Basic Game Information and Story
WildStar is a Science Fiction/Fantasy/Western-ish MMORPG. Players may choose between two factions, either the Exiles (a collection of rebels and refugees) or the Dominion (the ruling Empire), each battling to take control of the Planet Nexus. Nexus was initially inhabited by an advanced race known as the Eldan. They have since disappeared leaving behind their knowledge and technology to be discovered by the planet’s new inhabitants. WildStar is the first title from developer Carbine Studios whose founders all worked on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft development team. It is being published by NCSOFT (Guild Wars, Aion).
Graphics and Audio
The graphics in WildStar are very stylized. The characters all have a comic book, cartoonish look. Each race is highly customizable allowing the player to feel like they can truly make the character somewhat unique. After character creation and the first cut screen, the world you step into is highly detailed. Every area I visited had a vibrant color palate and a very fluid environment in keeping with the visual style of the game. The graphics loaded a little slow at times, but caught up quickly and, with a few exceptions, didn’t hinder game play. Overall, I think once all of the tweaks are worked out for server load, the graphics will render without issue.
The voice-over work in WildStar is done very well. Each non-player character the player interacts with has their own set of phrases and the quest dialogue is both spoken and written. The game score flows with the action very well and provides a nice background environment, making it comfortable and even enjoyable to listen to while playing.
During character creation, there are four different races to choose from and are unique to each faction. There are six different classes (Warrior, Spellslinger, Esper, Engineer, Stalker, and Medic). In addition to class, there are also four different Paths to choose between. These paths help tailor quest content for the character and offer different storylines from the start of the game on. The Path options are Explorer, Soldier, Settler, and Scientist, and each opens up specific useful character abilities. The combination of the Faction, Class, and Path allow for a broad range of quest options tailored specifically to that build.
To aid in getting started, the area map offers quest clues. Clicking on the quest will generate an on-screen arrow pointing in the direction required to complete the task. Out of the box, the quest tracker lists percentage complete instead of specific numbers (i.e. 33% instead of 3/10).
Throughout the game, there are discoverable challenge quests. By completing a specific action, a challenge will appear on screen and will give the player a specific task to complete. These challenges are reminiscent of the world quests in many of the Lego games. The four options are General Challenge, Item Challenge, Combat Challenge, and Ability Challenge. After completion, the player rolls for one of three different loot options.
The mechanics of the game add in some nice movement features. There is a double-jump ability and a roll forward/left/right ability that everyone in the game is able to use immediately. In addition, there is a short term sprint ability that lasts a several seconds and recharges quickly. It is definitely a nice feature having these available for every class and not something that as a talent that requires skill points to obtain.
When hovering over an ability on the action bar, every attack or heal will have a directional indicator showing the area of affect and potential range. It is not tab-targeted based and requires the player to actually face the enemy during attack. Likewise, enemy special abilities display a grid for area of affect, giving the player the chance to dodge and quickly move out of the way of incoming attacks. The movement is heavily keyboard based, though basic navigation can be completed with the mouse. Abilities are organized on an action bar and can be activated with either mouse-click or hotkeys. It definitely feels as if it is more keyboard-based as almost every action, including looting and quest turn in, can be completed with a button press.
Once a character reaches level 10, the player can choose two active Tradeskills. There are three different gathering options (Miner, Relic Hunter, and Survivalist), and six different production options (Architect, Armorer, Outfitter, Tailor, Technologist, and Weaponsmith). There are also Cooking and Farming hobby skills and other skills such as Runecrafting at level 15 and Salvaging at level 8. The hobby and other skills do not count towards active tradeskills. The crafting engine has a bit of a learning curve. The interface for Armor and Weapons building is different from the interface for consumables and deployables. The player has the option to craft a simple item, requiring no extra input, or a customized item, where specific stats can be selected. On customized items, there is a chance of failure when crafting.
Other features and Comments
WildStar is a fun game. The level of personalization for each character is expansive and inclusive of many different body styles and looks. Everything about the game, from the trailers and cut scenes to the graphics and voice work screams “Let’s play and have fun!”. At no point does the game feel like it is taking itself too seriously. This is made very obvious every time a character reaches a new level due to the level up graphic and the “Oh Sh*t! You leveled up. Way to go, Cupcake” voice-over clip. The game has many elements that make the simple act of exploring and finding all of the hidden items an enjoyable experience. Because of the different paths, a player will have to create more than one character to experience all of the area content. WildStar is fast paced right from the start and immediately throws you into the world to start having fun.
The game has something that almost every type of gamer can enjoy and there is a lot to absorb and experience. The PVE content is extensive and gives players the ability to play entirely alone, or to group up and complete dungeons and raids, as well as “choose your own path” adventures. There are also a large amount of PVP options available, including dueling, battlegrounds, Arenas, and Warplots. Players also have the ability to buy a sky plot, a customizable house that can be built up and designed based on the players interests. It essentially becomes a player’s home base, akin to a strategy game’s player base, where resources can be gathered and stored.
The negative aspects of the game are mostly related to the open beta experience. The servers had a bit of lag and sometimes clicking on a quest giver or an item didn’t work initially. This could be due to server overload, but overall the game was pretty smooth. Also, the crafting engine seems very complex and will take some getting used to. Though, it appears as if it is meant to be challenging on purpose, making crafting not just a gather inputs, click button, receive output experience, but more of an actual skill that requires refinement. Another is the subscription based aspect in addition to the initial game cost. At initial release, the game will be $59.99 with the first 30 days of game play included. After that subscriptions start at $14.99 for one month. Carbine has put together an interesting business model to help those who have a lot of time to play but don’t have the extra cash for a monthly subscription. A player with extra gold will be able to purchase a C.R.E.D.D. subscription from another player on the Commodities Exchange (auction house). This will give them an additional 30 days of game play. It is hoped that this model will help prevent gold sellers from profiting off of the game and will help those with extra gold from having to put out monthly to continue to play.
WildStar’s development team has stated that they have additional content ready to be released into the world at the click of button. Their plan is to put the material out slowly, giving those who get to the end game additional content to work through. This will stave off end game boredom and help to keep more players active and interested. They also have created an extensive end game experience that players can advance through. It will allow level-capped players to experience new content not previously available until reaching veteran status.
Currently, WildStar seems like an embarrassment of riches. There are so many ways that the game can draw people in. Not having experienced the full game content though, it is hard to say how long all of this will hold the interest of players. I think it will be a very fun experience and is an excellent alternate choice to ESO and WoW. I give WildStar a 4 out of 5.