There’s about 3 weeks to go before the head start of Wildstar and I am certainly looking forward to that date. I wasn’t lucky enough to get into the fall beta but I did get into the Winter one which was “feature complete” and obviously the pre-order weekends too. I played all the classes in the tutorial, which really means squat. I did get an Esper to the mid teens, to get an idea of mechanics but I skipped over ALL THE FLUFF. Which was really hard, since I really like fluff. I think I may be one of 3 people in ESO that read the books I found. This post is to describe the parts I’m really looking forward to, as well as a couple things that I’m not so souped up about.
To me, gaming is an escape from reality. I like comics, anime, hyper-realistic art, sci-fi… stuff I can’t find in the real every day world. Photorealism doesn’t work for me – maybe a little too uncanny valley? ESO’s world is amazing but I really think the characters are awful. I rather enjoy Wildstar’s depiction of everything. There’s size variation between objects, movement is fluid, attacks are unique, targets are distinct and varied. I can tell when I’ve changed zones or even areas. When I’m seeing the same wolf art at level 2 as I’m seeing at level 40, it irks me. You know how in Avatar, all the wildlife looks like it belongs? Everything has 6 legs, body types are similar but different enough… that’s consistent design. I think Wildstar really gets this right.
Let’s not kid ourselves, combat is the majority of content in all MMORPGs. The days of stand and fire are gone for me. Zerg runs to the Plane of Fear or just throwing more bodies at Sulfuron… we’ve move on. I’ve expounded on the fact that I really, really enjoy Neverwinter’s active combat system. You need to be moving often, near around half the time. Movement is easy too and obvious. There’s skill balance and synergy. The Limited Action Set (LAS) works for me too, so I don’t need to map 100 buttons and move my mouse all over the screen to find that one skill I use once a month. I like the theory crafting for selecting skills and not having 5 that do the exact same thing (looking at you ESO). Combat flows, each class is distinct and can fill their role without gimping themselves. It works for me.
Shiphand missions (solo dungeons), dungeons, housing, warplots, crafting, meta-gaming, raiding, paths, adventures (dungeons with random events), battlegrounds. I wanted to take the time to write them all down as each is distinct and likely will attract a different audience. I personally enjoy all of them, minus those that require 19-39 friends and take 4 hours to complete. I am disappointed that paths are more of a side quest than a true alternative to leveling but at least it’s more stuff to do.
Crafting won’t reach the bar that FF14 has set but I do like that it’s not an afterthought and is rather complex and involved. Also that gear “levels” are only 2 levels apart and are relevant. In most MMOs, you get crafting level ranges, where by level 20 you can make gear that fits a level 12, 16 and 20 player. Typically the gear is next to useless compared to world/quest drops and leveling is so fast that it takes you 30 minutes to skill up to craft for the next tier, negating the craft completely until max level. The system works as an evolution from the basic crafting macro, which is great.
Housing, from my limited experience (a couple hours) of tinkering is a massive money sink of fun. I really enjoyed managing my house in Rift and this aligns pretty closely to that. That housing drops are all over and there’s a crafting profession just for this, awesome. It makes me feel a part of the world.
Customization is also pretty nice. You get costume slots from the get-go and it’s a lot of fun to make some sets. Dyes are in-game too. The current implementation (as of last weekend) has you go back to the capital to manage it, which I am hoping due to massive negative feedback gets reversed. Seems weird to offer so much flexibility but only a single interface to manage it in.
I am a sucker for lore and I want to be a part of the world and understand what’s going on. Wildstar’s twitter approach to quests is novel in that everyone should have enough information to complete activities but the true lore hours have a bunch of other interfaces for more data. Datacrons, lore books, the exploration/scientist paths. There is a lot of love/attention being put into a consistent story. The 2 factions are really separate in ideals too, which I find is a tad more consistent than other games. That said, I do miss the voice acting in more recent games. Still, I have more faith that Wildstar can continue to deliver content at par quality in a ~2 month timeframe compared to the more iceberg pace of other games on the market.
The thing I’m worried about
End game stuff mostly. There seems to be a rather large focus on raiding and warplots. The latter one I don’t have such an issue with but raids are core focus at max level is a recipe for disaster. I’m sorry but the days of 40 man raids died 5 years ago. Your “average” player isn’t going to be able to put in more than 2 hours per night on average. WoW has clearly shown that people who raid are in a drastic minority. FF14 isn’t much different as the top quality content is 4 person dungeons. I will gladly run some dungeons (only 4 so far at max) and adventures (there are 6) at max level. I’d also love to run some shiphand missions (no clue how many).
3 weeks to go. Beta has been fun, things look promising. I’m not putting the game on a pedestal but I am hopeful for its long-term success. Many of the core concepts of the game appeal to me and I’m hoping they appeal to enough people to make the game a long-term prospect.