WildStar Impressions

I’ve spent some time in the Open Beta, after an arduous download/patching process — apparently they were throttling speeds for either new installs or all installs/patches. Ugh. But, that’s behind us! Let’s get started.

First, I love the aesthetic. No complaints there. It’s got the exaggerated/cartoon style of WoW without feeling or looking exactly like WoW. They’re taking the better parts of science-fiction and space-westerns to set the game apart in appearance and tone, and it works. I’m pleased.

Second, I’m of two minds on the combat gameplay. It is far, far more twitchy than anything in WoW right now. You can substitute “interactive” for “twitchy” if you’d like, and you wouldn’t be wrong — you certainly get involved by aiming your abilities (which tend to have conical areas of effect) and dodging enemy attacks (which are telegraphed). Mouse-aiming/turning is a strong requirement here. Double-tap to Dodge is, also. This game is definitely not made for clickers. If you’re quick on the keybinds and movement overall, it has a pretty great feel to it… but if you know anyone who struggles in this department, WildStar is going to leave clickers in the dust. Solo, they will probably be able to get by, but may struggle with the Prime (Elite) mobs. In groups, they will feel overwhelmed — some of the boss encounters I have seen to this point require quick reflexes, sudden movements, precise timing of interrupts/stuns/abilities.

Regarding the “other” gameplay elements — that is, questing, gathering, crafting, Limited Action Set (talents/abilities), AMPs, “Paths” — I feel the game becomes a little scatter-brained by trying to offer too much variety all at once. As a new player, I did not feel gracefully introduced to some of these systems. Introduced, yes — tutorials are offered — but there is a *lot* to understand here, let alone master. Starting out, I’m looking to understand movement, combat, abilities, and questing mechanics… but I am seeing a confluence of options here, option overload even. I’m collecting lore items, interacting with objects for quests, interacting with objects for my Path gatherings or holdout missions, interacting with objects for quests *in some other way* (I actually had to “fast tap” a key to set a piece of artillery to blow), receiving random challenges, picking up “this starts a quest” items, receiving other quests while-in-the-field via the communicator…

Phew. And I haven’t even picked a gathering or crafting profession. I don’t know how to, and haven’t had time! I’m not even level 10!

Perhaps some of this content, these systems, could have been more spoon-fed throughout 1 to 20. Perhaps. Maybe. I’m no game developer, but I have been gaming a looooong while, and I know overload when I see it. Add to this the varying +stats, like strikethrough and assault power and shielding and resistances… yikes. There’s nothing wrong with any of these systems individually, but altogether it feels a little… chaotic. Almost as if some old design decisions have been lingering and never got pruned or tightened-up. I anticipate there being some “paring down” as the game goes on. WoW did this as well, but I think Blizzard took it too far in the other direction and simplified too greatly. My opinion, naturally.

Races, classes… I had a very hard time deciding on these, which is a good thing. The “factions” are both interesting, the races are diverse (love the Granok!), and the classes have great appeal. The Warrior feels a lot like Diablo 3’s Barbarian but, obviously, with the need to dash/dodge left, right, and back to avoid various telegraphs. The Spellslinger is a fun variant on the Mage archetype with a dash of Hunter thrown in. I’m going to try an Engineer for my “pet class” fix, next.

All in all, WildStar smacks of Triple-A effort and presentation. Carbine definitely “has it” and I think this could truly contend with World of Warcraft in the long-term. It’s endgame promises to reward playstyles from casual to hardcore, and from what I’ve seen, it will definitely deliver to the highly-skilled crowd (for PVP and PVE). Casuals… I’m not sure. And really, that’s fine — I’m glad the devs are making strong, confident design decisions out of the gate. I hope they stick with them. WildStar may end up not being for me, or for you, or you, or you over there… but it will definitely appeal to some, and I believe Carbine is on their way to establishing a loyal subscriber base.

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