Coming this year to gamers far and wide, it is the long awaited Wildstar.
We sat down over the Winter beta to have a good long look at Nexus and come to some conclusions. In fine Wildstar tradition, if you’ve watched the Dev-speaks, we have a disclaimer!
Disclaimer: NDA has only been lifted for the first fifteen levels and Wildstar is still in beta. So take everything with a pinch of salt.
I shall come clean from the start. You know… I didn’t care for Wildstar when I began. As time went on and I continued making characters, it eventually clicked for me. This entirely was down to my own perceptions and a little bit of trying to find my groove. Don’t take this to mean there’s anything wrong with it, far from it. My early level experience in Wildstar was, with the exception of one beta bug which we all must take in stride, very clean and enjoyable.
If you’ve spent any time following the game, and it’s hard to avoid the amount of information and videos they put out for us to devour, you’ll have been introduced to pretty much everything by now. Classes? They’ve covered those. Paths? Check another off the list. Customizable mounts? Not even something I would have considered having on the list, strike it through. They’ve been entirely forthcoming about everything.
Admittedly in a way it makes me slightly sad to consider the launch. Not that I don’t want the game, bring it right on! I just think I have a bit of a crush on Mr Dev-speak Stephen Frost. The Devs may always be listening but when we finally get to spread across the surface of Nexus will he still be talking to us?
Let’s talk about the nigh inevitable comparison. World of Warcraft.
Spend any time looking around and I would bet you’ll see more than just a few comments along the lines that Wildstar is a World of Warcraft clone. We have in the games industry this weird psychological disorder where World of Warcrafts popularity automatically renders it as some sort of antimatter to a certain type of player. Admittedly I’m one of them. I’d wear the badge with pride, I don’t play World of Warcraft. On the other hand, I don’t think Blizzard notices or cares from atop Mount Money.
So lets talk about clones and cheese.
One of these games is a cartoony looking massively multi player game with a vast amount of things to do, a large world to explore, a two faction system to create some friction and a diverse cast of races to play.
The other is whichever one you thought I was going to make the punch line in this comparison.
Yes on paper there are similarities. Is it that strange? Given the pedigree and origin of some of the Dev team it’s only fair that something that they worked on would colour the new game that they made. Throughout the lifetime of WoW we have seen patch notes announcing features and changes that were…. shall we say imported from other games. A WoW clone would be based on Azernotreallyaclone instead of Nexus. A WoW clone would be unabashed in stealing wholesale from Blizzard.
If anything you come across on Nexus reminds you of Azeroth instead of getting worked up, consider this. That’s a system that works. It’s a proven technology. Something that they could work on quickly and let the Dev team spend its time, effort and love on all of the other aspects of Wildstar.
Given how fond of the Dev-speaks I am, it’s time for a comparison. We were introduced to the Wildstar combat sandwich in one. MMOs are another type of sandwich and between the bread of levelling and the meat of quests, WoW is pure cheddar. Nothing wrong with it, I love cheddar myself.
Wildstar? Wildstar is Gouda and no I am not ashamed of that pun. Familiar to some, strange to other palates but ultimately tasty.
Onto the game!
Pick a side, pick a race. The races of Wildstar have wonderful characterization giving them each their own feel. Coupled with paired starting islands it lets Carbine Studios introduce the tone of the races to you after the broad strokes of the first tutorial area and set the stage for the rest of the game. Jumping into a race is easy with the information and customization options presented to you.
The Dominion, those magnificent bass…players. Starting with the refined Cassian? Gleefully psychotic Chua? Vicious Draken? Perhaps then the mysterious metallic Mekari? Whichever way you go you are quickly introduced to a clean and refined starship. There’s plenty of people bustling about, the early moments after you wake from hibernation are laid out in a quick to understand and easy to grasp manner. This is the Dominions world. Power, prestige, plush carpets. Take your character, your class and your path through the ship and down onto the surface.
The Exiles on the flip side. You have your rough and ready humans who couldn’t stick Dominion … er.. domination. Nature loving and adorable Aurin, boulders for brains and big boisterous Granok and the dark and trying not to be sinister Mordesh. This experience is the polar opposite of the Dominion starting despite functionally serving the same purpose.
Both starting ships are a tutorial. Both get me in touch with my Path leader, with combat, with basic operation. Tone and setting though are very important to Carbine. Start an Exile and your opening moments are in a fading and much patched together barely flying ship. The spirit and humour is there, the feel of the scrappy underdog to the Dominions pure bred pedigree.
It’s in this and the framing story that Wildstar really stood out for me.
If I wanted an action MMO with a limited power selection from a vast pool of options? Those exist. If I wanted a MMO that works on breaking away from a clearcut and inflexible holy trinity, there are those out there as well.
Though there’s nothing out there that is quite the same mix of blacker than an black hole type black comedy and clever sci fi saga. In your first hour playing Wildstar you will find out about the mysterious Project Nexus. You’ll find out that the Elden, the long lost race that fuel the story, have left tantalizing hints all over the world. You’ll also hit something so hard that it will explode into meaty chunks.
It actually leaves me stuck trying to decide which aspect of Wildstar I like more. The dark humour exhibited by Carbine Studios as you find that a forest is being burned to ashes because someone wanted honey for his afternoon tea? Or the sci fi hook that not only will drag me into finding out more about the story but that will guarantee that I have both an Explorer and Scientist path characters sitting at my log in. How can I not?
I went through a range of things when playing in the Winter beta. I tried the classes, I tried the paths, I tried not to immediately write it all off as merely a World of Warcraft clone when it is anything but. I realized that I was lost to Nexus when I was happy super jumping my little Mordesh Medic up a waterfall. Why was I doing that? I’ve no real idea to be honest. It was just fun. It didn’t need a reason. No carrot to dangle to get me to do it, no stick to ensure I don’t wander off and burn through other aspects of the game play.
For the first time in a long time I was just having pure fun. It was a game that was only as serious as I wanted to make it. Maybe some days I will stick to the sci fi space opera that unfolds and play it completely seriously. Maybe I will spend my time giggling at the comedic sociopathy on display. Maybe I’ll hop on my pimped out hoverboard, meet up with friends and rock a war plot.
Some people might find the game play, art style or comedy cheesy. They’re allowed. It is cheesy. With a slightly nutty flavour.
That is not the same as bad. If nothing else, I’ve been left with a taste for Wildstar and I can’t wait to feed that craving.