Stealth! Evasion Tanks! Also, Why WildStar?
We’re back with more WIldStar-based ramblings as the Class Drop coverage continues to roll on. We’ve got two weeks left, both of which feature two brand new classes (whose names are absolutely the worst kept secret ever, but how they function in game? That’s still under wraps) but before we dive into the latest (re)reveal, here’s a helpful hub with which to get up to speed.
All sorted? Lovely. Let’s begin.
So here we are – the last of the already-known classes is taking the spotlight this week. We’ve had the sword-weilding Warrior, the mind-bullet-firing Esper, and the gun-toting Spellslinger, but now it’s time for the one that aims to bring the pain before you’ve even realised what’s happened. Get ready, fans of the rogue, because you’re about to find your calling as the Stalker – part Batman, part Wolverine, part Predator, and all stabby-stabby awesome.
Wearing medium armour and utilizing the cloaking ability that comes with their Nano Skin technology, the Stalker’s M.O. is to get the drop on their opponents and dance out of the way of anything potentially harmful, much like the Rogues of other MMOs. However, unlike the back-stabby dealers of death that appear in other online arenas, the Stalker comes loaded with a few distinct differences. For instance, this particular close-quarter combatant doesn’t just have retractable claws at their disposal (which is pretty awesome in itself) but an array of gadgetry to best their foes. Fancy making a clone of yourself that will provide extra damage (and can even taunt if improved)? Perhaps you feel like tethering a landline to your foe? Because that’s totally doable.
So how does the class work? Well, it’s almost like a reverse Warrior in a way, utilizing Suit Power to execute its deadly moves. Unlike the Warrior who has to generate energy, the Stalker starts off with a full bar, with each move used spending a portion of it. Suit power regenerates over time, although the Stalker FAQ points out that certain abilities will help restore a portion of it in case of emergencies (and chances are the AMP system will provide ways of storing additional Suit Power as well.)
The way stealth works for the Stalker is simple – being far away from an enemy will render the Stalker invisible, but the closer they get to their target, the more visible they will become (think of a shimmer in a water reflection, and you’ll get the idea.) Of course, as previously demonstrated in the last few livestreams, observant players will be able to spot the grass move should a stealthed player walks through it, once again proving that nature is clearly the enemy (and probably explains why Carbine keep blowing up Rowsdowers.) It was confirmed in the reddit AMA that stealth doesn’t have a timer, and will last until the Stalker is damaged or until they initiate an attack (although players can ensure the affect – and any combat bonuses for attacking from stealth – lasts longer by using the AMP system.)
Of course, most of this info, while pretty cool, isn’t really new, but the best part about the Stalker is how, as an evasion specialist, it can be a tank. That’s right – Carbine provided those people who have jokingly (or bravely… or perhaps stupidly) tried to tank a boss in other MMOs a legitimate chance to do so in WildStar, and to me that is the most exciting aspect of the Stalker. I mean, Warriors are a pretty mobile class anyway, but using a Stalker to dance around a boss could be one of the most challenging and downright cool things to do in-game, using both evasion and deflection to stay alive. This means that the Stalker has three stances - Evasive Mode for tanking, Lethal Mode for dealing damage, and Balance providing a blend of both (without being a master of either.)
So with no Livestream this week to give us a real look at what the Stalker can do, we have to turn to the AMA to get us a better idea of what to expect from the clawed ones. For instance, it was confirmed that, while some tweaking was still needed, Carbine’s intention is for the Stalker to be a legit choice for a main tank during raids. Another cool feature that was explained was how the Nano Skin of a Stalker can be used for AoE abilities, be it for a quick burst of damage, or to steal health from an enemy. Another interesting fact is that the Stalker has no stationary abilities, meaning they are always able to move no matter the LAS chosen.
Now, what has been mentioned so far might make it look like the Stalker is overpowered in comparison to the other classes (and I wouldn’t blame you, really – it does seem like a killing machine) but as pointed out with the tanking situation, Carbine were quick to point out during the AMA that they are still fine-tuning the Stalker, and that ultimately it will have the same level of damage output as any other class. Oh, and here’s another interesting tidbit – In terms of PvP, it turns out that the Scanbot (a minion of the Scientist player path) will be able to detect stealthed stalkers. It won’t break them out of stealth, but it could be enough to alert enemy players to the Stalker’s presence.
So robots and nature are the Stalker’s natural enemy. This is good to know.
There are many other bits of info to be found in the AMA, including how the Stalker can even become a specialized cc’d specialist should the player want to aggravate enemies instead of killing them (leaving that honour to another player), so if you want to learn any more about the Stalker I’d suggest giving the AMA a read and heading over to the official Stalker page on the WildStar website.
So, with the Livesteam meaning we’ve come up a little lighter in content than normal, I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of the wrap-up to explaining why I’ve been following WildStar since its announcement, and why I feel that, even in the face of the competition and is subscription fees, it could be a real success.
It is no secret that I’ve been a huge supporter of WildStar ever since its unveiling at GamesCom two years ago. Hell, it had my attention even before that due to how the team at Carbine Studios was drawing inspiration from such animated classics as Princess Mononoke and Atlantis for its stylized graphics, and Full Metal Alchemist (which is still one of my favourite manga / anime series) for the right balance of humour and drama. We only had to watch the announcement trailer to see exactly what they were going for, and it had me excited for an MMO for the first time in quite a few years. Talking to the developers at the time, I learned about how the Paths system, which tailors the content to specific play-styles, would work on top of existing traditional player classes, and their enthusiasm for the game was highly infectious, even from that early stage.
Admittedly, the hands-on session I got at the time made it come across as a fairly similar affair to that certain Blizzard game (you know that one with Pandas that everyone likes to say is dying but really isn’t) giving it the impression of being a theme park MMO with a few extra conveniences thrown in (remote quest giving & hand-ins, for example.) In short, it was still the usual tab-targeting affair we had come to know and, well, accept. “That’s fine,” I thought to myself, “it’s the stylized setting that will keep me interested, plus it has a few neat ideas thrown in there too.”
Oh my, how things have changed.
Gone is the tab-targeting, replaced by free form combat with coloured telegraphs on the ground in an effort to make the action more mobile. The nearest comparison would be to The Secret World, which utilizes free-form combat to a limited degree (you still need to click targets to focus on them, but telegraphs are used for AoE abilities.) With WildStar, the only time you’ll need to click on something is to see how it’s doing, but otherwise it’s a simple case of aiming in the right direction and using your abilities, and that includes healing.
Since that reveal, we’ve seen how the team at Carbine have tried to take as open an approach to their development as they possibly can, highlighted by the announcement of a fully customisable UI through a Lua-based engine. This approach eventually morphed into the DevSpeak series of videos, in which they take the basic concepts of their gameplay mechanics and explained them in an informative yet humorous manner (Stephan Frost’s commentary and ‘The Disclaimer Guy’ always finding the tight tone or 80s pop.) It has meant the newcomers, be they MMO fans or not, have gotten up to speed rather quickly.
We’ve also learned about the player housing system and how it will provide benefits for players and their guilds. The hands-on session I got earlier this year showed the impressive level of customisation that will be available (such as covering the entire floor in bananas, or making a banana sculpture, or a banana throne with banana stick man next to it, holding a banana, with some throw cushions for good measure, and some extra bananas. Banana.) Add into this the social aspects of player housing, such as allowing neighbours to visit and harvest resources, and even being able to place a raid portal down to provide an easy way for raid groups to get their slaughter on, and it really shows how Carbine are taking the community side of the game very seriously. It may not be on the same grand scale as Star Wars Galaxies’ free form town building, but what they’ve demonstrated is the next best thing with a far better interface.
And considering we have yet to see how customisable Warplots – which are PvP forts that guilds can build up and then attack other forts with – could be, we might get our town-esque setups in that part of the game.
Then there’s raiding side of things, and how it will provide the opportunity for 40-man encounters. Now I can understand that some people may not be thrilled by that idea, after all it was hard enough getting that man people for raids in WoW, but despite the logistical and tactical struggles that it will produce I honestly feel that having a large group take down a single target is one of the most rewarding aspects of an MMO. Best of all, Carbine have enough thought about my biggest bug-bear with raiding – repetition. WildStar’s game engine will be able to remix raid dungeons each week, ensuring that each run could (potentially) never be the same. We don’t know to what level this will be, but with the addition of global leaderboards it means that even the most hardcore of guilds will have something new to challenge them, providing a reason to stick around long into the game’s life.
Do I have concerns? Absolutely. I still don’t know how Carbine plan to deliver a story of epic proportions, or whether players will be able to directly affect it (something I mentioned Jeremy Gaffney is sorely missing from MMOs), and we still don’t really know how crafting will work besides a few teases at a microchip-esque system several months ago. For this to be a successful subscription-based MMO, they have to get most, if not all, aspects of the game right from the get-go, and until I get some serious hands-on time with WildStar I won’t be able to tell you if that’s the case.
But you know what? I’m still excited for the game despite my nervousness over being a little too hyped up. I mean, seriously, the damn thing has space cowboys, is attempting to make MMO combat the most twitch-based it has ever been, comes in a stylised world that is one of the most charming I’ve seen in some time, and it has freakin’ hoverboards. I think that’s reason enough why I’m betting on WildStar, and while I know there’s a hard road to success for Carbine, I really do think they’re capable of rolling the hard six.
And on that bombshell, we’re out of time for this week. We’ll be back next week as we learn about the technology-wielding Medic class, and be on the lookout for our coverage from the press event I’ll be attending tomorrow, where I’ll be getting hands-on with the latest build and chatting to Creative Director Matt Mocarski. If you have any questions you could like me to get answered, be sure to post them in our dedicated post here.
In the meantime, have a few more Stalker screenshots. Click to embiggen.