The Endgame is the end all be all of a gaming experience. It’s the culmination of every player’s hard work and can either lead to sheer enjoyment or utter frustration. This is also what generally defines how good a game is and how long its player population will stick around. If the endgame is too easy then the content will be completed and players will move onto something new, but if it’s too difficult a large portion of the non-hardcore population will get frustrated and leave. Finding the balance is challenging, if not impossible because every player has a different threshold, therefore it’s important to please the majority of the intended player base and not cater towards a few (whether they’re casuals or elite gamers). Currently, the Wildstar endgame has taken the fairly long and challenging route, but is it too much?
Two weeks ago I finally hit max level on my Stalker and began the long grind for the Genetic Archives raid attunement. Now it might seem a little premature to start preparing for raids as a fresh level 50, but it’s the smartest move anyone can do because the attunement process is extensively long. The path to raiding is a 12-step program and after two weeks at level 50 I’m still on step four. None of the requirements thus far have been overly challenging, but they’ve been long, drawn out processes. Hitting 50 was the first step, the second step was grinding additional Elder Gem levels for two weeks, the third was to kill a miniboss in Wilderrun called Pyralos, and the fourth step, which I’m currently working on, is to hit beloved faction reputation with the Dominion.
The first two steps are pretty self-explanatory: hit max level and then level some more. Pyralos was an interesting little fight involving fire hydrants and a medium-sized flame elemental. He doesn’t have a ton of hit points, but you can only damage him once every time you knock him down with water from the hydrants. He also spins around shooting fire, summons falling fire, and does various other fire elemental related things, all of which interrupt the process of soaking him. Additionally, it appears that if you stand next to him for too long he’ll blast you off the map; I found this out the hard way when I got him to 10 percent health, got knocked off, and ran all the way back up the stairs only to find him dead and had to wait for him to respawn. I’m not necessarily bitter about this because I messed up, but it would have been nice to take him out before the Exiles showed up.
Hitting beloved with Dominion wouldn’t have been a terribly difficult task IF I had played through all of the lower level content. I didn’t. I PvP’d. Normally, most people hit the fourth step starting with around 12,000 of the required 32,000 reputation, but I only had 4,000. This was a huge oversight that I had no way of knowing about when I first started playing. I also feel that this is definitely in the wrong position of the questline since it requires massively grinding through adventures and dungeons later on, which all grant a decent amount of reputation. It would make sense to do all of the tasks that grant reputation and then require a certain amount before accessing the raids, but Carbine has shown to be pretty sadistic so far.
The next few steps are probably going to be even worse than the previous ones and include completing all veteran adventures and dungeons with a silver rating or higher, a few random quests, killing 10 world bosses, and finally defeating Kythria in Veteran Kel Voreth. Obtaining silver in the adventures isn’t terribly difficult, I’ve gotten gold in all of them by now, but the dungeons are a whole different story.
GOLD OR BUST
There’s currently a severe issue with the way adventures run their loot tables. First off, the only way to get epics from adventures is to finish with a gold medal. This essentially means completing every task of the adventure perfectly. One random caravan death in Malgrave Trail and you’re already down to silver. One missed bomb or a couple of attacks on the generator and Siege of Tempest Refuge might as well be a bust. The equipment that drops from the various bosses along the way is usable and the completion rares are about the same, but I was able to buy better stuff on the auction house for around 50 gold. On the other hand, the epics that drop from adventures are usually best in slot, or close to it, and are highly coveted by those just hitting level 50. This means that once most groups drops below a gold rating they immediately disband, which can be very frustrating to new players who are simply trying to learn the instances.
I completely understand wanting to reward people by challenging them, but the tasks aren’t any harder, the process simply becomes monotonous; wasting 5 hours trying to get a perfect run in hopes that the gear I want to drop isn’t fun. I’d rather have the option to increase the difficulty of the enemies or have negative status effects to make the instance harder than be punished for one false step. I’ve literally had caravan members in Malgrave Trail die for no reason at all. Full resources, low fatigue, not fighting enemies, no one’s sick, but they still keel over and die. Now I’ve wasted 45 minutes and have to start over. This is really turning people away from veteran instances, and since PvP is still relatively broken there’s not much else to do besides dailies.
Now dungeons are a completely different beast. I’m not amazingly geared yet so I’ve only tried Veteran Stormtalon’s Lair, but the step up from adventures is pretty huge. Adventures seem to be more about not screwing up than doing a ton of damage or staying alive. Dungeons are completely the opposite and every fight feels like a DPS race. All the bosses have multiple, very technical, phases and taking too long is going to end in a party wipe. I played World of Warcraft for quite some time and none of the early max level dungeons were this difficult. Most bosses had easy rotations to memorize and were simple “tank and spanks.” In Wildstar everyone needs to know the fights, players have to simultaneously interrupt bosses while dodge lightning and still doing solid damage. These dungeons aren’t for the weak of heart or the undergeared. Thankfully, all of the bosses have a chance to drop epics without having to achieve gold, or even complete the entire dungeon.
Wildstar Endgame, IS IT TOO MUCH?
I personally don’t think that Wildstar has gone too far with its difficulty curve. It’s supposed to be a challenging game and the developers have said that from the start. The “hardcore” videos and trailers weren’t just for show, they were trying to send a message. I’m glad the game’s hard and that I haven’t been able to clear everything in a week, but there are definitely some issues. First, the game shouldn’t overly punish players for PvPing. We already get less gold, less gear, less faction reputation, and our gear is semi-broken but now we’re also at a severe disadvantage for raid attunement. Once I’ve completed my reputation grind it’ll be a wash, but realizing I had to go back to each zone and grind reputation, or do daily quests for a month, after I’d already hit level 50 was fairly disheartening.
The second issue, and probably the most frustrating aspect for a majority of the Wildstar population right now, is the issue with veteran adventures. Getting a gold medal is great and all, but it shouldn’t be gold or nothing. There clearly needs to be better rewards for doing these instances perfectly, but having a chance for at least one epic on silver would greatly increase morale for a lot of players. Right now it seems like gold is at least one epic and a chance for a second epic and silver is a couple of rares. If Carbine just made it so silver had around a 50 percent chance of epics with a silver rating then I doubt every group would disband once they lost gold. The only players I’ve known to not care about getting gold were either brand new level 50’s or those who just wanted to finish attunement and were already way overgeared for the instance.
I’ve really liked how fast new content has been released for Wildstar and the team’s ambition to take down servers to implement hot fixes, which makes me believe that there’s still a lot of potential in this game. There’s already a big content patch on the test realm, featuring a new battleground, some balancing, and a lot of bug fixes. So while I’m torn between currently hating the grind and being hopeful for the future I’m trying my best not to let minor issues bother me, but I’m also not being completely naive to major issues in the game. In the realm of MMORPGs, only time will tell.Related: Column, MMORPG, PvE, Sci-Fi, The Nexus Times, Wildstar