Like a traffic light having a seizure, red and green flashes over my screen. I’m ducking and rolling and can barely separate my aurin from the throng of Dominion and Exile warring on the bridge. Welcome back, cupcake. Buckle your seatbelt, because we’re heading into battlegrounds, player housing and tradeskills!
Inevitably, quests just aren’t cutting it anymore. Although it is perfectly possible to solo your way to level 50 in WildStar, I’m thirsting for something more. I want the thrill of a battleground victory, and the challenge of a dungeon. It’s time for me and my aurin to take this a step higher.
I had my first glimpse of PvP when a pesky male aurin started following me around my starting area at level 3, insisting in German that we duel, and plonking a duelling flag in my face. I tried to escape him for a while, but even my stealth powers weren’t keeping him at bay. After finally conceding and hitting Accept, I was flung into a whole new level of WildStar. Thank you, German aurin, for harassing me and opening me up to the world of duelling. After annihilating my pesky opponent in a whirlwind of dodging, aiming my attacks and leaping out of his red telegraphs on the floor, I realised that PvP battle would be both exhilarating and confused. I was right.
Teaming up for group quests is fairly simple. My basic knowledge of German helped a lot when hounding the local chat for people grouping up, and soon found my way to a small team of strangers ready to take down a tougher enemy. Soon, telegraphs are flying around the ground again, as we collectively attack and dodge. I am clumsy at first – rather than the dance-like movements that I expect, I am haphazardly rolling and dashing while trying to aim my attacks. I begin to worry that a battleground may overwhelm me. But not to worry! I head over to a practise battleground to find my feet.
The first battleground I can try is Walatiki temple, which opened up to me at level 6. While Walatiki temple has the entire skeleton you would expect from an MMO PvP battleground – frenzied skirmishes on the bridge in the middle, a capture-the-resource goal and general chaotic duelling – Wildstar approaches it with a refreshing twist. Your faction must collect five masks, which spawn in the centre of the map. The masks you collect end up at your bases, which are on opposite ends of the map. As an Stalker, I soon twigged that I could stealth and sneak my way into the enemy base, pinch a mask and smuggle it to my own base. Sounds simple. It isn’t.
The floor of the temple is painted red, and it isn’t blood, but the marks of many enemy telegraphs shooting across the floor. It’s easy to become lost and disorientated when the combat dissolves into telegraphed disarray, and I find myself panicking and mashing as I attempt to avoid the onslaught of five or six telegraphs aimed my way. Mashing, as always, results in death. Staying calm is the key to success in Wildstar combat, and manoeuvring your attacks whilst skipping nimbly out of the way of the onslaught of your enemies. It takes a while for me to get used to, but when I do, it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world.
Victory in a battleground in Wildstar is tactical, more so than any other MMO I have experienced. Besides the microcosm of tactical combat, strategy is vital on a much wider scale. Your death for example could have a backlash on the entire match, as being out of combat is one less person to defend your masks or to skirmish for the masks that spawn in the middle. Defensive and offensive have to be balanced – too much of one will leave the other weak, which will topple a match out of your favour. Teamwork is essential, which is the very essence of a battleground but I feel has been lost in other MMO PvP. In short, PvP has had a much-needed makeover thanks to Wildstar, and I will find it very difficult to have half as much fun in my other favourite MMOs!
Salvaging, Tradeskills and Item Modification
Thanks to Walatiki Temple (which I am hooked on), I am levelling fairly rapidly and it isn’t long before salvaging and tradeskills open up to me. I rub my hands together excitedly thinking fantastic, here comes the crafting, which has always been one of the highlights of an MMO for me, but can easily be bland and without creativity. Although I’m not a fan of complicated crafting, for which you feel you need a PhD in engineering to understand, I like it to have a certain amount of depth to make me feel I can utilise and make use of things in my environment, and personalise my experience with my character. Wildstar doesn’t disappoint, and ticks all of the boxes for my crafting needs.
Salvaging comes first, and I find I can now drag items into a little salvaging icon in my inventory. This breaks down said item into its constituent parts, which can then be used for crafting. Deciding which items are worth more as salvaged, kept or sold to a vendor is important business, and care should be taken not to break down an item you really didn’t want to. Various add-ons are already out there to help organise items that should be salvaged, and these will be invaluable for making the best economic use of your items. Salvaging, like tradeskills, has its own tech tree.
The tradeskills should be fairly familiar to any RPG or MMO veteran. There are your gatherers, such as mining or relic hunter, for which you explore and gather materials. And there are your production tradeskills, such as technologist (the medical tradeskill) or armorer. Architects build for warplots and for houses, and is a much more complicated tradeskill that should be left for the adventurous or the skilled. I can see this one becoming an essential tradeskill for teams and guilds, and can be the difference between a warplot loss or victory. It should be fairly obvious that certain tradeskills complement each other, such as mining and armorer or outfitter and survivalist, but the game does not punish you for mixing up your choices, and each tradeskill can co-exist perfectly well with one another. You are introduced to tradeskills on reaching level 10, and you are presented with a quest inviting you to make your choice.
I’ve come to accept that Carbine are more than a little quirky when it comes to MMO traditions, and tradeskills are not an exception. Interacting with gather-able items, for example, isn’t just black and white. Attempting to gather something may result in it becoming a monster and attacking you. This transforms mind-numbing farming into something a little more unpredictable and dynamic, which is a much-needed refreshment for the genre.
Levelling your tradeskill is a more complicated procedure than I am accustomed to. As usual, Wildstar steers the MMO away from a vision of hammering swords into being over an archaic forge, and instead looks to futuristic science and technology. The game’s gear is composed of microchips, which distributes power to statistics. Playing around with microchips for optimum ability is beneficial, and allows customisation of an item for crafters and non-crafters alike. Some chips are locked, but others can be extracted from their items, putting the microchip into your inventory. These microchips can be used to mod other items, customising them to your own needs and fancies. For example, you can replace one stat with another to better suit your class. It is definitely in your best interest to modify your gear, and this circuit system doesn’t take too long to get your head around. Even I can manage it, so you should be just fine!
But back to tradeskills! Tech trees are a fantastic way to get the most out of your tradeskill and to customise it. By completing one of the boxes on the tree, you receive a new schematic and can move onwards down the tree. Going down specific branches allow you to specialise in perhaps a certain weapon type if you’re a weaponsmith, which has obvious advantages. Trying to widen your use of the tech tree is advantageous when it comes to quests. Building a number of a schematics can unlock a new schematic.
Alternatively, you can level your tradeskill old-school with a list of schematics, or recipes, which show locked schematics or those available to you for filtering through. You can buy crafting items from vendors, which is useful if you want to work through your tech tree quickly. Expect to spend some money unless you have more patience than I have! When you craft an item, you can add charge or power to it to maximise its stats. But be warned, adding too much charge will short circuit the procedure, and it will give you the percentage chance of failure. The risk is yours to take. If you make multiple items, you can either sell, use or salvage them, so there is an element of recycling. So the tech tree gives you a visual idea of what schematics you should be making to unlock further stages of the tree. You can also collect talent points for your tradeskill, which optimises the efficiency of your profession. Although at first it seems like a whole load of different trees and schemes to think about, it is so refreshing to feel I have so much control over my character and the way I approach my tradeskill. Everything is customisable it seems!
Ladies and gentlemen, I have saved the best until last for this part of my review. Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the game pre-release is player housing. Although not a totally new aspect of the genre, Carbine studios have blown me away with the sheer amount that can be put into a house. Player housing can even benefit your tradeskill, especially for gatherers who can make use of a garden for example. If I didn’t feel at home at the Nexus, I sure do now.
I hit level 14 and head straight over to my capital city, Thayd. As usual, you are guided via quests towards getting your house. You can transport to and from your house with the click of a button. Voila, here I am, standing in the grass gazing at my home as holographics squares of light drift around me like fireflies. My house drifts through space on a little floating plot of land, with other aesthetic plots drifting around me. Damn it’s beautiful.
One of the first things I notice is, your house will have a Housing Buff Board, making it worth a trip to your house every day. You have a choice of buffs which change on a daily basis, and could be useful for your adventures in PvP, PvE or questing.
A little options bar will appear on your screen, which is where you can customise your house. Landscaping is where you can customise the 1×2 and 1×1 plots that surround your house, and are faced with a list of things you can build to add to your humble abode, such as silos and crafting kiosks. Other more fun options involve creating plots which you can enter into, or engage in challenges in, like tiny mini-games. Some are merely aesthetic, and make your home look pretty cool without doing anything in particular. Gardens or mineral plots allow you to farm from them, which ties in nicely with tradeskills. To gain access to these plots you need something called FABkits, which I bought using reputation. These are one-use items, so putting them into your home means that to replace them is to lose them. Choose carefully!
Placing a plot is an exciting event. It doesn’t just appear. Wooden scaffolding appears, dust is kicked up as your chosen plot dramatically rises to life and builds itself onto your property. Nice touch, Carbine!
The vendor button takes you to a shop at which you can buy a load of cool stuff for your home, using renown or reputation, game currency or PvP points. You can customise the appearance of your house. You can remodel the ceiling, trim, walls, floor to your liking. Most exciting is the lighting, allowing you to cast a colourful tint across your house. Sinister red is my favourite, because every aurin needs a creepy dungeon in their lives. You can also remodel the exterior of your house, for example the roof or walls, completely changing its shape and the way it looks against the dramatic skyline. It doesn’t end there, oh no. You can change the sky. From a starry backdrop to a blizzard-ridden snow-scape, everything about your home is completely yours. It’s July 4th as this review is being written, so I’m expecting American houses across the Nexus to be decorated with the fireworks backdrop (yes, that is a thing).
Placing stuff in your house and decorating it could practically be a game in itself. The range of items for your house is staggering. Clicking on toggle mode and going through the items you own in your Crate makes the item materialise into life in your home. You can move these items around, so that they stand on the floor or jut from your wall, you can rotate and turn, and even edit how big it is. The freedom you have to customise is exciting as hell. It’s like SIMS all over again. There’s even an advanced option for all of you MMO interior designers out there.
Until Next Time …
That’s all for now, folks! We’ve seen the early to mid-steps of Wildstar, but we’re still at the stages where we’re dipping our toes into the water. Now that we have early PvP, tradeskills and housing sorted, we can start moving into the heavy duty stuff. In the next and final instalment, I get my mount and start hitting it up with PvE and endgame content. Stay tuned!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.