Facing the Black Focus
It has spent long months in development, but WildStar’s third content update is almost ready. It’s a mammoth patch containing two solo questing episodes, the end of the World Story prologue and beginning of the first chapter, a 5-player mini-boss and a 20-player open-world raid encounter. Much of this takes place in a brand new zone – The Defile – but we’ll also be heading into Omnicore-1, a sophisticated Eldan facility.
If anything though, WildStar’s Drop 3 is also a comprehensive response to player feedback. When I interviewed them last month, Carbine’s studio directors emphasized a focus on fixing bugs, solo player content and improving the ‘quality-of-life’. As I took a tour through some of the new content with Content Designer Morgan Brown, I got a glimpse of just how deep these changes run, with over 110 pages of patch notes to plough through.
Although my tour focused on the group content around the Black Focus (a corrupted elemental focus under the control of the Strain), The Defile contains several points of interest. Crucially though, this new content isn’t gated and can be done in any order. Group content is completely optional and doesn’t stop us from experiencing the story, which has apparently made the zone more popular in testing.
There are also daily quests and reputations to gain, but these are designed to overlap with zone quests in a way that keeps traffic up without causing conflicts. Brown told me that there are about 7 or 8 daily quests, sometimes including group encounters, that are on rotation. There are rewards for your dedication, with new vendors offering Defile-specific schematics, housing items and costumes. I’m also told that close attention has been paid to itemization and how it relates to ‘time-to-kill’ so that rewards are suitable to the effort invested.
Fighting the Defiler
As soon as my group entered the area surrounding the Black Focus, I received a comms call from Drusera, the Genesis Prime. The Entity had discovered a way to use the Focus to reverse the primal elements of Nexus, refining the process enough for it to be taken out into the wider universe. This could have catastrophic consequences for all life, and so the device must be destroyed. But in order to do that, we’d need to clear through three elemental-infested zones and shut down the terraformers powering the Focus.
Each elemental zone was split in two, with each half tainted by an opposing element. Logic and life were forced against each other; fire and water were juxtaposed. The area was teeming with elementals but only the powerful Primals were our target, though we could sweep the place clear for extra elder points and loot. Even these creatures require a group to take down, and we hadn’t moved on to face the main event.
The Strain General in command of the Black Focus is Koral the Defiler. Formerly an Eldan scientist, Koral used his position on the Genesis Project to search for better ways to use it, and in doing so became corrupted by the same dark energy that the Entity wields. Further nuggets of his life and work can be found in datacubes, journals and Scientist path missions scattered around the area.
Koral can be found standing on a levitating dais directly below the Black Focus, surrounded by six primal nodes that he uses to imbue himself with elemental power. Getting to him isn’t easy either, as it involves hopping up a series of booby-trapped platforms. Once you’re there, Koral puts up a fair challenge for those who mainly quest in WildStar, using the various primal nodes to give himself a range of abilities that also help to keep the fight varied.
Why would you want to defeat the Defiler? In the first place, completing the quest chain causes the Black Focus to collapse in on itself, leaving a small misshaped cube-like trophy that can be used to decorate your housing plot with. Intriguingly though, Brown also offered a few hints about what might happen in the future. ‘What if you go into your house and it starts talking to you? What happens if you walk by and it starts flashing and gives you a quest?’ Mysterious hijinks aside, it seems that this Eldan artifact has some portentous potential.
Ultimately though, the Defile update is about more than, well, the Defile. It’s about Carbine responding to all those players clamoring for a polished, bug-free experience. It’s about all those little tweaks that really make a game an enjoyable experience, as Brown himself admitted. ‘As somebody who plays on live for the joy of it, and who sometimes finds themselves frustrated, these quality of life improvements [are] what I’m really chomping at the bit about.’
That said, it’s just the start. Carbine’s next task is to throw out the welcome mat and invite new and returning players to try out the changes. More is on the way for the next patch due in January, where we’ll finally see the revamped endgame itemization approach and even more new content, such as the Protostar Games and Ice Box Arena. By this early next year, it’ll be a whole different game.