With my move complete(-ish, opening boxes in RL is much less fun then in-game), I’ve had some time to check back into the gaming scene. With the majority of my guild hooked on Wildstar and tons of people singing its praises on Twitter, I figured it was worth a shot. Thanks to a Guest Pass hookup from @vosskah, I’ve been playing extensively for the past week. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much here to convince me this game will survive long-term.
Annoying/weird animations, especially female
All I wanted was a cool Stalker (aka Rogue). I came away from an hour of character creation wondering exactly what the Carbine animators were going for, as every race had at least one animation that just looked bizarre, especially the stealth movement animations. As for the females…well, let’s say that every female character (excepting Aurin) has Sir Mix-a-Lot jiggle, which probably plays well with a younger demographic but to me just feels totally tasteless. There’s no way, as a happily married man, that I could play Wildstar with a female character and live.
A lot of people skip WoW’s quest text and go right for the killing of the ten whatsits, but there’s generally a very coherent storyline to be found for each zone. Humor is there in the occasional quest, but in general, things are played pretty straight.
Borderlands (and especially Borderlands 2) is the opposite. It goes for maximum zany/crazy, gleefully subverting plot elements at every turn. It works because you know nothing is serious, with makes the few elements that ARE played straight more impactful.
I bring up these two games because Wildstar can’t decide which approach it wants to go for. The Dominion are cartoonishly evil; hell, you’re (minor spoiler) pressing buttons to execute groups of people within the first five minutes. That’s almost preferable to the Exiles, though, who get the sterotypical and insufferable cowboy/environmental archetypes. I get that it’s not worth writing a good storyline when most people skip it, but I can hardly remember the zones I just played through, which is not a good sign. I’m sure lots of people will tell me “it gets better later,” but as it stands, I just can’t see myself identifying with any of the characters.
Unsupportable PvE endgame
A lot of people are calling it a World of Warcraft clone…and it is, but it’s a bit more complicated then that. The vision for WoW pivoted significantly after the Burning Crusade expansion to making the game more accessible to a wider audience, as anyone who remembers the frequent invocations of “bring the player, not the class” can attest. Wildstar looks to revert that change, as this 12-step(!) guide to attuning for the first raid shows.
While this gives you the opportunity to design more…unique…challenges, it also means that you’re significantly limiting your audience to the more hardcore players. This works for a game like EvE because of its sandbox nature, but I foresee Carbine having great difficulty pushing out PvE content updates at the speed demanded by said-hardcore players. THAT means subscription numbers falling off drastically, which means the client will eventually be free to drive subscription sales. Lock it in – I’m predicting at least levels 1-20 will be F2P within a year.
Now, Wildstar does have a lot going for it. The Path system, in where you pick one of four sub-classes (Explorer, Scientist, Settler, or Soldier) to give you bits of extra content in each zone, is clever and reasonably well done. Addons are well-supported out of the box. Challenges spice up questing a good bit, tossing in random jumping puzzles and timed-kill bonuses. The combat system itself is also very well done – being able to see and dodge enemy attacks remains fun.
Overall – the game is competent, but in today’s PC gaming environment where competent games are nearly given away, it needed to be more, and it doesn’t quite get there. If you’re playing with a good group, it’s fine…but then, if you’re playing with a good group, all of the major MMO’s are fine, so pick your flavor and have fun. :)