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Eurogamer Expo 2013: WildStar First Impressions

Posted Sat, Sep 28, 2013 by Lewis B

WildStar is an oddity. I played it before Skyrim and having followed it loosely, have always loved its humor, art direction and professions. My hands-on time with it (several hours across two zones) was positive, though not without nagging doubts about its long term prospects.

WildStar reminded me a great deal of Champions Online. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I suspect the reason for this is the combat log and the way numbers whiz off enemies when they take damage, as well as its system for attacking and the fact that almost all weapons and skills can be fired off without targeting. Combat is definitely fresh and you'll feel right at home if you've played Guild Wars 2.

That isn’t to say the combat is perfect, because it isn't quite 'there' yet. Feedback between you and enemies is poor with little in the way of satisfaction when landing successful attacks and the game provides far too many visual cues on the ground to let you know when an attack is about to land. I hope that there is an option to disable this when the game goes live.

Chua

As a Chua Spellslinger, the game plays, by and large, just like World of Warcraft – even down to the exclamation marks above quest givers heads. In many ways this isn't a good thing (though it isn’t terrible by any means) as it feels outdated to be having dull conversations with lifeless NPC's who, predictably, are handing out kill 10 rats quests. I'm not sure at this point in my MMOG career if I can face another game in the genre where I have to tread through quests of this nature, right up to the point of cap.

Considering the world WildStar is set in and the obvious influences the team behind it have taken on board, it seems strange that they've stuck to something so traditional and something which the majority of the genre's player base no longer supports. The decline in World of Warcraft's subscription numbers is evidence enough that the rot has set in with that approach to leveling and advancement. With such a glorious world it would have benefited so much more from something such as Everquest Next or Guild Wars 2's 'quest' system. Instead, I found myself laboring through a clumsy user interface that lacked finesse and one which was awash with bloated menus – all this harking back to a too greater influence from its predecessor.

As to whether I enjoyed WildStar more than The Elder Scrolls Online, I really don't think I did. It might have more polish, be much slicker and be full of glorious humor, but it's just a little devoid of life. For all the roughness of TESO, I want to play it again where as WildStar I would happily give a nod of approval for being a solid game but that's about it.

WildStar-Spells

I think part of the reason behind the fact that WildStar doesn't quite grab hold of the player is because of the above – it's pretty, it's funny, but it isn't new. The addition paths are welcome and while there wasn't enough time to experience these, I don't think that any of these additional perks will alter the game enough to provide longevity, although I hold out hope for its raid content.

On the flip side, there are still millions of people who play World of Warcraft so perhaps there really is a market out there for WildStar. Taking into account its commercial art direction, polish and fast paced combat (as well as player housing and business model) it does have a lot going for it. Unfortunately for me, I've played too many similar games beforehand to be overly excited about it, I will, however, continue to watch with interest and will be revisiting it in several months time.

If nothing else, it deserves to be played for five minutes just to see the Chua. They're absolutely hilarious.


World of Warcraft's numbers are down because it is ultra casual. Ostensibly, The Burning Crusade was the high point of WoW, gaining 7 million subs over it's duration (11.5M total).

WotLK gained another 1 million (12.5M total) and also had a lot of player turnover due to Naxx being re-released, we lost many high end raiders because they had already farmed Naxx classic and weren't about to do it again, as well as the switch to a more casual WoW with the introduction of the dungeon finder and the removal of crowd control as a pulling strategy, not just in dungeons but in raids.

Cataclysm and now MoP took that casual torch and ran with it and have seen that number plunge to 7 - 7.5 M now.

There is much more at hand as well, but this is the core of WoWs subscription loss.

We also need to recognize that this is a genre, the classic MMORPG genre the trinity, exclamation marks over quest givers heads, third person, etc. You can change some things, like say removing tab targeting combat, remove or change too much and you have a different game. Take Call of Duty. Remove guns and add quests and then add some spells and abilities and suddenly you have Skyrim.

Certainly an exaggeration but at some point you alienate a lot of core genre players. Just like Call of Duty or whatever FPS is ones favorite flavor, people love WoW and it's copies in various flavors.

And there is the rub. The paradox. We want WoW but we don't. We don't want dailies upon dailies and we do because it gets us loot. We don't know what we want.

The genre has become a T Ball game. Everyone gets to hit a home-run because the ball is just sitting there for the taking and everyone is a winner and we go out for pizza afterwards. Eventually most players learn that if they do nothing they still get pizza, so that is what they do. And pro, IE high end raiding, is something they see on YouTube, far beyond their reach, or so they think.

Instead of being set on the path to heroic raiding, most players are corralled into the T Ball field and put out to pasture before they even get their feet wet.

It may be too late for most to turn back from the "New WoW" formula, but many, many old timers I know personally are simply waiting for a "hardcore" 40 man raiding game.

So far, this is what Wildstar promises.

I'd like to add a couple things to the post here.

Carbine has already announced that all number based quests (kill 10 rats) are out. They are moving to a system much more like GW2 heart quests, where you fill a bar. This seems to alleviate one of the author's concerns.

As far as combat not feeling satisfying, the Gaffer had talked about how there's still another coat of polish and that the 'hit' animation isn't quite where it needs to be.

As far as the visual cues (i.e., shapes on the ground to see where attacks will land) aka the 'telegraph system' - I can see why this would be a concern at low levels, however it's been shown via their dungeon videos that they are actually used to create insane PvE encounters for players. And yes, they can be turned off.

All that being said, if someone is looking for a game that's the polar opposite of WoW, then this is the wrong game for them. For example, the author loved Dragon's Prophet. WildStar isn't so much a revolution in mmo's but more of adding to some of the traditional elements that many of us actually enjoy.

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