Playing a WildStar mind game

Look those trailing titles are hard sometimes.

We still don’t know exactly what the last two WildStar classes will look like, unless my speculation turns out to be true (and you’d better believe that I believe it). But as it happens, we don’t know quite as much about one of the four we are aware of. Espers are a known quantity, but they’ve been… not hidden, precisely. But they’re also not as visible as Spellslingers, Warriors, and Stalkers. Ironic, since they were one of the first classes we knew about.

Last week I was focused on unpacking paths from the recent preview event. This time, I want to talk about Espers. I also want to talk about leveling your character and dissecting some of the other information we’ve been getting about the title, while leaving out one crucial bit of WildStar discussion in anticipation of next week. Yes, I have plans. You’ll figure it out or see it in the “next week” blurb. Either way.

Stab you to death with my mind

Expect a lot of this.Let’s face it, if any class in WildStar was going to put the lie to the game’s engine, it would be the Esper.

You can laugh, but the fact of the matter is that it would not be the first game to have action combat and casters. TERA has several very active classes, and then it has casters and Lancers that… pretty much do the same thing as traditional MMO classes. There’s not much moving, just standing around and slinging spells. The class certainly doesn’t wind up being organic and mobile.

Spellslingers didn’t feel that way. And from the hands-on previews of the Espers, this is a regular feature even of ranged classes. You may not be constantly ducking and rolling in your opponent’s face, but you will be getting up and moving no matter what.

Admittedly it’s difficult to form a comprehensive picture of a class from a single preview, but there’s enough information about Espers to form at least a skeleton. It may very well wind up being the slowest class to play in some ways, largely because it’s meant to have some delays here and there. You summon things that deal damage over time or after a delay, you stand and channel an ability, and so forth.

But you’re still moving, building up power over time and using it to greater overall effect. Rather than feeling slow, it sounds like something where your goal is “get the process moving and stay alive until I win.” This might sound a little sedate, but it still involves plenty of moving — even if you’ve loaded your target with damage-over-time abilities and have all of your psychic weapons on a collision course, you’ve got to get out of the fire so that they actually land. Which leads to a different cadence than Spellslinger, or the (possible) other ranged class.

There’s always the temptation to make a class that just stands in place no matter how much the rest of the game makes you dance. I’m glad to see that Carbine is resisting that temptation and giving us a class that feels uniquely caster-like without just being a ranged damage cannon.

At least it doesn’t look like that from the top. Things may prove very different once I’m playing the game. We’ll see!

Specialization is not just for insects

This guy specializes in eating.  And, you know, the crushing.

One of the tricky parts of any MMO is developing your character specializations. You have to give players a range of viable specs, you have to make different routes viable, and you have to also make sure that people pick out the vital abilities without being confused. Which is why World of Warcraft decided to just throw the whole system to the wind and replace it with a series of theoretically personal choices, wherein any one talent was no more useful than any other.

What we know about WildStar’s current system is that you pick up perks as you raise attributes, and you can use these to specialize your character. Presumably you have a limited number of these at any time, although whether it’s limited to a small number of active slots a la The Secret World or you can only buy some perks a la Final Fantasy XI’s Merit Points remains to be seen. (I’m hoping for the former.) The core is that these perks are supposed to be fun, something that has an immediate impact instead of just upping a secondary stat.

I’ve gone on record as saying that I like talent trees. When they’re designed well, they offer a lot of options for customization while still giving players a sense of guidance. If WildStar had simply given everyone a talent tree and been done with it, I would have been a touch upset that it wasn’t more visionary, but it would be excusable based on the amount of new things the game as a whole is trying.

But that’s not the case. We’re getting something much more open and organic, taking the “needless stat improvements” out of the abstract. So what we’re left with is stuff that you actually want and seems neat.

I’m hoping that there are still some more subtle synergies among build options, but I don’t doubt that will be the case. What we’re looking at here is a set of perks that are at least partly based off of what you’re already leveling. If you want to be a crit-heavy bursting damage dealer, your specialization will be stuff that triggers off those attributes.

What’s going to ultimately make or break the system is how much specialization you actually get. If everyone with a high Stamina has the same basic pool of abilities, it’s going to get sort of boring. If every healer has the same pool of abilities, it’s going to make being a healer a bit boring. If the balance is just right, though, we could all be very happy.

The ideas are certainly making me happy. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.


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