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WildStar Column: Choose Your Weapon

By Gareth Harmer on October 31, 2013

Winter Beta is coming. That’s the message from Carbine, promising a deluge of details on WildStar. Over the last few months, the Orange County developer has been reasonably quiet on fresh news, instead letting the sci-fi MMO do the talking at conventions worldwide.

But all that is set to change. After a successful Livestream pilot, we can expect to see several more between now and launch. The team is promising to throw new content in the mix as well, which will hopefully include a closer look at elder game content currently in development.

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A new series of Devspeak videos is also planed. Starting next week, Carbine is taking a closer look at each of the planned Classes, staring with a refresher on the four previously announced before revealing the final two.  With this Class Ultra Drop just around the corner, it’s also the perfect time to reexamine one of Wildstar’s defining features: Class Weapons.

Each Class in WildStar has a signature weapon type that only they can use. Warriors use power swords to do the carving and cleaving. Stalkers have claw-like fist weapons to slice and dice. Spellslingers carry a pair of magical pistols for a mix of ranged attacks, and Espers wield psyblades to augment their potent psionic powers. As for those two unknown Classes? Judging from Carbine’s teasers, one will grip a pair of CPR-style pads, while the other seems to favor a rifle or possibly shoulder-cannon.

Weapon Mastery

There’s a simple explanation why Carbine chose to focus on giving each Class a single weapon type, and that animation. With higher resolution graphics becoming the norm these days, high quality combat visuals can help to cement that bond between the player and their character. If you’re going toe-to-toe with a group of monsters and your Stalker looks cool as he makes mincemeat out of them, you’re going to want to play him more.

But there are other benefits as well. In previous MMOs, I’ve needed to juggle between a main and off-hand weapon, or a single two-handed weapon. This was either to unlock a particular mix of weapon-related abilities, or to get the best mix of stats. It also removes a major source of item conflict, where many different Classes would desire the same weapon. Instead, weapon upgrades become a much simpler affair: can I use it, and are the stats better?

It does mean that the weapon effectively becomes a ‘stat stick’, but I’m not convinced that’s such a bad thing. Weapon variety can emerge in a couple of ways, including proc-based or attack-based effects that can still influence our choice. A third option was mentioned during the livestream pilot, where a weapon might have an item mission to kill a certain number of creatures within a time limit. Succeed, and be rewarded with a more advanced version or unlocked ability.

There is one glaring problem though, and it’s what to do if the particular Race and Class combination doesn’t gel with you, either because the play style feels wrong or the animations don’t jive. The best thing to do in these situations is roll an alt early and work out what it is you don’t like. There’s nothing worse than doggedly forcing a character to level cap and loathing every step, purely because you feel obliged to. Besides, you might find a whole new reason to fall in love with the game.

The Item Puzzle

Even though each Class has a single weapon type to choose from, don’t start thinking that we’ll only have a single option to pick. In a recent forum post over on WildStar Central, Content Designer “J-Tal” explained how itemization will work.

It essentially breaks down into three pools of gear. PvP gear will have two additional stats – PvP Offense for dealing more damage to other players, and PvP Defense for protecting from it. It means that the dedicated arena or battleground players won’t get stomped into the ground by raiders, and vice versa.

Raiders, on the other hand, get additional stats that we’re already familiar with. Strikethrough (Hit) helps the DPS penetrate a boss’s armor, Deflect Critical (Defense) benefits tanks, and Recovery (resource regeneration) keeps the healers healing. According to Carbine, these stats will be “pretty much required” if you’re planning on raiding.

The good news is that solo and small group players get a focused gear set themselves. Because the raiding and PvP stats aren’t required to run a dungeon or shiphand mission, we’re also likely to see gear with boosted base stats specifically for this group of players.

It also means that solo players will be able to find simple upgrades that suit them, while raiders will face more complex stat balance challenges. But while this might be a boon to theorycrafters trying to choose the best set of items for their role, it also means that there’ll be demand for a wide variety of gear. If you’re a crafter looking to dabble in armor manufacture, there’s every chance you’ll be able to find a niche.

Choosing It All

There is, of course, one final problem. Each Class can swap between two different roles in the trinity – there are no ‘pure’ Classes in WildStar. If you’re a versatile raider that can perform both, you’re likely to need two sets of gear. Go adventuring or instance running, and you might need even more gear sets. Play every style of endgame content, and you could potentially end up carrying around six different item sets.

It’s possible to find ways around this – gear addons are one solution, instance wardrobes that auto-equip are another. There’s also probably going to be some overlap, with Carbine specifically mentioning crafted gear and world drops. What’s probably more likely is that raiders will find some form of hybrid gear selection that works for them, swapping out key components as needed.

Ultimately though, class, weapon and gear choice is just part of a much larger puzzle. Carbine’s strategy for WildStar is to make the Limited Action Set our primary area of focus, selecting skills and abilities above juggling stats. It’s all about creating that high skill ceiling, with a focus on our ability rather than the gear we collect.

Don’t fret about weapon limitations. Instead, focus on looking like a badass as you journey through Nexus. WildStar will still contain plenty of challenges, whatever Class we choose.

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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