I had watched all the videos about combat in WildStar, but now I’ve finally had a chance to try it out for myself. I got to see combat at the beginning of the game, in a level 20 dungeon, in PvP, and in the elder game. There may be parts of the combat system that have been seen in other games, but I assure you this is a truly unique experience.
Every player attack skill, and most enemy attacks, use the telegraph system. There is no auto attack. Each attack skill must be activated manually. On top of the usual cast times, channel times, and unique traits, each skill also has a size and shape associated with it. The number of shapes I’ve seen from player skills, enemy attacks, and boss attacks are so varied, you can truly see the possibilities are endless.
The shapes get overlaid onto the environment when casting, so you can see what your attack (or heal) is going to hit. This applies to heals and support abilities as well. You have to hit your targets or place “fields” in a strategic location to be effective. It’ll be real easy to recognize a good healer and tank. Enemy attacks are similar except that the projected shape fills up, with the attack hitting once it’s full. Since moves are telegraphed, you have a good chance of dodging by rolling away, jumping, or just sprinting out of the area. This makes combat very active and almost puzzle-like.
Having enemy moves telegraphed may make it sound like combat is too easy, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. One caveat is that enemies also do normal non-telegraphed moves that you can’t escape if you’re the target. On top of that, once you get past the beginning areas and into your first dungeon, utter chaos ensues. Managing aggro on top of telegraphed attacks that appear to have swallowed the entire floor, all while other environmental hazards are in motion around the field of battle. It’s intense.
The skills themselves are purchased from a vendor as you level up through the game. Not all skills are available at all times. You have to make yourself and ability set, much like Guild Wars 2 or Diablo 3. I’ve enjoyed this system in other games as you get a chance to distinguish your playstyle from others in the same class. It’s also almost a necessity considering the high pace and active nature of combat.
Dungeons and Raids
Since we’re on the subject of dungeons, let’s talk about dungeons and raids. You can expect to find the typical instanced, 5-man dungeons sporadically from level 15 onward. But these are where the combat system really unfolds like I said. You have to have a firm grasp on your character and their abilities. Standing inside of a dungeon monster’s telegraphed attack could potentially cripple or kill you.
Dungeon finders are already in place for ad hoc groups. There’s plenty of sub bosses to clear, and of course the places are ripe with loot. Our groups actually wiped pretty hard (a few times) in the level 20 dungeon we ran at the event. Only one team finished in the hour we had to play. Difficult? Yes, and yay!
WildStar is also shipping with 20-man and 40-man raids. We got to listen to the dungeon design team walk us through the some of the areas and boss fights of the raid dungeons. The stuff they have planned is ingenious. I got to watch some video of failed raid groups and where they went wrong in beta, brutal stuff. But not just difficult, superbly clever, and in most cases, out of the ordinary. I really don’t want to say any more for fear of spoiling something, but there is a lot to look forward to at launch and more promised in the big content patches post launch.