Ian Cooper delivers his verdict on epic, visually exciting sci-fi MMO WildStar, which has just launched this week on PC.
Massive multiplayer role playing games are everywhere now. Every one of them is trying or claiming to do something new and different, and attempts to convert well-known franchises into MMO games are rife as well. Carbine Studios and NCSOFT’s brand new entry in the genre, WildStar, is an ambitious take on the now familiar formula, dipping its fingers in a lot of pies. What I mean by that is that it’s nothing new mechanically, but it still manages to feel fresh thanks to its distinctive presentation.
You embark upon the planet Nexus to uncover its secrets – including some of the most unusual races I’ve seen in a video game. Nexus, known to be home to a mysterious and powerful race called the Eldan, finds itself suddenly abandoned, with two races battling it out for possession of its resources and any powerful artifacts left behind. The Exiles and the Dominion are at war, and it’s up to you to help either side gain the upper hand. It’s a basic premise, but thanks to the cartoony Ratchet and Clank/Jak and Daxter aesthetic, WildStar holds a lovable charm. Each and every race, whether it be a strapping human or a robot-like Mechari, look like they have been ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon – which is something that makes WildStar literally shine bright among the traditional Elves and Orcs type of game. The story is told through a set of visually pleasing cutscenes, though the sound is a bit broken at times. Sometimes a scene starts and the dialogue overlaps due to a delay, even though the character’s mouths are moving. This happened a lot during my experience – and I hope it gets patched up soon.
WildStar plays identical to the likes of World of Warcraft. You control your created character, choosing one of six classes and eight races – each of which are just buttered-up mages, warriors or sneaky rogues. Then you must select one of four paths, which is where the game starts to become a little different. The path you choose determines the type of side quests you will encounter throughout your time on Nexus; each are distinct and unique to one another. The path system is a fantastic means to replay the game, as different paths means different item pickups and quest types, and it can take quite a while to be satisfied with your choice.
Once you have created your guy or gal, you’re then packed off to undergo a few introductory quests before being left to your own devices on the vast planet. WildStar takes on a third person perspective, the traditional viewpoint, with keys assigned to make your character sprint or jump, as well as hotkeys for different special attacks. The mouse is used for the direction of travel, with the mouse buttons being used for the action buttons, so MMO vets will be right at home here. WildStar’s inventory, mailing and banking system works almost identical to that of World of Warcraft, as a window pops up when needed which shows a grid of your collected items, which can be exchanged via mail or deposited in the bank. It’s all familiar ground for MMO veterans, and for newcomers it’s really simple to get your head around. Mission types however are dominated by grinding ‘kill a ton of these’ and ‘deliver this to there’ quests, which soon become mundane – not least because of the huge amount of text to read through in linking them together.
Like all MMO titles WildStar opens up when you’ve reached max level, and this is when you can traverse dungeons with other players as you take on two of three available roles, whether it be healer, damage dealer or tank. Each of you has to keep to your role, otherwise you will die quickly – as enemies in dungeons are much tougher. The battle system takes on a simple mechanic of telegraphing, which shows ahead of you the area of effect of any attack you choose, in a kind of shaded rectangular box. Any enemies in that area when you unleash your attack will be affected. There is a key you can use to auto aim, but it’s not entirely effective when in large scale battles.
An optional feature in WildStar which I must recommend is the Sky Plot housing system. These don’t come cheap, but they allow you to create your own base, which has some cool rewards like your very own workbench to indulge in WildStar’s extensive crafting system among other useful features, and logging out in your plot also gives you a rested bonus – earning you extra experience whenever you log back in. Again, a previously used mechanic, but well executed here.
The characters are brimming with visual personality, making it easy to see who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘bad guys’, with the Dominion races looking more menacing and fearsome than the angelic-seeming Exiles. With the graphics ramped up the detail is nice and sharp on each character model. By contrast, the world however is vast but textureless most of the time. Some of the locations like Algoroc look featureless, though the floating islands are a nice sight from afar.
There is lots to do in WildStar if you’re looking for a new MMO to sink their teeth into, and it’s worth a look if you’re willing to pay the dreaded subscription fee. There’s a ton of side quests, storyline quests, challenges and, of course, player versus player battle scenarios to test your mettle – and they’re often pretty exciting when working as a team.
WildStar has a charming look but plays it safe with familiar game-play. Sound hiccups, irritating grinding and the usual fetch quests hinder the experience slightly, but it remains a very decent addition to the MMO genre.
Story – 3/5
Graphics – 3/5
Gameplay – 4/5
Overall – 3/5