Posted Wed, Mar 12, 2014 by Lewis B
Now that WildStar has an official launch date, does the game offer enough to keep people entertained?
With WildStar officially launching on June 3rd this year, placing it firmly against The Elder Scrolls Online, Warlords of Draenor and the continued presence of Guild Wars 2, it’s going to be an exciting time for fans of the genre. Although it will undoubtedly be a tough year for Carbine and WildStar, does the game have what it takes to compete and most importantly, thrive?
During the course of any games Beta, players tend to get a feeling relatively early on as to whether the product they’re playing has legs. Its not really something that can be measured or quantified and is often simply a finger to the wind measurement by the individual. Of all the games I’ve played over the years, few have felt ready to launch when the official announcement was made. All too often other Beta testers and I would scratch our heads wondering as to the logic of releasing. Undoubtedly there has to come a time when development time officially ends and release development begins, however I suspect much of the issue surrounding such launch timings is publisher pressure and an inevitable need to claw back investment costs, with shareholders the ultimate task master.
I’d like to think I have a relatively good gut instinct throughout a games Beta and there have been few in recent years that have filled me with confidence: SWTOR, Aion, Warhammer Online, Age of Conan and Tera all spring to mind as good, but highly flawed products. That isn’t to say I didn’t go on to purchase and play them (I’m a glutton for the genre) but there was frustration in how good they could have been should they have had 6 to 12 more months of development time.
When I first played WildStar, I wasn’t particularly impressed. It felt relatively typical of what I’d already played in the genre and the environment in which I played it was very poor (no seat, no ability to change keybinds, no character customization and no sound). Fast forward several months and with significant time under my belt in the Beta, my opinion of WildStar has changed dramatically. As to why it’s changed, it primarily revolves around the level of polish presented coupled with several key mechanics that Carbine have implemented that is, potentially, more than sufficient to retain a player base.
Something I’ve always done prior to the launch of a game is to write a list of what’s available upon release and try to add weighting to those features. Leveling from 0 to 50 for example is finite, whereas the continued battle across Warplots, in WildStar’s case, potentially a limitless experience in terms of time investment. To provide an example, Warhammer Online on paper fared reasonably well, with Realm versus Realm the feather in its cap. The exception here and coming back to why it needed additional development time, was the fact its RvR was a mess at a very basic level. Its engine poorly optimized, area of effect skills too prominent, too few entry points to make fights tactical and classes that were entirely redundant for that attack setting. Despite countless Beta players raising these concerns, it was evident the launch was going ahead irrespective and post that date, Mythic were forever on catch-up. When the doors eventually opened to the paying public, it isn’t hard to predict how the reaction went as a result.
The key question in all of this, despite how much I love WildStar, is whether it can buck the trend of being the new kid on the block and actually surviving as a subscription based product. There’s a lot going for WildStar and as already mentioned, it’s polish and end-game content is evident. While there’s no suggestion its end-game content is perfect, it’s in a significantly better state than many games I’ve played over the years and that is what gets me excited.
Carbine have gone to great lengths in ensuring that a solid framework is in place for almost all elements of the game before it launches: mods, in depth UI customization, raid windows (Hello Guild Wars 2!), emotes, a robust guild menu system (including taxes and tithes), a quick and fully functioning auction house and much more. All of this goes to support the following:
Is that enough for launch? That depends entirely on whether or not players familiar with the likes of World of Warcraft (which is inevitably the market most aligned to how WildStar plays and functions) can adapt to the design changes Carbine have undertaken. Telegraphs, a much looser trinity and a limited action set system are a distinct change against the blueprint Blizzard developed and although they’re all for the better, they do take some getting used to.
The fact that Carbine have actually sat back and thought about what players will do when they reach level 50 and fulfilled on those promises (implementing 3 areas of “end-game” content is no easy feat) will allow them to hit the ground running when WildStar launches. As far as the competition is concerned, it’s documented how much I dislike the Elder Scrolls Online (that well and truly sits in the “pushed to release” camp) and Guild Wars 2, despite being a polished product, is flogging itself thin with its Living World concept. The repetitious achievement chasing and predictable Gem Store products with each update can only last so long before players grow tired of the concept.
If there’s a chink in WildStar’s armor, it’s in Carbines reliance on typical “fetch this, kill that” quests. I can however forgive this one element based on the injection of humor and alternative methods in which you undertake such tasks that make it much more fun. WildStar deserves to succeed and if it doesn’t, I’ll be well and truly disappointed in my fellow gamers.
Show your support for Carbine and head to the official site to pre-order, you know you want to: http://www.wildstar-online.com/en/