Wildstar ain’t WoW – Wildstar is Heavy Metal

Suddenly everything is moving really fast. ESO is about to launch, Blizzard hints at launch dates and pre-orders, Wildstar takes another day to get real. And somewhere in between all of this, people are getting bored of Landmark’s alpha. Looks like this year of new MMOs is finally happening!

Sooo, Wildstar. I’ve played in the permanent beta since this January, not for any particular fandom but gloomy frustration over ESO. Clearly, going into this second MMO without much anticipation has helped a lot. I like Wildstar; not the way I love LOTRO or Guild Wars 2 but enough to pre-order come this March 19th. Smart of Carbine to move fast and set their launch well ahead of WoW – not because the two are one and the same but because WoW is always competition. To anybody.

That of course leads me to where I want to go with this post: how Wildstar doesn’t feel like WoW when you’re playing. The internet is obsessed with comparing the two for obvious reasons, the cartoony graphics and well, the classic approach. Yet probably 70% or more of all MMOs out there are themeparks with a holy trinity. If that’s the similarity you’re judging things by then Wildstar isn’t any more a WoW clone than Final Fantasy XI – a game that launched 2 years prior to World of Obsessioncraft. But hey, I too am guilty of early comparisons and Carbine weren’t exactly shy to point out their target audience in the past, either.

Contrary to the popular notion Wildstar isn’t WoW, more importantly does not feel like WoW. Much rather I would say this: Wildstar is heavy metal.

wstar2

A penetrating first look at Wildstar’s feels

From the get-go, Wildstar struck me as its very own thing. The overall feel and very consistent design concept seem well-known and yet aren’t, not after taking a closer look and certainly not within an MMO context anyway. If I had to describe the visuals to anyone, I would go with Brutal Legend meets Borderlands 2. That level-up animation still paints a wide grin on my face. This game is outspoken and slangy in its humor and despite the candy colors, it also has grimness and maturity to it (candy-color me impressed!). There’s the Firefly-like thematic fusion of a cyber-metal-punk wild west adventure…with pink bunnies.

The cartoony graphics of Allods mimic WoW in a way that Wildstar never does; more stylized, more artsy and whimsical are the settings of the Nexus and this painter’s brush is a different brush entirely. The world expands vertically as much as horizontally so the player character gets dwarfed more easily; a counter-immersive effect I’ve referred to (and complain about) as the goldilock’s experience before. Anyway, as a sucker for authentic and mature in MMOs it took me a good while to get used to the hyper-stylized graphics; staring at the grass in Wildstar for too long requires a willingness to suspend disbelief –

Spellsinger_Galeras

Whatever this is, it ain’t real grass!

But let’s rewind things a little and start at the beginning: the character customization. Wildstar offers as many options as vanilla Warcraft in terms of body and height variety which means well, none at all. That’s quite the flaw in 2014. At the same time, we are seeing some of the most exciting, accomplished and refreshing race design since Allods and maybe Tera. Boring and uninspired humans with weird hairdos aside, some of the Draken, Mordesh, Granok and Chua models are simply to die for.

wsraces

Once you leave character customization, Wildstar is quick to introduce players to combat with their very own tunnel scenario. Yeah, they do that. Once again, there’s much to get used to here and it’s safe to say the doubly active telegraph combat couldn’t be more unlike WoW even if Carbine are aiming for the same strategic depth and role-based play with their group content. In the same vein, their restricted skillset and talent system strike me as modern and light-weight in a way WoW is only just learning to be, simplifying things with every new expansion.

I could go on from here and point out how the (sticky) camera in Wildstar works differently which gave me pause. There’s no insta-turn and quick 90° cutting corners which some players will clearly miss for the first few hours even if it feels natural after a while.

Or I could describe the chaotic refugee city of Thayd that feels nothing like any Warcraft city I’ve ever been to. If I had to name something about Wildstar that really let me down it would be questing which, despite different path options, is very kill ten rats. In this there’s no letting off Carbine.

In summary: You should probably give this a try

So many aspects in MMOs make for that complex, intangible quality that we call “overall feel” and if nothing else, you should give Wildstar the benefit of the doubt as long as you haven’t played it. The Nexus is an odd place, alien yet familiar – not entirely new but new enough, a little more grownup than expected and every bit as polished as anyone could hope for. There will be things to love and things to hate but dismissing this new title over being a second World of Warcraft because cartoony looks, well that would be wrong entirely. Wildstar is a fresh interpretation of a classic, an ambitious and deep MMO world with an unmistakeable, stubborn and outspoken style. It doesn’t need to copy WoW any more than any of the other upcoming games do; I believe we can move on from this notion already.

12 comments

  1. I have no issues with the art style. I like stylized cartoon graphics. The races look fun and the humor, at least what I’ve seen of it from the outside, comes across fairly well. My problem, again looking at it from the outside, is the combat, which looks just awful.

    With combat in MMOs you never really know until you get your hands on it, though. I was equally as offput by GW2 combat from what I’d read and seen in videos before the fist Beta weekend but when I got into the game I found it natural and comfortable from minute one. Consequently I won’t rule WildStar out until I actually try it, which is where the real stumbling block appears.

    I don’t need a new MMO because I’m not at all bored with the many I already have to chose from. In fact I’m already not able to find time for half a dozen that I very much want to be playing. I just don’t have room in my day for a new one.

    In the past I would have bought it anyway, not intending to do any more than look at it for the free month. This time I’ve decided to show a little more patience and restraint both with WildStar and ESO. That might be change if either of offers open beta or a few open beta weekends, just in case one or other does turn out to be the MMO I didn’t know I wanted. Failing that a free trial after launch might do it.

    If none of those turns up then, if they are successful, they’ll be around for a long time and I can come back when it’s convenient for me to give them the time they’ll deserve. And If they aren’t then they’ll go F2P at some stage sooner rather than later and I can take a look for free.

    Either way I’m not buying the box sight unseen for either of them.

    1. Well, I’m in a completely different corner – I currently have no MMOs to play :) I might go back to LOTRO sometime and pay Tyria a visit, but actively playing? Nope.

      I don’t expect WS to go f2p anytime soon. they may go for trial weekends or days though which is always a good thing to have. and yeah – I expect you to pretty much hate the combat, hehe ;)

  2. For some reason, it took me ages to figure out what Wildstar reminded me of, even though it is so glaringly obvious. It’s of course Ratchet & Clank MMO, at least style-wise. I absolutely loved R&C when it was first released. Both gameplay and the over-the-top humor. Other than RPGs, I don’t think I played any game more on my PS2 back in the day.

    That being sad, I’m still worried about how that style translates into an MMO. Many jokes are based on anticipation and timing. That works well in a single-player game, but probably not such much in an MMO. Jokes are easily spoiled, and since not everybody is at the same point of progression… I hope you see what I mean. Plus, lots of MMO gameplay is based on repetition of content. There are few things that are more awkward than a joke repeated over and over again.

    In the end, I’ll probably check out Wildstar, if only for old R&C times’ sake. But chances are, only after it goes F2P.

    1. It’s not really as full of ‘jokes’ though that depend attention or timing; it’s not like the game is all linear slapstick. :D it’s more an overall theme and slang that goes well with the looks and style of the game imo.

  3. My partner loves the look of this game but the sub is an issue for him (he’s already subbed to WoW). A free trial will be very important I think, it’s easy to forget in the F2P era just how useful it was to have a couple of weeks even to taste a game before dropping the cash on the box and (potentially) a few months of sub to really try it.

    The end-game looks too old-school WoW for my tastes, as others have stated not all action combat is created equal. Personally, I liked GW2 combat but as the content evolved into endless map-spanning zergs I learned to hate the almost constant need to dodge stuff. I prefer dodging to be a tactical choice within fights not an almost constant need to be moving.

    1. It would be nice to have trial weekends, I’m sure they will offer something even if not from the get-go probably. I’m also still waiting to see how the whole ingame currency thing works for the sub payment. as for the combat, again I would say it’s a hybrid between TERA and GW2 in terms of activeness, but with the strategic depth of WoW. group content should be quite interesting in WS.

  4. I actually think the bright, cartoony graphics are the most appealing looking thing about Wildstar! A lot of other things I’ve heard about it (from people who apparently love it no less) sound very off-putting to me though, with the game being described as “hyper” or “OCD”, what with the action combat, Twitter-length quest text and silly jokes everywhere. If I find some time for a secondary MMO in the upcoming months I think I’d rather give it to ESO and it’s more measured pace and focus on immersive RPG elements.

    1. ESO is definitely slower and more immersive, just altogether more oldschool and traditional. from what I’ve seen from the beta though, oldschool also means more grindy/repetitive, less polished and somewhat colder and emptier a place. can’t have it all, hehe…it’s kinda remarkable how the two games do those things well that the other doesn’t. WTB combination!! ;)

  5. And this supposed to be a good year of MMOs….

    -ESO: after my first invite to beta, tried it – then uninstalled and not even wanna try again.

    -Wildstar: Looney toons with 40 man raid – no thanks

    -Warcraft: Bored to hell. I played to death from Vanilla to Wotlk and then I played cata and MoP for 2-3 months each. This time I may not even play for 2 months.

    -FFXIV: I played a solid 3 month. My guild stuck at titan hardmode…I leveled 3 alts while we were trying to kill titan hard mode to get our relic weapon and progress to Coil. Eventually I found a good pug group and did it and then stopped playing cause leveling got boring after a while (no quests, just Fate farming…).

    Back to GW2 again, traveling the beautiful world, doing jumping puzzles I left and the living story…try to gather materials to eventually make a piece of Ascended gear. GW2’s world is awesome, it is always a place I know I can have some fun by just running around. My character there is beautiful with beautiful armor (I am talking to you ESO).

    So nothing to wait for and especially not Wildstar…

      1. Good question :) I will play for sure Everquest Next (pve sandbox finally!), but Landmark…I am still undecided. I will try it for sure, since it will be f2p, but building is not my strong point…

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