The Strain Has Infected Me
One of the best parts of the MMO-side of our E3 was getting a sneak preview of WildStar’s upcoming first content patch: The Strain. Led on a walkthrough by Carbine’s own Jeremy Gaffney, we toured the all new zone of Blighthaven, the new five man public dungeon of The Nursery, and got a look at some of the all snazzy looking new Strain-infected gear you’ll be able to nab. A metric buttload of new content is about to be dropped on the unsuspecting denizens of Nexus, and we’ve got the skinny.
Granted, Carbine’s had this content done and just about ready to ship since beta, but that’s OK. Given that only about 5% of the game population is at level 50 (the intended level for the first content drop), chances are it’ll be a while before most of us see this new stuff. Alongside the brand new story-based zone of Blighthaven (we’ll get to that story soon), there’s also the Northern Wastes, a retrofitted version of Northern Wilds (one of the Exile starter zones). The Northern Wastes are the Wilds after the player first visited it in terms of chronology. Players of both factions will head there for a ton of new events, quests, and hot-hot PVP action. But for the focus of our tour, Gaffney led us around Blighthaven.
Blighthaven is, as it sounds, one grossly infected zone. The entire place has been enveloped by this nasty viral stuff known as “The Strain”. It’s all over the place, and the rumor (read: fact) is that it’s even infected an Eldan within the dungeon known as the Nursery. But more on that in a bit.
Blighthaven is north of Grimvault in terms of geography, and you’ll have NPCs directing you into the zone to figure out what’s causing the Strain to spread. Ever wonder why WildStar doesn’t have a “Big Bad” yet? The Strain is just the beginning of how Chad Moore and his Lore Nerd Herd are going to unveil the baddies to us. What we do know so far is that it’s nasty, it looks awesome when you wear bits of it as armor, and it’s a ton of fun to do the new emote that comes with the update. That’s right, the first content drop even adds emotes. One Jeremey was particularly keen to show off was a Strain beast bursting forth from your chest and roaring, making you into an animated Ripley from the Alien series. It’s in the WildStar flick above for a taste.
But the new emote isn’t the only new fluff added. There will be new Strain-themed housing plots, new challenges, new path missions, new hoverboard customization (to make it look like the Strain has engulfed it), new costume pieces, new dyes, and even new mounts. A full on Dev Speak about the content drop is hitting the YouTube waves on June 30th, and the patch is landing on July 2nd. What’s more than that is that Jeremy reiterated the studio’s stance that they’ll be releasing a brand new content drop every 4-6 weeks, to make sure that players are getting their subscription dollars. He wasn’t so bold to promise new content every 28 days, but he did say that Drop 1 was feature complete before launch, and that Drop 2 was damned close as well, with Drop 3 in final stages. About 33% of the team is currently working on new content for the Drops, and as the launch stuff settles down that’ll become about 50%. Over the long process of building Nexus, the team learned to hone their tools for content creation, and Jeremy’s confident that the Carbine team can and will hit their content release goals. It certainly seems like with Drop 1 they’re well on their way, but we’ll revisit that sentiment again in half a year and see if it still holds true.
Back to Blighthaven, you really will be impressed by the zone’s art direction. Much like all areas in Nexus, it’s very unique from all others. There’s a place called Cankertube Swamp which is just filled with Globellum, these giant swimmable pustules of goo with their own ecosystem inside of them. They’re so gross to look at, but they’re also pretty fun to swim in as each of them has their own enemies, challenges, and so forth. Jeremy said the sound effects for swimming in the Globellum used to be even more disgusting, but that they decided to pull back for fear of offending people’s ears.
One of the new public events in Blighthaven is called Guardians of the Grove. It plays out like a tower defense game, where players have to arm and activate nodes while fighting off waves of enemies before they reach the massive life-giving tree at the top of a hill. To make things more interesting, the waves and patterns are always random, and at any given point through the event the tree can become infected and turn on the players, turning tower defense into tower attack to heal the tree.
But by far, the best part of the demo was seeing The Nursery, a massive underground Eldan dungeon… but this one’s not instanced. Instead The Nursery is a public space where you’ll need to bring friends for fear of dying. Oh, and if you’re on a PVP server, yes it will be contested. The Nursery is home to the Strain infected female Eldan, and it’s your goal to work your way through the many wings of the dungeon to face her, and end her suffering. That’s right, you finally get to meet one of those many voices who narrate the datacubes, those wondrous creatures that created everything in the universe. But just so you can’t say I didn’t warn you… beware the Strain Boob. In the process of defeating the Eldan named Elyona, you just might wind up discovering a little something about the Strain and where it came from.
We have to admit that Blighthaven, a reworked Northern Wilds, and all the cool new loot certainly seems like one hell of a first patch. Especially for a game that’s already filled to the brim with level 50 content. Can Carbine keep this pace? We’ll see, but for now we’re more than happy to fight our way through two new zones, a new public dungeon, and to earn new loot and housing items. Once we’re level 50, of course.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.