Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Bit of Space: First Impressions of Wildstar

I have always been an MMORPG girl—since my first introduction to World of Warcraft, I've been addicted to the grind. Whether playing with IRL friends, or making new ones through PUGs or new guilds, there is something to be said for playing in a massively multiplayer online world. With the release of Pandaria, though, I found the pull of the MMORPG releasing me. While the game play remained the same, the new content wasn't all that engaging for me, and I felt Blizzard copped out by making it so the pandas could choose to be on either Faction. That, combined with the need to complete my thesis and my crazy work-schedule, made the paying sixteen bucks a month for a game that I wasn't really engaged with seem silly. Luckily for me, though, PAX that year introduced me to something new: WildStar.
WildStar has been a long time coming—at PAX in 2013 the game was claimed to be coming out that summer, yet here we are, a year later—still waiting for it. That being said, though, I can easily say that it will be worth the wait. For those of you living under a rock, for the past three weekends WildStar has been running open betas sponsored by other companies in tech. The WildStar twitter usually announces new beta keys halfway through the week, so if you want to get in on it but haven't gotten the chance yet, you should follow them here. Also, if you do play a beta weekend and decide that you love it, like I did, you can prepurchase the game and automatically get access to every beta between now and release. It also sets you up with some sweet in-game content for when WildStar goes live. But, enough of all of that, here are some of my first impressions.

The landscape is beautiful. The start of the game puts in you in a star base—a unique and interesting "starter zone" that helps by introducing all characters to the same opening scenes rather than a number of different home lands. So, when starting to play with your friends, even if you choose different races to start as, you will all have the same opening-game experience. After having left the base, you will be transported to Nexus—the home planet of the game. If you ever played World of Warcraft, you may be familiar with the scenery of Nagrand—much of the WildStar world looks like that. So, while it may not be incredibly unique, it is certainly beautiful to look at.

The battles require skill and practice. The controls for WildStar are different from most MMORPGs in that navigation occurs with the WASD keys, rather than the mouse. Similarly, you are able to dodge out of the forecasted ranges of enemy spells—which means that, unlike WoW, the act of battle takes skill, finesse, and control. The buttons were hard to get used to for me, as when gaming on a PC I am used to having control with my mouse, but once I got the hang of it it made me feel like I was actually more in control than I've felt in any games of this genre before. Also, you have to be able to aim your spells and skills properly in order to do any damage at all.

You are able to choose how you level up. As I mentioned above, I'm addicted to the grind—but that isn't the way it has to be in WildStar. Many of my friends that complain about MMORPGS state the main reason as being that they don't see the point in killing 40 whatevers in a row as a means to level up. In WildStar you can choose which path you want to play: Settler, Scientist, Soldier or Explorer. These paths are totally separate from the class that you choose, and add additional content and quests for your completion. I chose to be a Settler, as it mainly consists of collecting items, and then building resources for other players to use, such as stations that provide healing or multiple other buffs.

The classes are just different enough to be interesting, but just similar enough to still be comfortable. There aren't warriors, mages, and healers like there are in other games per se. Instead, WildStar has chosen to rename these familiar archetypes to keep in kind with the theme of the game: outer space. The Classes are: Warrior, Esper, Medic, Engineer, Stalker and Spellslinger, and for the most part they do exactly what it sounds like they do. I chose an Esper, which seems to be kind of similar to a druid in WoW.

The UI is a bit busy. I say this expecting you to take it with a grain of salt. Because the game is still in beta and the developers seem to be actively taking critiques into consideration, I anticipate that the UI will change quite a bit before the actual release of the game. That being said, there are a lot of things that pop up on screen that I would like to be without. 

The way that quests are handled is a bit confusing. Conversations with quest givers and NPCs take place in the chat window. For me, this is a place I learned to ignore by questing in Barrens, so it took a bit of getting used to. I feel like this is something that they may change as the beta weekends continue to run, but we'll have to wait and see.

It is for PC only. While this is no longer an issue for me, as I purchased a PC for this specific reason, I do know that this is a large holdback for many people. I don't know if plans to release for Mac are in the works, but as of right now you can only play this game on a PC. Sorry, Applephiles!

There is much more to this game than I originally expected. If you are an MMORPG fan looking for something new and original, WildStar might be for you. The ambience of the game is playful and funny while being able to be taken seriously. I'd recommend trying to get on a beta weekend and seeing what all the fuss is about!

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