Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), General Manager
It's not terribly often that major coverage at E3 is offered and then sealed up under embargo to a later time. Talk about a tease walking around the gaming town of Santa Monica for a week with your lips zipped. Or playing WildStar in my free time (just kidding.. no gaming press has free time the week following E3) without being able to say a peep about the horrors lurking in the shadows of Nexus. But I assure you, the horrors are real. And in just thirteen days, the face of Nexus will never be the same.
If you've been playing WildStar in any seriousness since launch, you're going to have seen hints in the evolving story that a few Eldan weren't considered moral and just in their research attempts of the past. In fact their uncontrolled experimentation on biological tissue may be a driving cause of their sudden disappearance, as well as many of the tougher foes you have faced in your journeys.
Well with the Strain Megadrop, you will come one step closer to discovering the truth sealed deep under the crust of the planet in a new zone called Blighthaven. And as much as I wish I could describe this zone in reference to popular expansions in other titles for an easy reference, there's just nothing quite like it to my knowledge. I suppose you could point at Zerg terrain from Starcraft, but even that feels pretty tame in comparison to what we're dealing with here. Blighthaven is the closest thing to being inside the belly of the beast, as the entire environment feels like the inner workings of a horrific alien creature. From cliff faces that heave like exhaling lungs to giant living Globellum bubbles, one has to wonder just what Carbine was smoking when they decided to strike out so far from the MMORPG norm with their first post-launch content update.
While only 0.9% of the playerbase is actually far enough into the game to have experienced the full story, and let's be honest, few people that got to end game this fast have had time to experience the full story, I'll do my best to recap the plot in a way that's not too spoileriffic.
Along the way you have discovered that there's two branches of the Eldan that are quite at odds with each other. On the one hand you have Drusera, aka the blue girl from the launch trailer, who wants to rid the plagues of the Eldan mistakes. On the other hand you have The Entity, who would love nothing better than to see these mistakes take on a more intergalactic role in politics. Well Blighthaven is smack in the middle of The Entity's paradise where just about every creature you have faced on Nexus is now some sort of mutated super version of themselves, meaning you can expect ridiculously challenging telegraph attacks from standard mobs. You ain't a cupcake no more, cupcake, so it's time to put your big boy britches on and not let your guard down for an instant.
On top of this, the environmental challenges are going to keep you on your toes as well. And you can expect plenty of new challenges to put you right in the middle of the danger. I had a chance to witness two particularly awesome ones involving the large living gastrointestinal water bubbles. The first has you getting fired out of a cannon smack into the middle of one, forcing you to maneuver in mid-air to snag a series of rings, starting the challenge. Once you're inside you will have to find the most optimal way to navigate the equivalent of an above ground floating lake to acquire more rings without drowning or falling victim to the mutated sea-life swimming around within. But you will quickly come to realize that there's no way to swim fast enough to collect the number of rings required for the challenge. Just when all hope seems lost, the blob gets agitated and launches you into the air like a bad case of indigestion, and you're again free falling to claim as many rings as possible!
Another challenge related to the Globellum has you whizzing around the upper lengths of Blighthaven in what appeared to be the equivalent of a flying Visine machine. Players must dodge flying Phoenix birds and other hazards while dropping Clear Eyes into the top of various Globellum to keep their destructive indigestion to a minimum. With how absolutely massive the new zone is, I'm sure this is just the icing on the cake of what players can expect to discover in their exploration.
Going Underground... in the Underground
The Strain update will also progress the story through a particularly epic open world dungeon featuring numerous elemental themed boss rooms leading up to one of the first encounters with an actual living (if you can call this living) corrupted Eldan known as Elyona the Mad. If your vision of end-game dungeon crawling involved sexy alien women corrupted by an evil super-power inducing virus and a touch of megalomania, rest assured like-minded developers have your back at Carbine Studios.
As you might have guessed, the Caretaker has his hand involved in the matter as usual, aiding you (IN YOUR DESTRUCTION) as you delve between the twisted reality of Blighthaven and tranquil serene cyberspace more often then Neo. Players will be able to explore multiple paths to conquer elemental themed bosses in elemental themed rooms, including a tornado ally wind miniboss and even a fire boss that will keep your feet warm with a lava-based floor that's constantly in transition. While these minibosses aren't required to deal with before going after Elyona to acquire mad loot, they will hinder her overall power by removing some of her tricks temporarily after defeating each elemental. And if you want to bring her down with anything less than a fully geared Raid party, you will take the time to tour the full dungeon first.
While we only witnessed a few fleeting moments of her weakened state, I'll share what I can in the hopes it spares the lives of the first wave of pathfinders hoping to bring her down. As large as Elyona is, her battleground still offers tons of area to maneuver. And players will likely need to spread out to counter her shielding mechanic in which she summons adepts that protect her from damage until they can be brought down. These adepts are quite far apart from each other, and having separate groups assigned to take them down while the core tank and spank group keeps her distracted is probably the way to go about it. Your squishy backline is also going to need to stay on their toes as a barrage of minions packing tons of CC and some pretty nasty wide AoE strikes will relentlessly pound away at your damage dealers. While she's certainly not as tricky as some of the raid bosses I've witnessed at previous press events, Elyona certainly is setting a new standard for MMORPG world bosses in the genre.
Content for the Plebeians
You say you're not part of the 0.9% of players at end-game? Really? I had E3 to work. Hope you have a similarly awesome excuse! Well no worries, as the ripple effects of the Strain will be felt all across Nexus when the content update launches at the end of June. For starters, many regions are getting a facelift ranging from the slight to the significant, with the Northern Wilds getting a total name change to reflect the serious eruption of Strain to the surface.
Part of the new zone is also crafted for us slow leveling guys in the level 20 range, rather condescendingly titled The Nursery. Contrary to the zerg-like terrain infesting the planet, this zone is Drusera's last stand holy Protoss meets Empyrian styled refuge. Which of course is a giant Yggdrasil tree. But it's the content and not the location that should raise eyebrows because we're getting a new epic Plants vs Zombies public quest!
That's right, the Guardians of the Grove level 20 public quest will give lowbie players their first taste of The Entity's power by forcing players to band together to plant tower defense style plants in order to hold off a 360 degree assault of corrupted Strain creatures of all sizes and variety. By utilizing speed and damage boosts, players will be able to zoom around the tree collecting materials to plant assault trees to hold off the hordes, CC trees to slow down the super tanks, and if you're feeling particularly ballsy, loot trees to up the reward brackets should you succeed.
The tree is set up as a staircase with a route to the central tree on all four cardinal directions. There's two tiers of elevation leading up to the tree, and the designers made sure to be assholes by including plenty of enemy skills with knockback to try to send you tumbling down the steep edges to punish defenders via wasting their time rather than flat out killing them. And in signature WildStar status, should Dresura's tree become corrupted, you won't immediately lose.
Instead the entire tower defense situation will be turned on its head, with the monsters and tree stations fighting to keep you away while a time-limit ticks down. Should you be fast enough to succeed in tunneling to the tree's roots and cleansing it, your can push back the Strain to gain another shot at finishing the public quest on time. Should you fail, a massive AoE shockwave will strike almost every spot in the entire region, sending all would-be defenders flailing through the air as they watch the corrupted tree disappear over the horizon. I call it a hard reset.
While we don't have too much info on what the loot will be exactly, there's promise of plenty of freaky Strain themed items on the horizon. A new tier of armor and weapons will be available including a wild new /strain emote that Jeremy Gaffney promises was put into the game so veteran players can fly back to the starting zone and scare the bejebus out of noobs.
There will also be costumes and skin overlays for showcasing your end-game status by decking out your mount with eyeballs and entrails. And while I wasn't privy to what exactly is planned, there are housing themed Strain items on the way as well. Though I imagine they will only appeal to people that hope to keep visitors away, as I think I'd start to feel ill if even my private residence was overrun by this gunk.
Carbine will be fleshing out the ooze of the Strain over the next few weeks. Test servers will also be coming online shortly to offer the beta fanatics a chance to get their hands dirty a little early. Be sure to follow the official Strain subpage of WildStar to keep up with all the details as they become available. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to bleach my eyes and forget about the horrors of Blghthaven.
Enjoy your last few weeks of peace on Nexus my Dominion brothers. And please Exile players try to at least put up enough of a fight to distract these mutants. No one wants to spend half a year liberating a bunch of podunk hippie space colonies from the Strain.