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PvP - Chaotic & Strategic

Gareth Harmer Posted:
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A modern MMO has many moving parts. There’s the experience of immersing yourself in a virtual world, discovering a rich story and delving into mysterious dungeons. But there’s also a bloodthirsty flipside, where battleground carnage rides a hoverboard to victory. WildStar is no different, catering to both types of players with aplomb.

When Carbine Studios invited us to explore WildStar’s Winter Beta, we literally invaded. Bill Murphy tooled up with the Medic, while Suzie Ford checked out the Engineer. Meanwhile, Neilie Johnson interviewed Stephen Frost, set up home on Nexus and shared her impressions on the upcoming MMO.

As for me, I dived headfirst into two relatively unexplored aspects: battleground PvP and tradeskill crafting. I’d tackled Arena PvP before at Arkship EU, but this would be my first time inside the Moodie-infested jungle of Walatiki Temple. Likewise, I’d finally be able to take an early look at WildStar’s economic pillar and try out circuit board crafting, if I ever managed to pull myself away from the battlegrounds.

Temple of Doom

In last week’s column, I explained how the Summer beta pegged battleground entry at level 3. That’s now changed in the Winter test, with the PvP gates now opening at level 6. It’s a tweak that makes sense when combined with the updated leveling curve; the faction Arkships take us up to level 3, while small population-capped instances teach combat basics on the climb to level 6.

Armed with a freshly rolled Chua Engineer, I raced through those early zones before landing in Deradune, a grassy plain and beachhead of the Dominion. WildStar’s fancy new level-up animations do a great job of highlighting the newly unlocked features and how to access them, so with a couple of clicks I was queued up for PvP and anticipating the slaughter.

It seems that WildStar has a healthy PvP community already, as I didn’t have long to wait before being teleported to the battleground. I arrived in a gated spawning room that was raised on a cliff, neatly avoiding those graveyard-camping issues that plague other battlegrounds. After a short wait, the gates opened and a horn sounded and gates swung open. The battle was on.

Those clifftop spawn rooms are sited at either end of Walatiki Temple, while a large bowl forms the centerpiece of this 10 vs 10 battleground. There’s a broad lip around the edge of the bowl, and a pair of bamboo bridges rise up in a cross over the top. Masks spawn anywhere within the central area, with the verticality and multiple pathways creating opportunities for sneaking, flanking and out-strategizing your opponents.

I quickly deployed my Bruiser Bot and Artillery Bot, hoping that they’d keep players busy while I took them out from range. Looking around, I saw a lone Exile sprint across a bamboo bridge towards me. Thinking it was easy prey, I grinned, commanded my bots to attack, and prepared to drop some crowd control.

Unfortunately I left myself wide open to the stalker that had crept up behind me. The rest of my group had moved on, chasing down one of the masks that had spawned. By going for a kill rather than following the objective, I’d made myself an easy kill for the Exile forces. After waiting out a countdown, I respawned and got back to the group. In the time I’d been eating dirt, the Exiles had managed to capture one mask and pick up another. Things were not looking good.

There’s an interesting dynamic in Walatiki Temple that counteracts the typical blob-zerg tactic. Each side has to grab five masks to win, but those can either come from fresh spawns or enemy capture rooms, and each team can only carry one mask at a time. It means that, unlike a traditional capture-the-flag map, you need to defend your existing loot while hunting for others in order to win convincingly.

As you can probably guess, my chaos-infused Chua and his nine temporary friends lost terribly. When you’re more interested in chasing Aurin than collecting masks, it’s no surprise that defeat soon follows. But that wouldn’t be the end of the story.

Back to School

PvP requires practice if you’re going to do more than just warm the floor, and WildStar needs more than most other MMOS. It’s due to the active combat system that Carbine has chosen; abilities are chosen for their telegraph size as well as damage and controlling effects. Groups can layer up their telegraphs to cover even more ground, making dodging ineffective in those situations. If anything, tactical combat is improved through the use of telegraphs and active, highly mobile combat.

It means that battleground matches almost feel like a first-person shooter: they’re fast paced and dynamic. The visual feedback that telegraphs bring intensifies the experience, making it possible to dodge an attack or pick up a heal. And you’re not just tracking shapes on the floor either – health bars and silhouettes will often tell you what you’re up against, and if you should flee or stand your ground. Yes, it can get a little chaotic when the two teams collide in a heavy mosh.

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Gareth Harmer

Gareth Harmer / Gareth “Gazimoff” 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.