Bringing class into WildStar

Last week’s column was all about unpacking the Dominion, something that I’ll be doing more of over the course of this week, but not every reveal was focused around the more aristocratic side of WildStar. I suppose that the Stalker could be seen as aristocratic with the right concept, but the point is that Stalker is the fourth class revealed and the first new one we’ve heard about since the original three. Knowing the name alone gives a pretty clear picture of what the class is all about, but we’ve also had a chance to see a little of the stealthy claw machine in action.

Of course, at the moment we don’t know much beyond those basics. They’re sneaky, they’re dangerous in close combat, and they apparently play very well with the Draken philosophy. So let’s talk about the classes in general and how they relate to what we know of the game thus far, including the obvious question about whether or not this is all we get in terms of classes to play.

These don't seem like terribly practical weapons compared to guns.Weapon focuses

One noteworthy bit that sticks out for me is that we always see the same classes using the same weapons. Warriors always have a big two-handed sword and occasionally use what seems to be a buzzsaw shield. Spellslingers always have paired pistols. Stalkers always have claws. Espers always have… well, they don’t have much for weapons, but they’re certainly not rocking a gun along with those spectral weapons.

To be fair, WildStar would hardly be the first game in existence to have each class use a distinctive weapon rather than having a range of different weapons. But we also know that it’s possible to avoid stat stovepiping in large amounts, leading one to wonder whether weapons may even be more flexible than we know… or more cosmetic.

Consider the fact that none of the Espers we’ve seen seems to have an actual physical weapon, which is the sort of thing that would have come up by now. It’s always possible that your weapon is fundamentally a bit of visual flair rather than a piece of equipment, opening the option for classes that have no hard weapon but use abilities instead. It seems unlikely, but it’s been done before to great effect, and it would keep classes visually distinct without saddling anyone with useless items.

Or maybe these weapons just contribute to a more dynamic and iconic look at this time. It could go either way.

Big four or more

Anyone familiar with Dungeons & Dragons and points related will be familiar with the big four classes. You’ve got the class with heavy armor and lots of weapons, the class with lighter armor and lots of underhanded tricks, the class that wears robes and magics things in the face, and the class with both magic and some martial capability that’s tilted toward support rather than offense. Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Mage. They get around.

What we know about the makeup in WildStar right now supports the big four, more or less. Stalker is the stealthy and underhanded sort, Warriors are close cousins to Fighters since forever, Espers are obviously Mages with more spectral weaponry, and Spellslingers are Cleric-like in game terms if not lore terms. When you consider the fact that the game also offers you four different paths to explore, you can look at the field and start thinking that maybe these four are all the classes we’re getting at launch.

We know that you can build a given class in many different ways. You could easily have two Stalkers that play completely differently from one another. Between paths and known classes, there are 16 combinations right out of the gate, more if you consider a wide range of potential character customizations.

Likely? Again, no. I think we’ve got at least another four classes in the wings before we’ve seen everything. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

I've never understood why staves are always magical foci instead of, you know, something that really hurts when you hit someone with it.Distinctive nature

The one thing that seems weakest about the Stalker at this point is that it’s not the sort of class that makes me sit up and take notice. Yes, the claws are different, and yes, it’s nice that you can’t just sit forever in Stealth while the world moves on around you, but at the same time it’s a fairly standard implementation of the archetype. Sneak around, kill things, get behind them and stab them right in the spine. Or butt.

All that’s well and good, but I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve played enough rogues that stick to the tried-and-true rogue formula by this point in my life. I’d rather see the class as a whole left on the sidelines in favor of something more interesting and unique, like how Star Wars: The Old Republic offered players two rather unique takes on the basic archetype. Then again, we’ve seen only a little bit of what Stalkers have to offer.

Thus far, we’ve previewed only two out of the four classes that are really specific to WildStar. Warriors and Stalkers can easily fit into most games with only minor changes. I’m hoping that the next classes — assuming there are more to come — are a bit more tied to the setting.

Having said that, I think part of this is also going to come down to playstyle and the customization options available to each individual class. It’s possible that so far we’ve only seen the bare-bones options available. Giving each individual class a bit more unique options would help alleviate the vague sense of familiarity in playstyles if nothing else.

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