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WildStar Column: Snazzy Heals

By Gareth Harmer on November 21, 2013

Another week has passed, and another barrage of WildStar news has arrived. The last seven days have provided a closer look at the Esper, a mysterious illusionist equipped with mirages and mind bullets. While this caster class packs a mean punch, it’s also a formidable healer.

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The Esper Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ brought plenty of detailed information about how the class works, but Carbine’s livestream delivered a couple of additional gifts: a tour inside Stormtalon’s Lair (a level 20 dungeon), and some interesting PvP action. If you’ve been desperate to find out how healing will work in an action combat MMO, this is a must-watch.

It also looks like the WildStar Beta train is getting back underway, with a flood of invites heading out for the next round of testing. Craig Turner, Carbine’s beta operations honcho, shared further information on Reddit about who’s getting those golden tickets. The good news is, there are plans to pull more players in as December progresses. Loic Claveau also advised livestream watchers to fill out the beta survey in order to increase the chances of getting picked.

Dungeon Master

One of WildStar’s big unknowns was how dungeon combat would pan out. There are those who argued that Carbine’s telegraph system would trivialize the experience, while others claimed that aimed abilities would make the trinity of roles unfeasible. Both of those doubts are unfounded, with the class designers teaming up to give us a taste of 5-player instancing.

The dungeon in question, Stormtalon’s Lair, is likely to be the first instance players delve into. It’s a challenging sequence of encounters that’s intended to last about 45 minutes, and is one of four that will be in WildStar at launch. Alongside dungeons, six adventures provide additional 5-player content, with a new group activity arriving every five levels from level 15. In an interview, Lead Dungeon Designer Brett Scheinert also explained how dynamic content will keep those dungeons feeling fresh. With Carbine also promising regular updates post-launch, it’s likely that we’ll see more arrive on a regular basis.

As Esper class designer Jade Martin led the livestream audience through the first few dungeon pulls, mob behavior seemed to be familiar to what we already know. Due to the telegraph system, combat was certainly more fluid and mobile, but the roles of tank, healer and DPS were easy to spot. Later pulls included an enemy healer that needed to be interrupted, but it took a concerted effort from the group to stun him into submission. It’s all down to Carbine’s use of interrupt armour, which means that one player by themselves can’t provide all the required crowd control. If interrupting ability casts is part of your battle plan, you’re going to need to co-ordinate.

With the group progressing further into the Pell-infested lair, we discovered what happens if the tanks is a little over-enthusiastic with their pulls. As the party was surrounded by mobs that coated the cavern floor with angry red telegraphs, health bars started plummeting. And, despite Martin’s best efforts, they wiped. Twice. It demonstrated perfectly that WildStar’s dungeons aren’t necessarily the easy-going cake-walk that some have predicted.

Blade Wind the Invoker, Stormtalon Lair’s first boss, looked to be equally tough. The fight looked to be split into three phases, with the first two appearing to be fairly straightforward. It was that third phase when things went into overdrive, with checkerboard-style telegraphs emanating from the boss. There was no promise that those squares of clear floor would be safe either, with electrical wisps floating around to stun the unwary. As it was, only two of the group were still standing when the Invoker finally fell, a need/greed loot-box popping up on screen.

There are a couple of nifty moves that Martin demonstrated, included being able to use enemy boss telegraphs to damage his own minions, but the overall impression was one of difficulty. If you’re not focused on what you’re doing, WildStar’s dungeons will punish you. For many of us, that can only be a good thing.

That Enigmatic Esper

While the dungeon healing demonstration was a highlight of Saturday’s livestream, the focus was on Carbine’s classic caster class. The Esper is intended to feel familiar to MMO veterans, although active combat might be slightly discombobulating at first. It means that spells and heals need to be aimed in the majority of cases, instead of targeting and hammering a hotkey.

As a damage dealer, the Esper can be played in several different ways. It’s possible to sit back at range, with a substantial range of crowd control abilities available to drop in.  If you prefer to keep your enemies close, there’s also a selection of abilities for that play style. 

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