Zoe’s MMO Corner: WildStar

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WildStar is a pay-to-play (with some in game options) space western RPG with a charming cartoonish flair, some living vegetables, and space zombies – because everyone needs more space zombies – about the settlement of a lost planet and it’s kind of a good time.

History and Development

WildStar was created by Carbine Studios, which was basically just a bunch of guys from Blizzard who got pissed off about Blizzard being Blizzard – you know, in doing game research for this blog, I’ve realized that happens a lot more than it probably should, Blizzard, maybe stop creating your own competition, mkay? – and took off to make their own game.  Which they were quoted as saying they wanted to be “anything but World of Warcraft”.  Guess those dudes are not getting references from their former employers.  But it is pretty funny.

Apparently in the creation of WildStar they couldn’t find a game engine they liked enough to base their whole game on so they made their own.  And the mechanics for WildStar are pretty entertaining.  Basic, nothing hugely fancy, but like, that’s not important.  They work, they’re smooth, great.  In 2011, the game was announced, and went live in June of 2014.

After I finished playing through what was then the available content for the Secret World, sometime in early 2013, my gamer pal and I went looking for our next big MMO.  And we found WildStar, then still in development.  It looked fucking awesome.  Like, the cartoonish graphics, the bright colors, the plot which basically read as a ripoff of the television show Firefly but with aliens (this was not at all a bad thing), and, at least for me, the space zombies which I was immediately obsessed with and would answer any question for the next six months about “cool new games” by yelling “SPACE ZOMBIES” and frothing at the mouth a little.  It’s really a wonder I have friends.

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But for real SPACE ZOMBIES

Now a quick heads up, when this DID release I was just starting this crazy job I had for a while where I worked 13 hour days so I haven’t played as much of WildStar as I should.  I also had some issue with my account and with subscriptions but that’s not really something I want to get into right now.  Just suffice to say that I haven’t played all the way through WildStar the way I have with other games.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because it’s hard to play a game when you spend most of your day hanging from the ceiling and playing with electricity and tape.

But I really wanna get back into it, if that makes it any better.

Character Creation

Here’s a story.  I have a baby sister.  Okay, she’s not a baby – like, she’d be really mad if she knew I called her that – but she’s six.  Which is pretty much a baby when you’re over twenty.  Anyway, the point is, I may or may not have taught her to use the character creator for WildStar (she can also use the one for Guild Wars 2 which she refers to as “make a girl” and keeps making crazy pink Sylvari).  So like, there wasn’t much of a point to that except it’s adorable because oh yeah, the WildStar characters ARE FUCKING CRAZY LOOKING.

She likes the space zombies too.

Here’s the boring part where I list a bunch of stuff, hang with me for a second.  So your choice starts with whether you wanna be in Dominion or Exiles (and by that I mean the Empire and the Rebels because this is kind of Star Wars and by that I mean totally Star Wars).  Each side has three different races to chose from but the classes and paths (I’ll explain) are all the same, mostly.  Dominion snotty humans, robots, demons, and killer mice while the Exiles have normal humans, animal people, space zombies and golems.

Classes are your abilities; chose from Warrior, Esper (psychics), Spellslinger, Engineer, Stalker (rogue), and Medic.  Each class has a couple of roles and the WildStar website does a much better job of explaining them than I was, so check that shit out if you want more info.  Your path is what kinds of quests you get, your interests basically: Solider, Explorer, Settler, Scientist (I tired really hard to make a Tinker Tailor Solider Spy joke there but it wouldn’t work and honestly how many of you are old enough to get that?  I shouldn’t be old enough to get that.)

As for cosmetic character creation stuff, it’s actually a lot of fun.  The graphics are very bright and cartoonish so it’s in no way trying to be serious.  Your character can be neon pink from top to toe if that’s what pops your toast.

The critique that’s been leveled against the character design is that woman look kind of unrealistic.  I mean, yes, it’s true, everyone, male or female, has like a three inch waist, but I’m not going to defend this one because of that.  I’m actually not going to defend this one at all.  Yes, the cartoonishness could have been done better for women and allow them to be less sexy cartoony.  It can get kind of boobular and I’m not about that.  I mean, mostly you can avoid it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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I mean really guys, do we need that much boob happening there?

Story

Like I said, it’s not like I’ve played a huge amount of this game, but it’s not massively story heavy, at least so far.  The basic plot is that the Exiles and Dominion both find this planet called Nexus where once lived an ancient race of elves beautiful ancient technologically advance being called the Eldan and basically you’re there to steal their shit.

Since it’s an MMO, it makes it feel like everyone else is doing that to which honestly works.  Basically think of it like an intergalactic gold rush going on.  Plus Dominion and the Exiles are fighting each other all the time so that’s sort of throwing a wrench in everyone trying to steal everyone else’s shit.

Also you’re trying to figure out ancient tech.

But really the story is kind of weak.  Like, other things are great, like the atmosphere and the combat (getting to that) but the story is just kind of there.  It’s fun and mindless, which is sometimes pretty okay, but it’s certainly not the best out there.  It’s just a means to deliver that game and I like my games as a means to deliver a story.

Gameplay

But on the other hand, combat is pretty boss.  Like, it’s smooth and easy to master and fun and dynamic.  Enemies telegraph abilities in these big red circles on the ground – this isn’t the only game to do this, so don’t think I’m saying that, but WildStar does do it particularly well/often – so combat isn’t something you can take as casual.  It’s a lot of attempts to dodge and weave and run away and run back and it can be kind of frustrating but it’s kind of fun too.  Also the attacks all have fun little animations so it really does feel like you’re bouncing around enough rather than just hitting someone with a sword over and over again.

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Also it’s shiny.  Really most everything in this game is shiny.

The quests are interesting enough.  Well, I mean, most of them are like “Kill 12 giant bees” or whatever, but depending on your path, you get certain types of quests that feed into that and give you a different experience.  Settlers claim resources and stuff, soldiers murder, you know, pretty standard stuff but it’s a decent idea that really does make the game feel like you get more freedom to chose what sort of character you want to play.

Level and class is pretty standard.  You find better equipment.  There’s a crafting system I think but I honestly haven’t gotten around to that because I’m terrible at most crafting systems in most games (Guild Wars 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition aside).  Also you get a house which is kind of fun to play with.  I mean, I’m not totally huge on that, but it’s kind of a good time to play with and keep all your shit.

But honestly the draw of this game is the open world combined with the graphics.  You get to wander around and it’s just so cool looking.  There’s a whole quest about riding geysers into the sky and it’s just really pretty in sort of this fun, almost childish way.  Things are brightly colored and even in the 3D graphics, it really hangs on to that cartoon look.  I like that.  I like that it has a style to it and isn’t trying to look normal (by that I mean that most games really seem to want to look realistic and WildStar is like one of the few games out there that’s really trying NOT to look realistic).  It’s bright and shiny and goofy and happy.  The writing isn’t like stellar or anything but it fits the style of the game and it’s enough to make me laugh.  I think that does a lot for it.  In this age of “dark and gritty games”, it’s just so god damn happy.

The Good

Style, style, style.  WildStar has fucking style coming out of its goddamn ears.  Like, it’s just so much fun and so swish and shiny and exciting and pretty in a really different way.  I can look at most new games and say “Oh, it’s pretty” but this game is pretty the way a little six year old girl would think of pretty and by that I mean bright and colorful and you can have aqua hair (clearly “aqua” as a color is a big thing for my sister and she was really happy about her pink and aqua cat girl).

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Style though.

Combat is solid.  Writing isn’t terrible.  The concept of the story is actually really solid and works with the space western thing really well.  I think it really captures that idea of the spaghetti western in tone and writing, but with aliens and giant bees and shit.  It’s a good time and a good look and I’ll forgive some of the story issues because of that.  I guess that goes back to the idea of style, though this is tone rather than visual.  They just have this really solid thing going on.

The Bad

Story.  It’s not great.  I mean, tone aside, it’s just not really there when you dig for it.  It’s actually pretty frustrating because like, I want it to really be as good as I feel it could be, but I worry that it’s lacking there to a certain extent and that’s frustrating.  It can grindy because of that and like, yeah, you do need to just kill things for XP which is really not my thing.  I think that WildStar would be great with a friend, but as of yet I haven’t had time to really play with pals – I have a friend who will play this with me but time, you understand – so maybe I’ll change my opinion when I get to do that.

The Ugly

Usually in this section I’m pretty solid at pinpointing “a thing” that is terrible.  Or not.  But this one is more of a feeling and that feeling is that fifteen levels into this game, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.  I want a game to try to take over my life.  I really want that.  I know it sounds weird, but that’s what I’m going for.  And this just doesn’t do that, at least not yet.  I was so excited about it coming out but that waned really quickly.  I’m actually patching the game as we speak – on my incredibly slow internet, it will be HOURS – so I’m going to try it again, but I just don’t think it has a great hook.

From here…?

I don’t know.  I can’t say go buy it.  I can’t be that enthusiastic.  But I do think people shouldn’t write this game off quite yet.  I think it has a lot of potential and I’m hoping it’ll grow into it.  I’m also hoping the subscription will go away because fuck those.  It’s still pretty new so it’s still a little pricy so maybe wait on it for that, but I am happy to say that the price is dropping.  Like, I don’t think it would kill anyone to wait for this game.  But I do want it to be really good so keep that in mind.  Even if it’s not, I really want it to be.  So I’ll be giving it another chance.

Next Month: Due to my own internet related issues, Zoe’s MMO Corner will now become Zoe’s RPG corner (covering any RPG with character customization beyond class and gender) which means that next month we’ll be doing Neverwinter Nights! Kickin’ it old school with my first love of gaming with lots of discussion of DnD and some of the origins of the famed Bioware murder spree.

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