Now that all the commotion is over for WildStar's big coming out party -- launch date announcement, preorder information revealed, NDA for the close beta ends, press previews published -- I wanted to wrap up my thoughts in a more casual fashion. I've written my fill on specific features and content and now I want to provide a more general overview of the game, my impressions of it and what it's outlook is for the future.
What WildStar is, no matter Carbine tries to pitch it as or what the press tries turn it into, is an MMO made for MMO players. Virtually every system and feature in WildStar is grounded in the core gameplay experiences built by its theme park MMO predecessors, from EverQuest and World of Warcraft to more modern MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and even TERA. With those fundamentals WildStar is able to do very interesting things, but that doesn't change the fact that at its heart WildStar is an MMO for MMO lovers.
Check out the rest of my extensive WildStar Coverage published earlier today:
- WildStar launches June 3
- WildStar preorders star March 19
- WildStar Preview: Warplots, Battlegrounds, and Arenas
- WildStar Preview: Raids, Dungeons and Adventures
Level 1 is going to be WildStar's make or break point, much like other MMOs. Players will be flooded with content as they're introduced to basic quest and story structure, paths, crafting, and early access to PvP, Shiphands and so on. The fact that all of this content is scaled so early game content is quite tepid and menial, building into the complex late-game systems meant to carry the game, compounds the fact that early game is overwhelmingly uninteresting.
Hopefully players quickly focus in on specific gameplay that they're interested in, allowing them to skip by things otherwise time consuming in favor of progressing in meaningful content. Personally, I found myself skipping the meaningful content in favor of simply question just so I could progress to more challenging and compelling content. There's no solution for this. It's part of the theme park MMO experience that time investment becomes growth in both progression and overall enjoyment. The roller coaster drops and spins don't mean anything without the climb... or the wait in line.
WildStar's saving grace is that it has the best combat that I've played since Final Fantasy XI's launch. It features the mobility and skill-shots of the growing in popularity Korean MMO market mixed with the sensibilities and visual conveyance that western MMOs perform exceedingly well. Most of all, WildStar's combat just feels good -- even at low levels. Thank goodness WildStar's Elder Game is well-tuned to showcase the combat system in a myriad of was, via Raids, Dungeons, Adventures in PvE and Warplots, Battlegrounds and Arenas in PvE. Early game, of course, lacks all of this content. It's Carbine Studio's burden, I believe, to do a better job representing their combat system before players give up on it due to the traditional MMO grind.
Should gamers manage to struggle past the early game, by far the weakest portion of WildStar, they'll discover increasingly exciting content and rewards. Instanced PvP and PvE content will unlock every so many levels and ultimately players will reach the Elder Game. If it wasn't clear to me before, after Carbine's press event it definitely rang true -- WildStar is an end-game focused MMO. Judging from what I've seen of said end-game, players have a lot to look forward to.
Whatever your opinion may be on the value of 40-player content due to it being inaccessible to most players, if anyone has the opportunity then they should try very hard to do participate. All of WildStar's complex systems come together for Raids and Warplots in ways that give a uniqueness to the game. It's not only exciting as a prospective player, but promising. If this is WildStar's launch content, then what do the developers have planned for their monthly content patches?
For players that won't ever reach Raids or Warplots, there's a ton of supplementary content that looks very cool too. Housing looks like an awesome time sink that's just straight fun, but also has huge rewards for min-maxers. Crafting, which is inherently a niche system, looks well supported by the dev team and thus should be viable even if it doesn't turn out to be fun. I'd be pining for Dungeons, where boss fights look like great fun, if I hadn't seen Raids already and thus have been drawn to the larger, brighter light.
I could list each systems and say why they're interesting, but the point should be clear -- these are all terms MMO players have heard of before. All Carbine has done is recognize their importance to this type of MMO and focused in on making them fun and cool in a WildStar way. There's very little new here for experienced MMO players. WildStar is just the next iteration on this sort of MMO -- which is a great thing. It's a game MMO players should be excited to play. Everyone else, well, never say never.
Personally I hope WildStar finds a substantial audience, a chunk of World of Warcraft's aging or retired population is most likely. I don't really think The Elder Scrolls Online's release will affect it in a dramatic way, though if it does I expect it to be a positive impact rather than a negative one. Nothing like an MMO trying not to be an MMO to remind gamers that true MMOs are still great gun. It's hard to tell these days, however, what with the growing wave of free-to-play demands, which grosses me out. They want free to play, they shouldn't be surprised when they get worse MMOs. I almost want WildStar to succeed beyond expectations just so I can know this type of MMO still has a livespan in the modern MMO market.
That's how I stand on WildStar -- wary, but hopeful. Hopefully at least 39 other courageous souls will join me in the Elder Game so we can do the 40-man Raid.