Sections

WildStar: could it be the next big MMO? – preview

Wednesday, 23rd April 2014 08:03 GMT By Dave Cook

WildStar developer Carbine lays out an attractive stall with its sci-fi Wild West mash-up, but can it take on the kings of the MMO genre? Dave Cook gets stuck into the beta to find out.

wildstar_gun

”What I realised early on is that WildStar takes several facets of MMO play and makes them more interesting. While you’re still clicking on enemies and hitting hotbar commands to dish out pain during combat, the move-set is chunky and satisfying.”

I’ve just strolled into a Dominion encampment swarming with robotic footsoldiers and explosive auto-turrets to help liberate the snowy Northern Wilds from the empire’s oppression.

Basic grunts fall screaming one by one as I cut through them with ease using my aqua-tinted blade, while mortar bombardments explode all around my bearded warrior. I fight my way up a hill towards the last of the hostile army, only to be met by a towering Megabot that stomps through the tree line unexpectedly.

We size each other up for a moment. It’s about 30 feet tall with balled up fists the size of Land Rovers, and I’m a rough six-foot something or other. No matter. I ready my blade and charge up the grassy peak before striking the first blow, triggering a preposterous battle of between flesh and steel. My solider is only level five, but I’m already taking on foes multiple times my own size, and it feels good.

Making things bigger, funnier, louder and more kick-ass is what WildStar is all about, and it’s a strategy that sets it apart from the other big MMO players out there today. I used to think long and hard about what it would take for a new online RPG to match or even surpass the success enjoyed by World of Warcraft, but then I realised that it’s probably an anomaly the likes of which we’ll never see again, so what teams like Carbine need to do is offer an alternative that fills gaps left by the competition.

Wildstar_robot

Bring it on tin-grin!

”WildStar is a funny, bright and cheerful game that seems to draw influence from several sources. The ‘Level Up’ sting is pure Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, along with a booming celebratory line from the announcer who talks utter nonsense.”

I wasn’t kidding either; you really do start fighting colossal enemies within WildStar’s opening two hours, and that sets the tone for the rest of the game. It’s got the same comedic vibe and gut-punching combat you’d expect from the Borderlands series, and I’d be foolish to overlook the similarities between both franchises.

They each take place in a fringe world swarming with prospectors looking to strike it rich, and there’s an unmistakably Wild West veneer coating their colourful sci-fi settings. Even the NPCs talk with over the top southern drawls and whip out snappy lines now and then.

Though similar to Gearbox’s shooter in tone, WildStar has plenty of neat features to call its own, and in something of a Battlestar Galactica twist, it sees several exiled races – Human, Aurin, Granrok and Mordesh – fleeing across the galaxy to escape the villainous Dominion. It’s worth noting that you can also play as a Dominion race – Cassian, Draken, Chua and Mechari – if you want a different perspective. The Exiles eventually arrive at a newly-discovered planet called Nexus, and the opening tutorial takes place on a vast starship as it comes under fire from enemy forces. It’s not long before the vessel crashes, triggering the core quest line. It’s pretty epic.

What I realised early on is that WildStar takes several facets of MMO play and makes them more interesting. While you’re still clicking on enemies and hitting hotbar commands to dish out pain during combat, the move-set is chunky and satisfying. My Soldier class human is capable of sticking his boot in and knocking down whole packs of foes with one kick, before slicing them up with a sword air combo. The inputs are the same as other MMOs, but the result looks and feels more satisfying.

Wildstar_tremor_ridge

Admittedly, it’s a great game to look at.

”The humour and weighty combat drives me on, the world is inviting and there’s never been a mandatory need to squad up, which is something I’m not fond of as a gamer who likes his RPG experiences to be personal and solo.”

Even traversal benefits from the simple inclusion of a double jump, which comes in handy when exploring the colourful Nexus terrain, while an early quest sees your avatar imbued with an anomalous material that enables them to jump about four times higher than normal. There’s some great displays of imagination here that break the monotony of simple tasks, such as fetching an item or killing so many of one enemy type. Those filler missions still exist here, but feel less redundant due to the range of mechanics and XP challenges at play.

One challenge saw me roaming the plains of Tremor Ridge, deactivating a series of landmines in the quickest time possible without taking damage, which was hardly ground-breaking but still a departure from bog-standard quests. There are varied challenges in each zone, which are bolstered further by class-specific ‘Path’ quests. During character creation you can set your avatar’s vocation, and in my case I went for the Solider Path due to its focus on combat. I like hitting things, basically.

So whenever I encountered a Soldier Path quest, I was typically asked to defend an area against multiple waves of increasingly aggressive foes, much like a Horde Mode mission. These gauntlets also feature modifiers, for example, in one instance I had to fight waves while defending friendly NPCs from being killed, and in another I had to outlast the clock, rather than simply defeat all of my attackers. Again, it’s these little differences that keep familiar MMO staples from feeling stale, and they’re worth doing to boost your Path level, which unlocks new rewards and challenges. It’s also separate from your character’s level, which adds another layer of progression into the mix.

Speaking of levels, I found that simply killing enemies didn’t yield that much experience compared to completing quests. I know that is usually the case in MMOs, but here the gap felt wider, and I suspect that’s a conscious decision to remove the boredom of grinding. Also, after hitting a certain level, weaker enemies will start ignoring you unless engaged, and that’s definitely a welcome decision that stops you being attacked by fodder when trying to get from point A to B.

Wildstar_ice_cave

Out the way, ugly.

Walking through Nexus is enjoyable in itself, as it really is a bright and well-realised world. Each of the player-races has flocked there to lay claim to Loftite, but each has its own reasons for doing so. The Mordesh is perhaps the most tragic species as it suffers from a degenerative disease called Contagion, which was brought on by disastrous experiments in alchemy. It is believed that Loftite holds the cure. What’s interesting here is that each of the exiled races have arrived at Nexus to flee the Dominion, but are now essentially fighting each other to claim its spoils. I’m curious to see how this develops as the plot thickens.

I’m perhaps looking at the Mordesh plight too deeply here, as WildStar is a funny, bright and cheerful game that seems to draw influence from several sources. The ‘Level Up’ sting (below) is pure Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, along with a booming celebratory line from the announcer, who talks utter nonsense about how much more ass you can kick and the likes. There’s also the deadpan rasp of your commander Deadeye Brightland, who has a ridiculously ’80s action flick name, and ludicrously deadpan dialogue that I just can’t take seriously. The tone is spot on, and helps keep things fun.

Wildstar_level_up

Fuck yeah!

There’s also Nexus itself, which began for me as a snowy wasteland kept hostile by storm generators. Once deactivated, the gale gave way to frosty plains and twinkling caves that sat before grasslands. Looking out over a cliff edge deeper into the continent of Alizar reveals grand vistas populated with hovering mountains that pierce the blue skies. It’s a colourful experience that falls in line with World of Warcraft’s palette, and the characters have an accentuated ‘Disney’ design about them, but it all helps WildStar stand out.

Regular readers will know I’m still relatively new to the MMO genre, so it’s possible that a seasoned player might think differently about Carbine’s debut, but right now it has me interested. The humour and weighty combat drives me on, the world is inviting and there’s never been a mandatory need to squad up, which is something I’m not fond of as a gamer who likes his RPG experiences to be personal and solo. Like Guild Wars 2, there are live missions that reward players for their participation should you wish to engage in some light co-op, so rest assured that you’re catered for there.

But can WildStar go on to become one of the big MMO titles of our time? The right ingredients are there certainly, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s received by the public come June.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this article, NC Soft sent Dave a beta key for WildStar.

Latest

18 Comments

  1. GrimRita

    I think Dave, to be brutally honest – if you are still new to MMOs, then a player may well be easily drawn in to Wildstar. I found the questing woeful – just way too many pointless fetch quests, a thrown together story and a place where nothing really stands out. I simply can’t bring myself to grind like this any more.

    Wildstar is more proof that the genre is stuck in a ‘Lets copy WoW’ rut and developers and publishers are all making the same mistake. ESO, SWTOR even a hint of Guild Wars 2 – they just don’t offer enough to drag people away from a game like WoW.

    Other annoying things stand out like the inability to sell all your gray items in one click, mob drops that have no relevance to your class and a sense that you aren’t contributing to the cause of your faction.

    10 years after WoW, MMOs are still being churned out like this and it is shameful. the game had so much potential and the humour is great but as a long term subscription base MMO? Not a chance. F2P by December.

    #1 5 months ago
  2. larasactua

    Hmm I dont read anything about what interests me in an MMO. What about crafting, housing, mounts, trading? What can you craft and how is the Auction House or Ingame Shops.

    #2 5 months ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @larasactua I haven’t got that far yet, but I’ll be revisiting the game closer to launch. I’m still new to the MMO circuit so I’m approaching it now from a newcomer’s stance. I’ll get into things like crafting, housing in due time.

    #3 5 months ago
  4. Neq

    Hey Dave,

    I just have two questions.

    1. How is game running on your PC? I consider it as one of the worst optimised MMO games that I have played in the recent years.
    2. Are you sure you can judge “the next big MMORPG” if you are new to the genre?

    #4 5 months ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @Neq I’m not saying I can judge if it’s going to be the next big MMO. I know I can’t. It just an open-ended question :)

    It runs fine on my laptop to be honest, but again I’m no expert. I’m not claiming to be one either.

    Any other questions, just ask :)

    #5 5 months ago
  6. Meatball

    @larasactua I’m slightly further in than Dave, so I can (at least partially) answer some of your questions.

    I like the crafting from what I have seen from it so far. You can make basic items by simply having the right materials and clicking a button, but many items have variants that you can make (think of a health potion that does instant healing and then its variant being a heal over time healing potion) that requires you to do a sort of minigame where you have to mix the right set of ingredients to figure out how to make it.
    Almost everything you make goes in a tech tree and making all the items in a certain part of the tech tree, unlocks further sections and expands the amount of things you can make. Only downside so far is that, like WoW, you can only have two professions (not counting “hobbies” like cooking) and I find this a bit limiting.

    I’ve only briefly looked at housing, but I know it’s not for me, because it seems ridiculously in-depth and I’d rather spend my time playing rathert han building an intricate house. You have a large plot of land divided into sections and you can build (mostly) helpful stuff depending on what section it is. There is a large range of options to tweak everything from colours to materials and looks and you can find decor and furniture all over the place for further customisation.

    I’ve only just hit the level where I can get my first mount, so I can’t comment on that yet.

    And what I’ve seen of trading, it’s basically the same as in WoW. I think there’s an auction house too, but I haven’t needed it yet, so I haven’t looked for it.

    Hope that helps :)

    #6 5 months ago
  7. GrimRita

    @Neq You can’t really say that considering its beta. I was connecting from the UK to a US server and suffered hardly any lag – a huge plus imo. Performance was great but of course it all depends if you are the type of player who has a crap PC, cranks everything up to max and then wonders why it doesnt perform well.

    #7 5 months ago
  8. BBaZ00k

    Great read, now you’ve tickled my curiosity. Wish I wasn’t late for the Beta Key giveaway..

    #8 5 months ago
  9. TheWulf

    Personally speaking, I didn’t like the grind. It was the sort of behavioural habit forming thing that immediately sets off alarm bells in my mind, telling me to stop playing. So I do. I tend to listen to my instincts, they’ve served me well. And thanks to those instincts, this has never happened to me.

    Not to mention that I don’t like how habit forming games can ruin lives, I’ve gone over this in the past so I won’t beat that drum. And really, I feel that speaking in defence of it is like supporting cigarettes as a healthy, nutritious treat. Which was something that happened, until the herd collectively became more intelligent about it. (And yet people still smoke, today. Unfortunate.)

    I’ve shown people how it’s ruined lives, killed people, and so on. I’ve even mentioned that it wrecked the life of a really good friend of mine who’s still incapable of pulling himself away from it, even though he knows with every fibre of his being that he really should. That also tells me that I’m right.

    So, yes.

    I don’t like the grind.

    I may give Everquest Next a go, but I honestly think that at this point I’m just completely done with MMOs. I prefer co-op games, these days, which is the sane way to play with other people without selling your soul. I quite fancy keeping mine, and not becoming an autonomous husk. So I’ve been sticking with those. Most recently, I’ve gone back to playing the Ratchet & Clank co-op games (Free for All/All-4-One, and Q-Force/Full Frontal Assault), which I’ve been having a blast with. LittleBigPlanet was nice, too.

    Dusting off the PS3 to revisit them was quite nice. The PS3 doesn’t have a lot of games I like, in fact, they number very few. And most of those I could get on the PC, anyway, which I prefer. As an open platform, of course, not because of any of those Master Race straw men, which, honestly have gotten a little long in the tooth and continue to be as utterly stupid as your average fundamentalist pundit talking about racism or sexual rights.

    I continue to begrudge holding software hostage to a platform and I miss the days when everything was multi-platform, but since I already had a PS3 and I’ve missed the PS2 Ratchet & Clank games so damned much, I figured it was worth a dust off. These days, I’m almost ashamed to say I own a console because of those silly ‘console wars’ that people fight. Herd thinkers tend to form tribes around brands, so unless I have a very good reason, I’m likely going to just avoid the next generation. Neither has made a particularly compelling argument for me hopping on board, anyway.

    Six-Axis was perhaps the most compelling argument the PS3 made, but it made it with Lair and Flower, both of which I enjoyed immensely. The Kinect never really did anything quite so clever with its hardware, so I was never tempted to go in that direction. And I’d longed to play Lair again because that was a game where you really could show off if you were good at it. You could just hand the controller over to someone else and watch their confusion. And then you could be nice and help them to understand the systems behind it!

    Dragons are horrible show offs, though, so it fits.

    But yes, I’ve dusted off the PS3 to add a little variety to my co-op library. A friend and I have been having fun slowly (at an hour or two a day) poking through co-op games, and there’s no pressures placed upon us to play more. No peer pressure through guilds or raids, no habits compelling us to play. We just pick it up and enjoy it because it’s fun.

    Honestly, with Wildstar’s aesthetics, if it had been a co-op game I would have bought it in a heartbeat. I love this game, visually, because it’s everything that WoW tried to be but failed at. It has cohesion, but more, it has a sense of artistic professionalism which WoW lacked. It’s a Dreamworks film compared to a low-budget, direct-to-VHS animation that no one knows about. It’s like comparing Nickelodeon’s worst to Disney’s best. Or perhaps comparing Cow & Chicken to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

    So the visuals of Wildstar are splendid, I won’t begrudge them that.

    And that’s it.

    Beyond that, it’s grind, and things which are completely inconsistent with the lore. And that irritates me. We have light sabers! Go out there and hit things with a hunk of metal. We have long-range teleporters! Now hop on this creature and take an incredibly slow and expensive taxi ride. We have automated defence systems that we can air drop in! But go it alone out there and die for the cause. We have endless mining operations and nano-replication! But our overwhelmingly expensive prices dictate that scarcity is still ever present. We have power armour! But you only get to use it for a few seconds.

    And so on. And so on. And so on. If you compare it with, say, Ratchet & Clank you can really see how much this stands out. R&C didn’t have MMO restrictions, so if they gave you power armour it was really power armour! And how! I still remember Mega-Clank and how groovy that was, every time it happened. So this is more just an MMO thing than anything, and I can’t suspend disbelief.

    It’s like having quilted toilet paper, then choosing to scrub your rear with a tree branch.

    #9 5 months ago
  10. TheWulf

    @1

    Heh. Nice to see people catching up with where I am. I’ve been saying that for years, that it’s more of an endless pyramid scheme to get people into situations where habits are formed and peer pressure is involved than being about actually making games. It has more in common with the gambling and cigarette industry than the games industry as a whole.

    And I have tried, oh I have tried, to understand what people see in it. All I see is cheap addictions. But I suppose that some people sit in front of one-armed bandits, some people go to the races, some people play the stock market, some people get involved in ill-conceived money schemes, and then some people play MMOs. I’m quite proud to say that I apply to none of the above!

    Though I did try. I tried for my friends. I tried playing WoW for a good friend of mine who I missed. What’d I end up doing? Playing the game? HA! Hahaha. No. I got sick of it quickly and its trickery just didn’t work on me. Instead, I just ended up making addons and things for people, because I’m an overly generous buttface who likes to help out with coding things. I realised though that that was no reason to be paying a subscription for. So I stopped. And I lost contact with… a very, very good friend.

    I miss him.

    To me, it’s like as if a chain-smoking friend had died from cancer. He’s completely lost to me, now, and might as well be as good as dead. He’s just disappeared into the ether and thrown his life away. But damn it, I miss him. I really, really miss him. And I’ll always have that seething hatred for WoW for taking him away from me.

    Because, sadly, only under 1 per cent of the human race has my self control when it comes to addictions. The rest all have their vices. And it always, always turns out bad for them.

    Always.

    Usually people die.

    And you know what? That stinks. So I can’t ever see it as being anything other than predatory and exploitative. And people are so brainwashed by it that they’ll defend that, just as a chain-smoker would defend their favourite cigarette company even when lying on their deathbed with cancer.

    And I will never understand why.

    Loyal to a friend? Yeah.

    Loyal to an ideal, a belief, or a cause? Yeah.

    Loyal to a family member? Yeah.

    Loyal to your partner? Yeah.

    Loyal to your work, even? I guess.

    Loyal to a brand, or a business? Fuck no.

    I guess at the end of the day it really is just brainwashing, and some of us are more easily brainwashed than others.

    I still miss him, though.

    #10 5 months ago
  11. Hcw87

    @9

    Every single game can be considered a grind. After all, you don’t get anything other than fun out of a game, do you? Which is kinda the point. If you play a ”grindy” MMO for 50 hours while having fun, it’s no different than playing a co-op game for 50 hours while having fun.

    We’ll all forget these experiences when we die anyway, so it’s ALL a huge waste of time. It’s what you choose to spend your time with that matters, not focusing so much unnecessary energy on what other people choose to do with their time.

    #11 5 months ago
  12. Hcw87

    ”Not to mention that I don’t like how habit forming games can ruin lives, I’ve gone over this in the past so I won’t beat that drum. ”

    - http://www.vg247.com/2014/04/23/wildstar-could-it-be-the-next-big-mmo/comment-page-1/#comment-596940

    ”Because, sadly, only under 1 per cent of the human race has my self control when it comes to addictions.”

    You preach self-control, but you seem to lack some yourself.

    #12 5 months ago
  13. silkvg247

    If I do play, it’ll be as a male avatar. The female models are frankly disturbing.

    #13 5 months ago
  14. Michael Ireland

    @TheWulf Cigarettes have actual physical substances in them causing your body to LITERALLY react negatively to their absence.

    Psychological addictions are a symptom, not the cause.

    Stop talking about addiction like you actually know what you’re talking about.

    #14 5 months ago
  15. memlanhik

    @larasactua, I’ve been in the wildstar beta for a while now (got a max lev cha :D) and ill do what i can to answer your questions. i see you’ve received a response already but some of the information is a little in accurate.

    firstly with regard to trade skills. there are 3 types of trade skills. gathering, hobbies and crafting skills

    gather speaks for its self, hobbies are trade skills that don’t take up one of your trade skill slots. they currently include farming(ill explain below) and cooking

    crafting is split into 2 types of experience. gear crafting is relatively simple. to craft a piece go heat you take the components and you just craft it. You are able to specify what stats you want on the gear and if you use higher quality materials you can increase the maximum stat capacity on gear. you can also attempt to overcharge gear to put even more stats on a gear piece but this has a chance to fail causing you to loose some of the materials

    the second type of crafting is the one mentioned in the other post. this is for lack of a better term a sort of end game for crafters. when crafting an item you can use additives to try and craft variants through a mini game. this mini game is also used to discover new recipes as well. every crafting profession also comes with an achievement tree. each achievement gives you new recipes and if you complete an entire their you get a crafting talent point. these talent points can be invested in a crafting specific talent tree that means you can specialise you character. the TL;DR version of this is if you invest the time into your crafting you can literally make better versions of items than crafter with the same profession and recipes

    what can you craft. well depends not eh profession. architects make house items and plugs as well as warplot items and plugs. and the upgrades for all those items.

    technologists make potions, flasks upgrades (haven’t actually played one so i don’t have first hand knowlage)

    theres a crafting profession for each armour type and a weapon crafting profession. don’t really know what to say here except take a look at http://wildstaronline.wikia.com/wiki/Tradeskills

    The auction house is split into 2 different vendors. the first is the commodities exchange where you buy consumables, crafting materials ext ect. the second is the action house where you trade gear. you can put out buy orders similar to rune scape if the item your after isn’t on the auction house. both auction houses have a tab system that lets you navigate you a certain class of items and they have search bars.

    housing is insane. i wrote the housing articles on http://wildstaronline.wikia.com/wiki/Housing but heres a summery of the sorts of things you can do. personal resource gathering nodes that respawn over time (including a guar den where you can grow crops through the farming hobby), personal housing challenges that reward housing items, renown currency and dyes. special dungeons called expeditions which are dungeons intended for 1-5 players of any level. they tend to focus more on puzzles than combat and have the same sort of short story as ship hand missions. personal raid portals that give special buffs. personal crafting stations/ bank/ AH. and you get a crap tonne of bonus exp. some of that exp comes from a 24h housing buff you can pick up from your home that gives bonus exp question, dungeon or pvp content. you pick. and the rest comes from outfitting your home. when you place items in the home some of them have an affix that might red something like. pride- small which means its a pride item and its giving you a small exp bonus. there are 5 buff types and they can all give small to large bonuses and stack with each other. this bonus exp is given to anyone who logs off in your house. you can also port to your house from anywhere in the game which is handy

    by in game shops i am assuming you don’t mean vendors but real money shops? wildstar docent have real money shops. but they do something similar to eve that vaguely related. and that is that you can buy game time as a consumable resource and sell it to other players

    oh and mounts. mounts are currently fully customisable. you can attach up to 4 add ons to each mount. there are a couple of different mount types, no flying mounts you will be pleased to hear. as for mount speed. each mount starts with base speed and as you upgrade your ridding skill all your mounts go up in speed. you can sprint on a mount like you can in game and if you use one on a road you get an added speed buff. i think my favourite mounts are the hover mounts because you can ride them over water and not get dismounted. there also really fun in 0 gravity

    theres one other system i want to mention because it sounds like something that you might be interested in. i have to put a warning here that this system isn’t finished and only part of it in the game at the moment. but basically theres an end game currency called elder gems which can be used to purchase certain consumables that can be sold on the ah. each player can only get a limited amount of these each week. some of the consumables include things like extra amp or skill points, note you can only use so many of these on 1 character. so if your someone who’s interested in crafting or making money, its worth noting these things exsist. if you need any more information just message me. i don’t normally log onto this site so i might be a bit slow in responding

    #15 5 months ago
  16. memlanhik

    @silkvg247 they have added in a bunch of new models, so it might be worth giving them another go. but i agree the male ones look a lot better

    #16 5 months ago
  17. NocturnalB

    One thing I’ve been really enjoying in terms of WildStar’s theme, is how much it reminds me of Bravestarr. Anyone remember that old cartoon?

    #17 5 months ago
  18. Warlord.greebo

    Dave,

    You comin off far too humble for this. Go roll out about 1000 hours of pvp, in any major title. Then come back.

    Dont take any lip off these amateur punks – and dont be an amateur punk yourself!:)

    All I want to know is whether the game is worth the time I put into it.

    Thats all we really want to know. So flush all those ideas of “wowkilling” etc down the toilet – they never get anyone anywhere.

    In the end it really is just games, till they make a ‘who has the biggest ass?’ an official sport in the olympics… we will have to remain satisfied that it is “just a game.”

    #18 4 months ago

Comments are now closed on this article.