level of “Holy AOE!”.
When the gates of Walatiki Temple open, both teams immediately descend into the bowels of the bowl and while this isn't unsurprising, it's nothing short of a cluster that's hard to comprehend and deal with. As a Medic (with which I've now spent the most time) or melee user, it's particularly challenging. Your screen becomes a red mass of telegraphs to such a degree that there's no where you can even stand without taking damage. The fundamental problem here is that no one in the Beta has learnt to separate off from the pack or approach this map with any level of tactics (rushing the masks at the start is suicide for many). For the first few minutes as a result, players wipe repeatedly and simply return back into the bowl.
There's are however two sides to this fault: players and map design. Players can be educated and will becomes better at playing the map, but the fundamental flaw in Walatiki Temple is the fact that it actively encourages you to move down the tiers and into the bowl. Worse still, there's no width to the map outside of the bowl. The tiers are too narrow and penned in and only get a little wider at the top, this leaves ranged classes at a huge disadvantage and while it benefits melee users, in such a telegraph heavy game the tiers are a death trap even for said melee users. If you get 3 or 4 players fighting in these narrow tiers, you once again cannot move for the damage in front of you. I often spend more time running as a Medic than attacking because to get up close would surely be suicide.
If Walatiki Temple is to improve, it needs to be bigger in scale to accommodate 20 players and better still, the bowl should have been a hill for players to run up and fight over at the top rather than a pit to die in at the bottom. The bridges could have cut through the middle as a shortcut, but one that was particularly risky. Better yet, the tiers would be removed and to the sides of this new hill would be an area surrounding it that has specific objectives. Carbine could have made it so these side objectives, if captured, granted powers to the person who carried the Moodie Mask. Layering a PvP map in this way would have encouraged players to deviate from a central objective in order to potentially improve their chances in the later game. Instead all we're left with is a scrum.
Although Carbine have gone to some effort in mixing things up a little bit by placing very minor power-ups around the edges of the map, they feel inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. They aren't really strong enough to entice people to pick them up and it's still much more sensible to charge around as a giant ball of players in order to secure the mask. Similarly to Warsong Gulch, Walatiki Temple needs just something else on the edges to break the deadlock of everyone just nuking it out over and over. Better yet, turning it into a Capture The Mask map (with only two masks in play) would be much more appealing.
What it all feels like is a map that was simply made, as opposed to one intentionally made for Player versus Player. There isn't enough substance here tactically, too little attention has been given to the fact WildStar has telegraphs nothing but telegraphs and not enough time has been spent in designing the map so that players are encouraged to do something other than cluster in the bowl. This map isn't beyond saving and I have had fun playing it (quite a lot actually) but in its current state it will never be remembered as a good map and considering there will only be 2 at launch, those 2 really do have to be incredible if people are to stick around.