Any good intentions I may have had about giving WildStar:Reloaded a fair shake seem to have fallen under a bus. So far all I've managed is a daily log-in to click through the reward screen. That much I have at least managed diligently because the instant rewards are rather good, particularly the ones you get each ten-day, which include pets, mounts and skies for your house.
For the first few days, as soon as I'd bagged the prize I made the hundred meter dash to my house so I could log out on my bed. Then I realized that every time I log back in I find myself standing outdoors by the teleporter so there didn't seem to be much point trying to get comfortable any more. I usually just log out where I'm standing meaning the entire visit takes less than a minute. Last night, though, for the first time I found myself sticking around for over an hour.
The reason? Shade's End. I've always been something of a sucker for MMORPG Holidays and while Halloween is by no means my favorite real-life festival (I doubt it would make the top twenty) I'm keenly aware that game developers take it very seriously and pull out all the stops.
On first impressions I'd say Shade's End is a fairly typical example of the subgenre. Its strongest suits by far are the visuals and the storylines. I am a total ingenue when it comes to Nexus lore so I can't make a meaningful judgment on whether pumpkins and candles make or break internal logic but I can say that they look fantastic. The artists have done a bang-up job decorating the place, and while the tale of Angel and Jack Shade may not win any prizes for originality, it's well-told and mildly poignant.
Of course, being a dirty Dommie, I only got to see Thayd, which is a badly-lit maze of ill-favored backstreets at the best of times. One real issue I do have with WildStar is just how dark and cluttered it is everywhere, not just in the city but in all the adventure zones too. I can't remember ever playing an MMO where the "open world" zones felt quite so claustrophobic. The art direction is very good but it could do with the editorial hand of restraint here and there. Less really can be more; I think that was firmly established long ago.
With that in mind it must have taken some brainstorming to come up with a way to pile on more pressure and make things feel even more shut-in. The new Quiet Downs instance certainly manages it. The instance starts in pitch darkness with a quasi-survival mini-game in which you have to navigate a dark forest using a very limited supply of torches.
The torches cast light no further than your arm can reach and run out in about fifteen seconds so you can imagine how much fun that is. Luckily the dense undergrowth is ridden with Shadelings who quickly make you One Of Them and Shadelings can see in the dark. Once I'd been converted I just hung around in Shadeling form until I could see where to go and headed in the right general direction. I'm not sure it's the intended method but it worked well enough.
The storyline, as I said, is unoriginal but enjoyable, at least as far as I was able to follow it. It does rely on some fighting and that proved to be a problem. The Expedition instance boosted my Level 19 Warrior to 50, which worked well enough until she needed to beat the Keyholder, the first Superior-rated mob. The scaling seemed off at that point and I wasn't able to solo it. By all accounts it's easy enough as a genuine fifty and/or in a duo or larger group so it hardly counts as a roadblock but as an only mildly intrigued casual visitor it was enough to send me back to Thayd to see what else was on offer.
Ye gods, but Thayd was busy! All the new content is housed in, or begins from, a small area and it was teeming with people. So much so that I had real trouble finding the questgivers among the crowds. Eventually I loaded up with what turned out to be a very typical smorgasbord of MMO holiday fare. The handy Reddit thread on the event sums the selection up very well: "The quests involve simple tasks like picking up stuff around town or interacting with citizens." Yep, that about covers it.
I knocked most of them off in a few minutes, which left me with enough of the event currency, Shade Silver, to buy a few not very interesting housing items. I resisted the temptation to spend what I'd got right away because the options available for a few silver more are much more appealing. Appealing enough, indeed, that it's odds on I'll be back to jump through a few more wisps and egg a few more hooligans over the next few days.
The one innovation that Carbine have brought to the tradition is an attempt at an actual implementation of trick-or-treating that somewhat resembles what goes on out of game on October 31st. Syp has a good account of how that works but the gist is you put out bowls of treats on your housing plot and other players come and take them. Not seen that done before. I hope DBG, Trion, Square and all the other developers with visitable player housing are paying attention.
All in all I thought it was a darn good effort. If WildStar was my focus game I'd certainly be grinding out those Shade Silvers. That full Jack Shade costume looks very tempting for one thing and I could do with a Gothic Gate - couldn't everyone? As it is Shade's Eve will have to fall in line behind Norrath's Nights of the Dead and Tyria's Shadow of the Mad King on my personal holiday calendar. There are things I want from those too and there are only so many fluff hours in the fluff day.