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The Future Instance

Gareth Harmer Posted:
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WildStar’s instances are getting a bit of a boost. In order to provide a form of endgame progression, Carbine Studios recently introduced the Primal Matrix as a way to develop characters beyond level 50. Beyond the raids, dungeons and questing zones, the Matrix will provide longer-term goals that shiny loot just can’t match.

Last week’s column was a primer on the Primal Matrix itself, covering all the ways in which we can obtain the essences needed to power it up and unlock the benefits. This time around I’ll be focusing in on the instance changes, including two intriguing new arrivals: ‘Evil from the Ether’ and ‘Coldblood Citadel’. Along with a few existing locales, these additions will also offer Prime Scaling, providing the ability to dial up the difficulty – and the rewards.

In a Protostar-style bonus, further primal essences are up for grabs. Fire up the content finder, and each instance offers an essence boost that rotates periodically. As long as you start when the bonus is being offered, you’ll earn it when you finish.

Evil from the Ether

I’m a big fan of WildStar’s Expeditions; they scale in difficulty depending on my group size, they’re reasonably quick, and they have a cheesy, spoofy story running through them. Kinda like a sc-fi stuffed crust served up in a 1950s B-movie tray. Pulling inspiration from cult classics like Event Horizon and Lost in Space, ‘Evil from the Ether’ - Carbine’s latest addition - is no exception.

The story behind this particular expedition starts at the Mordesh homeworld of Grismara, during the height of the Dominion planetary blockade. Desperate for escape, Captain Katja Zarkhov and her crew fitted out a Grismaran spaceship with an experimental jump drive, with the idea of simply hopping around the deadly enemy in orbit. However, catastrophe struck shortly after launch, with the Zarkhov’s Shade suddenly vanishing into the ether.

More recently, the Shade has been rediscovered near Nexus by the enterprising Ekose. Eager to secure salvaging rights and grab whatever technology they can, Captain Biron Weir has enlisted a few adventurers to check things over before sending his wrecking crew in. Unfortunately, the ship isn’t as quiet, or as alive, as you might hope.

Evil from the Ether is heavily peppered with notes from the crew and audio logs from the Captain herself, each describing a slowly decaying situation. Trapped in limbo, their Vitalus Serum stocks started to dwindle, despite heavy rationing. Some of the crew slipped into a Ravenous state as a result, becoming mindless space-zombies. Others mutinied, fearing that the Captain had doomed them all. It’s a gruesome look at the fragility of Mordesh society, particularly if (like me) you spend most of your time on the Dominion side of WildStar.

As for that lingering Evil, it turns out that the Zarkhov’s Shade wasn’t the only thing to be found in ethereal limbo. Somehow, beings of ethereal energy have managed to find their way in, either attracted to or because of the new jump drive. It’s enough to drive you mad…

Coldblood Citadel

Warlord Harizog Coldblood, leader of the Osun in the North, lies dead. Offworlders, an insatiable hunger in their minds, rampaged through the Vault of the Archon, relentlessly butchering anything that stood in their way. Now, from the safety of Coldblood Citadel, those that survived or were left behind plan their revenge.

The untimely demise of Harizog Coldblood had another effect – liberating the Winterfury Pell. Eager to preserve their newfound freedom, these former enemies have heard that the Iceblood Coven plan to use their necromantic powers to resurrect the Warlord and drive the outsiders out of Arcterra. The only option is to strike first and make sure the Osun chief doesn’t get back on his feet.

From a combination of Coldblood and Iceblood, the Citadel is populated with Osun, turncoat Pell, and a Soulfrost-infused water elemental that’s a little like fighting on an ice rink. The dungeon itself finishes with an interesting mechanic where the three Coven witches use three different types of magic, and the order they’re taken down in dictates the abilities that a non-corporeal Harizog will have for the final battle. Achievements have also been tucked into the dungeon – bag all three (including a no-deaths run) and unlock an Osun-themed costume.

Don’t feel you should race through it in order to get a dungeon medal though, as all of these are being rebalanced as part of the update. Silver awards are likely to be slightly easier to obtain, and will also unlock the next level of Prime instance. Gold will no longer require a death-free run, and there will no longer be a time bonus for beating the clock. Instead, it’s more of an all-round challenge that includes slaying your way through some of the trash.

Feeding the Matrix

Overall, it seems that the Primal Matrix update is aiming to achieve several goals beyond endgame progression. But, while Prime Scaling provides a flexible challenge for PvE players and gets more life out of dungeon content, it needs to be balanced against the raids that already exist. Make the rewards too great and quick to achieve, and the loot carrot for raiding suddenly vanishes. Altruistic as it is, the achievement of victory only carries players so far.

There are also two opposing dynamics at play. On the one hand, Carbine is eager for players to use the LFG tool, whatever your character level. The instance will be tuned to the lowest member, but loot will be personalised for each character level. Meanwhile, those looking to do Prime Level dungeons will need a premade group, which reduces the number of characters in the LFG pool. Without some careful thought, the LFG tool might continue to be as useful as it is now (which, considering I’ve never had a dungeon group start from it, isn’t very much).

Still, the new content is worth trying, and you can watch video playthroughs of both instances with commentary from the developers behind them. The Primal Matrix will give us those long-term goals we’ve been after, and a multitude of ways to get them. I just hope that Carbine’s instance plans pay off, and that we see more characters in expeditions, dungeons and possibly even raids. Fingers crossed.  


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.