WildStar (with Gameplay Preview)

There's plenty to do in the MMO Wildstar, but its technical aspect needs work.

By Daavpuke, Posted 22 Apr 2014

In 2014, the playing field for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games is getting heated as both Wildstar and its competition in The Elder Scrolls Online try to seduce the subscription gamer. Both have their own audience, but the former certainly is the more technical of the two. Combat is diverse and requires skill, while leveling opens up a large amount of possibilities in a huge world. Maybe it’s even going overboard a little, as there’s a lot to process at any time. There certainly is an entry barrier when it comes to playing this roleplaying game (RPG).

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For its appearance, Wildstar opts for a zany cartoon model with saturated color schemes. These rounded out aliens and humans walk around with caricature-like bodies, exaggerated movement and flashy effects. Bells and whistles roar as the Level Up sign shreds through the screen with power guitar in the background. A manly voice shouts: “Oh yeah.” As with the humor sprinkled in all its lore, this isn’t a game to take too seriously.

Locations build on the theme well with more curvy rock formations, brightly shining skies and tingly, reflective oceans. Moreover, a lot of these environments are littered with neat additions like small camps, treetops, fences, broken machines and so on. Technology and nature often mix in this extraterrestrial adventure.

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While Wildstar is a breezy universe to get caught up in, its activity also leads to tons to do. Plenty of people are standing ready to offer a quest or two and many more litter the area around them. Going off on a mission may even unlock a spontaneous challenge that can be done nearby, usually involving killing something. Depending on the chosen class, there may also be incoming calls to partake in that faction’s specific mission. For instance, explorers are tasked with getting the most out of a given map, going through every last inch of it.

Exploring opens up the worlds more, as several things can be climbed on, reaching other areas and just leaving behind combat for something else for a moment. Combat is the main goal here though. This is also determined by the player class, but its mechanism is usually the same. When approaching an enemy, a simply assault will load up an area of effect. Once filled up, the attack comes through and depending on just how accurately the enemy is standing in that area, the blow deals more or less damage. It’s the visual equivalent of shuffleboard designs, but with a someone ripping flesh with a set of Wolverine claws.

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Unlike other MMO’s, Wildstar doesn’t lock on to foes. Having to move the attack area manually is an integral part of opting for skillful combat, as the different effects would otherwise be moot. Still, in the high pace of battles, it can be hard to flail around and stay accurate. Moreover, a lot of enemy strikes have huge range, making it almost impossible to escape a lot of threats. Dodging can do that just for a second, but that also kills the area loading up.

It will be more important to learn how to use combat abilities properly to just dispatch enemies quickly. For instance, certain abilities can be used to fill a specific requisite, such as volatility. In turn, that can be used to perform even more powerful blasts. So, operating with certain attack patterns makes fights a lot more technical, but that’s with the addendum that they still need to hit true with the whole flailing aim design in mind.

This tricky pairing is particularly hard when diving underwater. While this offers a brand new way to perform moves in gorgeous underwater ballets, it doesn’t work as intended. On one end, the water’s resistance makes it even harder to move, while combat is exacerbated by still needing an area of effect but having it hidden almost all the time. It’s a damn shame too, since otherwise diving under would give players a chance to discover a whole new world, but now any mission below land feels like a chore.

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Experience gained from defeating creatures or completing objectives opens up an array of customization that will please the stat hunters. Skills can be freely purchased, just by using currency, making it easier to pick and choose between trees. Some abilities offer more support, others go for sheer attack power. Additionally, an AMP grid creates even more personality with nodes that can be switched for yet other skills entirely or even additional competitive focus for Player versus Player (PvP) fans. More levels go even deeper, with positions opening up to craft, mine, join warring guilds and so on. There is a ton of depth in Wildstar and that is not just a redeeming quality, but a reason to stick with it. It even has a separate section for managing houses, which can yield goods of their own or even help characters level up. Seriously, once the lid is popped on this baby, it’s downright impressive just how far down it goes.

And yet, this wanting to pack so much into the game is also its biggest problem right now, as this also gets reflected in the insanely crowded user interface. At any point in the game, half the screen can be blocked with notes, bars, gauges, tools and so on. That, paired with the high level of activity on the map, becomes nearly impossible to manage. Certainly in the beginning, when messages pop up to teach the game dynamics during fights, the MMO is pretty much just all boxes and text, with noise in the background. It’s not only frustrating, as a lot of vital things like enemies and incoming attacks can easily get blocked behind these recurring hindrances; it’s off-putting. Even when all of it is clicked away, half of these blockades will find their way back in a few seconds, making it a futile effort to clear up.

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As the build we received was terribly unstable in itself, we won’t go over the massive amount of other technical flaws in the Beta, but that’s definitely a point that should be addressed urgently as well.

Wildstar has a lot of cleaning up to do if it wants its skill-based combat design and superb amount of customization to shine through. It may already have the wacky world set up and its activity cranked up high, but its audience needs to have a clear path to all its amazing features, because they’re overwhelming enough to get into without being hindered.

We fumble around with Wildstar for a bit, if you’d like to see some gameplay commentary.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

WildStar

/100

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): NCSOFT
Developer(s): Carbine Studios
Genres: Online Role-Playing
Themes: MMORPG
Release Date: 2014-06-03

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