What WildStar should be doing with paths

pathsOne of WildStar’s big talking points prior to launch was its path system.  This was supposed to be a “second class” that you could level up independantly by pursuing a specific type of content tailored to your playstyle (fighting, exploring, lore, building), and would add to the replayability/customization factor quite a bit.

From what I’ve heard, the original plans for paths got toned way down, although that’s hearsay on my part because I’m too tired to do actual research into that.  In any case, what we have in the game is a neat system that shows promise yet underdelivers.  I’ve enjoyed leveling up my settler and scientist paths, but as I’m doing so I keep making a mental list of how Carbine could improve these paths to be more like they were advertised in the first place.  After all, paths SHOULD be a major topic when players share thoughts on the game, but it seems as though most of the discussion has drifted into either housing or raiding.

So what should be done about paths?  Here are five ideas.

1. One of the coolest parts of paths is how it lets you interact with the game world in different and sometimes surprising ways.  Once in a while, I’ll get an option to activate a scientist object that can benefit me in ways other than adding to my path XP, such as opening up a locked door or exploding a barrel so that enemies take more damage.  Those make you feel as though your path has a purpose, and we need a LOT more of them.  WildStar isn’t very consistent with placing these, so they really are a rare occurence.

2. The devs should be adding new types of path missions into future updates.  Scientists need to be doing things other than endlessly scanning the environment (why not let us perform experiments?) and settlers should be able to creatively build things instead of merely activate buff stations.  I’m less familiar with soldier and explorer paths, although I’ll bet that soldiers are probably tired of the constant holdouts.

3. We need more and better path skills.  Paths are worth pursuing for the additional utility skills, such as creating portals or summoning vending machines.  But there are only four or so per path, and you get three of those relatively early on.  New path skills trump pretty much every other reward on the path reward track.  Some paths have better utility skills, period — soldiers get the short end of the stick here.

4. Scientists aren’t explorers, so help us find these things.  From what I hear, explorers get helpful arrows pointing them the way while scientists are often left wandering around hoping that they find all of the datacubes and scannables.  It’s so frustrating to finish up a zone and realize that there are two more datacubes you haven’t found, requiring a trip to a wiki to cross-check with your in-game list so that you can locate those remaining objects.  It’s not what this path is about and it needs to change.

5. There’s a pretty common refrain on the path forums: Let us be able to change and swap paths.  Maybe that would cut down on alts, but not everyone wants to alt anyway, and allowing players to pursue multiple paths would extend the available content for a character.  It would be neat to max out a path and then retain those benefits while starting over on a new path — which would also give me a good reason to revisit old zones.

WildStar: The magical floating buffalo of Galeras

buf1I don’t like to peg myself with labels, but I’m partial to taking off and just wandering during an average evening of adventure.  I like seeing what’s around the corner and taking trips to places that are devoid of meaty content (such as quests or important mobs).  If that makes me an explorer, fine, but it’s not a driving force behind my gaming.  I merely like being nosy and aimlessly meander from time to time.  It’s relaxing in the way that grinding on mobs can be.

So yesterday I finished up a set of quests and was ready to teleport back when I decided to hold off on that while running around the bend and up a mountain shard… thing to get some plant seeds.  Hopping from scavenging node to scavenging node is another good way to get exploring without even realizing it.  That led me to encounter this buffalo (WildStar probably has some sort of fancy name for it, but c’mon, it’s a buffalo) serenely floating in mid-air as if this is a typical thing for buffalo to be doing.

It’s proooooobably a glitch, but since Nexus is a weird place, I can’t always put weird possibilities past the creators.  Especially when I went further up and found a whole herd of airborne bovine:

buf2I envy their lifestyle.  They don’t let a lack of wings or the demands of gravity boss them around.  They are free and we are the beasts of burden, chained to this terrestrial ball.

I really didn’t get as much time as I would’ve liked to have played WildStar over the weekend, but at least an hour or so saw me propel my Engineer further through Galeras.  I’m still fiddling with skill rotations a bit, although I’m generally pleased with both my survivability and killing power.  I’d like to actually run a dungeon sooner or later — I still haven’t done any, not including adventures — but questing and leveling feels more important to me.

I did net a few more housing items during challenges and mob drops, including a nifty Chua desk that I hadn’t seen before.  Give me housing drops and I am a happy, happy man.

WildStar: The challenge challenge

s1Last weekend I temporarily (?) retired my medic to pick back up my newbie Engineer in WildStar.  Now that I know the game better and feel more comfortable in it, playing this class has become easier, especially in regard to skill choices and battle rotation.

Since I’m so far behind the bulk of the day one rat pack, I’m actually free to do pretty much whatever I want at my own pace.  So instead of leveling like crazy, screaming “Wait up guys!” I’m choosing to be more completionist than usual.  This means doing all of the Scientist path quests and also every single challenge in each of the zones.

This last one represents a switch in my original estimation of WildStar’s challenges.  I wasn’t that wild about them (no pun intended) at the start, since they’re timed and often asked  you to accomplish a task while fighting over the same resources that everyone else was.  Now that the population is not so much in my hair, I can do these and at least get bronze on them without worrying too much.  There was only one challenge in Algaroc that gave me problems, the one that asked me to kill the super-intelligent apes in the Eldar area, mostly because I couldn’t find enough of a concentration of apes before running out of time.  It took me about seven tries to figure out a good loop between all of the nests (because apes nest in holes in the ground, don’tcha know) before squeaking through with a bronze award.  I scoff at gold on that.

Past the mindless “kill 10 rats” challenges, there is a surprising variety of fun activities going on with these.  They’re kind of like a mix between quests and achievements with an on-the-spot randomized reward.  I do think they should let you flat-out pick the reward instead of rolling on it, since if you don’t get your desired choice you have to wait a while before the cooldown is up.

Probably my favorite in Algaroc is the one where you have to jump to the top of a hill around all of those loftite crystals that give you the super-jump ability.  It’s a little difficult controlling your direction in mid-air, but once you get the hang of it it’s a blast.

s2As I moved on from Algaroc, so I did from my guild to a new one.  I had nothing really against my old guild, but they weren’t the most social people and that’s something I prize in a guild.  So I’m still looking for a good fit and am trying out this group for the time being to see how it goes.

I do wish I could just pack up and move over all of my housing items and even structures from my other characters, however.  So much toast that is now going to waste.  Oh well, we shall rebuild!

WildStar: Starship design

t1In my WildStar adventures, I’ve been sorely neglecting my house.  I’m constantly using it, true, but I’ve mostly been amassing a stockpile of decor items and crafting mats with the good intention of sitting down at some point and really working on it.

The other day I worked on fleshing out my apprentice tech tree for architecture before moving on to the next tier.  I like how crafting is set up in theory, although in execution it has the very real potential to be tedious.  It’s certainly cool to unlock schematics by working your way through a tech tree, trying to make uncommon items with the bizarre bull’s eye minigame — but it’s less cool when you can’t queue up multiple orders or when you fail several times to hit that much-needed mark.

I also got tired of running back and forth between the commodities exchange dude and the crafting station.  While I have an overabundance of survivalist mats — leather, tree parts — I a desperate for ore and gems from mining.  I can tell already that this has the potential to be a huge gold sink, since I’m spending money to buy mats and set up each schematic.  In talking with my guild, it was suggested that either I get an alt with a mining plot (good idea, although there’s a level barrier if I don’t keep moving the alt on up) or to talk in housing zone chat and see if I can’t join a crafting/mats circle.  The latter is a better idea, since I could hop from house to house, splitting mats 50/50 with the owners.  We’ll see.

e1Anyway, once I got a little broke with that, I took all of my new housing items and went up to my plot to see what I could see.  While I did spend a lot of time creating a multi-level, multi-room house in my spaceship, I was ultimately disatisfied with how cluttered and unfocused it was.  Plus, Syl is clearly winning the war of decoration here.  Thus, I gutted it, took out everything, and started over.

It might not be hugely original, but what I’m going to do is to turn this spaceship back into a spaceship.  As in, the interior should actually look like a ship, not a cottage-on-the-lake wearing a spaceship shell.  I made the above… thingie (engine? reactor?) by jumbling different items together and putting a few spotlights above it.  In motion, it actually looks neat.

I have the cockpit half-made, but I’m not quite ready to show it off just yet.  Part of the joy of housing is to take items and use them in non-conventional ways to make something even better or more unique.

With all of my other housing items, I’m going to go outside and make a proper tree fort.  My spaceship lands, I build a home here — that makes sense to me.  Also, I’m going to use giant toast for building materials.  BECAUSE I CAN.

WildStar: Avenging, assemble!

foomLast night I… flame-jet dropped?  Pyro-dropped?  I don’t know what the term is for “jumping out of an aircraft with a jetpack to slow your fall” is in the game, but that’s what I did.  The Exile spy organization was sending me to infiltrate an ICI (the Dominion spy group) complex, and since I’m a one-zombie army, why not?

That’s when I came up against probably one of my most challenging nights in the game.  I was going about questing in the ICI cave in Whitevale when I died.  I wasn’t paying full attention, so I buffed up and came back for another go.

Four deaths in rapid succession later, and I knew I had a problem.  The cave had a pretty tight and high mob density with some tough guys that could spew out rather large telegraphs.  With little room to jump around, I was getting pwned something fierce.  Extra mobs got pulled, telegraphs took me from 85% health to 0% within seconds, that sort of thing.

While my guild offered to come in and helped — they knew the cave and were sympathetic — I took it as a challenge to my current build.  How I was attacking and what skills I was using in what order wasn’t working, so I started to experiment.  I finally have access to a couple of tier 4 abilities, so I studied those and figured out which ones would allow me to unleash as much up-front DPS as possible.  I didn’t want to mix in too many healing skills, since every one I chose means a DPS ability taken out of the rotation, but I had to keep a couple.

That stupid cave took me far longer than it should’ve, but by the time I was done I emerged with a much more effective build that kept my health up while killing far more rapidly than before.  I appreciated the lesson, intended or not, because the game presented a challenge and then supplied me with an array of tools to overcome that obstacle.  It was up to me to figure out how to do that most effectively, and by trial and error, I eventually did.  Reminded me of more than a couple of instances in The Secret World where the same sort of thing happened.

The combat system of WildStar wasn’t my most anticipated feature going into the game, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.  It has a great feel and responsiveness to it, and it allows for a lot of user choice when it comes to the style of fighting.

WildStar: All hail Lord Cheese!

lordcheeseEvery time I visit Thayd in WildStar, I must go and pay homage to Lord Cheese.  I kneel, I salute, I stare in awe.  He is so much greater than I could ever be.

Even though he says little, Lord Cheese is a legend.  He is a cheese of refined tastes, dressed in finery and sipping from the best of wines while tearing into a steak.  He is well-read and honored by the peasants that visit his throne to beg a favor.

Lord Cheese rose above what we thought curds could ever be possible of, and showed the world how a self-made rind can come to a position of power and fame.

All hail Lord Cheese!  May your reign be long and prosperous!

The Weekend Gaming Report with “Sippycup” Syp

gondorI didn’t get as much time as anticipated to game this weekend, but I made the best of what I did get — and actually came out feeling pretty great about how things ended up.  So what was Syp playing?

The Wolf Among Us

I wrapped up the final episode of this generally excellent Fables adventure game and have been chewing over my feelings on it.  Like all of Telltale’s efforts lately, there was precious little in the way of puzzles, but I think that the final episode did deliver a lot in the way of choice and consequence, both from the episode itself and from the previous four as well.  I got what I considered to be a pretty compassionate ending with most of the townsfolk happy with me, so that’s a win for poor Bigby.  I felt pretty uncomfortable how the game brought up my past decisions in a (sometimes) negative light, because this game has been about how unfair the situation and position that both Bigby and the residents of Fabletown are in, and hey, I’ve been trying my best.

One major disappointment was the lack of a deductive scene.  In the first (and maybe second) episodes, Telltale tried to stretch itself by including scenes where you had to investigate the environment and people to put together the truth of what had happened.  That was actually pretty cool, since you could mess up and overlook stuff, but the devs obviously gave up on that.  This omission was really felt at the end of the game, when the characters simply told you the answer to the mystery instead of letting you solve it.

But in terms of world-building and characterization, TWAU hit it out of the park.  The Fables universe is great for adventure games and I sincerely hope we see another one, especially following the twist ending.

Lord of the Rings Online

I really need to devote more time to Update 14, but what I did get to play has actually been pretty enjoyable.  Perhaps it’s my previous sabbatical that helped to rekindle my interest, but I’m settling back into my old shoes and taking a walk around Gondor.

I’ve been messing around with builds on my captain, trying to find a nice hybrid that pumps out as much damage as possible while giving me enough survivability with healing.  Sort of a red/blue deal.  I didn’t realize that we had another LI trait reset and was going around like a derp without any points spent, wondering why I was having a bit of a hard time taking down a frenzied deer.  Stupid deer, always in the way between me and world domination!

Gondor as a land is a definite change from Rohan.  It feels more old school Europe than Rohan’s Viking vibe, which isn’t terrible but… I’m probably never going to be a fan of gaudy decor and our second major Man country in a row.

Guild Wars 2

I finished up Entanglement on my Ranger (spoilers: Scarlet was really Trahearne all along!).  Gameplay-wise it was adequate — nothing particularly exciting nor challenging for my character, but functional.  Story-wise, it was definitely more interesting than the first episode, particularly toward the end.

I then switched over to my long-dormant Necromancer and brought her from 77 to 80 in a night.  Spending laurels on ascended gear and equipping her with a full set of exotics and superior sigils was something I’ve been looking forward to doing for quite some time, so it’s cool that I’ve reactivated her.  She has a LOT of the map and her personal story left to do, but I think that I’ll try to get her through the first two S2 episodes before going back to doing anything else.

WildStar

My big goal for the weekend was to hit level 25 and get my hoverboard, which I finally, finally did.  Whitevale is a lovely zone to quest in, and my Medic’s new build is rocking nicely.  I’m trying to do each and every challenge as I find them unless it’s functionally undoable (as in not enough mobs to make it possible).

I got a good laugh at all of the spy shenanigans that occupied one of the early quest lines, especially being knocked out to be taken to a secret base and scouting around for snowmen.

One of the things that WildStar does really well and yet has gotten little praise that I’ve seen is how it’s created all of these alien races and made them quite memorable and distinct.  The Freebots (who just wanna be free, man), the Lopps, and the Protostar clones are my fave, but just about all of them have great personalities and make up for a wacky scifi cast.

WildStar: The satisfaction of a job well done

taxiDue to a wicked combination of rerolling, real life, general pokiness, and housing fascination, I only hit level 23 in WildStar for the first time last night and wrapped up everything I needed to get done in Galeras.  Even so, completely finishing a zone provides me with a deep satisfaction, kind of like how you tidy up and clean a house, leaving behind a pristine dwelling.

It was lucrative, too, as the final big quest pushed me over the level 23 line and also wrapped up my last settler project.  I do need to carve out an evening to do a bunch of crafting, but for now it’s a taxi ride over to the snow-capped vista of Whitevale.  Gee, where do they get these fantastic names?

I was getting a little disatsified with how my Medic’s combat rotation was going, mostly because using Nullifier required mouse placement of two AOE fields.  I’m all for AOE DOTs, mind you, but it’s a pet peeve of mine for MMO skills to require mouse targeting.  I keep losing the cursor and feel that it adds an extra, unnecessary step to what I just want, which is for the skill to go off around me.

So I realized that, hey, this is WildStar and I can actually fiddle with my action bar instead of getting into a routine, so I created a new rotation that took out the Nullifier, swapped in Atomizer, and moved things around a bit so that I could unload damage much quicker.  I’m pretty pleased with the result.

The other observation that I had last night is how much I’m into this particular game world, and I think that one of factors to thank for that is that — at least for the Exiles — its set up as a blue-collar, middle-class kind of place.  Yes, there’s fantastic technology and spaceships, but there’s also tape patching up that couch, dingy corridors, goofy advertisements, and characters chowing down on fast food.

It’s all of the small details that begin to add up, subtly (or perhaps not so much) making a world that’s quite different than your standard pristine fantasy wonderland.  Even though it’s in the future on some far-flung world and drawn in cartoony style, this feels more “real” to me.