E3 2014: WildStar Strain Update Preview – Elder Game Mutated

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To anyone I know it's no secret that I'm a bit addicted to WildStar right now. It's one of the best MMOs I've ever played, so when I found out I'd be checking out its first major content update at E3 2014 I couldn't have been more excited. An MMO's first content update is perhaps its most vital. In a way, the first major patch says goodbye to a game's adolescence, and signals adulthood where the game no longer suffers from show-stopping bugs, and has enough late-game content to keep hardcore gamers deeply invested.

While WildStar was one-of-a-kind at launch, delivering a healthy smörgåsbord of content, its first update fits nicely into the elder game experience. The update is called Strain, and it's just been officially unveiled by Carbine Studios.

Related: WildStar Review – The New MMO Standard

Strain adds a completely new zone to Nexus called Blighthaven. It's a massive zone designated for level 50 players that has been hit by a nasty virus causing an eruption of purple goo and yellow glowing egg sacks. Freakishly large insects populate just about everywhere but the two faction hubs—which are close together, so prepare for PvP. The entire area is heavily thematic, extending this 'mutated' purple and yellow color-scheme beyond the areas you traverse; you also earn items along your Blighthaven adventure that adhere to this vibe, making it clear which players have been clearing content in the new patch. New Strain-themed gear, a hoverboard, housing items, costumes, emote, and more are rewards only found in this new zone. These new items are definitely going to be crowd-favorites with their stylish looks, so prepare to spend your Summer evenings in Blighthaven.

WildStar Strain Video

Not everything in Blighthaven is covered in slime and nasty creatures, though. There are some pristine areas that glow furiously with gold, and there's even some magma flowing around. This zone wasn't always a place infested with abominations. What happened to Blighthaven and why it isn't called something much prettier is ready for lore aficionados to uncover as there's a healthy dose of story that awaits. For those who just want to kill, the monsters that inhabit the area have unique telegraphs that present new challenges, so there's an authentic experience to be found.

Blighthaven is a well-balanced zone that has content for solo players and groups, while also existing as a go-to place for new level 50s looking for content to consume. I plan to dwell there while waiting for dungeon and PvP queues, and I have a feeling many others will do the same. Although you might expect it to have a new reputation grind and familiar quests, it's actually quite clever in its delivery.

One way Strain mixes things up is with Guardians of the Grove, which is a new outdoor event that has reserved a sizeable portion of Blighthaven's real estate. It's essentially a group-oriented tower defense game built into the open environment with no barriers of entry. Waves of enemies will spawn and it'll be up to you and those around you to defend the center of a circle-shaped structure from destruction. It's fun, frantic, and rewards you for participating. However, Carbine has been careful to design it so you don't feel it's necessary to grind it for hours. Instead, you'll be incentivized to explore each of Blighthaven's content pieces

If you're more of a group player, The Nursery is for you. After collecting Primal Elements around Blighthaven you'll be able to enter a dark chamber where a nasty beast awaits: Elyona the Mad. It's an intimidating boss that will test your ability to dodge telegraphs, and if you're able to defeat it you'll have a chance at acquiring the freshest items in WildStar. For your first kill or two you'll definitely want to run with people you know, or at least others who are willing to use VoIP. Elyona is no pushover.

WildStar Strain Screenshots

As impressed as I was with Blighthaven, there's actually a second zone included in Strain that'll command a similar amount of your attention. It's a transformed version of the Exile's Northern Wilds, which has now become a crash site known as Northern Wastes. It still has the snow you're familiar with, but there are some monumental changes that present an elder game opportunity for level 50 players.

Related: 4 Times As Many Players at Launch Than Open Beta

Carbine Studios have been working on post-launch content for more than six months, and already have more than 10 content packages in the pipeline planned to publish on a monthly cycle. For now, Strain prepares for its debut only a month after the game's launch, a truly impressive feat in the MMO market. It looks great with enough appetizing content across the spectrum to be something memorable for players of all kinds, hardcore or casual.

Strain is expected to debut on the week of June 30th. Between now and then new information will become available, including more details on the two new zones and additional items coming to WildStar. You can read more on WildStar's official site.