Editorial | 6/16/2014 at 8:00 AM

MMO Co-Opportunities XLIII: Wildstar Impressions, Part II

Getting your group on

Back in February, I did Part I of my impressions of Wildstar from an MMO Co-Opportunities point of view. It’s June now, and the game officially launched two weeks ago. What does that mean? It’s time for Part II!

In Part I, we looked at some of the social aspects of Wildstar, such as grouping up, mentoring, and circles. This time, we’ll focus on grouping for the content in the game, both open world content for questing and instanced content. My main character is level 26 at the time of writing (max level being 50), so my impressions will be focused on the early-mid game. I’ve done a handful of shiphand missions, a couple of adventures, a couple of dungeons, one expedition, and lots and lots of questing almost exclusively with 3-4 other people.

Open World Content: Questing (Class level and Path level)
In some MMOs it’s difficult to do any quests without others. In others, it’s almost considered a disadvantage to group up with other people to do quests. Wildstar strikes a happy balance, with most quests being able to be completed solo, yet often times providing benefits to grouping together. Quests that are not expected to be completed solo are usually clearly marked with a [GROUP] tag. Wildstar has two primary leveling systems: class level and path level. Class level is the normal, expected character leveling system. Path level, on the other hand, provides characters with a new set of quests (called missions) that they can complete to level their path. Path level ups unlock utility skills (e.g. summoning a mailbox, creating a portal to the capital, etc.), path-themed costume items, housing items, and larger bags. A player’s path will also enable them to interact with some aspects of the environment in the world (e.g. opening a hidden tunnel).

Often, grouping for class leveling can be advantageous. A lot of the time, credit for the quest is shared between party members. A similar mindset was also applied to path leveling. Much of the time, if a character helps someone else with one of their path missions, they will also receive some path XP. Even neater are the times when paths interact with each other. Sometimes a certain path will be able to interact with an object which brings it to a new state. That new state may require a different path to interact with it for yet another change to occur. For example, there are broken bots in the world that Settlers can interact with to put them back together. From this state, a scientist can power them up. The bot will stand up and drill into the ground, producing resources that Settlers need to do their path missions. It’s little touches like this that make me inexplicably delighted.

Instanced Group Content
Many MMOs only have one or two types of small group, instanced content. I’ve run across four types of instanced cooperative group content in Wildstar thusfar: Shiphand Missions, Adventures, Dungeons, and Expeditions. Shiphand Missions can be completed in groups up to 5, but 5 aren’t necessary to complete them (I’ve done them with only 2 before, and they are supposed to be soloable as well, though I haven’t yet done one alone). They’re usually pretty short - estimated between 15 and 30 minutes.

Adventures are instanced, story-based missions that let players explore zones they’ve been to in the open world in new ways. They have branching paths where the players will vote on what objective they want to complete. Based on what options are picked, one run through of an adventure can be quite different from another run through of the same adventure. They often introduce special mechanics that aren’t used in other parts of game play (e.g. capture and hold objectives, simulated enemy players). Adventures a bit longer than Shiphand Missions, running probably 30 to 45 minutes. They are composed of multiple objectives and a couple bosses. An end reward is also provided individually to all the players (the party is awarded either gold, silver, or bronze as a group).

Dungeons have two difficulty levels, normal and veteran. Veteran level upgrades the dungeon to a level 50 version and adds in new mechanics. Dungeons appear to be the longest in duration of the single group content, running an hour or two. They also seem the most challenging. There are multiple objectives to complete and multiple bosses to kill. Just like adventures, players will receive an end reward bag in addition to boss drops.

Expeditions are scaled to level and number of players in the instance. They yield no XP, but will give the players a reward at the end - in my experience, I’ve only received decor items for housing. The one expedition I’ve run had a time limit of 20 minutes to complete the objectives. I received a kit as a drop from a dungeon which let me build the expedition portal on my housing plot.

Across all four of these types of group content, grouped players work together and combo their skills. In the shorter content, like Shiphand Missions and Expeditions, it’s mostly optional. In the more difficult dungeons, however, it becomes crucial to succeed. In addition to the standard threat management and healing seen in almost every MMO, Wildstar has a mechanic known as Interrupt Armor. Each class has at least a couple of abilities which allow them to either knockdown, stun, or otherwise interrupt an enemy. Bosses, being the tough baddies they are, will have stacks of interrupt armor which rapidly regenerates. Sometimes it’s critical to interrupt a boss ability, but the party will have to coordinate their interrupt abilities to remove the stacks of interrupt armor and finally interrupt the actual ability. Types of cooperation like this makes me really enjoy playing the group content. The better the group communicates and cooperates, the more successful they’ll be in the group content, or the quicker they’ll complete it.

So there you have it - a succinct look at the varied types of content that support (or require) grouping in Wildstar. I’m planning at the very least a Part III after I hit the endgame to give my impressions of anything new and exciting there as far as playing with friends goes. What do you guys think? Are there other cooperative aspects that you’re interested in that you’d like me to write about for Wildstar? Are you playing Wildstar and have some experiences or opinions you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below, or if you’re playing Dominion on the Thunderfoot server, feel free to PM or mail me (my name there is also Xelissa) and say “hi!” Everyone in the Co-Optimus community is also more than welcome to join our Cooptimus Social Circle!