Picking the Path that's right for you
With its bold visual style, intriguing interplanetary setting, and charming personality, WildStar is shaping up to be one of our most anticipated titles amongst the many MMORPGs on the horizon. Carbine Studios is doubling down on a bunch of innovative concepts that should spice up the familiar MMO formula, including a biggie: Paths. This life choice is but another facet in the process of character creation, but it feels even more important than race and class. That's because Paths aim to fulfill all the less-obvious needs that players have as they spend hours upon hours in a virtual world. Things like the curiosity of collectors; the need to explore; the desire to create a community; the will to slay any and all enemies.
We already know about the Explorer and Soldier paths from our previous looks at the game, but Carbine Studios recently invited us to check out the newly elucidated Settler and Scientist paths. Resident MMO nuts Lucas and Lorenzo leapt at the opportunity and joined the Exile faction; now they want to share all their findings with you. Read on to learn more about their characters--just ignore their petty squabbling about which Path is superior.
The Granok are beefy stone brutes
Lorenzo: I went about choosing my character's race by asking myself two questions: "Which race has the coolest facial hair?" and "How do I carry a big-ass sword?" Naturally, I went with a stone-skinned Granok with a cement-colored body, a leafy green moustache, and a huge gash at the top of his head that looked like he peeked out of cover during a bulletstorm. A Granok looks like the Fantastic Four's Thing after he got a hold of an orc warrior's armor, picked up the biggest futuristic weapon he could find, then went off to a space war. These guys are all about brute strength and being large, easily doubling the size of many other races in the game.
The Aurin just wanna have fun
Lucas: So I played as a purple-haired, bat-eared, petite girl with a heart-shaped hairpin. Want to fight about it? My cute-as-a-button Aurin Spellslinger, unimaginatively named Lucoste, was the talk of the virtual town, prancing around the snow-covered starting area barefooted. This race, which is currently female-only, will be the go-to pick for those who like their MMO characters more cute than intimidating. They blend a bunch of classic tropes into one species: the nature loving of WoW's Night Elves, the small stature and rabbit ears of Tera's Elin, and the perky ingenuity of Lineage 2's dwarves.
Spellslingers are where the magic's at
Lucas: Melee weapons are so passe. You know what isn't? Dual-wielding laser guns. Now, most MMOs give casters a dinky little wand to shoot magic with--maybe a decent-looking staff if they're lucky. But with the Spellslinger, you get to shoot mystic lightning and fireballs while blasting varmints with your twin pistols like an Old West cowboy. In traditional MMO terms, the Spellslinger feels like the ranged physical and magical DPS roles rolled up into one mighty powerful package.
The main spells I spammed against enemies were Rapid Fire and Ignite. Rapid Fire was a spray of bullets in a cone in front of me, while Ignite lit up enemies with a massive fireball (that looked awesome/hilarious being shot from my peashooter-sized gun). I also got to zip around the battlefield using my Gate teleportation move, which Lorenzo was clearly envious of. Spells at later levels include charged up shots and cones of frost, which should whittle down monsters in a hurry.
Warriors are large and in charge
Lorenzo: In a world where advanced technology rules, there's still nothing more intimidating than a giant rock man running at you while swinging a massive two-handed sword. Know what's not scary? Bat-eared, cat girls shooting tiny laser guns. Warriors are the tanks. They'll soak up all the damage enemies can dish out, and come out of the dust ready to pound you into the ground like a nail into a board.
Warriors may be a bit slower than those dimension-hopping Spellslingers, but they have no problems closing the distance and laying the smackdown with their leap ability. The burly tanks are at home right up in the faces of their adversaries, as they hack at enemies with their laser swords and spinning, wrist-mounted saw blades. Even if a Warrior becomes surrounded, debilitating abilities like the kick and the powerful AOE whirlwind ability can get you out of trouble unscathed.
Just what are Paths, anyway?
As you play an MMO, a pattern starts to develop with the way you spend your in-game time. It's the little things--like collecting pets, exploring every nook and cranny, or initiating world PvP--that enhance the experience outside of raids and battlegrounds. Carbine Studios concocted Paths as a way to cater to people's ingrained MMO lifestyles, researching what kinds of activities that players tend to gravitate towards whether in groups or alone.
Currently, Paths are selected at character creation, just like your race and class. The first two paths, Explorer and Soldier, have already been shown off; Explorers like to turn their environment into obstacle courses, while Soldiers love to test their combat abilities with progressively tougher fights and player killing. But the Scientist and Settler paths have been pretty much under wraps until now. We tried 'em both out--now let Lorenzo and Lucas try to convince you which one is better.
Scientists get to experience more
Lucas: Everything about the Scientist Path seems to revolve around that old adage "Knowledge is power." And wouldn't ya know it--I like having knowledge and power in an MMO! I've always been an off-and-on lorehound in WoW and Guild Wars, taking the time to read quest text and watch cutscenes. So the fact that the Scientist can unlock little lore nodes hidden in the environment sounds pretty sweet. Players that want the backstory behind the construction of a dungeon or their enemy's motivation will be all over the Scientist, who access extra tidbits of plot by scanning various points of interest. Analyzing ancient relics can also unlock additional spells.
But it's not all about the pursuit of knowledge. Scanning some pieces of the environment, like strange-looking fauna, can actually trigger a fight when that innocent-looking vine turns out to be the antennae of a gigantic plant monster. Plus, all your scanning is carried out by a little pet robot, who can also assist you in battle. Like my boy Bill Nye says, science rules.
Settlers build up the world around them
Lorenzo: The Settler Path is for those who want to make the world a better place, helping out their fellow man/Granok/cat things/etc. by creating protective, military checkpoints, shield-buffing structures, or just a bar where other players can take a load off. They are the people who like the company of friends, not like those social outcast Scientists with their noses crammed into a book's spine. Settlers actually make themselves useful by improving their surroundings and creating outposts on the fringes of the frontier.
Gathering enough scrap machine parts and debris allows you to interact with special nodes to create structures, which will stand and assist passerby or teammates for a limited time. Not only is this a great way to give a helping hand and possibly make a few friends--you'll gain experience for each person who uses your device. So, if you plop down a warming campfire in the right place, you could reap the benefits of dozens of players handing you free experience. Well, provided no other settlers butt in on your prosperous spot.
Scientists hold the keys to secret areas
Lucas: Let's say that Lorenzo and I come across a strange metal door embedded in the side of a mountain. Brute force won't knock it down--but you just know there's something awesome stashed within. So what are we to do? Lorenzo can, I don't know, build a cottage--but no amount of buildings will help us break through this barrier. As a Scientist, however, I can swoop in to save the day by scanning the mysterious threshold.
By examining the door with the aid of my robo-pal, a randomly generated puzzle will spawn. The puzzle we saw involved four elemental nodes, with four switches that turned them on or off. The trick is getting them to all light up at once--and unlike most every MMO, you can't just hop online for a solution, thanks to the puzzles' random nature. It's a pretty cool way to test your mental prowess in front of an audience--though I fully expect Lorenzo to mock me if I can't solve it within ten seconds.
Settlers unlock new quests
Lorenzo: In most MMOs, when you come across a town, you'll see all the NPCs standing in their designated spots; buildings never change, and there are only a set number of objects and characters to interact with. But for WildStar's Settlers, towns aren't so static. While all the other Paths can only interact with what they see, Settlers expand their environment by repairing buildings, revealing new merchants, buffs, and even quests.
Not every town you stumble upon will be fully functional. That's where the Settler comes in. If there isn't a Settler around to fix a busted transit system, guess what? Everyone else will be unable to use the temporary mounts for fast travel. If you see a run-down building in town, chances are a Settler could fix up the joint, so you'd be able to grab a pint and possibly a few buffs from the upgraded bar. Why go out and trudge in a dank cave while there's plenty to do in your own settlement?
So which Path do you plan on playing?
Has Lucas swayed you to the side of discovering the unknown and logic-based lore unlocks as the Scientist? Or do you want to join Lorenzo in building a community from the ground up as the Settler? Don't forget--there's also the platform-hopping of the Explorer and the expansive arsenal of the Solder. Let us know in the comments below which Path sounds like the right fit for you. You can (and should) sign up for WildStar's closed beta tests now, since lord knows we'll be playing this like fiends at the first opportunity.
For more MMO goodness, check out WildStar - 9 reasons it might be the best MMO of 2013 and 25 new MMORPGs on the horizon for 2013 and beyond.