Wildstar hands-on: the branching paths and deadly meteors of Adventures mode

Pride of place on the Big MMO Grouping Checklist are dungeons while levelling, and raids for the end game. Wildstar will feature both, but today Carbine Studios have announced another reason for players to get together. Adventures are five-person simulations, designed to provide varied, repeatable scenarios that focus on more than just combat. Last week, I took part in a run through one of the first of these Adventures: the Dominion quest Riot In The Void. Throughout its prison yard riots and big-hitting bosses, I found an enjoyable alternative to the grouping template.

Adventures are set by the Caretaker, an AI living on Wildstar's planet Nexus. He's gone psychopathically senile in his old age, and so has created a series of simulations designed to test, challenge and kill the world's new player inhabitants. Rather than small custom dungeons, these scenarios take place in special instances that mirror zones from the open world. Riot In The Void, for instance, takes place in the Astrovoid prison. It was our job to put an end to the unrest, and take down the area's most dangerous convicts.

By using open-world areas as their setting, Adventures can provide a new perspective on areas that will have become familiar to players. Our first act upon entering The Caretaker's simulation is to disguise ourselves as prisoners, before questioning the now friendly rioters for information. It's a slow introduction, in which we work our way through a section of the zone, running between cover points to avoid sniper fire.

The setting also gives the developers space to respond to choices. Adventures are designed to be repeatable, and as such they'll branch out dramatically based on how the players respond at key moments. After making our way to the prison, we meet with the Warden, who gives us three potential problems to tackle. We can dispose of weapons scattered throughout the complex, secure potentially weaponised equipment at a nearby mine, or prevent the emergency release of cryogenically frozen Espers - the game's powerful psychic class.

We each vote on a preferred path, with the game tallying our choices and selecting a winner: the mines. As we make our way to the new objective, we're rushed by groups of prisoners - the riot ensuring a constantly spawning flow of rioters, which, if not dealt with quickly, could easily overrun us. The combat can quickly become frantic, with even these early enemies offering a challenge that can overwhelm unprepared groups.

Throughout the Adventure, we encounter special items to buff party members or nerf enemies. One example is a series of tool racks, which are placed around the prison and provide our group with a damage bonus. Once in the mines, the equipment is secured with its own mini-game - a Simon Says style memory test to re-enable a force-field around the giant chests. That done, we're presented with the next section, and another choice. In this way, the Adventures branch further - ensuring that, while repeat runs might have the same areas and similar enemies, the objectives you follow and specific situations are able to offer something new.

Over the course of our hour-long session, there was a smooth escalation of difficulty. Where once we were tackling standard groups of mobs, later we're fighting tougher prisoners while dodging the AOE threat of falling meteors. The apocalyptic path of the simulated set-up nicely compliments the game's movement-heavy, positional combat system. Even playing as the team's medic, I'm forced to constantly dodge around the crowd, finding the most effective placement for my charged healing beam.

That escalation also extends to the boss encounters, which keep up the pressure through additional enemies, charged attacks, and the need to coordinate interrupts. As well as being repeatable, Adventures feel like a significant undertaking - with different paths potentially favouring certain group compositions and preferences.

While Riot In The Void is the first Adventure that Dominion players will encounter, unlocked at level 15, later missions promise an even more diverse set of scenarios. The Seige of Tempest Refuge, for example, takes the structure of a tower defence mode. In it, players secure the titular temple from waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Later still, The Malgrave Trail is Carbine's spin on Oregon Trail, presenting a huge barren continent for you to shepherd some pack beasts across. Each Adventure has its own additional Veteran mode, ensuring that they'll remain a viable alternative for end-game get togethers.

For more on Wildstar's Adventures, check out Carbine Studios' new DevSpeak video.

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.