Fun and Games in Wildstar: The Launch Recap

Few hiccups aside during hour one, this past Wildstar headstart weekend marks one of the smoothest MMO launches I have ever been part of. Having settled for the only PVE-RP server on EU side due to (hopefully) better community, everything from claiming my name to creating my character and jumping into a mostly lag-free game was easy and carefree. Adding friends? Grouping right away? No problem either! And even if you can’t afford 10 gold for a guild just yet, Wildstar lets you create custom channels for better communication with your buddies. That is extra points right there for minding the MMO core-virtue that is (or should be) playing with friends.

A few players experienced rather troublesome queues this weekend which was mostly due to Carbine’s somewhat baffling miscalculation for PVP realms. There was….one. However, it took a few hours only until the login screen already informed about further realms being added both on the PVE and PVP side of things. In general Carbine seemed quick on the ball responding to players which is not something that can be said for every developer during a launch weekend.

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Meet Syl and Kirby!

Having played my Dominion Esper up to level 17 now and fresh out of her first group adventure, let’s have a more in-depth look at Wildstar’s week one, shall we?

The Gameplay – Or how it all comes together
The single most important aspect for MMO longevity, the gameplay in Wildstar is the true winner. Everyone who paid attention to Carbine these past few years was ready for a lot of polish and yet, they have taken it up three notches since the beta. Wildstar plays intuitively from level 1, the pacing is just right and takes comprehensive steps in preparing the player for higher difficulty. There are quests, challenges and points of interest in abundance, flowing naturally into one another. Rewards are interesting and varied with bigger, more satisfying upgrades ever so often. The game is responsive when interacting with the environment as well as with various interface commands. Combat has that tangible “oomph” so many MMOs struggle to create, animations are excellent and visual aids have improved loads since the beta.

In summary: Wildstar is playable in the best sense of the word; very very playable.

Questing and combat
There are more quest hubs around than anyone can handle and that’s not such a bad thing. While there are other sources for good EXP, such as PVP, the numerous and carefully laid-out questing opportunities give players a sense of direction and make for a satisfying and reasonably fast leveling experience thus far. Down the road we might worry about the leveling game ending too soon but at least this here MMO has some endgame ready.

The quests are standard fare but vary frequently between kill ten rats, fedex or escort which can be shared with others. For some undefinable reason some of them still require backtracking while many will spare you the walk thanks to NPC voice communication. These tend to be longer questlines tying into an overarching storyline (some class related too) while others are just your old farmer looking for a hand. The public events seem somewhat sparsely peppered over the first few zones and come with disturbing reset timers compared to what you’d be used to from GW2 or Rift.

As for combat, I have always liked the concept of Wildstar’s doubly-active telegraph system and challenges increase significantly there as you level up. One inattentive pull of an elite mob (which are part of every area’s monster mix) can result in a quick and painful death unless you know your moves and WASD buttons. On a slightly different note, I am somewhat missing ticking things like buffs, procs and hots/dots on my character and target frames. I’d like to see more in terms of timing with procs and using synergies but maybe that’s just the impatient newb in me.

Paths
A while back I decided that Wildstar’s Explorer path was probably not for me because jumping puzzles – and rightly so. I love the Scientist challenges for every map which require you to scan various flora and fauna, as well as to learn more about the world (I has “Bookworm” title!). My merry scanbot companion comes with a custom name as well as booster and vanity options, so paths are hardly just a gimmick in Wildstar but seem reasonably flashed out instead and different from one another while not being game-breaking, either. There is replay value here for alts.

Gold and other currencies
There’s a steady flow of cash in this game and as long as you heed the MMO newbie’s cardinal rules of starting out poor, which are a) sell everything -and- b) stay the fuck away from the auction house, you will be just fine in the long run even if buying all class abilities as you unlock them seems impossible at first. Having bought a mount at level 15 already and being close to affording that guild fee too (do check out these amazing guild holomarks!), I am not worried about unlocking all of my skills in time. In a way, it’s not a bad thing having to concentrate on one set of skills and one playstyle first before accessing too many options – we don’t want to exhaust it all by next week, do we?

As for C.R.E.D.D., I’ve inspected the ingame currency converter just a little so far and can’t say I am really interested. With Wildstar being item shop-less (which is rather uncommon under NCSoft’s wing) and me being more than happy to pay for this sub, I can’t see myself messing with C.R.E.D.D. unless there’s another reason (like sparkling ponies).

Housing
Acquiring a house in Wildstar isn’t a real feat, it’s more of a birthright. Your little airborne acre waits patiently for your arrival and the standard housing option costs a mere gold to start with. Decoration items drop from special quests or challenges ever so often but seriously personalizing your home seems to be this game’s true goldsink. All I can say is stay the hell away from those customization tabs for as long as you have more essential things to invest in!

As a homebase for storage and buffs, Wildstar’s housing seems a fair enough deal. I’m just sad they went down the instanced route rather than outdoor. I can’t see myself spending an awful lot of time up there, just the way it never happened in LOTRO or Rift. Ah well.

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Skills / Talents System and UI
The action set builder is one of my biggest qualms right now. Instead of simple drag and drop, assigning or re-ordering different skills on your action bar is fairly tedious and the AMP window is a complete eye-sore for anyone attempting to manage their playstyle stats at a glance. Hovering over tiny dots to check what they do is a big nono and so is a fairly inflexible UI that won’t let you move essentials around without addons. No pass from me here Carbine, this is not 2004! At least the overall look of the UI has improved vastly since the black bar of doom early beta players got to experience.

Cosmetics and Dye System
While we should probably be grateful that Wildstar has both, neither its cosmetic tab nor dye system are making me particularly happy at the moment. Managing your look has been re-delegated to NPC visits and the system is fairly clunky and limited in the sense that single items can only ever be assigned to one outfit and need to remain with the NPC when saved. The dye system allows for up to 3 layers of color per piece but seems slightly buggy still and umm, final because no un-dyeing, so careful with that!

The Music
While one can argue about degrees of cartoony graphics for Wildstar vs. other MMOs, its music leaves no room for debate: this title comes with an amazingly accomplished, varied and memorable high-quality OST that is a true joy to uncover as you are traveling from zone to zone, taking in different vistas that each come with their own theme and mood in return. Jeff Kurtenacker has done a stellar job and as always, I urge you to turn those speakers up and have a good listen before deciding that MMO music is not for you. This one might surprise you yet!

The Overall Feel – A not so final word
Well-rounded and here to stay are the two thoughts at the forefront of my mind when recapping my Wildstar adventures since the headstart. I don’t know precisely what magic Carbine have worked in those two months before release but it’s clearly made an impact and increased my personal enjoyment of the game considerably. I am positively surprised and eager to see more high-level content and hopefully some properly challenging group dungeons.

As preached before, Wildstar holds its own within the landscape of MMOs; however to the WoW veteran’s heart, it echoes many of the standards we have gotten used to by Blizzard. The familiarity of Wildstar’s early game experience fills me with the warmth of a cosy blanket and yet, it is still different enough to keep me going. I will see where I end up further down the road – for now, I am all in for the ride.

10 comments

  1. “I don’t know precisely what magic Carbine have worked in those two months before release but it’s clearly made an impact and increased my personal enjoyment of the game by a long shot.”

    I know right?! I got in the beta what feels like a looong time ago and while I was looking forward to playing with my friends there wasn’t anything about the game that particularly excited me. Now, though, I am having so much fun. It’s amazing how much polish they’ve added in those final few months, and how much of a difference that has made to my gameplay experience.

    1. You would think that’s what all devs do, use the last few months and weeks for allll the polish – but then we know that ain’t so. Carbine really kept it all for last and it’s a real difference. I think everyone should try and save some bugs and discomforts for last really, just so players go all ooooh and aaaaah after launch! ;)

  2. Great review Syl, very thorough :)

    While I do feel more compelled than ever to play WS, I’m afraid I’ll have to comfort myself for the time being in the thought (belief, rather) that “Wildstar is here to stay”. There is only one reason for it and it begins with the ‘S’ word.

    There are only two things I will disagree with you on: combat and paths. I fell in love with the Explorer path because, well, I go cuckoo over jumping puzzles :p . Combat on the other hand, well…. I just couldn’t connect with it. I tried not comparing but it was inevitable: it felt like a failed pairing between GW2’s “positioning is everything” & “stay out of the red circles”. Replacing GW2’s auto-aiming feature with your own telegraphs and adding more shapes to your enemies telegraphs spoiled the fun for me. And if you dislike the combat in an MMO and your home instance is just that -an instance- where you can’t socialize with friends, there’s no much juice left in that game imho.

    Still, this game is very attractive. I know I will want to play it one day, eventually. One day when GW2 has run its circle and I need a break from it. Hope you’re still around when that day comes!

    1. Hey thanks – I almost missed your post, for some reason WP sent it straight to the spamfolder.

      I hear you on combat; combat is way too important for an MMO and disliking it won’t get you very far. Combat was also the biggest killer about ESO for me. In any case, if you ever do find a chance to play it, let me know. I might still have one of those guest passes :)

  3. Agreed… if the end game is as good as the early game, then this will be my new WoW 2.0. Really glad I decided to check this game out :)

    1. A part of me is still struggling to come to terms with it but yeah, this is the kind of WoW comfort I have quite obviously missed. damn :D

  4. I’m a little late commenting, but my thoughts on WildStar echo yours. I’ve found a dynamic class (Medic) that is constantly on the move in combat, like my favorite classes in GW2 and TSW. The game has a comfortable feel without being stale. While there are a few things I would do differently, WildStar is a solid addition to the MMO genre.

    1. Agreed. I would certainly love to see different questing in WS for example. Carbine’s traditional approach here seems almost lazy compared to combat, where they really put some thought into making that more novel.

  5. I haven’t had this much fun exploring an MMO since the very first few weeks in Vanilla WoW. It really is a masterpiece as far as i’m concerned. Yes there are bugs and some problems – but when you compare this to ESO’s launch it blows it out of the water.

    And the music – OH EM GEEEEE!! Music volume is usually the first slider that gets put down to 0% and i play my own tunes, but not here. I can’t get enough of the music. My favourite zone music so far (and i’ve only got ~lvl 20 chars) is Algaroc on the Exiles side. EPIC. Find the music file in the directory and have a listen

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