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Wildstar: ex-Blizzard developers take on their own legacy

Tuesday, 4th February 2014 11:41 GMT By Staff

Wildstar is a new MMO from NCSoft, developed by ex-Blizzard developers Carbine Studios. It’s sassy, it’s got some good ideas, but it also seems haunted by the spectre of its spiritual ancestor, says Joe Robinson.

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“It’s a unique game that feels like a breath of fresh air, while at the same time telling you that the past ten years of MMO design just didn’t happen.”

For the past decade, the MMO agenda has been firmly and irrefutably set by World of Warcraft. Sure, there have been more experimental MMOs, better designed MMOs, even prettier MMOs. But to date none has managed to capture the business and interest as Blizzard’s behemoth.

But now we have a new contender. Wildstar is a sci-fi/fantasy mash-up by Carbine Studios, a company formed in 2005 by former members of Blizzard Entertainment. Does this game have a shot at becoming a new MMO favourite? As always, the answer is never that simple.

Playing Wildstar is a lot like looking into the past. Perhaps it’s Carbine’s heritage, or perhaps they are just one those companies that decided to iterate and improve, instead of trying to reinvent Blizzard’s wheel. It’s a unique game that feels like a breath of fresh air, while at the same time telling you that the past ten years of MMO design just didn’t happen. It’s weird, but on the whole, it works.

Wildstar is set on the distant planet of Nexus – Home of the ancient and suspiciously absent Elden. Both of the games’ main factions, the Dominion and the Exiles, want to settle and claim Nexus for themselves and you, plucky adventurer/tyrant-wannabe, are going to be part of this glorious journey.

The game’s single biggest strength is definitely its atmosphere – it permeates everything from quest-design to visuals. The story itself is actually pretty forgettable – ten levels into the Exile game and I still wasn’t really sure why I was doing what I was doing – but as you can see from the trailers, that refreshing willingness to be just a little bit silly is everywhere. Well, nearly everywhere. I’ve enjoyed playing as the competing faction, The Dominion, the most so far. Being the evil autocratic empire that they are, they’re wonderfully and humorously portrayed in the opening levels as evil snobs who have very set, and very inaccurate, views on the world. The Exiles, while less endearing, are never-the-less portrayed as the plucky pioneers wanting to escape the oppressive yoke of the Dominion. It makes some of the less impressive parts more bearable.

Questing is the meat and potatoes of any MMO, and this is where things start to get a little complicated. Wildstar has its fair share of stock quests. Some are more inspired than others, and every now and again you’ll have a kill quest, or a fetch quest, that’s presented in a much better way then what is typical. But it’s inconsistent, and almost jarringly so.

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It’s not that the quest design is lazy – there are some rather funny, quirky tasks that you’re asked to do. There are also some well thought out multi-part quests, and overall, you’re gently tugged through the world at a respectable pace. Wildstar also makes decent use of micro-instancing, where the game world will change at key times depending on where the player is in a quest. Carbine has put some effort into it, but it’s almost like it has done so well in some areas, that when you come across something that isn’t as accomplished, it’s painfully obvious. And there are far too many ‘kill ten rats’ quests.

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6 Comments

  1. GrimRita

    I really am on the fence with this. The art style do nothing for me, the new ‘telegraphic’ combat does nothing for me apart from it being a stupid distraction. Yes, it can be turned off but if you’ve seen some of the beta videos on youtube, its a rainbow fest and nothing short of off putting.

    Turning them off, or changing the colours, will it leave you at a disadvantage? It doesn’t come as a shock that this game is littered with ‘fetch 10 rat droppings’ because that is what WoW was and still is based on.

    Interesting with WoW, hardly any new players get past the free trial or past lvl 10 due to sheer boredom
    . Like with any MMO offering 30 days of play, the grinders will push through until the 30-40s as this is where the action always starts in any MMO.

    It will be interesting to see what changes, if any are made to the game before launch and if it will offer enough to sway people from TESO, kill off SWTOR and give WoW a big kick in the balls.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. fearmonkey

    The wow art style was different back in 2004 but now it’s a bit annoying. I watched a video with the first 15 mins of gameplay and honestly this game looked “meh”, it didnt look to bring anything different to the table really, just another colorful MMO.

    I have played TESO and I really enjoyed it, enough to buy the imperial edition on the day it was available, and for someone who really was skeptical that they could make it fun, that says alot.
    Will TESO be successful, I have no idea. All I can say is that the quality of the game and it’s polish surprised me, and I hope people give it a chance.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. Ballisticon

    “And there are far too many ‘kill ten rats’ quests.”

    That sums this game up. 40 MAN RAIDS! Been there. TELEGRAPHS! I see those in most all MMOs. CRAFTING! … Maybe the combo chain attack stuff will be fun. It will start off gang-busters (like all new MMOs) and then when people see it is the same as everything else they play it will settle in. Of course, I will play it since I want to experience the raids but if I get bored or it is nothing better than the new WoW expansion or Rift 3.0 then why invest the time/money? Might be a good companion MMO to Rift and its new expansion for my time. Looks like the raids will be cool so no harm leveling a character, getting into a big guild and, at the least, doing tier 1. I just hope the g

    #3 6 months ago
  4. Ballisticon

    “And there are far too many ‘kill ten rats’ quests.”

    That sums this game up. 40 MAN RAIDS! Been there. TELEGRAPHS! I see those in most all MMOs. CRAFTING! … Maybe the combo chain attack stuff will be fun. It will start off gang-busters (like all new MMOs) and then when people see it is the same as everything else they play it will settle in.

    Of course, I will play it since I want to experience the raids but if I get bored or it is nothing better than the new WoW expansion or Rift 3.0 then why invest the time/money?

    Might be a good companion MMO to Rift and its new expansion for my time. Looks like the raids will be cool so no harm leveling a character, getting into a big guild and, at the least, doing tier 1. I just hope the graphics take advantage of my system.

    #4 6 months ago
  5. Se_7_eN

    Wow, so your basic complaints are having to reach level 10 to unlock housing, talent points and PVP… Basic unlock principles that have been in nearly all MMO’s across the board. BUT, you didn’t just stop there, you focused on those complaints, in an emphasis to make the game sound quite drab and dull.
    In no way did this article mention the World Bosses, 25-40 man raids, or 6 different dungeon types… Nor the insane amount of customization and loot in the game. What a great article! :-|

    #5 6 months ago
  6. Butcher8

    You only described the gathering professions, the actual crafting professions really do offer something new and satisfyingly complex, I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Also you want Carbine to open everything up to you in the first 10-15 levels? They have 50 lvls + end game to introduce all of the exciting features, they really don’t need to pander to impatient casuals like you.

    Maybe they could freshen up the basic questing a little bit though, I’ll give you that, a big maybe mind as there is a lot of variety there already.

    #6 6 months ago

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