Posted Wed, Feb 06, 2013 by Sardu
WildStar made an initial splash late in the 2011 event season, featuring a playable demo on the show floor at both gamescom and PAX Prime. While the team at Carbine has kept fans in the know in the time since through the ongoing WildStar Wednesday blog series, we haven’t had the opportunity to spend more time playing the game in quite some time now.
That finally changed last week, and we got to spend a full day playing a recent build of WildStar, hanging out with the Carbine team, and learning a ton of new info. If you haven’t already seen the announcement, I decided that a single article attempting to encapsulate the entirety of the experience simply wouldn’t suffice. Instead, I’ll be running a new WildStar article each day for the next week, culminating in a spectacular information blowout next Wednesday.
To kick things off, today I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the game based on my recent hands-on time. The results will no doubt shock and amaze you, so its best you strap yourself into a comfy chair and be prepared to be swept up in a whirlwind of intrigue, mystery, and suspense!
During my recent hands-on time with WildStar we danced, we laughed, and we even spiked the virtual punch bowl. It was an MMO prom date for the history books – the kind you whisper about in the ear of your grandchildren’s grandchildren as a disembodied spirit while they sleep. Admit it: you know you totally plan on haunting your ancestors to tell them all about your wacky MMO gaming adventures… or is that just me?
In all honesty though, WildStar is like that really hot girl/boy/hermaphrodite you mustered up the courage to ask to the prom; sexy as hell, and more fun than a bag full of mutant snow worms*. Of course, fun means different things to different people. While it’s the gameplay Holy Grail for most game developers (or at least hopefully that’s the case) it’s really hard to quantify exactly what that really means.
At least for me, I can get a fairly decent sense of the fun factor for a given title fairly quickly based on a loose set of criteria:
1. Do the character models and animations feel fully developed and invoke a direct connection to my character?
For me immersion only begins to happen if I enjoy the look of my character, and get a tangible sense that my input is directly controlling their movements both in and out of combat.
2. Do I get the sense that there is a wealth of content to consume, or does the gameplay feel a bit too linear from the outset?
This one can be tricky, because there’s definitely a fine line between providing players with plenty of options early on, and overwhelming them with too much new information too quickly.
3. Beyond the obvious character levels, do I get the sense that there are meaningful advancement systems hardwired into the game?
I’m not the type of player who tends to rush to the level cap in the least amount of time possible, but I also want to feel like there’s a more multidimensional aspect to character advancement; that it’s not all about the mighty XP bar.
4. Is there a rich storyline, or a purpose behind questing beyond loot and experience?
This is perhaps one of the weakest areas in the genre, which is a shame really. MMOs have the potential to be a great storytelling medium, but all too often you can spend hundreds of hours in a game without ever knowing any of the lore, or even your character’s purpose (beyond being a kickass bear butt collector for hire) in the grand scheme of things.
5. Does the game have systems in place that encourage social gameplay?
As the industry has grown, so has the phenomenon of players approaching MMOs like a massive single-player game. But for those of us who want social gameplay options to kick in before hitting the elder game raid grind, those options are far too often few and far between as a result of developers attempting to crank out more solo-friendly content.
6. Do combat systems feel both intuitive, but deep enough that my choices for skill usage and character stats have meaning?
While I know there are plenty of gamers out there that can tell you exactly why X build using Y skill rotation is the 100% optimal DPS for a given class, I still don’t buy into the number crunching philosophy behind it. The numbers alone don’t account for human input, and meaningful combat systems should offer choices based on differences in playstyle.
Naturally there are a number of other factors involved beyond those listed above, but those are some of the big ones. So how does WildStar score at this point? Find out the thrilling details following this brief commercial (page)break!