Last week we discussed Firefall, a game by a company founded by three peers of the 17 founders of Carbine, with a very similar concept. It’s interesting how the same pedigree, a similar objectives and inspirations, and a founding and development period that were roughly the same (Red 5 and Carbine were founded in 2005 the studios announced their projects in 2010 and 2011 respectively and both released their projects in 2014) could be so vastly different. Admittedly one game is a FPS/MMO hybrid and the other is a Twitch/MMO hybrid so there are going to be some obvious differences but the parallels invite comparison.
Where Firefall underwent dramatic upheaval with public access very early in the development cycle the development for Wildstar was fairly linear with access only opening up late in the development process and public betas only hitting in the last few weeks. The style also shares the same cartoonish style as a kernel but goes in vastly different directions. Firefall never seems to be quite sure what it wants to do with its visual style where Wildstar embraces the cartoon nature of their design and makes it a defining quality. Both have extensive voice acting but instead of populating a world full of dead voiced interns acting as voice actors Carbine went with the minimalist approach with witty dialogue written out but the characters only voicing “flavor” lines to give you a taste of what to expect from the game.
Each side is made up of four roughly analogous races the Dominion have the Cassian humans supremacists who lay claim to having been hand chosen by the Eldan to lead this alliance (think of any Grand Moff from Star Wars then ratchet the jerk level up by 10), Draken dragon people who are the scrappers of the Dominion, the Mechari a race of sentient robots created by the Eldan to further their “long game” agenda, and Chua imagine Fizgig from The Dark Crystal if it wore clothes and had the brain of an evil super scientist.
From the get go you have a ton of customization options, you can tweak your featured with the now standard sliders down to some incredibly granular levels. As I am a Browncoat to the bone my last alt was Firefly themed Keylei is as close as I could get it, I decided to take the Aurin and create my own little River Tam (or in this case Stream). The classes are broken out in to the obvious Warrior class, tank class is tankey. Then there is the engineer, a hybrid pet class with damage and support abilities. Next up is the Esper, a sort of spell caster class using psychic manifestations of blades. Medics are your healer class… well duh. Stalkers are a your DPS class, roughly your thief. Finally we have Spell Slingers a DPS/Healer hybrid. The neat thing is, built right, every class has a healing component so even though it roughly follows the “Holy Trinity” there is flexibility in the style of play.
Once I crafted my Stream I started exploring the world of Wildstar, after a brief intro cinematic with a little flavour dialogue I was dumped unceremoniously in to the Exile ark ship where I was set on a series of fetch and kill x number of these quests. Most of the first leg is to help Deadeye Brightland (the one eyed Space Cowboy) revive his wife and unborn child. You get a strong introduction to the basics of the game like movement, dodging, and basic attacks. By the end of this starting area you will have leveled at least twice and have leveled in your Path at least once. Path and Class rewards are separate with Path granting you unique Path abilities (like the ability to jump higher or call in aid) and Class rewards are new abilities and ability increases. Once you reach the end of the Ark ship you have a choice between going to the human or the Aurin settlement, I have tried both and preferred the human but given I had played less of the Aurin I went with that.
Once you start to explore this starting area of Nexus you get a better feel for the “telegraph” system, your enemies will telegraph their abilities letting you navigate and dodge or interrupt. These become more complex as you level but at these starting levels are quite slow. I also began unlocking regional Path quests, these are quests that are tied to the area I am in like climbing the giant plant and placing a radar dish. As well as an explorer the more of the map I unlock the higher my “completion” bar becomes allowing me to level my explorer. As an explorer there are regional quests that are locked off from me but if you happen upon a Soldier doing a hold out mission you can join in just like if you unlock a hidden path or a scientist unlocks a blocked door the folks around you can make use of it. While being a rewarding solo treat, the path missions also engage in good communal play.
That was it though, and I wanted more! To be honest the reason I wanted more is I knew the tasty morsels to come, regional challenges (timed events where you have to complete a task before the clock runs out), AMPS and crafting which is the most fun I’ve had crafting in a game yet, and housing… oh goodness the housing! Jackdaw (my Space Cowboy) has his very own Rocketship House with a nice garden, a mining node, a BBQ pit and his own moonshine still. He’s decorated it with all sorts of knick knacks and trinkets he’s picked up on his travels… but that’s not the first five, the first five are pretty rote, there’s a few cut scenes to establish a flavour and the graphics and gameplay are fun but nothing unique, they are a bit more dynamic than many MMOs allowing for more mobility and a more bouncy feel but nothing game changing or paradigm shifting.
And that’s the thing, Wildstar isn’t trying to redefine gaming, it’s trying to take something that was fun (WoW) and play with the setting a bit, shake it up. If you enjoyed WoW and want a change of flavour, if you like Space Cowboys and Jerk Pants Empires and enjoy a cheeky tone that involves being yelled at and called cupcake every time you level then this is a game you may want to try out (and trust me, being yelled at and called cupcake is actually a lot of fun). Check with a friend who had it, they may have a friend code. Occasionally there are free weekends and the cost of the game is not that bad but it is a subscription game, unlike Firefall this is 15 dollars a month so if you are not in to subscription games this may not be for you, that being said it does have an interesting payment system where you can buy play time in game with in game money so if you are adverse to paying real world money to play a game but can grind gold like nobodies business you may be able to swing this.