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WildStar Column: The Final Patch?

By Gareth Harmer on April 09, 2014

Since the start of WildStar’s closed beta last year, Carbine Studios has treated us to regular patch note reveals. But, as that launch date creeps closer, could the next one be the last big update before the game goes live? So far, there’s every indication that it might be.

Before I get into the meat of what’s included in the latest patch notes, I’m going to touch on a couple of things that aren’t explicitly mentioned. The first one is performance; beta testers have historically complained of low framerates, with Carbine promising to optimize the game as one of their final pre-launch activities. That optimization has now started to happen, with community manager Mark “Anlath” Hulmes sharing that there’s a special team on the task.

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Optimizations and tune-ups were also highlighted by executive producer Jeremy Gaffney, who additionally mentioned that various quality-of-life improvements and bug fixes made it into the patch as well. Interestingly, Gaffney also revealed that a Public Test Realm would be fired up post-launch. With the development team at Carbine working to a monthly update cycle for the previous six months, I’m expecting the PTR to see some regular action.

Big Surprises

Ever since Carbine teased WildStar’s slick new UI, I’ve been desperate to try it out. The good news is that it’s arriving in this patch and will continue to be updated between now and launch, and there might be a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out as well. But the biggest surprise involved character creation – each race and gender will have a number of different body types to choose from. For those of us craving even more uniqueness in our avatars, this is a huge boon. We’ll have extra hairstyles to choose from at creation as well, hopefully supporting even wackier options.

We can already teleport to our housing plot (once unlocked) or a transmat bind point once activated, but this patch ushers in a third option. On completing the city tour in Thayd or Illium, we’ll now gain the ability to recall there directly. It’s great news for those who like to use the auction house or bank before logging out, but I am curious about what it means for the Scientist City Portal ability, as it does feel like this might become redundant.  Taxi flight paths have also been improved, for those of taking the scenic route to get around Nexus.

After much feedback, Stun mechanics have also changed. The ‘F’ key spam has gone, and instead we’ll have to hold down a random direction key to break out from this form of crowd control. There have also been changes to CC in general – those without breakout gameplay (that’s Blind, Disorient, Root, Daze and Snare) will now be dispellable, while those that have breakout options (Knockdown, Stun, Subdue and Tether) cannot be dispelled.

Sweet, Sweet Loot

As I mentioned in last week’s column, Carbine has been refining large parts of WildStar’s item and ability stats. The team has already shared information on Runeset and PvP itemization changes, but there have been changes to the AMP system as well. Most of these reduce the impact of AMPs overall, but there are some more subtle tweaks as well. For a while some of these have required an item to unlock, with a few now being moved to reputation vendors. It means that, rather than being a simple points sink, we’ll have to work to earn some of the bonuses.

There’s the usual stack of class ability and balance changes (make sure you try them during an upcoming beta weekend before raging on the forums), but an interesting change crept in that might make all combat more interesting. Potions and Gadgets can now be used in combat, and won’t break stealth when used unless they deal damage. It means that we’ll be creeping beyond the current limited action set, but it also helps to raise the creative cap for high-end play such as raids and warplots.

While on raiding, world bosses have also been tweaked. Creatures like Metal Maw that appear before level 20 will now only respawn once every six hours, while those in higher level areas will spawn every 12 hours. These raid challenges will no longer reward XP either, reducing the inclination to farm them for anything apart from loot. Don’t expect to be rewarded for high-level ganks either – if you’re more than five levels below or three levels above, there’s no loot either.

It’s not all bad news in the open world though. Group XP has been fixed, meaning that it’s no longer better to go solo than teaming up with others. It’s the same with kill quests – credit now goes to everyone taking part, instead of the person lucky enough to land the killing blow. The early dungeons of Kel Voreth and Stormtalon’s Lair don’t need to be discovered any more, meaning that you can dive into that sweet instancing goodness as soon as you hit 20. For those who routinely join an MMO with a leveling buddy, it’s time to put those plans together.

For budding economists, there’s a few interesting tweaks emerging from the pipeline. Armor dyes will now show their color, making them instantly more desirable. And while the cheapest have become more expensive, the ones at the top-end are now more affordable. Vendor prices for other goods have also been adjusted, and we’ll be able to buy stacks as long as we have the coin to do so. The droprate of world epics has also been dialed down, meaning that the sweetest loot has become even more profitable.

There are all manner of other tweaks in the patch notes, from housing and quest flow changes, to bug fixes and voiceover additions, so it’s well worth giving them a closer look.  But, excluding the standard fixes, and polish, this could be the last major update this side of launch. That is, unless Jeremy Gaffney has any more surprises up his sleeve.

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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