There’s something implacably appealing about Wildstar.
It could be the dynamic combat done right. It could be the phenomenal character design and just the vast scope it seems to have from the very beginning. It could be the fact that the entire game looks and feels like Firefly via Pixar, with a healthy dose of Borderlands chucked in for good measure.
I’m an avid MMO player. They make up the bulk of the gaming time I put in. I wouldn’t call myself hardcore – I don’t raid with the best of them and PvP, while being something I have a lot of fun with, is not something I take seriously. The joy for me in MMOs is the world. Going from pissant little towns to massive cities, going from mewling noob equipped with a plank and some rags to a well-travelled warrior with a sword twice my size. This seems to lie at the heart of Wildstar’s philosophy, and it’s shaping up pretty nicely.
The first question asked of any MMO is usually – what does it do differently? What makes it better than all the other tried and tested options out there? Is it really worth subscribing? Is it (and I bloody hate this phrase) the WoW-Killer? Firstly, we need to stop talking about the “WoW-Killer” like it’s some Arthurian sword of legend. The only thing that’s going to kill World of Warcraft in any sense is the eventual collapse of civilisation or the Christ-like arrival of an MMO exclusively populated by scantily clad elves and animal people, with a subscription cost that includes a moderately attractive woman visiting your house every week to give you a blowjob and feed you pizza. All the while calling you by your avatar’s name. “Oh, yes, Lord L33tness, your Orcish member is the largest I’ve ever seen, forsooth!”.
Leaving that tangent far, far behind, Wildstar doesn’t seem to be making any extravagant promises. So far, it’s taking the elements of gameplay that have been proven to work and embellishing them, and it’s looking great. The real stand-out element so far is the visuals. All of the races – even the two separate human factions go from being Han Solo/Captain Mal rebel badasses to snooty, aristocratic types that vaguely resemble the British Empire on heroic amounts of methamphetamines. For my time, though, I went for the Mordesh, essentially the space-ified undead race, cursed with a degenerative condition and a reliance on alchemy, on the side of the Exiles – basically the galactic equivalent of the crew of the Millennium Falcon – and got to playing.
Combat feels delightfully organic and simple, and each class is well characterised – the Spellslinger, for example, is a mage of sorts typified by wielding dual pistols. I can’t speak on a broader scale of balance, but my Spellslinger decimated most of the early enemies and hazards with his most basic attacks, and I’ve yet to come up against any kind of real challenge – kill, hoover loot up, repeat. It’s early days, yet. There’s still a lot of polishing and tweaking to do. As with any MMO, we aren’t going to be able to judge how good it is until at least a year of public release. At this point, quests, areas, and races have just the right proportions of variety. It would definitely work in Wildstar’s favour to make the player feel just a little less like a hot knife through butter in the early stages of the game. Teach us the mechanics at a decent pace, by all means. But don’t pull a WoW and have all the nasty creatures in the starting area be inexplicably placid around the masses of adventures ritually slaughtering them.
There is one area in which Wildstar is introducing a feature so obviously good it’s a wonder someone’s taken so long to come up with it. As well as your faction, race, and class, you also get to choose your Path. Soldier, Scientist, Explorer and Settler are your options, and it basically tailors some aspects of the game to the way you play. So if you get your kicks from walking the entirety of the map and seeing every last bit of the world, it’s going to be totally feasible for you to do just that and still progress just like everyone else. It’s a revolutionary concept that both creates an incentive and enables individual styles of play.
So I might not have gotten time to find my way into a group or take PvP to task. But I did find myself engrossed in a fiercely unique world. Wildstar is a long way away from being a definite recommendation. But it’s certainly a game to keep your eye on. And if you don’t believe me, just bear this in mind – your first mount is a hoverboard.