Finally back on terra firma, Gareth Harmer shares his experience of a weekend with WildStar.
What does it feel like when a developer rolls out the red carpet? WildStar’s European fans were treated to their own Arkship-style fan gathering down in Brighton, UK recently, and I was incredibly lucky to snag an invite of my own. With the promise of plenty of hands-on playtime, some in-depth Q&A panels and a first look at both PvP arenas and instanced dungeons, I was drooling with anticipation from the moment it hit my inbox.
The last time that Carbine visited this part of the world was back in 2011, with a massive fanfare event at Gamescom and follow-up at Paris Games Week. I remember considering the half-day train ride both times and stupidly decided not to. It’s been something I’ve regretted painfully… until now. But this wouldn’t just be some kind of show and tell; instead, the team from Orange County was eager to dig into our minds and discover what we really thought.
I’d been fortunate to sit down with WildStar before at a press event back in February, interview developers and build some first impressions around the telegraph-heavy combat. This time though, I could wallow in that warm embrace that only a fan community can provide. It’s incredibly refreshing to be able to trade the careful analysis of games journalism for laid-back, hair-down fun with such a passionate bunch of gamers, like I’m recharging those batteries of enthusiasm.
Carbine keeps a fair portion of Arkship under NDA and, as a signee, I can’t share much about those parts of the trip. It’s for a good reason though – the idea is to encourage a free and frank discussion about the good, the bad and the downright gnarly. But you can’t have that two-way street if someone’s going to share all of that feedback with the world before the studio has a chance to even decide what to do with it. After all, everyone wants to see a great game at the end, right?
What can I talk about? Well I’m glad you asked! Revisiting Deradune, I can tell you that the entire zone has had that extra pass of polish. Everything, from slight tweaks to art and lighting, to minor quest updates – that continued work is very much in evidence. The difference since February isn’t huge, but it’s noticeable.
Classes have been getting a touch of love as well. As I pulled on the gloves and picked up my Spellslinger pistols, the first few fights were much more natural. Ranged rooting and stunning felt more effective, giving a benefit to my overall mobility. I was less of a colorful meatbag and more a ducking and diving space-pistolier shooting magic lasers in the face of danger! Ba-bam!
But I know the savannah of Deradune, and the panthers and monkeys that dwell there. It was time to find some bigger, meatier game. Dungeon boss sized game. I was getting hungry, and Carbine responded by serving up the main course – Stormtalon’s Lair. This five-man dungeon is full of gloomy unpleasantness just waiting for an excuse to burst out, and I was being given the chance to go in there and poke the hornet’s nest. Challenge accepted!
Cracking the seal on any new dungeon is always a little nerve-wracking. There’s the unknown – what monsters lurk inside, what attacks will they use and what phat loots can I get? But there’s also that feeling of being a pioneer – exploring the unknown and leaving the first footprints. While Carbine has been great in sharing a whole stockpile of lore on the cult-like Thundercall Pell and their mysterious sanctum, it’s not the same as opening the door and introducing yourself in the most lethal way possible.
My group of heroes assembled, we entered the Lair directly from the Looking for Group system. It’s one of those features that took a while to catch on but is now pretty much expected out of the box. “What, your MMO doesn’t have an LFG system? How quaint!” Inside, we edged forward, glowing consoles throwing feeble light around the cavern. We knew that fools rush in, aggro everything and die, so we were careful to test our limits cautiously.
A single pack of two Thundercall charged toward us, the Shaman gesticulating wildly as a warrior charged in. Although we were bringing down the pain, both of them were eating damage like candy, their huge bodies dwarfing even the Mechari of the group. We soon learned why – the Shaman was packing Heals. A couple of well-timed stuns later and they were down and out, and we were moving closer to Stormtalon.