Wednesday, Mar 12
Tales fans, rejoice! Namco Bandai has just released their next batch of news for Tales of Zestiria, the series successor to the upcoming Tales of Xillia 2. Meet Edna, or エドナ, the solitary member of the Divine living high in the mountains. Her name translates to Edona, but no official romanization has been released so far.
Edna, the stereotypically dainty heroine, was designed by Minoru Iwamoto, character designer from Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology. This young girl, standing just under five feet, has grown up distrusting humans, as evident by her belief that they are "selfish and so emotional". Edna is an Earth elemental character, which is reflected by her Divine Artes. Her weapon of choice is a parasol, a new introduction to the Tales weapon family.
Players will be able to slay evil beings, work suspiciously alongside humans, and train with the dragons in the fantasy world soon. Tales of Zestiria will launch worldwide for the PlayStation 3 in 2015. No word has been given so far on specific release dates among different regions.
Edit: Fixed incorrect year.
Now that all the commotion is over for WildStar's big coming out party -- launch date announcement, preorder information revealed, NDA for the close beta ends, press previews published -- I wanted to wrap up my thoughts in a more casual fashion. I've written my fill on specific features and content and now I want to provide a more general overview of the game, my impressions of it and what it's outlook is for the future.
What WildStar is, no matter Carbine tries to pitch it as or what the press tries turn it into, is an MMO made for MMO players. Virtually every system and feature in WildStar is grounded in the core gameplay experiences built by its theme park MMO predecessors, from EverQuest and World of Warcraft to more modern MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and even TERA. With those fundamentals WildStar is able to do very interesting things, but that doesn't change the fact that at its heart WildStar is an MMO for MMO lovers.
Check out the rest of my extensive WildStar Coverage published earlier today:
- WildStar launches June 3
- WildStar preorders star March 19
- WildStar Preview: Warplots, Battlegrounds, and Arenas
- WildStar Preview: Raids, Dungeons and Adventures
Level 1 is going to be WildStar's make or break point, much like other MMOs. Players will be flooded with content as they're introduced to basic quest and story structure, paths, crafting, and early access to PvP, Shiphands and so on. The fact that all of this content is scaled so early game content is quite tepid and menial, building into the complex late-game systems meant to carry the game, compounds the fact that early game is overwhelmingly uninteresting.
Hopefully players quickly focus in on specific gameplay that they're interested in, allowing them to skip by things otherwise time consuming in favor of progressing in meaningful content. Personally, I found myself skipping the meaningful content in favor of simply question just so I could progress to more challenging and compelling content. There's no solution for this. It's part of the theme park MMO experience that time investment becomes growth in both progression and overall enjoyment. The roller coaster drops and spins don't mean anything without the climb... or the wait in line.
WildStar's saving grace is that it has the best combat that I've played since Final Fantasy XI's launch. It features the mobility and skill-shots of the growing in popularity Korean MMO market mixed with the sensibilities and visual conveyance that western MMOs perform exceedingly well. Most of all, WildStar's combat just feels good -- even at low levels. Thank goodness WildStar's Elder Game is well-tuned to showcase the combat system in a myriad of was, via Raids, Dungeons, Adventures in PvE and Warplots, Battlegrounds and Arenas in PvE. Early game, of course, lacks all of this content. It's Carbine Studio's burden, I believe, to do a better job representing their combat system before players give up on it due to the traditional MMO grind.
Should gamers manage to struggle past the early game, by far the weakest portion of WildStar, they'll discover increasingly exciting content and rewards. Instanced PvP and PvE content will unlock every so many levels and ultimately players will reach the Elder Game. If it wasn't clear to me before, after Carbine's press event it definitely rang true -- WildStar is an end-game focused MMO. Judging from what I've seen of said end-game, players have a lot to look forward to.
Whatever your opinion may be on the value of 40-player content due to it being inaccessible to most players, if anyone has the opportunity then they should try very hard to do participate. All of WildStar's complex systems come together for Raids and Warplots in ways that give a uniqueness to the game. It's not only exciting as a prospective player, but promising. If this is WildStar's launch content, then what do the developers have planned for their monthly content patches?
For players that won't ever reach Raids or Warplots, there's a ton of supplementary content that looks very cool too. Housing looks like an awesome time sink that's just straight fun, but also has huge rewards for min-maxers. Crafting, which is inherently a niche system, looks well supported by the dev team and thus should be viable even if it doesn't turn out to be fun. I'd be pining for Dungeons, where boss fights look like great fun, if I hadn't seen Raids already and thus have been drawn to the larger, brighter light.
I could list each systems and say why they're interesting, but the point should be clear -- these are all terms MMO players have heard of before. All Carbine has done is recognize their importance to this type of MMO and focused in on making them fun and cool in a WildStar way. There's very little new here for experienced MMO players. WildStar is just the next iteration on this sort of MMO -- which is a great thing. It's a game MMO players should be excited to play. Everyone else, well, never say never.
Personally I hope WildStar finds a substantial audience, a chunk of World of Warcraft's aging or retired population is most likely. I don't really think The Elder Scrolls Online's release will affect it in a dramatic way, though if it does I expect it to be a positive impact rather than a negative one. Nothing like an MMO trying not to be an MMO to remind gamers that true MMOs are still great gun. It's hard to tell these days, however, what with the growing wave of free-to-play demands, which grosses me out. They want free to play, they shouldn't be surprised when they get worse MMOs. I almost want WildStar to succeed beyond expectations just so I can know this type of MMO still has a livespan in the modern MMO market.
That's how I stand on WildStar -- wary, but hopeful. Hopefully at least 39 other courageous souls will join me in the Elder Game so we can do the 40-man Raid.
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One Piece: Unlimited World Red will be bringing Luffy and crew to North America. The fearsome pirate Straw Hat decided that Japan didn't have enough booty, so he's coming to loot and pillage the Western world on PS3, Wii U, Vita, and 3DS later in 2014.
Developed by Ganbarion and published by Bandai Namco Games, based on the One Piece manga, One Piece: Unlimited World Red will take you on an adventure with Luffy and company. Be prepared to fight Rob Lucci, Caesar Clown, and more of your favorite and maybe not so favorite One Piece villains. All while performing flashy combos and using quick reflexes to counter, dodge, and give villains a swift Sanji kick in the rear.
When the going gets tough, call some friends over for local co-op action. 3DS and Vita players can link up with up to three people for local wireless multiplayer action while PS3 and Wii U owners can enjoy some good old fashioned split screen multiplayer. Various mini games will be available too, because fishing and bug catching are more fun with friends than by yourself.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red will be available at physical retail locations and digital download for PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS later in 2014, while Vita and Wii U will be digital only releases.
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Indie studio Yacht Club Games can confirm that game development is a rough gig. As awesome as it looks and as highly anticipated as it may be, even their game Shovel Knight can't be released until it's done. Unfortunately, the date that Shovel Knight will be done will not in fact be the previously announced March 31. Today Yacht Club made "an executive decision" and delayed the game a few extra weeks.
No new release date was announced for Shovel Knight, unfortunately, as the team really wants to ensure they'll be able to get the game to an ideal state before launch:
"We don’t want to announce another release date until it's 100% locked in with both Nintendo and Steam, so please sit tight… we’ll announce a new, final release date very soon. But the game is like… so done! Here’s what we’re working on in our feverish final hours:
- Dialogue and scripted events are being finalized
- Finishing touches put on level design for the final levels
- Overall game balancing
- Platform specific standards so everything runs smoothly on your system of choice!
- Testing, testing, testing… on all platforms!"
Shovel Knight is an awesome 8-bit 2D action/adventure game starring a knight in shining armor with only his trusty shovel to defend himself. Yacht Club Games asked for around $75,000 via crowd-funding and received well over $300,000 in return. Just five minutes with the game and the quality and loving attention to detail should be quite apparent. I'm really hoping Shovel Knight becomes an instant classic... just as soon as it launches.
Expect more information on Shovel Knight's new release date in the weeks to come, as the title readjusts its plans to launch on PC (Linux, Mac and Windows), Wii U and the 3DS.
Watch Dogs fans who play the game on PlayStation may get an extra 60 minutes of gameplay, but Xbox fans may wind up getting a closed beta. A surprise profile for a Watch Dogs beta was discovered on Xbox One by video game industry watch dog group The Internet and shared with the world on Reddit. They captured their discovery on camera and now we have this rumor.
According to the leak Aiden Pearce will be connecting your world on May 27, but the Xbox Live store may have other plans in store for select people. The now-removed listing was unavailable for download and offered no information on a date, but it did share a 23 GB download size, which may or may not be the size of the installation when the game is released. It also came with this description of Watch Dogs:
"You are Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker but also a former thug, who's criminal past lead to a violent family tragedy. In a world led by technology, you will be able to hack systems to stop traffic lights, detonate gas lines, turn off the electrical grid and more.
The city of Chicago has become the ultimate weapon for a man bent on revenge."
The description doesn't share a whole lot of information we didn't already know, but the grammatical errors in the listing have irked quite a few people. If this image is real and not a cleverly done Photoshop job, we can probably expect to hear more information on any planned Watch Dogs beta tests in the near future. A slip up for a game that's already got a cult following like Watch Dogs isn't going to be easy for Ubisoft to ignore.
Aiden Pearce will be blowing up Chicago starting May 27 on PCs, Xbox, and PlayStation systems. The game is still scheduled for launch on the Wii U, but there's no information on a release date after Ubisoft announced its delay last month.
Square Enix has recently released DLC for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the next installment to the series, in which players can dress up their heroin as they please. In addition to the five previously available DLC sets already on the PlayStation Store and Arcade, the creators of the hit Final Fantasy series have released three new costume packs for Lightning, as well as providing a discount on a compilation of all DLC released beforehand.
Players can purchase the following new equipment, including weapons, shields, and clothing, for the Lightning from the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Store.
- Final Fantasy Legends Collection ($9.99)
- Final Fantasy X-2 Yuna, Final Fantasy VII Cloud, Final Fantasy VII Aerith
- Sohei Savior ($2.99)
- Sohei Savior Garb
- Treasure Hold Weapon
- Fealty Shield
- Shogun ($2.99)
- Shogun Garb
- Thirteen Nights Weapon
- Thunderstruck Shield
- The Samurai Collection ($7.99)
- Shining Prince
- Dark Samurai
- Sohei Savior
- Art of War
- Flower of Battle
Any previously released Samurai collection DLC is still available for $2.99 individually on both digital outlets. If you're interested in upgrading to a stronger version of a powerful heroine, head over there now. Before you do, you can see an example of Lightning's Flower of Battle garb/equipment in the header.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII launced February 11 in North America on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. There's more DLC available now than any single man can deal with.
Blizzard's online collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is now out of open beta after only a month and a half. The easy to learn, difficult to master card game had been in closed beta for several months prior to opening up in January. To celebrate, World of Warcraft players even have the opportunity to earn a free mount without having to farm dungeon or raid bosses for months on end.
People that played throughout the closed and open beta will start off with a minor advantage, as there was no card wipe. This was done intentionally to combat complaints from the large number of players that purchased card packs and arena passes from the in-game shop using real money. Several bugs that have been constantly reported for a long while throughout testing have been resolved. In addition, a few new features have been added to the game:
- Golden Hero: Win 500 ranked matches with a Hero throughout any number of monthly seasons to permanently transform them into a golden, animated version. This animated version will automatically appear in place of the regular Hero during future games, showing everyone your experience and accomplishment with that hero.
- Colored card backs: There's no official word on how these are unlocked yet, but presumably you can choose whether or not to apply a different colored back to your cards once you have them unlocked.
- Gold cap: Accounts can now carry a maximum of 20,000 gold. While it will probably be a very long time before the average player gets anywhere near this cap after the various changes to the amount of gold awarded from play mode over the course of the beta, a gold cap was introduced to counter exploits.
- Ranked play resets: Players who climb the rankings during each monthly ranked play season and end a season at a higher rank than 25 won't necessarily start their climb to the top at the bottom after every reset. This is to combat complaints of newer and less experienced players not being able to climb the ladder at the start of a season because they get paired up with top tier opponents.
To celebrate Hearthstone's official release, Blizzard is giving away the magnificent Hearthsteed mount to World of Warcraft players that win a grand total of three matches in play mode. They don't have to be ranked, they don't have to be consecutive, and they don't have to be with the same hero. Just win three matches and the mount will be applied to your WoW account.
Fans who have been waiting for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft's official release need not wait any longer. Blizzard is notorious for not making promises on time frames concerning beta releases, but the sudden official launch is a welcome surprise for many who expected another test season or two. It's time to sheathe your sword, draw your deck and a cup of ale, and play some Hearthstone, especially if you want that mount in World of Warcraft.
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PvE and PvP, like two sides of a coin. Ha, yeah right. Everyone knows PvE is where it's at. Carbine Studios agrees, which is why they slapped me in the face with WildStar's PvE awesomeness last week during a press event showcasing many the game's previously unrevealed core features. Here be the place where we talk about the big, Elder Game focused PvE systems, by which I mean: Raids, Dungeons, and Adventures.
For those unfamiliar with the terms, that's Raids as in forty like-minded players struggling against the biggest bosses and the most complex scenarios to have graced an MMO since that one time in Molten Core when Ragnaros bugged out and killed everyone in one swing of his hammer. Dungeons, which are party-based, story-driven experiences when leveling, which at 50 gain a veteran mode that turns them into precise, challenging encounters where every role must perform exceptionally. Then there's Adventures, something new that WildStar is doing, which are unique missions that have complex and dynamic structures for parties to explore and discover.
Hopefully this preview, some of which is hands-on and some of which is hands-off, will provide a broader look at WildStar's PvE Elder Game.
Let's start off with the show stopper. WildStar will start off with two Raids, a 20-person Raid named the Genetic Archives and a 40-man Raid named the Datascape. Basically, nothing I say from this point on is going to accurately describe the intensity and complexity of the fights the press were shown from either dungeon. I figure it's best that I say that now, before I move on and don't adequately describe how insane Carbine Studios is and how impressed I am with what they're trying to achieve.
We, the press, did not play a raid. That would have been quite the joke for everyone to laugh at. My group couldn't even beat trash pulls in the first dungeon in the game. We did, however, get a live display of a developer showing us the in-game mechanics for several bosses from both Raids. We also saw beta testers who are currently attempting the earliest of encounters in Genetic Archives play through a boss fight unaware they were being recorded. Plus, there were a good number of videos just to drive points home.
Raids are, like I said earlier, extremely insane. Here's part one of that insanity. Those familiar with WildStar will understand that its combat system is based heavily on movement, skill-shots, and avoiding or reacting to "telegraphs" or more specifically big red dangers zones where damage is either happening or about to happen. A majority of the boss fights, mini-boss fights and trash pulls (they call them "base population" because calling them trash is a gross misrepresentation of how terrifying they are) feature more red on the ground than safe areas to walk. My first though was, "SHMUP," because these fights seriously seem like a bullet-hell game in 3D... but it's an MMO.
Continuing with part one, here are some examples of encounters we were shown. There's a room full of columns, that when the fight starts each column lights up with lasers sticking out of its sides and starts rotating. The boss then turns invisible and players have to hunt through this timing-based puzzle of spinning laser columns to find her. She then ports back to the middle and the raid has to make their way back to . Another fight takes place on a grid of discs. A single player flashes and he escapes to a point away from the group, where the disc he stands on turns into a bomb. As he runs the disc explodes, but another player begins to light up. This time, the red circle around him grows to half the room. When it explodes it takes half the tiles, dropping half the raid into the abyss. Then another player lights up. We saw literal spinning mazes around bosses, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Part two of the insanity, as if the telegraph hell wasn't enough, revolves around the fact that many of the bosses we saw had completely unique mechanics designed purely for their fight alone. For example, this one fight that sticks out in my mind involves a boss fight on a grid of tiles, not unsimilar to the one described earlier. However, this time time the tiles are not connected, there's a distance of open air between each one. A distance that can't be jumped. Luckily the developers were nice enough to provide players with an electric grappling hook. This allows each player to individually swing between platforms, or even to target another player and pull them towards themself. It wouldn't be a fun mechanic, of course, unless the boss made sure to knock players off the platforms constantly and then destroy the platform itself. What a jerk.
I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I'm doing raids, but I can't help being fascinated by the idea of them. In the time that Carbine spent discussing raids with me there were several moments where I thought back to individual experience I had in MMO end game where I'd said, "This is a really cool moment, I wish the whole fight was like this. Carbine genuinely seems excited about creating raid fights like that, focusing on the cool stuff and cutting out the lame and the boring. If anything, just the effort alone is appreciated.
Oh dear, oh dear. Do I really have to talk about dungeons now? WildStar features 5-man parties, which means that a dungeon composition typically includes a Warrior tank, a Medic healer and three DPS roles to fill out the party. I could have, no, should have played one of the important roles, but when we started the level 20 (first dungeon of the game) dungeon Stormtalon's Lair it was immediately clear things had gone very wrong.
We wiped on trash, err, the base population almost immediately. Our Medic didn't know how healing worked in WildStar and our Tank, bless his heart, probably never heard of "agro" before in his life. I'm mildly ashamed to say our team had a developer grant us "God Mode" only 15-minutes into the run. From there things went great! Our party was able to play through the whole dungeon and I only died three times with invulnerablity turned on.
Dungeons are, for comparison's sake, just smaller versions of the raids that will come along down the line. They're extremely challenging, with mini-bosses and full bosses bring devious and complex. Veteran Mode dungeons add mechanics to encounters, doubling down on difficulty and ensuring that players are never allowed to simply sit on their hands and farm dungeons for free.
Considering Stormtalon's Lair is one of the first dungeons in the game, it will come as a surprise when I say that the boss fights inside of it were comparable to Star Wars: The Old Republic's Eternity Vault, that MMO's final boss at retail launch. In fact, there were several similar mechanics from Soa, the Infernal One, that I found in the first boss fight and were better implemented. Yes, I'm saying that the first Dungeon fight in WildStar recreated some of the epic moments I never experienced until the very end game of another MMO. That's how much action is involved in these fights.
Unforunately WildStar will launch with only four Dungeons total, but if all four Dungeons provide an experience like the one I had in Stormtalon's Lair then they're easily worth a handful of other easily forgettable MMO dungeons. Like I said before, the attention to detail that went into each fight's design is extremely impressive.
To flesh out party-based Elder Game content, in addition to Dungeons Carbine is also introducing Adventures. There will be six Adventures at launch, though one is faction specific to each side so most players will only ever experience five of them. These guys scale up all the way to 50, thus providing a unique type of Elder Game Content. See, Adventures aren't meant to be repeated in the same fashion as Dungeons, because every playthrough of an Adventure is meant to offer choices that make each run a completely different experience. Yes, they have Veteran versions that drop gear to prep for raiding.
The press was shown one specific Adventure in particular to showcase the ideas behind the PvE game-type. The Malgrave Trail features the party following and protecting a caravan through the desert. It's no the real zone of Malgrave, but rather a simulation that the character "Caretaker" has created as a... test environment. A map was shown showing the dozens, and I mean dozens, of alternate routes that the Adventures could split towards depending on an assortment of choices or variables. Adventures aren't meant to be played the same way twice, and reward players for trying new things.
Additionally, where "Paths" only support Dungeon and Raids in a passive capacity, they take a primary role in Adventures. For instance on Malgrave Trail, additional Soldiers make for more combat-focused paths and Explorers make for an easier time wandering the longer-distance paths. Each path contributes and the party composition will definitely lead to complicated decisions the further along the path that players get.
Unique gameplay means unique rewards, too. Adventures can provide any number of items, from housing items to crafting stuffs depending on which paths were taken. Veteran Adventures will definitely result in very high-end gear, too. That is to say, Adventures are 100% viable Elder Game option for player otherwise focused on min-maxing their characters. Or, you know, they're just a great change of pace.
Other adventures beyond the Malgrave Trail, which is meant to be an MMO/WildStar take on the Oregon Trail game, include a murder mystery Adventure, a wave-based defense Adventure and more. What I love about the idea of Adventures is they provide gameplay options to players, and this is reflected in all of WildStar's Elder Game content. Players don't have to just follow the one path to "finishing" an MMO. It's not just about getting the next piece of gear, it's about constantly having fun and keeping things interesting.
One key thought is captured, bouncing around my head as I think about the PvE Elder Game of WildStar. It's that first boss fight in Stormtalon's Dungeon, which captured a moment from a fight I'd long forgotten and turned it into a whole awesome boss fight. That's what WildStar is going for. It's like they're creating lists of awesome things they remember from other MMOs and focusing on spreading that awesome stuff everywhere they can.
They don't want 10 mediocre Dungeons with one piece of end game armor each, they want four awesome Dungeons that ar challenging and will pull players back for the fun of it alone. They want one epic 20-person Raid and one epic 40-person raid and then they will let the community decide which one was more epic and make more of that content. They want quirky, fun and complex Adventures to be available for the times when everyone's tired of playing Dungeons and Raids.
Never underestimate a community's ability to devour content and turn things that would otherwise be fun to try and experiment with into repetitive, boring trite, but WildStar's doing their best to create MMO content that doesn't just feel like the same old MMO content. At least, that's the impression I picked up from my time with the game so far.
I can't wait for everyone to see some of these WildStar Raid boss fights in motion.
Note: This preview is a result of my attendance at a Carbine Studios press event where room and board was provided. The hands-on experiences were had on a closed testing environment where the only other participants were other members of the press and Carbine Studios employees.
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MMOs have lived and died as a result of their PvP systems and WildStar doesn't plan to launch without a robust selection of options for gamers who love to get their ganking on. They start with all the staple PvP systems of a theme park MMO: PvP servers with open world PvP, dueling for all servers, Arenas where pre-formed teams face each other in pure combat, and Battlegrounds where more casually formed teams fight over map-specific objectives. Then there's something new: Warplots.
Warplots are huge 40v40 PvP matches where each war party builds their own fortress of battle and fights to destroy their opponent's. Winners move up the rankings and losers move down. There's also a whole secondary system for war parties, rather like a PvP version of a guild, with internal rankings and permissions related to building the complicated fortress. Or, if "people" aren't your specialty then players can queue for Warplots as a mercenary and get paired in matches based off of a personal Warplot ranking separate from full-team Warplot rankings. Boom.
Let's break it down.
Arenas weren't show during the press event! Oh well. While I wasn't able to get to try out Arenas by themselves they were detailed and the philosophy behind them was discussed. Basically, Arenas are WildStar's way of offering an environment for pure competition between players. Pre-set teams of 2, 3 or 5 go head to head on what I believe will be two different maps, of which only the Slaughterdome Arena was shown. At level 50 each player can be a member of a single team of each size and will be ranked on their skill. Arenas will, of course, be available much earlier in the game for players wanting to fight ASAP (12 and 17 for the two maps, I believe).
Rather than simply have each team destroy each other once and requeue, Arenas will feature a "respawn count" that will deplete with each death. The winning team is the one that kills enough team members on their opponent's team to deplete that respawn count and then clean up whoever is left standing. In other words, a team is only as strong as their weakest link.
Arenas are meant to be played competitively. Carbine specifically implemented them for the competitive crowd who won't be happy with dueling, for the crowd that demands to know how they stand up against other players in skill. Carbine's just building the arenas where the fights take place. Yes, they want this to evolve into something considered an eSport.
Does "Capture the Flag" and "King of the Hill" ring a bell? Introducing WildStar's Battlegrounds, Walatiki Temple and Halls of the Bloodsworn. The first is a tiki-mask stealing map of different elevations, random mask spawns and cursed bridges. Damn those bridges! Halls of the Bloodsworn will be focused around securing a single capture point, the more team members on the point the faster it's captured, though several smaller sub-capture points can be taken to increase progress gain. Options!
WildStar considers Battlegrounds to be a less hardcore form of PvP Elder Game, which means they're meant to be casually queued for and played as much for fun than for anything else. That means that these two initial maps, which unlock sometime after 20, aren't traditional "Capture the Flag" or "King of the Hill" game-types. They have fun rules like being able to steal opponents masks or the sub-capture points. Trust me, the floor still runs red with blood, but these 10v10 maps are meant for winding down after Arenas or winding up before Warplots.
I was able to play a really great round of Walatiki Temple during the press event. The map's elevation changes, random mask spawn points around the center, and round shape accented to extremely mobile aspects of the combat system very well. There was a ton of knockbacks, slows, jumping between areas to surprise foes and everything worth expecting from these types of game modes.
My team quickly jumped to a 3-mask lead taking masks as they spawned in the center. A developer playing a Medic sitting next to me and I were able to capitalize on our opponents' disarray and lack of familiarity with the map (but seriously, most of the press at the event were super unfamiliar with MMOs in general). Then a few key figures of the other team stepped up. It must have been other developers, because they started stealing our tiki-masks from our base while a majority of our team fought an endless battle in the center of the map. Suddenly we were down 4-3 and things looked bad.
Then, much to my surprise things went both extremely lucky and extremely buggy. An opponent picked up a mask that had spawned directly in the middle of the map and, thinking victory was at hand, ran towards the wrong base. We ended up killing him just a few steps from our capture point and a number of us attempted to pick up the mask at the same time. To my surprise two of us, myself and the developer beside me, both picked up a mask. The bug powers above had divided the mask so that I might win (still in beta, folks). We cashed in and walked out the victors. Heals are overpowered.
Warplots, Part 1: The Rules
Here's the topic everyone has been waiting for, right? 40v40 organized PvP with city-building and city-destroying. It's the type of competitive, end-game, organized PvP that's been found lacking in, well, virtually every MMO I've ever been a part of. Other MMOs may have open-world organized PvP, sometimes with sieging, but while I love that too Warplots is something unique to itself. Carbine has a real opportunity to make something special here.
Let's start out like a player would. I form a war party to play in Warplots, which is rather like a guild, and promote my friends and guildmates into it for a total of around 35 people. I won't need exactly 40, because those extra slots will be filled by mercenaries when we queue up. Before we can do that though we need to make our Warplot, otherwise the enemy team will walk into our base and destroy us.
Not just anyone in the war party can build out the war plot. Only those with the right rank and permissions can perform the necessary actions to get a plot ready. Now that the permissions are straight the editor can be opened and the team can consider what plugs to put where. Plugs! Those familiar with WildStar's housing may be familiar with this term. See, a WarPlot isn't just a free-form, place structures where you please sort of environment. Only specific types of "Plugs" can be placed in very specific areas.
For example, the Warplot my team eventually played on featured the following plugs: Two hazard/NPC spawn plugs, two buff plugs, one travel plug, one ultra weapon plug, and at the center was our boss plug. Yes, a boss plug, where the Warplot can summon bosses that we've previously defeated in PvE (as long as we have their token) and send them to attack our enemies. All of these plugs can be swapped out for a number of different specific options, but they always have generally the same organization. Enemy teams have to fight through the hazards and NPC spawn plugs to get to the stronger, less immediately dangerous or passive plugs inside the base.
Once the warplot is finished the team can queue at any time, but they should be aware of one additional rule. Depending on the plugs the team has used in its warplot, a tax will be levied on the team throughout the match. See, a Warplot battle is a battle of attrition where each team tries to deplete their opponent's resource reserve. They can do this multiple ways, killing players, controlling points in the center of the map, destroying warplot structures, and so on. The bigger the warplot, the bigger tax on the teams. That means teams shouldn't equip plugs unless they're using them.
Then comes the battle. The field is set, with each team's warplot at either end of the battlefield and in the center a barren and rocky landscape with the five capture points that slow resource attrition. The winning Warplot has its ranking increase and all if the players on that team have their individual Warplot rankings bumped up as well. They're then free to spend their resources on PvP gear or Warplot plugs for the future as they see fit.
Warplots, Part 2: The Match
Yes, we got to play a Warplot match, though there were only enough players to feature a 20v20 match instead of 40v40. Before we get into the details I think it's important to say that most of the press at the event were first, not experienced with MMOs, second, completely unfamiliar with WildStar, and third, bad at PvP. I believe by the end of the match I had near double the kills of the second ranked player and I spent a lot of time exploring the map or completely lost. The match was still interesting, but it was not what it could have been. Lastly, before we start, I need to say that for some reason the opposing team's warplot didn't spawn and their base was empty the entire match. Huge bummer.
Despite all of the above, the Warplot match was ridiculously fun. I'd equip my hoverboard and charge forward until I found a fight, or spot one on my map, and I'd shoot my way through the enemies until none were left standing. WildStar's combat system is perfect for creating a frenetic, action-packed PvP system. The warplots weren't even needed. There were chases through hazardous environments, epic fights that began at one point and ended across the map with action all the way, small 1v1 skirmishes where other players cheered on both sides, and not once during the forty minute event could any of it could a single player simply stop and spam skills. Everyone was moving constantly -- it was exhilarating.
In terms of overall strategy, well, there were a few surprises mixed in with the otherwise expected results. Our opponents found that twenty players on a map built for forty resulted in their team being unprepared for the defenses our base offered. They also found that a lack of defenses resulted in them being overwhelmed early on. It was a slaughter.
Our team pushed to hold all five of the capture points in the wastelands between the two bases. To my surprise, it seemed like holding these was actually not too much of a lead for me team. Attrition, likely due to the taxes associated with our plugs, kept us relatively close to our plug-less opponents. Our team experimented with pushing into the enemy base to try and destroy their "Generators" which would immediately end the game, but either due to imbalance or our lack of numbers this proved 100% impossible. Thus, we farmed the enemy team.
While our team had the opportunity to upgrade our base's plugs, each with three tiers of upgrades, or to use a number of other benefits available to us, most of us just preferred to fight. The potential complexity of a match, upon further consideration, melts my brain a little bit. It's hard for me to imagine, what with the epic confrontations that I did experience, a more complicated match with enemy NPCs, lasers raining from the sky, or even a 40-man raid boss leading the charge against my own base. Let's just hope there's enough time between matches for big PvP guilds/war parties to keep open-world PvP running too.
What I think is important to walk away from this WildStar preview with is an understanding that Carbine is doing a great job offering opportunities to players. These are options, nothing more. Some are highly tactical and competitive, like Arenas, or strategic like Warplots, while others are more casual but still high on action, like Battlegrounds. There's lots of choices, which is great for players of a wide variety. Everyone can participate to the extent they're comfortable with... and get rewarded. I didn't get into rewards, because it shouldn't be a big deal vs. the actual experience of PvP, but trust me everyone will get plenty of loot (through rather traditional means).
It's easy for me to say that each of these Player versus Player match types will be equally successful, because I know that they all revolve around one core feature that I'm enamored with -- combat. Carbine's really created a great system here, a system focused on movement sure, but more than that skill shots. It's not about tab-targeting and mashing buttons, it's about precision, prediction and performance. It's about playing the game rather than relying on underlying systems like gear and class balance.
I played four different classes in my PvP adventures and each of them felt viable and fun in their own unique ways. Certainly Carbine has their work cut out for them in terms of ensuring nothing feels overpowered, but for an MMO they've definitely got something great on their hands. That doesn't change the fact that WildStar is still a theme park MMO 100%, but if PvP is any indication then at least Carbine is recognizing what they are and ensuring the best of that is available to players constantly.
Note: This preview is a result of my attendance at a Carbine Studios press event where room and board was provided. The hands-on experiences were had on a closed testing environment where the only other participants were other members of the press and Carbine Studios employees.
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Preordering is better than the Digital Deluxe Edition
WildStar is launching June 3, which means that Carbine Studios has about three months to get their stuff together and launch a game. Wasting no time at all now that the announcement is out there, preorder information for the subscription-based MMORPG is here. Starting March 19 gamers will be able to preorder WildStar for $59.99 or the Digital Deluxe Edition for $74.99.
In WildStar's case, however, preordering is something almost all potential players is going to want to do. Most of the bonuses typically included in a Digital Delux Edition are encluded as bonuses for preorders. It sounds like WildStar really needs folk to put their money where their mouth is ASAP. Show them what they get for preordering, list of bulleted points:
- Early game access beginning Tuesday, May 31 (three days prior to the game’s official launch).
- An exclusive Rocket House
- A mini-ship housing decoration, which grants players additional rest experience points.
- A 10-slot storage bag to increase character inventory
- The opportunity to reserve character and guild names prior to launch
Wow, list of bulleted points, does the kitchen sink come with that too? Ha. Ha. Ha.
In all seriousness, early game access, beta access, the ability to reserve character names and some cool junk too are all everything most MMO players love to get when they're buying an MMO early. These are typically things MMO love to charge more money for, like in a Digital Deluxe Edition, but WildStar chose to go the preorder route. Interesting choice if you ask me. A choice I will gladly take advantage of!
For more information on what's included in the WildStar Standard and Digital Deluxe Editions, check out the official June 3 launch announcement. Again, preorders for the subscription-based MMO open up on March 19 (next week) and the full game will launch on PC starting June 3.
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