With the Dominion announced as WildStar's second faction, Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer gives a hands-on perspective on playing for the bad guys.
Last Wednesday, the Exiles had their final moment of glory. As WildStar’s ‘good guy’ faction, they’ve been showcased in cinematics and animations. They’ve been the focus of our attention and adoration. But today, all that changes. Today, an altogether more sinister Arkship hangs in orbit around Nexus. Today heralds the march of the Dominion.
While I’d seen the planet Nexus in screenshots and videos, this would be the first time that I’d experience the game first-hand. It was also my first look at the Dominion; like a kid with a crate of candy, I was tempted to unleash my enthusiasm by experiencing as much of this new faction as possible. Instead, I instilled some Dominion discipline by focusing on a human Spellslinger, a nimble pistolier with a magical twist.
If you’d watched the two faction videos, you’d be forgiven for thinking that WildStar is an intergalactic version of Dukes of Hazzard versus Bond super villains. But although Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney paints the Dominion as a faction of “jerks”, it also gives the evil empire a disarming familiarity. They are ruthless, merciless, and see it as their job to drag the rest of the galaxy out of the dark ages. And I am completely fine with that.
The Ties that Bind
While the Exiles see Nexus as a chance to establish a new homeworld, the Dominion has declared that the planet is its birthright, vowing to purge the disorganized rabble by whatever means necessary. It’s already been established that Nexus was once home to an enigmatic race known as the Eldan. Masters of incredibly advanced technology, the Eldan were also responsible for founding the Dominion over a thousand years earlier.
Both the Dominion and Exiles will have four races to choose from, with three from each now revealed. I was surprised to hear that humans will be available in both factions, until Gaffney explained that a fair chunk of MMO players tend to pick human as a safe option. By having them on both sides, he hopes to reduce any potential faction imbalance.
The humans in the Dominion hail from planet Cassus, bringing with them a sense of style, dry humor and imperial discipline. During the early days of their own interstellar exploration a thousand years ago, the Eldan offered the Cassians a chance to form a great star-spanning empire. Acting through Mechari intermediaries, they unanimously accepted, embarking on a mission to drag the rest of the galaxy out of the gutter.
Should your preferences be for something more primal, the demonic Draken might be a better choice. After studying countless thousands of races to inject new blood into the Dominion military, the Draken scored top marks for bloodthirsty ferociousness. The only snag: how to win the respect of a bunch of brutal, unrefined savages. The Dominion Emperor challenged their leader to a winner-takes-all duel and, after slaying the High Clandlord, the Draken vowed eternal loyalty.
For the Mechari, Nexus represents a homecoming. The sentient robots were originally created by the Eldan to be their servants, scouts and messengers throughout the galaxy, and were pivotal in forming the Dominion with Cassian humans. Since establishing the empire, the Mechari moved into intelligence gathering and traitor eradication. If you’d prefer to play a coldly logical fighting machine with a 404’d sense of humor, the Mechari are ideal.
Being British, I felt I was destined to play a similarly accented Cassian. Although my first experience with WildStar was adventuring through the savannah of Deradune, I’m told this won’t be the case when MMO launches. Characters will start out on their factional Arkship, with levels one through three being a mostly solo experience in order to give the setting a firm introduction. Levels three through six will be in instances capped at 50 players, again in order to avoid that initial overcrowding zerg. It’s only at level six that the training wheels are taken off and you’re invited to explore Nexus.
And what a planet it is. While I initially approached Deradune with the jaded cynicism of one who’s experienced far too many MMOs that just fail at being fun, WildStar chipped away at that with a liberal coating of personality and infectious humor; like a clown in a business suit, this is a game that refuses to take itself seriously.
Deradune is largely under the domain of the Draken, on the prowl for suitably dangerous wildlife to hunt. They’ve also decided that the savannah just isn’t dangerous enough, and so regularly airdrop exotic creatures from across the galaxy just to make things a little more interesting. That’s not to say that every quest you receive will be about dispatching gorillas and gazelles, but expect to do a fair amount of it as you steadily learn the active combat style that WildStar uses.
The savannah also reacts to your slaughter – leave a corpse unattended and there’s a chance that opportunistic vulcarrion will swoop down to feast on it. The long-eared Jabbit will sometimes scamper over, standing on its hind legs inquisitively as you agonize whether to blast the critter. Chip at an ore resource node and it might sprout legs and scamper away. Looting is also rewarding, with the infamous sparkling bodies exchanged for full 3D models of objects scattered over the terrain, ready for you to hoover up with the stroke of a key.