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Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Brilliance of Empyrea Part 2's Gear System


Empyrea Part 2 did something different with its gear that we haven't seen in past worlds. In the final part of this third-arc world, you've got options for obtaining some great gear drops. Wizard101 has set up a really cool system that's a little bit of an adaptation of some past ideas and allows wizards with different interests to still grab some great gear. Let's take a look!

Pirate101's Example

Pirate101 has always done a fantastic job with gear diversity. In Wizard101, you see people wearing generally the same few sets and even pets can be identical in places. In Pirate101, you don't really run into that. Virtually everyone is wearing something different, and has a slightly different pet. 

This is exactly the route you want your game to take, because it means a greater variety of play styles that make PvP more interesting and allow players to experiment with different strategies to work toward the same goal. This is the complete opposite of a battle like the Storm Titan (see my post on that HERE), where you benefit from a specific make-up of wizard schools with special gear for tanking and a set strategy on what to do. There's no room for creativity. 

Rare Items & Tough Bosses

There's a little bit of a myth that creating ultra-difficult bosses with rarer items will increase gear diversity because casual players won't be able to get some of the gear and items obtained by more invested, "hardcore" players. Besides being a poor strategy for any family game, you don't need tough fights to create the diversity in gear setups that you want. 

Pirate101 once again provides an example. There is almost no fight or dungeon in the game that cannot be soloed with the right strategy. That includes side content, challenge dungeons, final bosses - all of it. I have personally soloed just about everything with the exception of Moo Manchu's Tower (mainly due to the large time investment it would require). It's tough, undoubtedly, but doable. Pirate101 didn't need any insane fights for its incredible gear diversity. 

Wizard101's Issue

Wizard101 suffers from a few different problems. We'll move on past difficult fights, as I feel I've addressed those extensively.


Polar Opposites

Wizard101 has gear sets and different item drops that are all polar opposites. That is, there are fights with gear that's really good, and then your general boss and mob fights with gear that's really bad. I mean surprisingly terrible. I sometimes wonder why designers wasted the time to make gear that no one will ever consider using. In Pirate101, even an everyday boss with no special story or part in the main quest can drop an item that may be the best for your pirate, or may fit your play style better than other setups.

Wizard101 creates decent gear and then tends to create a major side dungeon that becomes the new standard for gear. I wrote quite a bit about this at level 90, when Waterworks gear was still big in most gear setups. Check out that article HERE.

Trouble in Empyrea

Empyrea isn't without its problems. It still has a number of filler gear pieces and items that no one would ever use. Adding some items that could compete as great end-game gear would make farming different bosses more interesting. But Empyrea, particularly Part 2, really hit the nail on the head with some of its end-game gear.

The Part 2 Difference

In Empyrea Part 2, Wizard101 corrects some of the issues we've seen with gear, primarily by increasing its availability. Wizards no longer need to camp out at ultra-difficult bosses for  gear set. They can now get that gear in other ways. Here's how.

How & Why It Works

First, there's a secondary tier of level 130+ gear that is dropped around the world. Check out a guide to that gear HERE. I spent a lot of time farming Admiral Dynt, but as I've done more side quests, I've found that a LOT of bosses are dropping this gear. This is where Wizard101's approach starts to match Pirate101's approach: Now, wizards can do their normal questing or fight a boss that's relatively easy, and still get some great gear available in Empyrea Part 2. This sort of strategy started with some of the better drops in Empyrea Part 1, but Wizard101 didn't stop there.

Second, the top tier of level 130+ gear is distributed across bosses. Vigilant Sargun drops hats and boots, Arachna Magna Magus drops athames and decks, The Rat and The Scorpion drop amulets and rings, and the Titan's Trident drops everything (the robes and wands are exclusive to this fight). This is not a new concept - this happened back in Dragonspyre, too, and it worked quite well. I'm glad to see it returning.


Third, there's a crafted alternative to the best gear. This is huge, and it's new. In Part 1, a crafted alternate was available, but with slightly different stats. In Part 2, you can craft gear with the exact same stats as the best dropped gear. This means that wizards who are more interested in crafting than battling can avoid repeating the Storm Titan battle, and instead craft their own gear.

Fourth, Wizard101 has set up a sort of second-chance system. Crafting the best gear in Empyrea part 2 isn't easy. (Check out that crafted here in a guide HERE.) You'll need a piece of the gear from the "secondary tier" (it can be any school as long as it's the same type, i.e. a robe makes a robe) and several Pure Aethyr reagents. Pure Aethyr is dropped by all of the Husk bosses that drop the best gear. This means that you can battle these bosses for your gear, but if you don't get your gear directly, you can save up your Pure Aethyr reagent drops and craft that piece instead. If you decide you want to avoid the Storm Titan, you can craft the Titan's pieces of the set.

Fifth, there's still an incentive to farm. Besides just the Pure Aethyr and the fact that getting the dropped gear saves you time and resources having to craft the alternative, the dropped gear looks really cool. It has a relation to the story as well. If you want the robe and wand appearance, you'll need to get them from the Titan's Trident. This provides a nice challenge and reward for people looking for a little more difficult content.

Crafters Unite!

One of the things players have been asking about for awhile now is more crafting. Mirage, to my recollection, had no gear crafting. Polaris didn't either. That means that the last world in the arc was the first one to finally have crafted gear available (plus a few other crafted items). Now, crafters not only have new items to craft, but they can also get some of the best gear drops in the world without tough fights. This is a great direction to take crafting in general, and it's exciting for players who have been looking for this sort of thing.

Integrating Past Ideas

Johnny, over at Wizards of the Spiral, shared his concept of a reward system HERE. This wasn't necessarily a new idea, but it's got some slick graphics to go along with it and specifically targets the exalted dungeons. People have been floating the idea of building up some form of currency from failed fights to redeem for drops for some time. The idea has never come to be in-game, but the new Pure Aethyr drops and crafted gear are the closest thing we've seen.

Remaining Problems

I can hardly speak highly enough of this system that Wizard101 has used for gear in Empyrea Part 2. It's a great system that solves a lot of problems, including some that are unrelated to gear. There are still a few things left to solve, though. We haven't figured everything out just yet. One of the big issues is that polar opposites in gear still exist. There are still some really terrible gear pieces, including from a vendor who sells a single gear piece. I can't quite wrap my head around why that might be. There's another issue we haven't yet talked about, though.


Gear Structure

Maybe ten or twenty levels back, Wizard101 changed the way it structured gear. Instead of balancing out different pieces, they gave a sort of specialty to each piece. Hats tend to be more aggressive. Robes tend to be very defensive. Boots tend to remain the most balanced, and that's why you see newer boots making their way into best gear sets, where other pieces are being forgotten, especially robes. There are a few issues with this.

First, the full sets often aren't as good as balanced sets. The idea is that if you have an aggressive hat, defensive robe, and balanced boots, you ought to be able to have a pretty well-rounded set. Except it's still not as good as the collective stats on other, more balanced pieces.

Second, it requires commitment to a full set. There's not a lot of flexibility. You can't get away with a defensive robe if you hat isn't overly offensive to compensate. So if you don't have the hat, you won't use the robe.

Third, this is, overall, another example of the issue where Wizard101 has made a few really good sets of gear that tend to trump everything else. It's tough for lesser sets to work because they've not paid close enough attention to making a variety of gear pieces competitive for being the best set.


Hopes for the Future

I think this system for gear in Empyrea Part 2 is really great and is a good sign that KingsIsle is looking at other ways to do gear. Here are a few things I would recommend going forward.

  1. Continue creating varied methods of obtaining gear. Crafting? Great. Drops? Great. Why not fishing for unique gear, too? Gardening? Why not? The more ways, the better. Also, as you introduce different pieces of gear via different side activities, people will be encouraged to try those side activities and may find that they like them.

  2. Don't waste time on gear no one uses. Filler gear and intermediate pieces that a very casual player can wear as they quest are fine. But don't bother to make gear like the robe sold by the Nimbus vendor. No one is buying that or using it, and it's not benefiting KingsIsle to spend time making with it, or players to spend time dealing with it.

  3. Unique boss items would help change up farming and increase gear diversity. This is something Pirate101 does where some power a boss has might be granted on a gear drop, or they just drop cool cosmetic items that match the boss. Make something that can compete as some of the best gear and it'll be a great start.

  4. "Ace" cards could help diversify gear. Offering special powers in conjunction with good stats (maybe not the best, but they have to be decent) can change gear setups. Mass Feint is a decent example. Dwogyn's Hood has pretty good stats and some players value that card. More drops with those type of cards would lead to greater gear diversity.

  5. Abandon the new gear structure. No one really uses any of the new robes. Unless you want Malistaire and Exalted Rattlebones to remain the standard of robes for another 40 levels like with Waterworks, we're going to have to get some more balanced stat structures... and they don't all need to be the same. We don't need this new format on every dropped robe, pack robe, crafted robe, and everything else. Same with other pieces.


What do you think of Empyrea Part 2's gear?

Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

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