Master x Master Review – Re-Inventive MOBA

Master x Master Review - Re-Inventive MOBA

Popular MOBAs have remained stagnant for the most part. While the original DOTA mod set the stage, various genre staples like League of Legends have done little to rock the core three-lane formula—League basically just followed the DOTA system and took out denying before slowly starting to evolve facets like its jungle game and laning phase. Blizzard took a more cavalier approach with Heroes of the Storm, allowing for concessions like group XP instead of a focus on individual play, tower “ammo” that could be expended, and less of a focus on laning.

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Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns (PC) Review

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns (PC) Review

Guild Wars 2 facilitated a sense of wonder and exploration that drew me in when I first bought it three years ago. The great, chilly mountains and perpetual autumns of Ascalon drew me in, exploring and waging war with a variety of monsters and factions. Jumping puzzles, chains of events players could all participate in, and a series of Easter eggs and vistas to explore left us with an amazing experience. Updates abounded over the last three years, with two seasons of world events that left scars on the world map, and opened up two new, intricate areas for exploration, complete with over-arching meta-events. I got back into the game recently after a long hiatus, and was largely impressed with the Silverwastes and Dry Top content.

Heart of Thorns, the first real expansion for the game, builds on that, with four new multi-level maps, a  post-level progression, and new mechanics and specializations for classes. It expands well upon the game’s already solid design and provides an engaging and varied experience, if a bit short at the moment.

guidewars2insert5The story picks up right after the end of the Living Story, the ongoing series of updates and events of the past three years, with the attack on the second Elder Dragon threatening the world, the plant-dragon Modremoth. This goes disastrously—the once-proud fleet that defeated the undead Zhaitan now lies in ruins, scattered across the jungle, with its heroes lost. You resume your role as the commander, venturing into the wilderness to recover your friends and find a means to defeat Modremoth before he spreads out of the jungle and into the rest of the world.

The Verdant Brink, the first of the four maps, greets you with a cliff-side beckoning you to approach, overlooking a massive tangle of monstrous vines coiled around the burning remains of an airship. The valley below swarmed with dinosaurs as my Charr necromancer descended carefully, hefting his newly-acquired greatsword, before being swarmed by tiny raptors, taking chunks of his health as he cleaved through them. He had just cleared them in a vortex of darkness and death when a bus-sized saurian charged bellowing across the cliff and bowled him over, welcoming me to the new jungle.

Combat experiences in the Magus Falls region are considerably more intense than in the original game areas—wyverns set fire to the entire landscape and leave patches of death that down you in seconds, hordes of overgrown plant-creatures hurl waves of poison upon you, and monstrous insects spew deadly acid as they swarm about you. The added difficulty is welcome, adding to a sense of overwhelming odds and facilitating the game’s amazing teamwork mechanics. Players in an area can all still get credit for the event, encouraging them to group up and coordinate, even if they don’t enter an actual party.

The maps themselves are wonderful—the overgrown, looming cliffs of Verdant Brink, the golden city dominating the Auric Basin, and the hovering, hole-laden rocks crackling with magical energy of the Tangled Depths ley-line energy. They’re wonderful to explore, with hills and tunnels everywhere and multiple levels. I found myself wandering, getting lost on the way to my destination only to find something I’d never considered. Each area has a meta-event narrative, an objective for the players to accomplish, which all events feed into. In Verdant Brink, for example, one must spend the day rescuing and preparing various crash sites around the map before nightfall, which transforms the map into a frenzied defense against the vegetative Modrem, ending in a battle against a giant boss in the canopy above.

The maps’ size and scale requires you make use of the game’s new mechanics. Players have gliders they can open in mid-air, allowing them to sail to distant areas. They control quite well, allowing you to manage your flight endurance and orient yourself rather easily, even with only the basic skill. I rarely had any trouble landing on even the smallest platforms, and gliding became so second nature to me that I would forget that it isn’t available in the old-world maps (resulting in some hilarious deaths).

guidewars2insert6Many of the new features are tied to the new levelling system—the ‘Mastery’ mechanic. Characters who reach level 80 gain experience towards several new skills, unlocked by mastery points gained from certain achievements and from locating mastery markers around the map. These unlock various map features that allow you to further explore, such as mushrooms that allow you to bounce up to higher locations, or the languages of the local frog-like Itzel and other races. These are account-based, rather than for original characters—unlocking a skill allows future characters to benefit rather than having to grind out XP to level up basic gliding. Many areas are hidden behind streams of ley-lines or in areas only accessible with the benefit of these skills (poison clouds, for example, block off much of the final area unless you have the Mastery that renders you immune). There are also ‘Central Tyria’ Masteries, changing core mechanics that can only be levelled by doing old content from the core game. These areas still hold up under continued play—I’ve been levelling up one of the new class, the Revenant, and I’ve not been bored of the old areas quite yet.

The elite specs change how the original classes play, and seem to be universally powerful, boosting their capacities in the process and adding a new weapon and set of skills. The Reaper, the necromancer specialization, is a joy to play, wading into battles and crushing others with the new greatsword and shout skills (quick-cast powers that affect the area around you). They will require more skill points to unlock—requiring seeking out hero points in the new content, which grant them in groups of ten. You can still play without them, but they are so potent that it’s a high priority. There’s only one per class so far, but the potential exists for more, granting further specialization and unique permutations of the class.

guidewars2insert1The only entirely new class, the Revenant, is a neat concept, though its mechanics can be suspect. Possessed by the spirits of legendary heroes, they only possess the bare minimum of utility and healing skills, which change drastically based on which ‘stance’ you assume. These come with commentary from the hero in question, ranging from violent boasts from the Legendary Demon or battle cries from the Legendary Assassin. While this is a neat mechanic, it’s inherently limiting when other classes can pick and choose each utility individually, especially since you can only have two stances equipped at a time to switch between in combat. Given the need to be able to break stuns or mitigate conditions in pitched battles, your chosen loadout can leave you greatly lacking if you don’t pick the proper stance—more so than with other classes. Revenants are fast-paced heroes, lacking in health but possessing many teleport-like skills, flipping around the battlefield to tear into opponents. It’s fun to play, though it could stand to benefit from many more stances—there is no shortage of heroes in the lore to allow, and it would help mitigate the limited utility due to the core mechanic.

As of my current playing, there are still some noticeable bugs, not to mention a few promised features we are still waiting for. Raids (massive high-difficulty dungeons) are still not implemented at the time of writing, so I can’t comment on them. The new World-vs-World desert map seems to be interesting, though I’ve had little time with it. The new Masteries allow the construction of ‘precursors’ (specific items originally found by chance and required for the highest tier of weapons), though the new ones haven’t quite been implemented yet. There’s a rather tedious bug where you do not receive credit for fully completing the new maps if you’ve completed the entire old world exploration, but this should be fixed—it only serves to slow down collecting of specialization-specific weapons.

guidewars2insert2Overall, there’s a lot of potential in these areas and a lot of ground to cover. Most people are still exploring the first two maps, with the latter two lacking the numbers or those with the skills to fully organize their grandiose events. When I went to Dragon Stand, the ultimate area, I never found enough people to activate the event chain, and I died when exploring due to clouds of poison that required a Mastery to ignore. We will definitely see more soon—there were two full seasons of new content before this release, and there’s a ton left to still explore. Even going back to the old content isn’t a pain, as it still holds up under scrutiny. The new areas, though, feel more alive—you’re part of a grand operation, with many smaller sub-objectives to complete in order to achieve victory.

I am largely happy with this. I will continue to keep an eye on this—MMORPGS are difficult to gauge early on, but ArenaNet has a good track record, and this remains, in my opinion, the strongest online game on the market.

It’s only around $50 for the expansion, and even if you don’t want that, just download the original game for free. The content may entice you to spend more.

 

WildStar (PC) Review

WildStar (PC) Review

Most players with previous experience in MMORPGs have felt cheated by a particular title at some point. Often, new MMOs make a strong showing in one facet of the gameplay or another, but it’s a delicate balancing act to offer something for everyone with a fresh MMO, while offering enough of any one thing to hold the interest of players who may be coming in from other games and bringing their high expectations with them. Far too many big name MMOs in recent memory have attempted to address minor flaws within established giants like World of Warcraft, while missing the larger picture and leaving their players feeling the dread of an empty or uninspired game world.

WildStar comes to the table with some of the most delightfully beautiful visuals I’ve ever seen in an MMO. The stylized art is simply stunning, and feels like it perfectly embodies the tones and themes that the story sets out for the player. Stylized graphics also have the critical benefit of aging well. The colour palette ranges from vibrant and inviting to expressively grim, all with a cartoonish veneer. It’s silly, without being childish, and stylish, without being boring. The environment also pulls off the clever trick of being its own mechanism for storytelling. As players progress through the story, the world shows signs of the events that are unfolding. Different zones in the game aren’t just about different flavour and a change of scenery, but instead reflect the passing of time and different stages of colonization on the world of Nexus.

While on the topic of clever tricks, WildStar‘s Path system, one that sees players choosing to specialize as a Scientist, Explorer, Settler or Soldier, gently nudges players in the direction of extra tidbits of information, affording juicy morsels of lore about the Nexus, the game’s world. Paths are the first of the game’s time sinks, but they offer practical benefits as well, ranging from unlockable group summons, to the creation of buff stations that benefit anyone who visits them. With the exception of the explorer, which is aimed at players who play form a completionist perspective of seeking out every possible nook and cranny, the paths can easily be levelled up through regular progression, never taking you too far from the action, but leading you just far enough to feel like whatever you stumble upon is a reward.

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As for WildStar‘s combat, it’s important to note that none of it is simple right-click auto-attacking. Every attack and every heal lays a “telegraph” on the ground, showing a zone that it will affect. These can be moved and manipulated by positioning your character during the casting, right up until the moment your ability connects. As a result, every bit of combat, even with the simplest of trash mobs, is both engaging and dangerous. Crucially, though, unlike other games that have attempted this, WildStar does so in an incredibly responsive, and beautifully intuitive fashion that actually works. In that regard, WildStar feels like the thinking man’s (or woman’s) MMO and it doesn’t take long for the system to become second nature in PvE content.

WildStar offers an excellent assortment of group content to its players, ranging from the traditional dungeons to the game’s interesting choose-your-own Adventures that bring some much needed replayability to help counter the tedium of traditional group content. Both Adventures and dungeons also reward bonus loot at the end to all participants based on a rating system that evaluates time taken, bonus objectives completed, and number of deaths incurred, which adds yet another layer of challenge and replayability. At the other end of the spectrum, the Raids in WildStar are made for 40 players, and while this does offer a truly end-game experience, easily grabbing the attention of classic WoW players, they are also among the games more restrictive content, as anyone who has tried organizing 40 players will no doubt tell you that it’s rarely easy. This falls in line with WildStar‘s overall more challenging appeal, though, as simply levelling from a fresh character to the cap of 50 is no easy task, often requiring players to more thoroughly explore the options available to their class in order to tackle the increasing difficulty as they rise in level. All of this means that even small feats in WildStar turn out to be deeply rewarding, which is yet another clever trick to WildStar‘s credit.

WildStar1

As for structured PvP, two battleground-style options are on offer. One is a single-flag capture the flag style setup with the ability to steal from the enemy’s base. The other is an advancing attack and defend style mode, with satellite control points to speed up capture of main bases.  Both are fresh takes on familiar game modes, and are frantic and chaotic at early levels when the telegraph system is still new, and varied and strategic at the higher levels as players start to master their class. The game also offers the PvP equivalent to Raids in what it calls “Warplots.” These are massive 40v40 undertakings in which teams build and customize their base using items both purchased or created through the in-game crafting systems , and lay siege to that of their enemy.

And now we come to what are perhaps the most important elements in any MMO; the customization and the time sinks. On both a micro and a macro level, WildStar is all about owning the experience. Even the vanilla user interface can be independently scaled, moved and even disabled as the user sees fit. The crafting in the game offers some very fresh methods of progressing as well, opting for a branching tech tree, rather than level-based unlocks that a player must grind. In addition, every item that a player creates has his or her personal touch imparted upon it, ranging from individual stat-point allocation on gear, to tweaking a cooking recipe with additional spices to discover new benefits from the resulting food. For the truly dedicated, though, the game’s Architect tradeskill will see players creating hundreds of different possible items for use in both the giant Warplots PvP mode, as well as Player Housing. This is where WildStar stands out from the pack, as the housing is both decorative and functional. Players can have hundreds of placed decorations at a time, in addition to larger functional sections called Plugs. Plugs a pre-fab kits that that have the added benefit of a teleport to other zones, and numerous challenge event locations that reward players with items, decorations, gear dye and more. There are even plugs that generate the game’s resource nodes. Some of these can be purchased, but most of them will be rewarded by the game’s other great time sink, the challenges. These range from mini kill-count feats, to gather-fests, to hilarious item-use events and typically only last a couple minutes. Once completed, a challenge presents the player with a series of rewards to choose from and assigns a weight to their chance of receiving their choice based on their performance.

WildStar Review

In a time when we see a decline in subscription-based games, and a rise in quality free-to-play titles, WildStar strikes a happy medium. An MMO is an incredibly expensive thing to maintain, and gating content in a F2P title is often regarded as an underhanded method of solving this issue. WildStar offers  a $15 monthly fee, but unlike most subscription-based titles, it also offers the option to purchase what it calls C.R.E.D.D.. The primary function of C.R.E.D.D. is two-fold, allowing players to trade in-game currency for play time, should they have an excess of platinum. Perhaps more importantly, though, it eliminates the viability of third-party gold farming, as any player looking to make some quick in-game money can purchase a C.R.E.D.D. directly from Carbine and sell it for platinum using the game’s market exchange. This allows players with an excess of time or resources to pay for the game by playing while, critically, keeping the money going back to the developers where it belongs and will hopefully keep WildStar up and running for a long time.

WildStar is a brilliantly satisfying experience. Everything about the game is designed to be rewarding, from the sound of the reward selection, to how enemies physically explode in a shower of loot when slain, or the fact that simply progressing through the game requires you to understand your class and do more than simply mash buttons to survive. Paired with the wonderfully rich story and environments, beautiful art style and colours, and outrageous sense of humour, WildStar feels from the very first moment like it was all designed to make you happy. While it’s had its teething problems as almost any game has, Carbine’s vigilance in squashing bugs, balancing classes,  wrangling exploits, banning hackers, and even adding two entirely new zones within its first month shows a dedication and a passion that gives me real hope for the game’s future. Like everything in life, it’s not perfect, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t close.

What are the Top Best 16 WildStar Addons?

What are the Top Best 16 WildStar Addons?

Addons are contagious, and we have the best ones to download for your next WildStar adventure. Whether you’re easing your game-playing quality of life, shoring up your list of guild leader demands, or trying to sneakily gain an advantage, they’re probably going to find their way into your WildStar existence. Whatever your aim, this list will provide the best addons you can download for a top-notch romp.

Need a little help getting these to work? The simplest method might be to install Curse’s client, then hit the “Install via Curse Client” button at the top right of each of the following links. If you’d prefer the manual touch, you can download each individually and extract them into their install location at “%appdata%/ncsoft/wildstar/addons/”. You may need to create and rename a new folder by hand.

If your addon button is greyed out or otherwise not working, you might have forgotten to unzip them or emptied the contents of the downloaded folder into the /addon/ directory. It should look like /addons/MyAwesomeAddon/Awesome.lua”.

GalaxyMeter

Probably the most common script used to track each player’s damage output over time. Be careful about trying to top the charts, though: it tracks player deaths too!

BijiPlates

Slices the default single-line health and shield gauge into two separate bars. If you’ve played any other game that involves energy shields, its capacity was probably presented Biji style.

FancyPants
MrFancyPantsEquipmentManager

Most of you are going to be hauling around more than one set of gear. MrFancyPants endeavors to make the swapping process far easier by allowing the creation of custom sets and automatically swapping everything involved when you’d like a change. This can be tied to changes of limited action sets as well!

 

JunkIt

Auto-sell buttons for useless bits and baubles are becoming commonplace. Junkit brings WildStar into line with other modern role-playing games and lets you set custom quality thresholds for easily selling non-junk too.

AMPFinder

AMPs can be a pain to track down. New players may not even have a clue. This addon will point the way to nearby salesmen who might peddle in the buggers, elucidate how to unlock others, and shout useful comments like “you’ve already got this AMP, dummy” at you. In so many words.

Heal Buddy
Heal Buddy

Making life easier for the men and women keeping us on our feet, Heal Buddy points healers toward our torn and bleeding hides. Any nearby friend with a chip in their health bar will enjoy a nice, obvious indicator calling attention to them.

 

TapThat

Had enough Simon or would rather not mash s’more of that F key? TapThat will take care of those for you. It will not, however, break you out of crowd control effects. Be careful messing with combat advantages if you want to avoid developer wrath.

Ayth_Quest

If the entity you’re interested is within render distance, Ayth_Quest slaps a great big flashing neon sign on them. Or something similar. The user defines what they’d like the addon to pay attention to – for example, slaughter challenge targets.

Commodities
CommodityStats

Interested in playing the market? Staying on top of natural price fluctuations is an essential part of exploitation, and CommodityStats will poll and graph the numbers as they change.

 

AuraMastery

For when you’d like to know when those specific, important effects are present. Got an ability that can only be used after a critical hit? AuraMastery makes it obvious. Does this boss have a status that might render you properly squished if you miss it? AuraMastery makes it obvious.

EToolTip

Those MMOs are numbers games, don’tcha know. WildStar’s numbers are a bit odd, what with milestone bonuses, weird names, and different stats achieving the same thing. EtoolTip will pop whichever of these are relevant onto your equipment mouseover tooltips and crunches multiples of the same bonus together to make gear selection easy and understandable.


GroupRadar

 

GroupRadar

Are you and your buddies absently skittering about and splitting up when you ought to be playing together? You might be surprised how large an effect some simple arrows pointing out the distance between players might be. Alternatively, you could view this addon as keeping closer tabs on the children if they’re getting themselves into too much trouble.

BetterQuestLog

This one does away with the fancy shmancy tree-style quest menu and reverts it to something more familiar to massively multiplayer veterans.

 

ThreatMeter

Simple, basic metric of how desperately that big nasty your group is fighting wants to cave your face in. If you’d like, it’ll blow a whistle when a monster’s about to blow out your candle.


Grid

Grid

The leading way of turning your game into an Excel spreadsheet or, perhaps more accurately, displaying the state of your entire raid’s health in an orderly format. Healers will likely make the most use of Grid, but it’s a fine way to check the group at a glance for others as well.

PotatoUI

Replaces a bunch of default interface elements like your health bar with simplified versions. These can be dragged and resized like regular ol’ Windows windows. It appears that no actual tuberous crops are involved.