Beta Time: Wildstar

For those living under a rock, the Wildstar Open Beta began today. I haven’t been following the game all that closely, though I have read a few impressions posts and seen a bunch of screenshots. The immediate reaction is that it looks like WoW in space. I’m not the first person to make that correlation, nor will I be the last. The trouble with that statement is that it isn’t entirely true. On the surface, yes, Wildstar does share a similar graphical style. It’s interface is only slightly similar, with action bars at the bottom, a mini-map in the upper right hand corner, and some of the hotkeys match up. Otherwise, the targeting fields and other bells and whistles are similar to other games moreso than WoW. Really, if I had to choose an already established game that Wildstar seems to copy more than any, it would be TERA. I haven’t played TERA, and it was actually my Dad who told me that the two seemed very similar, and upon further investigation, he’s right. Wildstar isn’t “WoW in Space,” rather it’s “TERA in Space.”

Character creation was rather straight forward, and like most MMOs that are just starting out, what faction you choose determines your race choices, and your race choices affect your class choices. Looking at the available options, the choices for me were obvious. I have an affinity for short, non-humanoid races, and the Chua met those parameters perfectly. From my days of playing as a Dwarf (D&D, EQ2), Froglok (EQ), and Ratonga (EQ2), the tradition carries on (if there was something comparable on the “evil” side in Rift, I’d be there too). Among the class choices for the Chua, Engineer sounded pretty cool, and I chose the Scientist path. Behold, another version of Izlain:

He’s a cute little fella, but he bites.

The starter area in this game is one of the worst I’ve experienced. There’s a jumble of doo-dads everywhere, an overflow of flashing this and shiny that, and overall it was not an engaging experience. I clicked through quest dialog without reading it, and I really didn’t feel that I was missing anything. The hand holding is extreme: the quest tracker points you to where you need to go every step of the way, and constant tutorials explain everything that you should already know if you’ve ever even glanced at an RPG. My trouble with this beginning zone is that it’s too busy, and despite the dev’s efforts to immerse you in the lore of their newly created world, I simply didn’t care. I’m sure there’s a lot to be read/examined/explored here, but nothing made me want to learn more. The only part of this game that I was even remotely interested in was the combat, which is supposed to have an emphasis on action. Preview videos lead me to believe that skillshots and the like were present. Really, the only skill involved is pointing the highlighted area that shows where your area of effect will take place, at the enemy, and watching stuff happen. With the engineer, I was equipped with a heavy gun, and sure, it seemed cool enough to blast my enemies, and theoretically avoid their attacks. The problem here is that at least at the beginning, you only have so many abilities, so you’re basically spamming your basic attack and trying to avoid the enemy. However, enemies chase very closely and you are still constantly bombarded with their attacks, until they charge up a “special” ability. At that point they stand still and you would have to be pretty stupid to stand in the area of effect.

I would hope that eventually once you get more abilities that the combat becomes more dynamic. I would also hope that enemies are more difficult and unpredictable at higher levels, because the early mobs are just dumb. I realize that the newbie experience is meant to ease players into the mechanics of the game, but outside of combat, there is nothing new here. We have all seen it before, and the themepark grind is rather dull. Yes, there are other games that I am currently playing that are following the same themepark path, really there aren’t too many MMOs out there that aren’t, but the ones I have been playing have still been more engaging. Of course, I haven’t gotten all that far, and there is still over a week to go in the open beta, so I will attempt to get farther along and see if my opinion changes. I have a feeling it will not.

There was an article a while back written by Scree about how game reviews and reviewers were a dying breed. That article had to do with the fact that the early access periods given by games these days eliminate the need for a post-release review due to the fact that those who were truly interested in the game to begin with would have already tried it. Those that have not tried it would most likely go to community blogs to get their information, so by the time a magazine or website reviews the game it’s already old news. It is also known that most game reviewers don’t play the games for more than a couple of hours, just to get a basic grasp on the game’s story, mechanics, and overall gameplay. Unfortunately, I’m doing just that: giving my impressions after only playing the game for a couple of hours. This is part of the reason why I said I would report back after playing for a while longer to see if my opinions change. However, I tend to know within a few minutes if a game is worth my time or not. The reason for this is that I know what I want out of a gaming experience. Going into this beta, I already knew that the most interesting facet of Wildstar was it’s combat. Having experienced that in a limited form, I wasn’t impressed, and that being the only drawing factor I can conclude that Wildstar isn’t a game worth buying, in my opinion.

From my experience of playing many different MMOs, I know that there are games that I have played and was instantly addicted. I was drawn to the lore, the world, the combat, or any combination of those facets. They just clicked, and as a result I knew that I wanted to play them long term. Others suffered from “three-month-er” status, or even less. Many of the MMOs I played over the years were uninstalled from my computer by the time the free 30-days included in the box price expired. Wildstar isn’t worth the box price, nor the subscription fee. I had a feeling that I would feel that way, but I wanted to give it a shot  just to make sure. I wish I would have had the opportunity with ESO as well, but I missed that window. I think I’d be more drawn to it because I enjoy the established lore, and I was a huge fan of Skyrim, despite so many people believing it was inferior to some of its predecessors.

In conclusion, I believe that Wildstar will do well enough, because there has already been so much hype surrounding it, and it has a similar formula for success that other themeparks have employed. I won’t go so far as to say it’s only a three-month-er; I don’t think it will be a complete flop. Will it maintain a subscription price for very long? It’s not very likely, because it’s an outdated model. Will I play it again later when it goes free to play? I don’t think that’s very likely either, but time will tell. Overall, I’d say that you should make sure to try it during beta and make up your mind, because paying for a box and sub will be disappointing if you don’t enjoy the game.

#wildstar #openbeta #impressions #opinion