Updated Fri, Dec 13, 2013 by Lewis B
Having been playing WildStar for a while now, Ten Ton Hammer were fortunate to be one of the limited press sites to play the game as freely as we wished. Luckily for me, not only could I play WildStar, but today I'm able to talk about it. If that wasn't good enough, I'll be covering the Beta in a diary from here on out so if you've any burning questions, let me know.
One of the main things I really care about during an early play of a games Beta is to establish how well the game performs. It's always a good benchmark to see how well your system will cope at launch and thankfully, I can honestly say the game runs exceptionally well. My current system is the following:
With the exception of the starting zones (notably the Dominion Ark Ship) where my frame rate dropped to around 40, the rest of my entire experience has been fixed at 60fps and never budged, even at maximum detail. That's a really great sign at this stage in the games development. Although the starting zone is a concern, I suspect much of the frame rate issues there are as a result of the sheer enormity of the area and the number of players flooding in.
Both starting locations are great at allowing you to learn the ropes, while involving you in early lore and storylines. Admittedly it's all relatively easy but I think the game needs that level of accessibility in order to capture peoples attention. Dependent on whether you choose Dominion or Exile also offers a different approach to your early levels. The Dominion area is relatively leisurely and involves you undertaking training against Holograms as an early recruit, whereas the Exiles is much more frantic in its pacing as you and Deadeye Brightland try to help survivors. It's an interesting choice to differentiate them both as Carbine have, but one which works. There is an element of repetition if you want to choose an alternative character, as you're forced to replay the same starting area again and again, but I can forgive that based on how polished and well presented it all is. On a speed run through, it only takes around 15 minutes from start to finish, so you're out in the game world in no time at all.
Talking of polish, have I mentioned how bloody polished WildStar is? With the exception of a few missing sounds or images here and there, the game is in such a good state I often forgot I was playing a Beta. Spells look fantastic, the UI and menus are all loaded with everything you could ever possibly need and the game just works. I haven't had a single crash since playing or experience any lag. I'm still not sure how, but Carbine have either got their fingers on the pulse or I've just been very bloody lucky.
With the exception of the Warrior, I've dabbled in all the classes that WildStar has to offer. I must admit, they all play absolutely fantastic. Originally I was convinced I'd be playing an Esper at launch because they not only look brilliant but offer a play-style I'm akin to. It turns out that the Spellslinger has caught all my attention based on the fact it's bloody amazing to play. Fast, agile and capable of dealing massive damage, it really has surprised me how much I love playing the class. Gate (where you teleport through enemies to stun them) followed by Wild Barrage (imagine machine-pistols) is an exceptional combo against huge groups of enemies. Surprisingly, I've actually taken Charged Shot off my bar as I found it too restrictive against the fast pace the game offers. I've had some success with Charged Shot and it's wonderful to turn enemies to chopped meat when you blast through them, but I like to keep my enemies on their toes.
Speaking of skills and classes, I really should take a moment to rant and rave about how fantastic the skill system is in WildStar. Without a doubt, it's the best I've ever seen in an MMOG and one which is already causing me massive headaches. I'm not sure where to even begin with my load-out having experimented heavily already, but the fact it's a limited action set and also free-form (unlike Guild Wars 2 that sets your skills based on the weapon you wield) is music to my ears. Deciding on which Assault, Support or Utility skills to use when there are 30 to choose from in total and only 10 spaces on your bar has caused many sleepless nights. I haven't even discussed AMP's which wormed their way into the game on yesterdays patch (though I'd like to discuss those in another diary entry.)
Supporting all of this is the combat system, which is hands-down the best there is on the market. Following the likes of Guild Wars 2 (comparisons here are inevitable) it improves upon it dramatically by its use of telegraphs, movement and combat “oomph!”. There's still some minor improvements to be made in the sound department for physical attacks and spells, but combat feels challenging and slick. There's no standing still here for any lengths of time, it's all about keeping moving and rounding up enemies when you can. My Spellslinger and Esper builds excelled here and I was more than capable of taking on 6 or 7 enemies at a time. Admittedly if I miss timed a dodge or clumsily aimed my attacks I'd be in a whole world of pain, but have your game face on and the satisfaction from defeating such numbers is immense.