There seems to be a lot of hype and excitement around this new MMO, so when I was offered the opportunity to try it out during one of the beta weekends I decided to have a go.
The basics seemed fairly simple .. two factions, each with various races to choose from. Each race has multiple classes (various different damage dealing, protection or healing type classes) – and some of those classes were restricted to only some races. In addition to this, there is also an extra choice .. your “path”. This is related to how you want to play the game … explorer, scientist, soldier or settler. The path you choose influences additional bonus quests you receive.
First impressions showed the graphics to be slick and high quality, if rather “cute” and cartoon-like. I found the controls to be easy enough to understand (very similar to most other MMO’s), although I found that turning my character on the spot using the keyboard was very slow, compared to doing the same thing with the mouse. I also found that, during the first beta weekend I attempted, the quest system was overwhelming. The main problems I encountered were failing to understand exactly what the quest required of me, and failing to understand how to find the quest location.
The combination of these rather put me off the game and, when invited to try out the next beta weekend, I made very little effort to get there.
However … as there was one final beta weekend up for grabs, I felt I should have a proper go at it – not least because others had said that, although the initial quests weren’t brilliant, things really opened up once down onto the main planet.
So I headed back into the game and created a new character .. this one even more “cute” than the last, with very improbable dimensions.
I found the game to be improved from the previous time I’d played .. either the interface had become more intuitive, or I’d just got my brain working this time. However, I did still think that the learning curve was still pretty steep. In one way that is a plus .. there is so much to learn and master that it’s certainly not a short-term thing – it encourages you to play more, to delve more deeply, to read up on it. But I suspect some could be completely put off by it.
One of the main problems I’d had the first time I’d played, was trying to work out where quest locations were .. this time I discovered that you could simply click on the quest shown on the screen and a temporary arrow would appear to give you an idea of direction, complete with a distance indicator. Of course, you still have to work out the best way to get to that location, and it’s not quite as helpful when you’re operating on multiple levels, but it gives you a starting point.
Once down on the planet, after completing the starter quests, the landscaped improved .. the vistas were lovely, although I did feel sometimes that it could do with being toned down a bit .. some of those colours were VERY vivid, especially when you were subjected to random bright flashes (which happened regularly as part of some of the earlier quests).
A few things surprised me about the way the world worked .. after playing one MMO for so many years, I’ve gotten used to how things work .. so when I was almost trampled to death by a load of non-aggressive but stampeding animals it was a bit of a shock to the system .. almost pleasantly so (despite the close shave).
Another example of this was when I decided to swim across a river near a waterfall … and discovered the pull of the water has a massive impact on you!
I did find the number of quests overwhelming at times .. possibly I was greedy trying to complete everything offered, but not only did you get the standard quests (quest givers asking you to do stuff for them), but you also had “path” quests that related to your chosen path and bonus quests that related to something you’d just done.
For example, the path I’d chosen was Explorer (considering the amount of times I fell off trees, mountains and over waterfalls, possibly not the best choice, in retrospect), so I got additional quests that were either general (explore an entire area) or more specific (reach the top of the mountain to put down surveillance equipment). So at one point I was trying to carry out a traditional quest, that took me close to the mountain needed to climb for the Explorer quest, so started up there, only to be given a bonus quest to use bouncy mushrooms to fly through the air, to catch little moths (on a timer).
By the time I’d finished that, I’d died three times falling off the mountain/over a waterfall/off a tree, managed to complete the bonus quest but neither of the other two, and become completely lost in the process.
I suspect there are also “world quests” of some sort, as I often saw special notifications stating a certain area/stage had been reached – but as I spent most of my time lost, I didn’t get that far :p
I did level up a few times and got to explore the Wildstar interface .. the character screen was fairly familiar, although some of the stat names were rather strange:
As you gain levels, your stats improve, but you also get the chance to improve them yourself – primarily through gear upgrades.
You can also improve yourself using the “talent tree” … which seems rather overwhelming in itself. I didn’t explore any talent trees for other classes, but suspect they are similar. It has three primary role options, and three hybrid options … each with multiple paths and choices.
Each of those little gold buttons is an available choice, each of the padlocks showing what needs to be done to unlock those choices.
As your level goes up so, often, does the number of abilities you can choose from. These abilities are sub-divided into types however, at least at the point I got to, you had more abilities than taskbar space to put them, so you have to choose wisely. Your taskbar slots do slowly unlock as you increase in levels but, although there were additional task-bars to either side of the central interface, these seemed to be unable to hold your actual ability buttons .. only items from your bags, such as food.
Combat is rather interesting although, especially for the class I chose (Esper) it could be rather slow, as it required a build-up of a spell prior to casting it. I suspect this the same for a lot of the combat, as Wildstar uses “telegraphed” moves .. basically for a lot of the high impact moves, the area it will affect is “telegraphed” on the ground prior to it hitting .. showing where it will hit and when. This gives you the opportunity to move out of range or shows when to use interrupts/absorbs.
Combine that with the various spell graphics and floating combat text, I do wonder if this could make combat rather over-cluttered at times, although I’m assuming there will be options in the interface to tone it down some.
Overall, I enjoyed playing Wildstar and, if I had the time and money, I’d certainly consider playing it alongside World of Warcraft, not least because there are lots of it that I’ve not experienced and would love to try. However, currently I have neither of those things, so WoW still wins out.
But it’s certainly not a cut and dried choice anymore, and I could imagine a lot of people would consider Wildstar a major contender. Let’s just hope that Blizzard picks up some pointers from Wildstar the same way they have done in the past with other, newer MMO’s than WoW.