Wildstar is a soon to be released MMORPG (That’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game for you noobs) in June by Carbine Studios. It’s a whacky blend of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that might make you think of Star Wars if Star Wars were created by a bunch of nutters from the looney bin on the hill. I’ve been in the Closed Beta for a couple of months and the Open Beta started last week and goes through this weekend. It’s your chance to find out why in a world of F2P (Free to Play, nublette) there are still games that are worth a subscription fee. But if you want a quick and dirty of what’s in store for you before you go try it out for free this week I’m gonna fill your skull with some gooey morsels to get them saliva glands kicking into overdrive!
The WHAT of any MMO is your race and/or class selection. In Wildstar you’ve got 6 classes and 8 races within 2 factions. Think early World of Warcraft; because this game is made by the same people who were on the initial design team of that powerhouse. Your two factions are the Dominion, a group of alien races who seek to “unify” the universe under a single political force ruled by an Emperor is who half-god. They are what would have been if Emperor Palpatine were also a devout Catholic instead of a Sith Lord. The Dominion consists of pompous humans, crazed space bunnies with a knack for science (the kind that usually ends up making things explode), a tribal alien species that look like humanoid demon-dragon hybrids, and a sentient race of androids built by the humans to do their bidding. On the opposite faction we have the Exiles. The Exiles are a rag tag group of species who are tired of the oppression of the Dominion and are fighting back with what limited resources they have. Within those ranks are the Exiled Humans, an alien race of people made out of rocks (Galaxy Quest?), space zombies, and group of furry elf type aliens who survive off their connection to wildlife.
Well I’ve covered the factions and races, so what kinds of classes do they have? Wildstar decided to stick with the Holy Trinity concept (Tank, Healer, Damage Dealer) and so each class fits in to two of those roles, but your build generally is going to have you focusing on one more than the other. You have Medics who use Reconstructors which are basically weaponized shock paddles to heal or kill. There are Warriors who swing giant greatswords to great effect to dish out or take punishments. Engineers summon little drone bots to do their bidding and can have numerous bots out at a time to assist them in combat. Next are Espers which use their telepathic powers to make minds EXPLODE (sometimes those explosions are filled with soothing rainbows)! Stalkers are basically Wolverine given a stealth suit… which is so fucking effective I don’t understand why Marvel hasn’t done it yet. And Gunslingers are space cowboys that can travel through the ethereal plane. Some of this sounds pretty typical to the MMO scene and all of them are based off of things you’ve seen before, but in true Wildstar fashion they’ve turned things up to 11 given some truly impressive character to each class so they don’t feel like the same thing you’ve played thousands of times before.
Well boys, this may get nasty...
The WHERE of Wildstar is Nexus. Nexus is the one believed mythic home world of a long disappeared alien race that was so powerful they practically seeded the rest of the galaxy with life, they were called the Eldan. Think the Infinite Empire from Star Wars only something much more sinister may have gone down based off what we’re learning since finding Nexus. Oh, did I fail to mention we found Nexus? Yeah, so now the Dominion and the Exiles are battling over whom can stake a claim on it. War and espionage are erupting everywhere all while expeditions into old Eldan ruins begin to unearth their secrets and power. Oh, but these aren’t ruins like you know them. Not dusty buildings or run down stone monuments. Oh, no. These are giant mechanical engines and floating citadels with lasers and an AI that is housed within them that connects them all together… and that AI has gone insane.
No kidding when I say that Nexus has been filled with so much action and lore and secrets to find around every corner it’s likely that it will take some time for people to find and piece together everything that will exist at launch and I have a feeling the developers are still holding many many cards still in their hands. I have not seen such a well developed set of Lore in a game since Star Wars or World of Warcraft and both of those games were based on EXISTING Intellectual Properties with years of development behind that lore to give them depth. Wildstar rivals them both and doesn’t have the advantages that either of them had, it’s incredibly impressive. If you play games for the story and world immersion at all this game will have you ache to hunt down every little datacube and notepad lying around. Not only does it present an epic and rich world with some serious conflicts going on, but it does so with the tone and humor of Borderlands so that even while you’re learning about the enslavement or genocide of an entire alien species… you’re laughing about it. Kind of twisted, but hey… it’s engaging.
Way to avoid the... OH GOD DAMN IT FRANK!
There have been a couple of games who have tried to make combat in MMO games more action oriented and less “select target, mash buttons” style of combat that the vast majority of them have been. Tera and Guild Wars 2 stand out as two that were mildly successful. Tera pretty much just gave you a targeting reticule to aim with, but otherwise was still the same, and Guild Wars 2 just let you run around and dodge a lot more all without any real tank and things just got chaotic. Wildstar seems to have found the solution in the telegraph system. All abilities effect a certain area. It may be a large one, small, it may be square, or rectangle or triangle, or parallel lines, or cones, or any number of shapes and sizes. And these areas of effect are shown on the ground so that you know where your skills will hit. This also applies to healing and also to enemy damage. So now positioning is incredibly important. What types of creatures you’re using impacts which abilities (based on the shape of their area of effect) are most effective. This creates the action of Guild Wars 2 (constant movement and positioning) with the skill based combat of Tera but with a more intuitive experience that just feels fluid and capable of being mastered as opposed to always haphazard. By likewise telegraphing enemy abilities it allows the developers to ramp up difficulty in a way that makes sense at you get more and more skilled at dealing with avoiding damage and makes NOT avoiding damage truly punishing.
I went in to my first 5-man dungeon last night and had not had more fun at getting my ass kicked in than that in a long time. We wiped a LOT. Spent almost 3 hours in there and this is the first dungeon you can do, meant for level 20. Screwing up was not allowed. Accidental pulls were not allowed. Not interrupting was not allowed. Anyone not pulling their weight meant the death of the whole group. For some this may seem painful and exclusionary and I’ll cover why that’s not exactly the case later in this article. Suffice to say here that it was a breath of fresh air to have an MMO challenge me and my guild and not be afraid to do so even at an early level. It was wonderful to be in a game where I could truly tell the developers understood how strategy and team work create fulfilling experiences and how to make them happen in different ways. Knowing that this entry dungeon was just the tip of the iceberg has me excited about what is in store later on.
Another part of the HOW of MMOs is not just how you kill things or heal things. It’s not just the combat, but how you interact with the game itself. Some people love just killing stuff, some love engaging in the lore, some people are social butterflies and are always in groups or in chat, etc. Everyone plays these games for differing reasons, but no game has actually quantified that with a system until Wildstar. At character creation you also must choose a Path. These are Soldier, Scientist, Explorer, or Settler. Soldiers specialize in killing things. Big things. Also using fancy weaponry that only they have access to. You’ll find terminals all over that tell you to survive waves of enemies or challenge you to bring down big bad enemies, only for you, Soldier. Explorers are for the people who have to uncover the whole map and like climbing the mountain peak they see because… “I wonder what’s up there!”. You’ll be tasked with going on Scavenger Hunts, climbing mountains or tall trees, finding secret tunnels and caves, and generally seeing every nook and cranny of Nexus. Scientists love the lore of Nexus. They get a little scanbot that they can tell to scan flora, fauna, datacubes, and all sorts of things they come across and each thing they scan gives them more information about Nexus and what has been going on for the thousands of years it’s been since any outside people came there. Sometimes your bot can even hack computer terminals to give you access to areas that only you can get to! Settlers are the socialites of Nexus. They can gather materials and build buff stations for themselves and others to use, they can build whole towns in some cases, or just tiny little hubs in others. Some of these have quests that everyone can take just because a Settler built it! Some have special vendors that will appear! In general everything a Settler does, everyone benefits from. Everyone loves the Settler. Roughly about 30% of your time on Nexus will be spent playing the game according to your Path. It helps you engage with Nexus in the way that YOU find interesting and fun and not just through the same quests everyone else is doing. It makes Nexus feel alive and like you are a part of why it’s alive. You’re a special little snowflake in Wildstar… a special little snowflake that scans flowers and then shoves a sword through an alien’s head. Universal dream.
MOAR DEATH RAYS!
I’m a social gamer. Don’t get me wrong, I play games by myself. But much like sex, I may enjoy some solo time but if you give me the opportunity to do it with another person I’ll always take that option. I’ll even do it with people I don’t particularly like; I’m just going to make it as awkward and uncomfortable for them as possible. Yeah, that last bit still applies to both. MMOs give me the ability to play with lots of friends I know and even make some great new ones. Wildstar gives lots of content for you to do either by yourself, but also even more to do with some friends.
I spoke a bit about the challenge of the 5-man dungeon I did. And Carbine has stated that we should expect lots of challenge in those dungeons and even more in the 40-man raiding that will come in the end game. That’s right, back to old school 40-man raids! It was often pain to organize that many people back in the beginnings of games like World of Warcraft, but the pay off of doing it always felt fantastic. If you miss those days of hard work for massive payoffs Carbine is listening to you! Carbine knows not everyone is that “hardcore raider” type and they need content for the casual player as well. And there is a ton. Everywhere you go as you adventure you’ll find unique monsters ready to be taken down that require anywhere from 2-20 people. Just group up or do a call-to-arms in zone and go bring that bad boy down! They usually have decent loot and sometimes extra quests that show up just for going out of your way and killing them! If you like dungeons, but think maybe you’re not ready for the toughness of what I described earlier than Carbine has created Adventures. These are like dungeons in that they require 5 people, but they are toned down in difficulty and instead usually are the size of a town where you experience a sort of choose your own adventure style scenario. For instance at level 15 on the Exiles side you’ll get to help free a small farming community from the oppression of the Dominion. Along the way you get to decide whether to rally the farmers into a militia or sneak through the Domnion’s forces stealthily and take out their key commanders. There are about 9 different choices you get to make that alter the scenario as you go through it with 3 different outcomes depending on those choices. They’re incredibly fun, not too hard, offer acceptable rewards, and have great replay value.
If you like a bit of competitive play in your games Wildstar has a fantastic setup for Player-vs-Player. Not only do they have what we’ve come to expect in terms of Battlegrounds (objective based 10-20 player PvP) and Arenas (2-5 player PvP skirmishes) in both rated and non-rated formats, but they’ve invented a whole new form. Because that’s just what these guys do… Enter Warplots. What would you build if you could build a giant fortress of death? Mine fields? Giant Rocket Launchers? Laser beams? Traps? Would you go out in the world and fight some of the biggest and meanest monsters there are, capture them, and then unleash them in your Doom-Fortress against your unsuspecting foes? You can do all of these things in Warplots .Fully customizable fortress designed to annihilate 40 of your enemies. Drop that bad boy next to someone ELSE’S Warplot and then each side tries to take control of the other’s first. It’s like Player Housing. For guilds. If your house murdered people.
Oh yeah, Player Housing? Yeah… there’s that too. It’s pretty robust. You can even invite your friends in for tea. Or to raid.
As a shameless plug I’d point out that a game can only be as fun as the people you play it with. I’ve been lucky enough to find a group called Madcast Gaming that’s been around for a long time and the people are all enthusiastic and hilarious gamers. You can check out our recruitment thread here.
The long answer to that is written above. The short answer is because Wildstar is the incredibly well polished answer to “Why hasn’t someone made an MMO using all the cool features everyone else has tried, but without all the crap that’s come with them too?!” You can say that virtually everything that Wildstar is doing has been done on some level before, but that’s like saying that you don’t want to put together a jigsaw puzzle because the shapes of the pieces have all been seen before. It’s how they fit together and the picture that is created as an end result that makes it truly special. Wildstar is unique not because of its various pieces, but in how well it brings it all together and doesn’t add a bunch of crap that makes the good less… umm… good. The biggest complaint I have is a $15 a month subscription fee. But, oh wait… they also have a way to pay for the game using in game currency.
Open Beta is going on now through May 18th. Launch is early June and pre-orders get in before even then. It’s all happening really soon and I am VERY excited. I highly encourage people to grab the free week this week to see if it gets it’s hooks in you. If it does, I hope to find you on Nexus really soon. Hopefully on the same side of my Resonators, but I’ll be just as happy to melt your face off….
*I started a twitch channel and have been doing some streaming recently. You can check me out at twitch.tv/ilooklikesatan. Any stream I do will be archived, so check out the couple of vids that are there or catch me live.