#Wildstar – Engineer vs Esper

I have a 50 Esper and a 42 Engineer.  I’ve played both rather extensively, both in the DPS and alternate stances (healer and tank respectively).  I’ve read about the classes and messed around with them.  Only things I haven’t done are raiding and PvP.  Though I do read that logs put the engineer at top level for DPS (all melee are in the top 3) and Esper just above the Medic in the bottom (the ranged are all drastically lower than the top 3).  While there will always be a gap, and I am more than comfortable, the mean average should not have such significant deviation.

Engineers are heavy armor, mid range attackers with quite a bit of variety.  While their Bot (combat pets) AI is junk they do however provide an extra target to soak a hit or two. More or less HP shields.  Their cooldowns are mostly defensive and their skills have tremendous synergy and a rather simple rotation.  They are somewhat simple to play, can take a beating, and dish out a lot of damage.  Tanking is also quite easy.

Espers are light armor, long range attackers with little variety.  The fact that their main builder “roots” you in place for the cast duration (the only ability I know of in the game that does that) it makes for a very immobile play style.  Their cooldowns are offensive but they have alternate healing skills to keep them alive.  That said, due to low armor, any focus attack or boss attack is usually a 1 shot (or dead in under 2 seconds).  There is a high skill level required to play one.  In terms of DPS role, they are essentially debuffers at this point.  Healing is quite powerful but there are bugs with the way focus (mana) works on some skills.  Very effective mind you and a lot of fun to play.  The most fun healing I’ve had in a long time as keeping everyone topped is HARD.

I do know Espers are being tweaked in Drop #2, where their main builder is(?) becoming mobile.  I also know that by Drop #3/4, the core stats should be tweaked which will change the way the power curve works.  And there’s always class balance.

I kind of see this as the difference between Hunters and Rogues/Warlocks from WoW.  Where a rather low skill level and pets to absorb damage we got many derogatory terms for Hunter players.  Warlocks were either amazeballs or the worst players ever.  You also never saw a Warlock due to the difficulty.

While in past MMOs, in particular WoW, ranged attackers have always been out of harms reach compared to melee, Wildstar is not like that.  With few exceptions, melee (not tank) and ranged suffer the same vulnerabilities due to the telegraph system.  Inversely, due to the telegraph system it’s harder for range to hit their target while moving.  I mean, I don’t think an engineer can actually ever miss an attack.

There’s a perception, based on some amount of fact, that Engineers are simpler, easier to master, mobile, higher damage and higher survivability than Espers.  Engineers are also seen as great tanks too.  Espers are top of the healing pile.  That isn’t the sort of view that goes away quickly as it becomes near cultural after a few months.

Oddly enough, I still prefer my Esper due to the skill level but have fingers crossed that with a few tweaks they can be made a bit more manageable.  Either by taking advantage of that skill set (similar to old “stance dancing” in other games), by increasing the telegraph damage based on distance (less on accuracy), or by simply increasing overall survivability.

Wildstar One Month Review

Ok, so we’re more than a month in.  I was on vacation!

I am a firm believer that an MMO should be judged past the 1 month marker and your decision to be made after 2 months of play.  Outside of MMOs, I can’t think of another type of game I pay full price for anymore mind you.  The timing has less to do with the game and more about the nature of the game – multiplayer.  After 2 months, the zeitgeist passes and you get into the player plateau.  Still, onto my thoughts.

Starting Off

I have never been a big fan of character creators in MMOs, unless the game was mostly helmet-less.  I like having different character models for silhouettes but if everyone is the same (SWTOR and RIFT come to mind) then what’s the point?  Wildstar gives me enough variety in sizes and art to make me happy.  I have a tremendous dislike with race-restricted classes mind you and Wildstar applies that to Espers more than other classes for some reason.  So I created a grumpy ol’ human esper and a granok engineer.

The tutorial zone is decently done.  You can zip through it under 5 minutes if you want.  I feel bad that the zone is never visited again mind you – wasted assets.  The starter zone follows and you get 2 choices per faction and those choices link to the first “starter zone”.  There’s a gradual build up of skills for your character and there was clearly some thought behind it all.  By and large, the “power path” is similar between all classes.  They get a stun at the same time, a builder, a finisher, flavor, etc…

You get access to costumes early on, which is on-par with RIFT in terms of customization, very good.  Housing at 15, nearly fully featured, which is amazeballs.  Mounts too, which makes travel a whole lot easier (mounts are different enough too!)  I’d say from 1-20, the progress is really well thought out.

Mid game

This is the 20-49 game and by and large, we’re talking about PvE content.  PvP is there and certainly the most fun pre-50, but the game is built on something else.  So from 20 on, you get a zone per ~7 levels.  Whitevale – a frozen tundra which starts off cool and ends on a whiper.  Farside – probably the most fun I’ve had leveling in years, certainly with the moon sub-zone where gravity is weak.  It’s well designed.  Wilderrun – your typical jungle level, which we’ve seen a thousand times.  The story is kind of cool but anything after Farside feels meh.  Malgrave – a western themed zone which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  There are some neat parts but you’re happy to leave.  You finish with Grimvault – a plague filled area with few redeeming qualities.  Western Grimvault in particular is just horrible making the trek from 47-50 feel longer than 20-47.

Questing is decent enough, with traditional kill X, deliver X or press X quests.  There are varied questing interfaces mind you – a simon says  game, a mash the button game, a button timing game.  There are zone defense sub quests, public tagging (so you can share quest progress with non-group members), smart drops and quite a few quality of life PvE boons.  Group quests are present, with ~5 per zone and still at this point people are grouping up.  In fact, grouping with people rewards you with reknown, a currency for non-combat items.  There’s even guild credit too.  Everywhere you go, Wildstar rewards you for grouping.

Paths are less fun, as a “side” leveling exercise.  Each gives you 3 skills to use and bluntly, the only ones worth mentioning are scientist with a group summon and portal to the capital and settlers with mailboxes and vending machines to repair gear.  I expected more.  There was more in early beta.  A lot was cut back.  It’s more than any other game on the market mind you but once you unlock the skills, there’s no reason to keep going, other than being a completionist (which all scientists are I suppose).

Crafting makes sense and provides gear at or above your level, better than quest and drop rewards.  I think it’s the first time where crafting is a viable alternative rather than an end-game activity.  There are crafting daily quest (used to get credits for top level recipes), talents to customize your skill set and only 5 tiers to progress though, so you’re rarely stuck in some grey zone.  Customizing gear, including rune crafting, is rather well thought out in terms of mechanics.  What isn’t though out are actual stat numbers and I’ll get to that.

“Elder” game

Wildstar’s term for what to do at max level.  PvP, dungeons, veteran dungeons, crafting, daily quests, raiding, adventures and ship hand missions are all options.  Solo, you can do most of it.  Majority of groups will do everything but raiding.  Raiding requirements are simply too high for the average skill set and the logistics of getting 40 people together means every server is going to have 2-3 raiding squads, at most.  I expect this to change in a future patch.  Still, there’s a whole lot to do without raiding.  Housing has private/group instances (dungeons) which is something you could spend a week doing.

Combat

Limited action bars are the future, plain and simple.  WoW has always been a poster child for skill bloat and SWTOR exemplifies that further.  Wildstar gives you a limited slot to put in what you want.  You can customize those skills as well, for various buffs.  Sometimes you need more AE attacks, sometimes a super interrupt.  It’s smooth and forward, a step forward compared to TSW’s decks – at least to me.  AMPs (or talents) work ok as well, with a lot of simple passives and flexibility.  I think the fact that there are no existing cookie-cutter builds as a good thing, as each build is based on a set of circumstances.

What doesn’t work so well are stats.  DPS players value attack power above absolutely everything.  Healers need focus (mana) regeneration to a breakpoint, then support power above all else.  Tanks are slightly different with 2-3 rather even weights, after deflection.  Carbine has said this is a problem and they are going to make changes.  It’s not to say there are BAD stats, just less optimal ones.  We’re not talking about SWTOR’s haste issues (it actually made you worse) or those that scale wrong (armor penetration in WoW).  This further affects rune slots, as some are worthless and others worth gold.  It’s a fair amount of balance needed and that’s due in the fall as my guess.  Overall, the largest impact on stats is on raiders, most people won’t notice it that much.

Actual combat, what with the telegraphs and all, is very hectic.  It is very easy to die in this game.  As a healer, I’ve been conditioned to think it was my fault but in fact, 95% of the time, it’s the other player who stood in the bad stuff.  Solo play, it isn’t so apparent mind you, though some areas with tight enemy patterns are hard.  Group play though, wowza.  If it’s red, get out.  If there’s a cast bar, interrupt.  You need a mouse to move, not be a keyboard turner.  I think the group content is paced at such a rhythm that you don’t grow tired (sword maiden excepted).  It’s challenging and fair, therefore extremely rewarding to complete something.  I’ve been in random groups wiping on a boss for 30 minutes.  When you get through, it just feels great.  There’s still some need for skill balance mind you.  Like Medics are horribad at DPS, Engineers are way too strong on DPS and so on.  But again, these are tail end metrics as while you’re leveling, it is rarely apparent.

Style

This one is its own section because it’s very polarizing.  Wildstar is very B-movie in approach.  Everything is an exaggeration of the industry, with rather wild (pardon the pun) flair.  Character models are distinct.  Enemy types are varied.  People look different from each other and are recognizable.  Music is pretty kick arse.  Dungeons have good art style and the bosses are more than just giant humanoids.  Heck, the first end boss in a dungeon is a dragon that hatches from the ceiling.

What also works incredibly well is the lore.  There is a very interesting story to be had here and it is subtle.  You can read books, you can read text, NPCs jabber on while you’re about (“oh the hero!)” and Drusera’s reveal is well written.  You knew Blighthaven was coming and the story told there is well done.  For a game without an established IP to work off, I have to say that there are years of work put into it and very little of it conflicts.  Incredibly well done.

Economy

Wildstar uses a standard auction house and a commodity one.  You can only list 25 items per AH, which drastically reduces the number of bots/market barons.  I remember in WoW I would have 300 postings at once, RIFT wasn’t far behind.  The commodity one has buy and sell orders, which makes for a more interesting market.  Sure, you can game the thing if you wanted to but overall, the system works fairly well, especially with the floor being high vendor prices.  In fact, you can afford pretty much anything in the game at level 50, as part of your core.  Money is used for customization by and large, which is smart.  There are very few taps as well, so inflation isn’t crazy.  There are no Caturdays here.

Summary

Now is Wildstar the next best thing since sliced bread?  No, not so much.  It is a fantasy themepark with all the pits therein.  It is a fine evolution on WoW, SWTOR, FF14 and RIFT.  There are things on those games I’d like to see here (FF14 and RIFT’s open zone content for one) but by and large, there’s little to complain about.  The pacing is well done; you’re not flying through levels hitting a cap in a day.  There’s plenty of side activities to do.  There’s challenging content without the need for facerolls or the “go go go” attitude.  Grouping is pushed early on and social interaction.  There are a few bugs but none that are gamebreaking.  I think I found 3 that I needed to re-log for in my run from 1-50.  It’s very well polished.

I do expect there to continue to be progress on content as the days go by.  There are some needed tweaks here and there, in particular around the raiding aspect.  If given the choice between FF14 (which is also difficult) and Wildstar, you’re in for a rather even fight as I consider those 2 MMOs to be the only ones worth any subscription.  The biggest benefit to Wildstar is the sheer variety of content on offer and things to do.  I personally am enjoying my time and my subscription is continuing for the foreseeable future.

 

 

Combat and Art Styles

Pegging off Tobold’s post on appropriate art style, I think it bears mention more than just a couple games.  And I won’t really go into what looks better because that’s a very subjective argument.  This is really about the practicalities.

We have WoW art style, with distinct character outlines since the start. However it’s moved away from tab target to smart target, and red/blue markers on the ground. WoD will finally have target outlines as well. It’s evolved.

Neverwinter, a LAS/action game, uses outlines and AE effects given the mouselook aiming features. It’s a more realistic art style, making it damn near impossible to find someone in the thick of things. BUT, since it’s soft lock and AE for nearly everything (including healing), it works.

SWTOR uses cartoon style graphics for a seemingly endless supply of humanoids. I found it a mess in regular PvE but the group instances aren’t too bad as the character types are often different. Plus tab targeting helps drastically.

FF14 uses tab targets and a full skill bar, though in reality few skills. The art style is VERY unique and it’s fairly easy to spot individual players, let alone NPCs in combat. In fact, you rarely have more than 2-3 enemies at once. Of course, with a requirement for focused combat and targeted attacks, this is vital for success

FF14 - Ifrit

ESO is LAS + mouselook. Many attacks are AE or smart target. Every frigging enemy is the same though. PvP turned into meat walls of AE spam because you can’t focus target effectively. It also means many skills lose all value if they aren’t multi-target. Plus everyone blends in together and the background. So it’s less about aiming and responsiveness as it is about mashing AE attacks and hoping the numbers are in your favor.

Big Boy

Big Boy

Wildstar is LAS but tab/free target combat. Everything has an AE target as well, making aiming very important. Plus the character diversity helps you quickly ID the players in the field. The more quickly you can make an assessment, the better your odds.

That's a big gun

That’s a big gun

I guess it boils down to offense vs defense. A more realistic game favors defensive style of play and 2 types of skills. Either you spam and get lucky or you cross that skill gap to “elite” and run amok. FPS shooters I think show that well.

A more cartoon, or rather distinct character set, provides more offensive options as you can’t really hide. Everyone knows who you are and you have more information to make the right decision. It removes the skill gap and includes progression.

I wouldn’t be able to say which has the higher skill ceiling as that is more game-specific. It’s certainly an interesting topic.

#Wildstar – Old Community

Murf has a mass-market article on Gameranx.  It deals with the more familiar aspects to the launch of Wildstar and community.  Disclaimer – both Murf and I are on Evidra (in a guild run by overlord Liore), an RP server.  The type of player who knowingly selects an RP server is vastly different than a normal PvE or PvP server.  That said, I think the general rule applies.

My personal experiences echo those of Murf, in that by and large, the community is much more familiar and family-like than other games.  I’ve stated in a few places that Wildstar takes a social-first approach to nearly all aspects of the game.  You can certainly play alone but the experience is exponentially better with other people.  Challenges in particular, are run at a disadvantage if multiple people attempt them without grouping.  Each zone has 5-6 group quests, usually 2-3 people with an additional 5 member quest.  Grouping with random people also awards Renown, used as a currency for many customization features.  Grouping with 2+ guildies also gives you guild credits, which unlocks additional features.

The old community aspect is that the game is familiar enough in concept that people were able to transition somewhat easily from other games and if you have friends, you can actually play with them.  So that’s a direct contrast to say, ESO.  The fact that transition was so simple and intuitive, it allows for a much lower stress environment when it comes to questions and answers.  It also helps that there are few bugs, so frustration is also very low.  It makes for a much more enjoyable community.

I think it bears to mention that Wildstar’s skill level is a fair bit higher than the competition (as always, FF14 aside) and that as more and more people run adventures/dungeons, people looking for an easier ride will have to either reset their expectations or head to another game.  This is EXACTLY what FF14 did and from the numbers we can see that was a rather successful position to take.  I know I have personally died many, many times as a solo player.  Dungeons are challenging, not punishing.  I think my level 90 Monk died once while leveling, and that was from falling.  With a higher skill level, it means that people are a bit more focused on what’s going on.  That makes for a more involved player base, which is certainly positive.

#Wildstar – 2 Weeks In

By this point, I had a pretty good feeling for ESO but I waited til the end of the month. Will do the same here but wanted to post a quick update.

My Esper is 36. There are 2-3 people higher than me in the guild (Evindra-Exiles-Cats in Space) so I’ll venture to say I’m top of curve. It’s about the same rate as ESO and FF14, half as fast as TOR. I have spent an inordinate amount of time “goofing”. Exploring, crafting, little quests here and there, challenges. A fun dungeon runs, a few housing picnics (and a dungeon inside one!). There’s a ton to do and I am loving it all.

Catching some air.  Massive air.

Catching some air. Massive air.

I was in Farside, subzone 3.1 I guess. It’s the mini zone attached to the large moon (with 1/3 gravity no less) and was just astounded by the little details. Small nooks are full of fun stuff. Hidden ghosts, passed out gambling NPCs, giant snails making out, hidden sets of stairs. And the lore is just jam packed with juicy bits.  Farside is also an odd one as it’s made up of smaller zones.  Compared to Whitevale (just before) you’re only in each zone a couple hours.  Mind you, each has their fun components.  The 2nd zone (the sand biome) has a spider-man like challenge.  You can fall from the highest point while doing it and I spent a solid 45 minutes getting through.  That I tried for 45 and didn’t just move on, speaks a lot I think.

Syp's lot is pretty neat!

Syp’s lot is pretty neat!

Are there bugs? Ya, a few. I’ve only ever had to drop 1 quest though. A rare /reloadui fixes the rest. One bug happened in the world quest line, at ~35.  That took a bit of magic but the quest itself was impressive, so I didn’t mind redoing a fair chunk.  I think I could count the bugs on my hand actually, which is so vastly different from ESO, that they are like night and eclipse.

World Quest - just amazing art

World Quest – just amazing art

Housing.  I will have to make an entire post on housing.  Neighbors are easy to find and some people have been ultra creative.  Ryven found one piece of loot, not even at max size, that takes up 25% of his lot.  I’m adding pieces here and there, though I think I’m going to go for an underwater vibe – given my squirg headgear.  I like farming on other people’s land too, since you share resources.  It is so much more than I expected and extremely seamless.

I spend a lot of time smelling the roses. And doing that with other people too. That alone should speak volumes to what Carbine has been able to do here. I am continually impressed, even as a jaded vet.  I think, at the very foundational level, things just work and work smoothly.  It’s more or less intuitive.  There’s very little bullcrap that you have to put up with in order to have fun, which is a great change from more recent games (as I like to remind everyone, FF14 is the exception to all my MMO complaints!).

Oh, and I love Lopp.

#Wildstar – Combat Comparison

First off.  Ding 30!  Or rather, shabow, kabam, wazow! Guitar shred solo.  I know people find that part grating but you only see it 50 times during all your hours.  I can’t think of another interface you see less often. /meh

I’ve finally unlocked all my LAS slots.  Most of my skills.  I have some T4 skills too, which unlock additional effects on some attacks.  While 25 is the numeric middle point, I will say that 30 is the spiritual mid-point.  You have access to all types of content (except war plots and raids), have a solid understanding of your class, plenty of housing options, a lot of the tradeskills figured out and lots of combat experience.  Is good.

Of note, level 30 achieved after completing nearly every piece of content available to me.  Path, adventure, dungeon, main quest, side quest, challenge… you name it.  It’s wildly fun.  Housing rested experience is extremely useful – not only for the base 5%/10% buff but a night logged off there gives me about 30% of a level of rested.  DO EEET!

Wildstar vs the rest

Comparison posts are the best.  Especially since I like to work with allegories (social tick as well).  Truly, this post is coming from Shintar’s post on my Stormtalon video.

That video reminds me a lot of the boss fights I’ve been seeing in Neverwinter. How would you say the styles of those two games compare?

Excellent question!  To which I attempted to answer and realized it’s a bit more complex.  Wildstar is a combination of Guild Wars2 and Neverwinter.  The first game I couldn’t really get into (but others did!) and the latter which I invested heavily.  I’ll focus mainly on combat for this post.

For quick comparison, here’s a post to a NW boss fight.

Active Combat

Both games use a limited action bar, where you can only slot X amount of abilities at any given time.  GW2 limits this mostly to weapon types and traits (ugh) while Neverwinter really allows dynamic allocation.  You can slot pretty much any ability at any time, which is what Wildstar is about.  The hiccup here is that Wildstar uses a tried and true themepark stats model, so if you want to swap between DPS and Tank/Healer, you need a 2nd set of gear.  My Esper has, something like 12 bag slots of healing gear.  I’ll find a mod to help with that.

The action in combat is based on heavy movement.  GW2’s hilarious “roll everywhere” is partially present here but with a tank, there’s a bit more stability.  NW’s don’t stand in the fire and dance around is all over the place but the core difference is that the red stuff is not often in the shape of a circle.  Squares, rectangles, moving circles, shapes that grow or morph into other shapes.  You need to be paying attention.  Let’s just say you can’t multibox.

Where WS differs wildly from the former two is that it is global cooldown (GCD) locked.  GW2 & NW both rely heavily on cooldowns for abilities; you can’t just spam the most powerful attack.  WS instead allows you to use most any skill at any time but with a builder/finisher model.  The limit on skill usage is a GCD between skills (~1.5s), like other themeparks.  WoW’s model is only recently moving this way (think rogues, monks, paladins).

Role Focus

In many, many other games, the DPS are just dumb guns.  They stand and pew-pew, rarely move out of the way for anything and just focus damage everything they see.  I truly dislike this in WoW. GW2 has no roles, so let’s skip that.  NW has a tank/healer model but the tank does have issues keeping everything but the big-bad-guy on them.  Plus, all boss battles seem to follow the same model of summoning friends every ~30seconds.  DPS are required to take those down through skill lockdowns, which is generally fairly simple – especially with a Control Wizard.  DPS need to avoid damage but the healers have fairly simple tools to keep everyone up.  Bosses can rarely be interrupted, so it’s more about avoidance and lockdowns rather than timed attacks.

WS really has a focus on the trinity.  Tanks need to keep everyone on them as much as possible and usually have the skills to do so.  Healers are often left alone (in terms of threat) and can focus on keeping the tank alive.  They can heal DPS, if they are in range but their focus is always tank/healer.  DPS is a bit different here and more akin to NW or old-school WoW.  Focus fire, interrupts, stuns are really important.  Some bosses will wipe you if you don’t interrupt (and the need for multi-interrupts is another factor).  Traditionally CC doesn’t exist.  DPS also need to avoid all the red fire crap too, while doing the above.  If you look at the Stormtalon video, you can see that this isn’t super-obvious.  Movement from a DPS also means you’re often out of range of healing.  There’s a fair amount of pressure on the DPS and a rather higher skill level than almost any other game in recent memory (FF14 the exception).

Summary

My gut feeling is that the skill wall in WS is just holding the line on the skill wall issue.  Content (solo and group) is hard, requires a fair amount of attention from players and rewards smart play.  And that’s only the leveling content.  When’s the last time people died on a dungeon run in another MMO – again, FF14 aside?  I think that WS’ main benefit with this model is that if you train people, over the levels, to expect difficulty, you get better players at the end.

#Wildstar – Stormtalon Fight

I ended up in the first dungeon yesterday, Stormtalon’s Lair.  It is a fair bit different than other games in that the trash packs are not easy.  CC options don’t really exist, outside of quick stuns/interrupts, so you need to juggle a fair amount.  Plus, there’s a fairly large gap between the trash and boss fights.

Trash is more or less static combat.  You move to avoid some attacks, just like single player combat.  2-3 enemies at a time.  It’s fun enough.

Bosses though, wow.  Everything is moving all the time.  The video below is the first dungeon end boss – Stormtalon.  The bosses before that are somewhat similar but this guy, just crazy.  Of interesting note, I am thinking people will need to circle strafe AND click buttons.  You don’t just move to avoid damage, you constantly move to avoid damage.  So that means attacking while moving.  I have a mouse with quite a few buttons, so there’s something beneficial there.

As an Esper, a static playstyle is challenging.  As you’ll see in the video.  I mess up a fair amount but it works out.  Dungeons take about an hour.  I died on the first attempt to the boss and died about 4 times total on the map.