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WildStar Column: Changes to Core Systems

By Gareth Harmer on October 03, 2013

As Carbine acknowledged in its latest WildStar Wednesday update, it’s been a while since we heard about beta. Back in August, Design Director Mike Donatelli provided an in-depth status update, explaining the main areas of focus as Closed Beta Test 3 drew to a close.

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In subsequent months, the studio has been working hard on updating three core systems: making leveling up more interesting, making it easier to choose abilities, and completely revamping the quest system.  These changes are all intended to make WildStar more engrossing and entertaining, while removing some of the limitations that came with a more traditional approach.

The big news is all about questing. In the version of WildStar that toured Gamescom, PAX Prime and other conventions, traditional mob targeting and questing was still being used. Killing ten chompacabra meant going out and finding enough of the furry little ankle biters to fill your quota. Collecting twenty skeech ears would involve dispatching enough of the blue-skinned vermin to collect those quest items.

All that’s been replaced with an easy quest completion progress bar. While it doesn’t change much at first glance, taking on tougher mobs will fill that bar faster. With open tagging now in the game, you can help out others and bag some XP, credit and loot as well. It looks somewhat similar to the Renown Heart approach from Guild Wars 2, but tailored to individual quests rather than a particular area. Carbine also added that it “kept in mind the usual concerns about open tagging”, which they might explore in a future blog post.

For now, I’m left wondering how skillful play incorporates in the new system – WildStar previously rewarded players that took on bigger challenges with multi-kill bonuses. It’ll be interesting to see if these have been incorporated into quest completion, or will purely be a way to level up faster.

The new Ability Loadout screen is also very welcome. In the limited play-throughs I’ve had at various events, it’s clear how the interface could become cluttered and confusing. With skills now broken down by role (including those that aren’t yet available), choosing a set of skills to slot into the Limited Action Set should be much quicker. The only thing that’s missing for me is being able to save an Action Set, allowing me to swap to it depending on the type of foe I’m facing.

While Carbine’s update also touched on the new Level Up interface, it didn’t go into further detail about how we’ll be able to have more choice or control as our characters progress. In his August update, Donatelli mentioned that “the system was purely gear-based, and players didn't like that their character had no progression on its own.” I’m hoping that the new Ability Loadout interface is providing some hints toward that, through something that’s labeled an ‘AMP System’.

Towards the end of the update, Carbine also teased a reference to the two announced classes. Speculation has been rampant that we’ll be seeing a full announcement soon, particularly after the recent Ability Mechanics DevSpeak. Although the video itself focuses on WildStar’s combat ‘special sauce’, it’s the sight of two characters with unusual weapons that has really stirred things up.

Each class in WildStar is restricted to a single weapon type – psyblades for Espers, pistols for Spellslingers, etc – so that Carbine could produce more detailed combat animations and spell effects for each race/class combination. We also know from the Mordesh and Chua race reveals that one class will be DPS/Tank and the other DPS/Healer.

Which makes the two weapons even more interesting. One seems to be a pair of paddles that hook up to a backpack, while the other looks like a rifle or shoulder-braced cannon. Could this mean that we’ll see the introduction of a mid-range healer or tank? With all the hints that Carbine has been dropping lately, it looks like we won’t be waiting long to find out.

Overall, it looks like Carbine is shifting gears. WildStar’s worldwide tour is drawing to a close, with New York Comic Con being the likely final stop. But while the community team has been making fans across the globe, the remaining developers have been hard at work preparing for a beta restart. With this most recent update, we’re getting every indication that Closed Beta Test 4 can’t be far away.

Gareth Harmer / Gareth Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically.dissecting and debating them  Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.

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