Wildstar review: the MMORPG that converted me to the genre
That’s unsurprising because Wildstar shares a lot of DNA with WoW, as developer Carbine Studios was founded by a group of former Blizzard staff. A quick glance at Wildstar and the chunky cartoon style and bright colors look more than a little similar to its spiritual predecessors. But like I mentioned in my preview; Wildstar is not a cheap copy of WoW, it’s an evolution, taking what works and building on it.
Options instead of repetition
That’s not to say that Wildstar completely breaks new territory. Quests are often standard MMORPG fare: go here, collect these, or kill those, but the game adds a certain humor to take the edge off. While not every mission is going to thrill and enthrall you, most of them won’t bore you to tears either. And if the mission grind is getting you down, there are loads of other options to keep you occupied.
These options are one of Wildstar’s main strengths, because options keep the boredom fairy at bay. When creating your character you have the choice of eight different races, and they are much more interesting than your usual collection of Orcs and Elves. My personal favorites are the Mordesh, a race cursed with an affliction that has them slowly decomposing; most of them are kept alive by artificial means, making them interstellar zombies. And most importantly, they are the good guys.
On the side of the Dominion are the Chua, an insanely cute rodent people who are totally sociopathic and delight in destroying the lives of others. I think it’s this inversion of expectations that I enjoyed the most. Cute little demon mice and good-guy zombies? Sold!
And those are only two of the races; there’s also the stone-skinned, beer-swilling Granok, pixie-like Aurin, and robotic Mechari, all with their unique traits and lore. I’m still fighting over whether to make my Chua or my Mordesh my main!
As well as races, there are also six classes to choose from. Want to take action head on? Be a warrior. Want to attack from behind? Try a stalker. Prefer to help and heal? Then the medic is for you. There are also spellslingers, engineers, and espers for those who prefer to deal with things from a distance. There’s nothing here that really breaks the MMORPG mold; after all a spellslinger is just a mage by another name, but they are highly customisable so you really can fit your character to your taste. More on that later.
For me, the stand-out thing in Wildstar is the paths. Your path is your character’s in-game occupation, and there are four options to choose from: soldier, scientist, explorer, or settler.
Soldiers have combat-oriented missions such as assassinations, whereas explorers get rewards from scouting out the deepest, darkest corners of the map. Scientists get to use their portable robots to scan the landscape and study, and settlers construct, build, and maintain. Even within the same class, a sword-wielding scientist will have a very different experience from a sword-wielding settler because they have an entirely different group of quests to complete, rewards, and even unique skills and abilities to gain. In some situations a settler is an asset because he can build or repair essential machinery, but sometimes a scientist can open a door that a settler can’t. Having a friend of every path is as essential as having one of every class!
Personally I prefer to play as an explorer, because scouting out caves, hidden valleys and climbing new mountains is my kind of (in-game-only) thing, but I also have fond memories of my time settling. It’s surprisingly good fun to spend half an hour maintaining the flowers around your base of operations.
When you combine races, classes, paths, and the Exiles and Dominion factions, you suddenly realise just how much variety Wildstar has to offer. It’s truly staggering and you are unlikely to get bored anytime soon.
Speaking of classes, Wildstar’s character development is something to be envied. Wildstar gives players a lot of options when it comes to their characters and it’s very easy to fulfill two jobs at once. For example Spellslingers can be either healers or DPS, or they can be a combination of both. Warriors can DPS, tank, or if they’re feeling cocky, they can mix. It all depends on how you want to play, if you are PvE focused then focusing on a single-class might be the way to go. But if you’re a PvP player at heart, then versatility could save your skin. It’s also easy to swap between skills and create different character builds depending on the situation.
Wildstar makes this possible by replacing the traditional skill tree system with lists of abilities and having you buy the ones you want. There are three categories of lists: assault, support, utility, and there are also your path skills. The first level of any ability can be purchased with cash, meaning that you don’t need to waste precious upgrade points to get an ability you don’t need. Buying an ability essentially allows you to try it before committing irretrievable resources to it. It’s a nice idea and it works well.
As you level up you can improve this abilities as you feel fit, and you can upgrade your basic stats. Abilities aren’t connected to one another and you don’t need to have the preceeding ability in one section in order to buy the next. You just need the money, and to be of a high enough level. Essentially you can pick and choose from any skill available to your level and use them as you feel fit. Just make sure you don’t go upgrading the wrong ones!
Wildstar’s adventures are another highlight and also stick to the game’s love of variation. When in the adventure instance, you and your party make decisions regarding which actions to take. Will you defend this area, or attack that one, or will you sabotage supply lines? There are plenty of choices and what you do will affect the outcome of the adventure, even changing the final enemy. Again this all makes grinding a less painful experience. It’s nice that Wildstar has a pretty good queuing system and you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to actually jump into the action, even on a low population server.
This MMORPG has great combat mechanics. Wait, what?
Wildstar’s greatest success is its combat. Combat in MMORPGs has always been a killer for me, and is the main reason I just can’t stick with them. MMORPG combat usually reminds me of algebra. If you do the math right, you kill the enemy, but it all revolves around pressing numbers in the correct sequence to find X, X being the enemy’s health bar. This bores me to tears, and because I’m bored, I am not good at it.
Wildstar’s combat is much more dynamic. For starters, you can see the range of your enemies’ attacks telegraphed in red on the ground. This gives you the opportunity to dodge out of the way, or counter attack. The addition of telegraphing and dodging makes Wildstar’s combat truly thrilling. You and your party will be leaping away from heavy attacks, dashing for the safe green telegraph of your healer, and cursing when the enemy dodges your killing blow. It fixes the one problem I had with MMORPGs, and has converted me to the genre. That’s how good the combat is.
Welcome to Nexus
The final point I want to make is regarding the planet Nexus, the world Wildstar is set in. Nexus is a cool, well-designed place that must have tortured developers to create. There’s everything here, from mystical, peaceful valleys to hulking ruins and spaceships. Wildstar does a great job of fusing fantasy and sci-fi, so one minute you could be killing a space-unicorn (not the actual name) for its horn, and the next you could be testing out a new laser cannon on helpless critters. Nexus is the perfect setting for an MMORPG because the possibilities are endless.
Nexus is more than just a setting, it’s a home, and it’s a battleground. Both the Exiles and the Dominon claim Nexus as their own, and you stuck in the middle. The plot is very Avatar (thr James Cameron movie), with the evil Dominion relying on machines to destroy the tree-hugging Exiles, but just like Avatar, it works. Attach that to the insane amount of lore, legends, and Eldan (mysteriously missing aliens like Halo’s Forerunners or Mass Effect’s Protheans) artifacts, and you have a very engaging world. My favorite thing so far has been the talking alien robot tree, and yes, that’s awesome as it sounds.
What’s more Wildstar is huge, and each zone is massive so there’s a lot to see. On several times I have wasted time doing nothing more than climb a mountain, or swim up a river. Sometimes I’m rewarded with new gear or a mission, but most of the time I’m not. Yet I do it because I want to explore this amazing place that Carbine Studios has created, because it is amazing. Sometimes it’s worth climbing that mountain just for the view. How crazy is that?
However the thing that really makes or breaks an MMORPG is usually its community, and so far so good for Wildstar. I am an MMORPG noob so I often get confused about my role in battle, especially when playing a new build, and people have mostly been helpful. At one point, someone in my party actually whispered “you don’t know what you’re doing do you?” and immediately followed it up with a list of tips.
I have yet to be cussed out and I have had no problems joining guilds or getting parties together for bigger quests. That doesn’t mean to say that as the game progresses Wildstar’s servers won’t be flooded with overly-aggressive wankers, but so far so good.
The big and expensive downside
The biggest flaw with Wildstar is the price.. The game follows the Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warcraft model of requiring the game purchase and a subscription. Wildstar is $59.99 and requires an additional $15.99 per month subscription. It’s good, but that is a very high price tag. With a gun to my head, I would say that yes it is worth it, but only if you are looking for a game to play a lot. If you’re only planning on playing a few hours here and there, then you should probably wait for the inevitable price drop.
However, if you are a gamer extraordinaire, you can begin dealing in credd. Credd is a unique idea for Wildstar that allows players to trade game-time with one another. One credd is worth one month of game time and it can be bought directly from the Wildstar website for $19.99. The trick is that you can sell credd in-game for the price of your choosing. If the price is right, you can essentially convert real money into gold without paying a spurious gold-seller. With some smart maneuvering, you should be able to buy your next month of playtime with in-game currency.
The going price for credd right now is around 50 gold coins, which not a small amount of money, so you’re going to have to sink some serious time into the game if you want your next month to be “free.” Still, it’s a nice system and it cuts out third-party gold farmers, though judging by the number of gold-farming messages in my in-game inbox, they are still doing a roaring trade.
In case you hadn’t gathered from this, you should buy Wildstar. The only true obstacle to this MMORPG mecca is the money, but if you can afford it then you need to play Wildstar, because this game is going to be huge. And you don’t want to be left behind.