Hands-On Preview: WildStar

May 7, 2014

I’ve been playing MMO’s for a long time now and I’m always interested in the new kid in town. I’ve had my hands on practically every new major game in the genre in some way or another within the last ten years. As WildStar wraps up its closed beta phase in preparation for open beta and headstart, I wanted to see how it compares to other recent releases before the flood gates open up.

For those of you unfamiliar with the upcoming MMO, fear not, for the backstory isn’t all that complicated. There are two main factions; the Dominion and the Exiles. The Dominion Empire rules the galaxy using brute force, tactical military planning, and a polytheistic religion in order to maintain dominance. Their races consist of the Cassian, an offshoot of the Humans; the Mechari, terrifyingly tall and extremely intelligent robots; the Draken, a demon-like race with horns and surprisingly fuzzy tails; and the Chua, something I can only describe to be evil, mutant hamsters.

On the other side of the equation, you have the Exiles consisting of mercenaries and other put-upon races that have come together because of how they’ve been treated by the Dominion. Here you have the Humans, which are self-explanatory; the Aurin, small halflings with fluffy tails and animalistic ears (tree huggers according to the Dominion); the Granok, humanoid rock creature hybrids; and lastly, the Mordesh, genuinely friendly zombies. Both factions will be fighting over the ancient planet of Nexus, former home to the Eldan. According to the lore, they were an ancient advanced race that disappeared over a thousand years ago.

Between closed beta and the beta weekends, the game has gone through a variety of changes and updates as MMOs tend to do, but my impressions with the gameplay have remained consistent. Despite the well-written backstory, the game didn’t feel story driven at all. In fact, unless you’re really interested, you will be able to pretty much skim through the dialog and skip world lore finds altogether. What makes this game enjoyable is how it promotes killing things.

Unlike The Elder Scrolls Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, the point here isn’t to read epic tales or listen to lengthy voiced dialog, but to kill as many enemies as possible. In fact, there are even world quests that will automatically toggle and put you on a timer to fill a kill quota in order to receive bonus rewards. Combat is the selling point here and is done fairly well. You won’t find yourself lacking skills at low levels either. While there are spells that will require you to specifically target and mow down a certain enemy, there will be just as many options to cut a path through mobs with AOEs.

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The questing itself, however, will be hit or miss. Even as a brand new IP, there’s nothing innovative being done in this area. While not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re looking for something brand new and never been seen before, you’ll be barking up the wrong tree. Leveling up and questing seems to be the same old tried and true back and forth between towns and settlements. Prepare yourself to be reporting to faction leaders and being sent out to hunt for X amount of mobs before returning for a reward. A significant number of quests can be redeemed in the field, so this will leave you free to do bonus missions while you’re in the area at least. You’ll also be able to travel to secondary areas nearby before having to return back to where you came from.

On the other hand, increasing skill levels and class builds are much more complicated as hybrid and multi-specs will be encouraged. There will also be little to no explanation on how most things work, so I found myself hunting the community forums on a regular basis. If Carbine Studios is going for the feeling of being a complete stranger dropped in the middle of nowhere, they managed to succeed and then some. Crafting is streamlined, once you figure out how to train in it, but you’ll be stuck at crafting stations instead of being able to make items on the go.

Aesthetic wise, the world comes off as a throwback, full of campy sci-fi references and plenty of Saturday morning cartoon animation to keep you entertained. I found myself thinking of Dragon’s Lair, the 1983 laserdisc game, most of the time and even giggled at the few choice bleeped out words when leveling up. The UI has significantly cleaned up from its original model, but the game will support add-ons and make the default appearance obsolete to many players anyway. Combat logs will also be available since, as mentioned before, the game strongly encourages both PVE and PVP. Races will have both male and female models — with the exception of the Chua — and will include various skin colors, hair styles, hair colors, faces, and body types. Minor tweaking will be available as well to slightly modify default faces, but will not be as nearly in-depth as a few other games.

Sadly, what I was able to participate in was filled with various bugs and other issues. While not uncommon, especially in closed betas, some of them were nearly game breaking and made it nearly impossible to thoroughly indulge myself with available content. Even though most of the major problems have been fixed in some way or another, such as the frame rate issues and server disconnects, there was still a bit of disappointment there as the studio prepares for the next stage. Many NPC’s were still misplaced or inaccessible when I last checked in, but even with the glitches, there were still plenty of things to enjoy for those who are looking forward to an online game with a comfortable familiarity to it.

The open beta will begin on May 8th through 18th with a level cap of 30. Anyone who was able to participate in the previous closed beta weekends will have automatic access to open beta as well. Carbine Studios will also host a Twitch TV livestream this Thursday and Friday. The full game is set to release on June 3rd with a three day head start for those who have pre-ordered so get ready, Cupcakes — Nexus awaits.

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Megan Smith

A gamer from the Midwest, Megan has loved video games since feeling the rush of beating a final boss for the first time. When not writing for Dualshockers, she can be found thinking up crazy amounts of fanfiction or buried in any random MMORPG. Her favorite games include Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Phantasy Star, Star Ocean, Guilty Gear, and almost anything out of the ‘Tales’ series.

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