How to Gear Up at 50 (when you’re feeling asocial)

MMOs are usually at their best when you have good friends to hang out with. Some of my fondest gaming memories are of learning new dungeon and raid encounters with close groups of friends and teammates. But what if you’re still new to the game, or just prefer to keep to yourself for a while?

In WildStar, like most other MMOs, the very best gear is to be had within end-game group content. If you don’t want to raid, there are still a ton of activities you can do solo or with small groups of friends, and higher ilevel gear can help those activities go a lot more smoothly. Getting gear when you’re solo is a slow and steady process. Here’s some things you can do to gear up without stressing out about other people:


 

Spellslinger starter PvP gear.

Spellslinger starter PvP gear.

PvP: Ok, I know it seems weird to put this first considering if you don’t want to play with others then you probably REALLY don’t want to PvP, but hear me out. First and most importantly, the Season 2 PvP vendor in your faction’s spaceport carries entry level PvP gear that is ilevel 65 and can be purchased with gold. If you’re a fresh 50 this is an amazing way to get yourself started. The stats aren’t optimal for PvE but they darn sure will be better than the random leveling gear you may still be wearing, and way cheaper than buying from the auction house. If you’re brave enough to queue for PvP for a while you can also buy the ilevel 70 gear with prestige. Both the gold and the prestige sets look amazing, by the way, so that’s some more incentive to check them out!

The other really important thing you can buy with prestige is AMP and Ability Points. In fact, as a fresh 50 this is the fastest way to get those first few upgrades (other than the auction house) if you can stomach dying in PvP for a while. All of the other methods are gated behind reputations, questing, or weekly currency caps.


 

Quests in Northern Wastes

Quests in Northern Wastes

Questing: There are level 50 daily quests available in Star Comm Basin, Defile, Blighthaven, Northern Wastes, and Crimson Badlands. There’s also the R-12 event in Malgrave. This is not a glamorous way to get gear, but it can yield upgrades in several ways. Firstly, it gets you out in the world, killing things. Those things you kill often drop loot, and as a fresh 50 some of that loot might just be an upgrade. Secondly, all of the level 50 daily quest zones have associated reputations. Raising your rep with a given faction will unlock new items from their vendor, including gear and AMP and Ability Points. It can take a few weeks of questing to raise a reputation all the way to the maximum, so take a look at all the vendors and prioritize one or two to focus on at a time. Finally, all that questing will be earning you elder gems, and you can also pick up the elder gem weekly quest for even more. There’s no gear available from the elder gem vendor, but there are AMP and Ability Points. Once you’ve hit your weekly elder gem cap, you’ll also start earning extra cash from questing.


 

So many people engaged in poultricide

Another excuse to post one of my many Scorchwing pics.

World Bosses: Yes, this is another activity that technically requires other people, but it is usually fairly quick and painless. In fact with the way that world bosses currently work, you don’t even have to be in a group to get credit for the boss kill. It is preferable to group up though, since you’ll have a chance at more loot if your group is the one that tags the boss, and also you can get some healing if you need it during the fight. World bosses will reward you with a goody bag that can contain gear, decor, costumes, or even pets.


 

Ooooooh! Shiny new intro cinematics!

My favorite way to pass the time is sadly not the best way to gear up.

Expeditions: If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that these are one of my favorite activities in the game! You can queue for vet expeditions solo and you should be able to complete them even as a fresh 50, especially with a little bit of gear from one of the above sources. Expeditions reward renown which may buy you some upgrades, and the daily quest will give you a little extra renown plus some cash. Sadly with the changes to the difficulty and the ease of getting gear in other ways this method is better for getting cosmetic rewards and decor than for gearing up as a fresh 50.


 

Contract Board, Contract Rewards.

Contract Board, Contract Rewards.

Contracts: The contract board can make all of the above methods extra rewarding without any extra effort. Just make sure to load up on appropriate contracts for the day, whether you plan to do PvP or PvE activities. You can skip the dungeon and adventure ones, but the rest fall into the categories above. I try to base my daily questing on whatever contracts are available. Reaching each milestone will allow you to select a piece of either assault or support gear of ilevel 80. The casques that are available when you completely fill up your contract meter can reward ilevel 100 gear. That’s as high as raid gear!

Look for this symbol to trade in your promissory notes for reputation.

Look for this symbol to trade in your promissory notes for reputation.

An added bonus of doing contracts is they frequently reward Protostar Promissory Notes. These can be traded in to reputation exchange NPCs for any of the daily zone factions to help speed up your reputation gains and unlock those rewards even faster. This is especially helpful for the Malgrave faction, since it is very slow to get reputation from the R-12 event alone.


 

A sample of the raid-quality (ilvl 85+) gear available on the auction house

A sample of the raid-quality (ilvl 85+) gear available on the auction house

Money: So hopefully doing all the activities here, plus whatever else keeps you happy in game, has left you with a little extra plat. The last place you can get some great gear is the auction house. If you save your pennies you should be able to buy some really fancy stuff for yourself. I’ve purchased a couple pieces myself, including the bind-on-equip Datascape weapons. If you can afford it, and can stand being patient until you see a good deal, you can get great raid-quality gear without ever even getting attuned.


 

Now you’ve got a ton of ways to gear yourself up at your own pace, on your own terms. WildStar’s group content is awesome but dungeons and raids aren’t for everyone. But fancy gear is important no matter what kind of player you are!

 

*This content was originally posted at WildStar-Core. I’ve reposted it here for safekeeping since that site is no longer operating.

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New to Nexus 2: Combat, Abilities and You!

In part 2 of my quickstart guide to WildStar I want to talk more in-depth about combat, abilities, and AMPs.

Interrupts and Interrupt Armor

An enemy with 2 interrupt armor.

An enemy with 2 interrupt armor.

One of the core features of combat in WildStar is the interrupt system. By stopping an enemy’s cast, not only do you avoid whatever bad thing they were trying to do to you, but you also create a brief moment of opportunity during which they will take extra damage from your attacks. The game signals this by changing the color of their health bar, and showing a countdown overlay to indicate the duration of their vulnerability. Taking advantage of this while questing will help you kill big enemies faster, and give you practice with the system.

On the left, both interrupt armor have been destroyed but the enemy has not yet been interrupted. On the right, a third interrupt has been cast and the enemy is vulnerable.

On the left, both interrupt armor have been destroyed but the enemy has not yet been interrupted. On the right, a third interrupt has been cast and the enemy is vulnerable.

Dungeons and raids make interrupting a requirement, either because the boss abilities are devastating, or because you need the damage bonus to kill things before the enrage timer. Boss mobs and some strong or elite mobs in the world also add a twist to the interrupt mechanics: interrupt armor. Interrupt armor shows up as a shield with a number in it, to the right side of an enemy’s health bar. That is the number of interrupts that need to be applied before an actual interrupt can go through. For example, if an enemy has 2 interrupt armor that means you need a total of 3 interrupts to actually stop it from casting. The first 2 break the armor, and the last one  stops the cast. What this means in practice is that in group content, everyone usually brings at least one interrupt on their bars and will have to coordinate to break the interrupt armor.

The default nameplates are on the left. On the right I'm using the addon Optiplates, which can make tracking interrupt armor easier.

The default nameplates are on the left. On the right I’m using the addon Optiplates, which can make tracking interrupt armor easier.

A few more notes on interrupt armor. There’s a great addon called Interruptor that will show a small bar when an enemy is casting that indicates how many interrupt armor are remaining. It is very useful for group content when you’ll need to coordinate 3 or more interrupts. Also sometimes an enemy will have infinite interrupt armor. That means they can’t be interrupted at all. The number of interrupt armor can also change during a fight, and a good rule of thumb is if the number of interrupt armor suddenly gets a lot lower, it is probably a signal that you will need to interrupt something important soon!

Innate Abilities

My stalker's action bar, showing my expanded innate ability choices.

My stalker’s action bar, showing my expanded innate ability choices.

Each class has a special ability that is always available on their action bars (default “R”), their “innate” ability. These define the overall flavor and functionality of each class, and are important to maximizing your potential. When I first started my spellslinger, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with this ability and ignored it for several levels, all while struggling to kill things quickly enough. Don’t be like me! Read the tooltip of your innate ability and get in the habit of using it! Some general information for each class:

Spellslinger: Spell surge buffs the damage and healing of many of your abilities. It uses spell power to activate, and using surged abilities continues to deplete your spell power. Use it often, it is a big damage/healing boost!

Medic: Energize buffs shield healing. Using it replenishes your actuators and gives a situational bonus depending on your current health. Since the assault and support power buff is only given if you are above 30% health, be mindful of your health bar when you use this ability!

Stalker: You get your choice of 3 nano skins which give passive buffs. Activating any of them will activate your stealth mode. The lethal skin buffs your crit chance and damage done after exiting stealth. The evasive skin is your tanking skin, which gives defensive and threat buffs. The agile skin gives movement, dash, and lifesteal bonuses, and has a faster movement speed while stealthed.

Engineer: You get to choose between 2 combat modes for your innate. Provoke is your tank mode, which gives passive threat and defensive buffs. Activating it gives a defensive cooldown and a volatility boost. Eradicate mode is your damage mode. Activating it will give volatility regeneration and  do some extra aoe damage.

Warrior: You get your choice of 2 stances (select one by clicking the small arrow on top of your innate on the action bar). Juggernaut is your tank stance, which gives passive threat and defensive buffs. Activating it gives an additional defensive cooldown and threat boost. Onslaught is your dps stance. Activating it resets many of your cooldowns and increases your damage output.

Esper: You have a straightforward cooldown button. Spectral form gives you a defensive bonus (absorb shield  and interrupt armor) paired with boosted psi point generation.

The LAS

You might have heard people talking about this LAS thing, or seen an endgame class guide that mentioned it. But what is it? LAS stands for “Limited Action Set”, and it is shorthand to refer to your “build” (default “B” to open) or ability choices. WildStar limits you to 8 abilities at a time. Once you’ve learned more than that, you’ll have to start making choices about which ones to use and which to ignore. The game tries to give some guidance by splitting abilities into 3 categories, Assault (damage), Support (healing or tanking), and Utility (movement abilities, interrupts, buffs etc.).

My spellslinger's LAS. Mouseover the bars to see what bonuses you get for tier 4 and tier 8 for each ability.

My spellslinger’s LAS. Mouseover the bars to see what bonuses you get for tier 4 and tier 8 for each ability.

For questing, you are going to want to focus on mainly damaging abilities, with some utility sprinkled in. I like to keep at least one interrupt and one movement ability on my bars while out in the world. Depending on your play style you might want to throw a heal on your bars in addition to or instead of the movement ability.

You might have noticed that your abilities on your action bar are locked. You can assign them to different positions from the LAS menu. To remove an ability from your bar completely, click the small arrow just to the right of the ability’s icon on the list.

As you level, you gain ability  points that can be spent to increase the power of your abilities. This is what the rows next to each ability icon on the LAS menu are for. At low levels, it makes sense to assign points to the abilities you use the most or that give the biggest damage boost. Once you reach level 25 you can start spending extra ability points to unlock a special boost. These, indicated by the wider bars at tier 4 and tier 8, usually change the way the ability works in some way. Often they give some synergy with another ability, so be sure to read the tooltips so you get the most out of those bonuses!

AMPs

AMPs are WildStar’s answer to talent trees. Happily, the days where you needed to purchase or find individual AMP unlocks are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that means you have an awful lot of choices to think about while you’re still learning the game. AMPs are located on a secondary tab on the LAS menu (“B”).

My engineer's AMPs. You can see she's focused on assault abilities.

My engineer’s AMPs. You can see she’s focused on assault abilities, with some hybrid support.

Individual AMP choices are too class-specific to cover here, but there are some basic rules of thumb. The AMP wheel is divided into 6 parts. Three of them represent assault, support and utility, while the wedges in-betwen are, well, in-between (damage/support, damage/utility, support/utility). When you are starting out it is fairly safe to stick to the wedge that represents your main role to begin with. The utility wedge is where PvP-centric AMPs can be found.

You start adding AMP points from the innermost ring and work your way out, unlocking tiers 2 and 3 by spending points within that wedge. Tier 1 AMPs are just static boosts to specific stats, which cost 1 AMP point each. Tier 2 contains AMPs that start modifying your abilities or adding situational bonuses. These  cost 4 points each. Finally, tier 3 AMPs are either powerful boosts, or unlock abilities for your LAS. Abilities cost 2 points, the rest of the AMPs in tier 3 cost 6 points. Note that if you unlock an ability via AMPs you will need to confirm your AMP choices before you can add the ability to your action bar.

While you are leveling, you can choose AMPs that look interesting to you or give bonuses to abilities that you use frequently. Once you get close to level 50, I recommend checking the class forums and taking a look at some of the endgame builds that people post there. I like to have an idea of what those endgame builds look like even when I’m still low level. It lets me focus my build toward that goal, and get practice using the abilities I know I’ll be using at 50. Sometimes this can backfire though, since most of those builds are dependent on having lots of ability and AMP points to spend that you just don’t have access to before level 50.

Notice the cost of an amp reset. It keeps getting more pricy as you level. The tiny arrows circled in pink let you swap between action sets.

Notice the cost of an amp reset. It keeps getting more pricey as you level. The tiny arrows circled in pink let you swap between different saved action sets instead of buying a reset.

You can swap out abilities at any time, but to reset your AMPs once they are confirmed you will need to pay a fee that scales with your level. Luckily even at low levels you get multiple action sets, and at max level you can have up to 5. At the very least, you can keep one for PvE and one for PvP, or one for DPS and one for healing/tanking. The bottom of your LAS menu will show which set you are using, and there are small arrows to switch between available sets.

AMP and Ability Point Unlocks

You can have a total of 48 ability points and 57 AMP points, and you will not get your full amount of points simply by leveling to 50. As you play you may find items that give you additional AMP or ability points, use them! I know in particular some of these were added as path rewards. Keep an eye out for them, since they are the way you get points beyond the simple “one per level”. Once you are level 50 there are some additional ways to obtain these. AMP and ability points, as well as extra action sets can be bought from the elder gem vendor in your capital city. Points can also be earned by defeating veteran dungeons, participating in PvP, and by gaining reputation with the various end-game factions. Finally, these can sometimes randomly drop from level 50 enemies, and can be bought and sold on the commodities exchange. End-game builds assume you have all points unlocked, but this can take weeks or months of work. Don’t be ashamed to lay down some plat instead if you have it to spare and you want to speed up the process!

The Exile elder gem vendor in Spaceport Horizon, Thayd

The Exile elder gem vendor in Spaceport Horizon, Thayd

So you’re New to Nexus…

Many friends and acquaintances have been checking out WildStar now that it is free. Some are returning after a long break, others are here for the first time. All of them have questions, because WildStar is an established, complex MMO and not everything is presented clearly in-game. Many of the guides that I rely on are more focused on end-game, or are adapted from a time when Moxie was a stat (nostalgic sigh). So I figure I’ll take a stab at a super simple introduction here. The goal is adding guidance to supplement what the game tells you, rather than explaining everything from scratch. If I’ve left out something important or if you have more questions let me know in the comments and I’ll try to clear things up!

This installment will cover the basics you might want to know in your first play session, like: What is a path? How do telegraphs work? and How do I claim my login rewards?

Time for a brand new you!

Time for a brand new you!

Character Creation

Not all races can be every class. Make sure to look at each to see what your options are. Your choices are displayed under the race name. The tiny symbols can be confusing, so click on the different races if you want to see your options more clearly. Race doesn’t give any in-game advantages, just flavor. Every class has both a damage-dealing and support role. No class can both tank and heal. Check out the class descriptions if it is important that you have the option to play a specific support role.

If you can't tell if those tiny class symbols are lit or not you are not alone.

If you can’t tell if those tiny class symbols are lit or not you are not alone.

Paths are a secondary means of advancement, pick one that appeals to the kinds of things you enjoy in-game. None of their abilities will directly affect combat, but they can impact your general play experience. Scientist and settler have abilities that are particularly useful for group content (summons and repair bots), but all of the paths are fun and have cosmetic rewards. I prefer explorer myself!

Choose the one the seems the most fun for your playstyle.

Choose the one the seems the most fun for your playstyle.

If you experience a long login queue, consider transferring to or creating a character on Entity-2 or Jabbit-2. These new servers have short or no queue times and seem less laggy as well. Keep in mind you will still be able to communicate with your account-level friends on other servers, but will not be able to group with them. These servers will eventually be merged back with their originals and you’ll be able to keep your name and all your progress.

I recommend choosing the “Novice” option at character creation, even if you’re not new to MMOs. It will only add a few extra minutes of play time but should help you get acquainted with the controls and combat. You will also get to experience everything from the other two options by choosing this route.

Basic Gameplay

WildStar has a fast-paced action combat system that may take some adjustment if you’re coming from other MMOs. Most abilities are telegraphed rather than targeted. If you mouseover an ability on your action bar you can see an outline of its telegraph. “Melee” classes like stalker have more small, boxy telegraphs, while ranged classes like spellslinger have more long, narrow ones. Almost all abilities in WildStar can be used while moving, but jumping will usually interrupt your cast. The low level zones are a great place to practice aiming your telegraphs while also moving to avoid enemies’ red ones.

Check out my blue telegraph and the enemy's red one. I need to move!

Check out my blue telegraph and the enemy’s red one. I need to move out of the bad!

Some keybinds are slightly different from other MMOs. Your character screen is accessed by “P”, and inventory is “I”. The “C” key will answer calls from your datachron. You can re-bind these (and many others) from the keybinds menu if they feel unintuitive enough to bother you.

Your quest tracker is on the right side of the screen, and is set to prioritize quests close to you by default. It splits quests by category, and you can hide any category you like if you want to minimize clutter. I try to prioritize world and zone story quests because I enjoy the overall lore of the game! Clicking on the name of any quest on the tracker will display an arrow on the screen pointing you toward the nearest objective and displaying a distance. Right-clicking on a quest in your tracker will give you more options, like viewing the full quest text in your log, or hiding it from the tracker.

The “F” key will allow you to interact with most items in the world, while the “V” key will vacuum up your loot from the surrounding area. Some quests require you to use a special item or ability. For normal quests, the default key for this is “T”, while for path quests it is usually “G”. Some of this definitely got lost in the streamlined introduction zone, but when in doubt look at your quest tracker. Quests that use this will have a small box showing the ability and a tiny letter to tell you which key to press.

Challenge Begins!

Challenge Begins!

Challenges also appear in your quest tracker once you’ve discovered them. These are like optional, timed quests that are usually tied to a specific location. Starting one will give a “Challenge Begins!” voiceover and a meter at the top of your screen will track your progress. Completing a challenge at any rank will earn you some challenge points, going the extra mile for gold or silver will net you extra points. Successful completion will result in a green button at the top of your screen which displays how many points you earned. Clicking this, or opening the challenge tab on the quest log (default “L”) will show a bar with large rewards at the end and smaller rewards at intervals along the way. You can choose your rewards or see your options by clicking on any of the little treasure chests, or clicking the green arrow next to the gold chest to show an extra reward window. Make sure to check your challenge log often since the points will reset and you can start filling the bar again once you earn the highest rewards! Challenges can be repeated once every 30 minutes. Clicking the gear next to the challenge name on your quest tracker will let you restart one you’ve done before.

Possible rewards depend on what zone you do the challenge in.

Possible rewards depend on what zone you do the challenge in.

Movement

A great quality of life addition that came with F2P is perma-sprint. Out of combat you will always move at your fastest possible speed. In combat, pressing “SHIFT” will give you a shorter burst of speed, measured by a small vertical bar that will appear to the left of your character. The other important movement ability in combat is dash. Double tap any movement key (WASD or the arrow keys) to dash in that direction. You get 2 dash charges that slowly refill over a few seconds. You can use dash to quickly move out of a large enemy telegraph, and it will also let you recover more quickly from a knockdown.

Returning players may have some mounts or hoverboards waiting in their account inventory. You can start using these right away. If you don’t have these options you can buy provisional mount licenses, which allow you to summon a temporary mount to get around the early zones faster. As you level, there are vendors in the capital cities that will let you upgrade your ride speed or purchase new mounts. You can also purchase the fastest speed via the in-game shop. Speaking of which…

In-game Shop and Account Inventory

The shop is full of everything you’d expect from a F2P cash shop. There are costumes, mounts, dyes and pets galore. What you might not know is that every single item except for Madam Fay’s gambling tokens can be bought without real money. Omnibits are earned randomly through in-game activities and can be used as alternate store currency. There is a soft cap of 120 omnibits per week, after which their drop rate decreases from about 1 every 10 minutes or so to ~1 every hour or two of play time. These are those bright pink flashy loot drops you get once in a while. Omnibits are shared across your account and you can see your total at the top of the store interface.  For a detailed look at all your in-game currency you can click on the gear icon in the upper right of your inventory. Clicking on a currency here will display it on your main inventory screen right above your gold total.

This thing is loaded with fun cosmetic goodies.

This thing is loaded with fun cosmetic goodies.

When and if you make a purchase in the store, pay attention to whether it is applicable to your whole account or just a single character. You can get more bang for your buck if you stick to account-wide unlocks. Note that costumes often can only be claimed by one character, but once you add them to your holo-wardrobe all of your characters will have access!

Note how the Nexus Survival Kit is single-claim while the rest are multi-claim

Note how the Nexus Survival Kit is single-claim while the rest are multi-claim

Your account inventory can be reached either through a tiny button on the lower left portion of your screen, or through the “claim items” button at the top of the store menu. This is also where you claim your daily login rewards. Some in-game store purchases can be gifted to your friends. When you open your account inventory they will be displayed on the left side and you can choose to gift them or bind them to your account. Items on the right side are yours and can be claimed by any character. The small symbols to the right of the items tell you whether they can be claimed on all your characters (3-person icon) or only once (1-person icon). Make sure you’re on the right character before claiming any single-use items! Once you claim something from your account inventory, it will show up in your normal inventory and you can use it as you see fit!

More to come!

Phew there’s a lot to talk about! The next installment will look more closely at combat, and class abilities. Stay tuned!