Wildstar Review – One Way Trip To Nexus
World of Warcraft has been the undisputed king of the MMO genre for what seems like an eternity: Blizzard’s behemoth will be ten years old later this year, in fact. Many big games with huge IPs behind them have tried and failed to take the throne for themselves. From Warhammer to Star Wars, nothing seems to budge Blizzard’s giant. Carbine, composed of several people behind the original development of World of Warcraft, believes it found the magic formula for their MMO, Wildstar. With an emphasis on its combat system and dungeons and raids which are likely to make even the most grizzled MMO veteran nervous, Wildstar may just be one of the few MMOs to thrive in this very competitive market.
In many ways, Wildstar feels like World of Warcraft: questing and levelling will be very familiar to the MMO veteran, however I found Wildstar’s pacing and breadth of choice helpful in getting the character from level 1 to 50 in a very natural way, instead of making it feel like another grind to get to the good part. In fact, levelling my character didn’t feel like a chore at all. The world Wildstar takes place in, Nexus, feels fresh and yearns to be explored. Sure, it has its ice area and desert area and forest area, but each piece of land feels unique in its own way and has its own series of story lines to follow. Whilst the main world story talks about the Eldan, a mysterious alien race which used to inhabit the planet before mysteriously disappearing, each region of the world has its own sub-story and plot points which make every area feel like a new adventure.
On top of questing, one may choose to level up their character through PvP battlegrounds or by tackling a series of side objectives alone or with friends. This ensures that if you ever get burned out of questing, or don’t like a particular region, you can opt to gain a few levels and blast through it much more quickly or even skip it entirely. Nothing is forced on you in Wildstar, you will always have control on how you want to play your game and you won’t be penalized for it.
What makes Wildstar a bit different from some of its competitors is its combat system. Every attack paints a “telegraph” on the floor; place your telegraph on your targets to hit them, avoid red enemy telegraphs to stay alive. The premise makes the combat sound easy, but in my experience that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting caught in an enemy telegraph can be devastating, with each attack wiping away a large chunk of your health (or even all of it) and often applying secondary debuffs.
Luckily, Carbine does a good job of easing the players into combat, with early enemies having very obvious animations leading up to their telegraphed moves and the consequences of being caught in one are much more forgiving. As the game proceeds, however, avoiding telegraphs becomes essential even if you are playing a tanky warrior. No amount of healing can keep a tank alive if he can’t dodge the telegraphs. This combat system makes any fight intense and boss fights particularly tough and memorable; healers have to be able to direct their healing spells to all the necessary targets, whilst making sure they won’t get caught out of position, while tanks have to keep aggro but also move and dodge in such a way that the healer can still target them properly.
DPS characters have a slightly easier job, but one wrong move and that could mean their death, not to mention the loss of a large amount of your damage. Dungeons are tough and they won’t go easy on you, which is why it’s strongly recommended to play them with a group of people you know; this becomes essential for the veteran difficulty level.
Overall, I loved the combat system, even if there is still room for improvement; targeting flying units, for example, is very difficult as the telegraph is only visible on the ground, so it’s impossible to tell if the units are actually inside the area of effect. Another issue I found is that, when targeting numerous enemies, it’s not always obvious how much damage you are doing and it’s hard to keep track of how much HP your enemies are at. Despite these few annoyances, Wildstar’s combat system is very well refined and a blast to use.
For those who prefer PvP, there is enough content to keep you busy for a while, albeit not as much as the rest. One game map in particular stands out, Walatiki Temple, which is basically a capture the flag game mode. Matches can get intense, but ultimately the lack of variety can make levelling exclusively through PvP feel like too much of a repetitive task. More PvP content, however, is promised in the near future.
In addition to PvP and PvE, Wildstar offers a surprisingly deep and addictive housing system; at level 14 you are given a plot of land to build your house which can be decorated with items and even be used as an extra crafting area. For example, since I am a miner, I chose to have a mine built on my plot so I can get some easy mining done every day. The possibilities are truly endless, with so many items scattered throughout the game, no two houses will look the same and you can easily spend hours on end just building and decorating your house.
Other benefits offered by the housing system include a bonus to the rate at which you earn Rest. For those unfamiliar with the MMO lingo, Rest is XP earned whilst you are offline and boosts the XP you earn when you come back to play. For example, if you log off for 12 hours, you will earn Rest equal to 10% of your current level so, when you log back on, the first 10% of your level you will get a significant bonus to XP earned. Once you caught up with your Rest, you will earn XP as normal. Certain items in can boost the rate at which Rest is earned, so if you invest your time in obtaining rare items and decorate your house accordingly, you get a significant bonus to Rest, meaning questing and levelling will be a lot less tedious with the higher rate of XP earned.
Lastly, we have Warplots, one more game mode for fans of objective-based PvP. Warplots can almost be considered multiplayer raids, with two teams of 40 players battling it out in a massive battlefield set with traps, defenses and even NPC bosses. Despite the scale of the battles and the different approaches you can take, Warplots can feel pretty boring alone, and are best enjoyed with in a guild. This way, you guild can upgrade and improve your warplot as they see fit and, since it can get rather expensive, it’s a lot easier for everyone to work together and chip in a little bit of gold each.
The rest is pretty much what you expect; lots of players shooting at each other or spamming heals whilst other, more sneaky, players roam around the map and try to sabotage the enemy’s defenses. It’s crazy, chaotic fun, even if the large scale nature of the game mode makes it almost a requirement to tackle this game mode with a guild or a large group of friends, which may turn off some players.
Unlike many MMOs which launched in a semi-finished state, Wildstar already feels like a complete package, with a lot of content still left to be explored even after taking your first character to 50. On top of that, Carbine have said that they have over a year and a half worth of content ready to be introduced in the game’s future updates. If you ever had a doubt whether that monthly fee is worth it, rest assured that Carbine has plenty of content coming up; in fact, the first big content drop is meant to arrive very shortly which adds a whole new area and lots of new items for you to lust over, with a major PvP drop coming up next.
It’s always hard to judge an MMO at launch, with so many variables which could completely change at any given time but, so far, Wildstar impressed me. The game could use a few improvements on the UI front and general optimization, but Carbine have been doing an excellent job at listening to the community and improving the game around their suggestions.
The sheer amount of content to chew through is very impressive, and can honestly rival what most MMOs offer a couple years after their respective launch. As I am approaching the level cap of 50, I know my journey in Nexus is only just beginning. Endgame in Wildstar isn’t about just doing daily quests; it’s about completing all the pre-requisites for raiding, defeating world-bosses, running veteran dungeons, raiding and acquiring the best gear, not to mention, of course, decorating your house and doing PvP.