Last week, Carbine lifted the lid on WildStar’s Adventures by presenting a brand new Flick. These instanced areas work differently to the regular dungeons we’re familiar with, in that they offer players with a number of choices as they journey through, with the outcomes affecting the end result. There’s a robust reason behind it too: more choice should mean content that’s much more replayable.
Although it’s a clever idea, I’ve never been quite sure how it would play out in practice. Would it be like those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books with multiple different endings, or would it be the illusion of choice, with little impact on the bosses or outcomes? To explain a little more about how they work, Senior Content Designer Matt Tobiasson – part of the team working on Adventures – took me on a guided tour through one of them.
After being provided with a specially equipped character – a level 25 Cassian Spellslinger, we met up in the Dominion Sim-Core – a subterranean gateway to the Caretaker’s virtual worlds. With our team of 5 assembled, we stepped up onto the teleporter pad. The next thing I knew, we were in a shuttle on our way to a Dominion Prison, in the Adventure ‘Riot in the Void’. But before I get to that, feast yourselves on this brand new WildStar DevSpeak that covers all the Adventure fundamentals.
Although I had a rough idea of what Adventures are, Tobiasson provided a fuller explanation. “The core idea behind adventures is to make an instance that’s very highly replayable - something that’s going to be as much fun the fifth time you play it as the first time. The way that we do it involves player choice and other elements, which will change your experience every time. As you move through the content, you will affect the surroundings in important ways. You’ll actually see different content, fight different bosses, and get different rewards each time you play.”
If you’ve watched the recent Flick, you’ll know that the Caretaker’s mind isn’t exactly the most stable of computer programs. He provided us with an introduction to the Adventure – the maximum security Astrovid Prison was experiencing a riot, and we were being sent in to bring it under control. But though the AI that greeted us was a friendly green, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would take to push him over into That Red.
Perhaps Red Caretaker is the Veteran Mode option; of the six Adventures planned for launch, four will have special variants for level 50 characters. And besides having a different story, each Adventure also has a different feel or gameplay inspiration behind it. I heard that ‘War of the Wilds’ has MOBA-style elements, while ‘Crime Lords of Whitevale’ is more of a biker rampage. ‘Siege of Tempest Refuge’, meanwhile, has more of a holdout or tower defense dynamic.
WildStar’s dungeons and Adventures both use the trinity of roles, so each group will need to pick up a tank and at least one healer. That said, all classes can flip between DPS and one support role, making group-finding a little easier. It’s also possible to tweak your Limited Action Set when out of combat, adding in more utility or easing off on healing when the situation warrants it. And yes, there’s a Looking for Group tool, although it will be possible to restrict yourself to groups on the same server.
Starting out, the world had a Matrix or TRON-style sheen, but that gave way to full color as soon as the Caretaker finished his introductions. From then on, the world was as vibrant and lifelike as the rest of Nexus. And even though it takes place inside an artificial construct, the experience, loot and tradeskill schematics can be brought back into the ‘real’ world.
Astrovoid Prison is built on an asteroid in orbit around Nexus, and supposedly contains the Dominion’s most dangerous criminals. It’s not clear how much actually exists and how much is the imagination of an AI-gone-mad, but it’s definitely plausible. Our first task was to sneak through the prison yard and up to the Warden’s office, and to do that we’d need to be disguised as prisoners ourselves. Reaching him wouldn’t be a picnic either –ignorant guards would try to snipe us down every time we broke cover. It made the climb to the prison a mixture of sprints and dodges.
As soon as we reported to Warden Rhadman, the prison riot went into full-tilt crazy. Sentry towers were being overrun, with the prisoners turning the guards’ own weapons against them. With reports flooding in from across the complex, it’s here that we were forced to make our first choice. Would we race to the weapon caches and destroy them before the prisoners got there? Would we head to the asteroid mines and secure the drilling equipment down there? Or would we dash to Cryogenics and make sure that the Exile Espers remain on ice?
Choices are done on a voting system, with the most popular option being activated. This time, we headed to the mines to secure that equipment. But before that, we had to charge through the rest of the prison complex, pushing through a Left 4 Dead-style gauntlet run with rioting prisoners charging from all directions. Stop moving, and we’d get overwhelmed.
Once through the complex and out the other side, we could make our way down and into the mine. On our way down we’d clear out weapon racks – anything, even a shovel, could make a prisoner much more dangerous. We switched to a more systematic clean-out as we neared the mining toolchests, dropping every exile we saw before starting to secure the boxes with forcefields. Setting these up involved a memory game puzzle, as if the Caretaker was testing my ability to think under pressure.