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WildStar Review: Why all the Hype?
Before I begin the review of the game I'd like to inform everyone where I come from when it comes to WildStar. As WildStar really markets itself as a return to the old school MMO style of large and challenging dungeons/raids with an emphasis on community, I come into this game being a long time MMO player. I first seriously played an MMO with the original World of Warcraft and have played just about every major MMO that has come out since. I know how the large raids and challenging dungeons felt and I'm definitely in their "target audience".
In terms of how far I got into WildStar before writing this, I got every class to at least level 15 with a few being in the twenties and my highest being level 37. I have not experienced the end game and I've only really looked into it in other reviews and live streams. So keep that in mind.
WildStar is a sci-fi themed MMO that fuses old school and new school MMO mechanics very nicely. It has a modern action-based combat system which is becoming the norm for new contenders in the market while also harkening back to early World of Warcraft in terms of difficulty, exploration, and even raid size.
You can also think of WildStar as a modern World of Warcraft. In various interviews the devs have hinted towards that. From the cartoon graphics, colorful world, and a real emphasis on larger raids (20 and 40 man), WildStar tries to recapture a lot of the glory of days passed. With a larger emphasis on community and being part of a guild, this game attempts to really make a close knit community which you don't see that often in MMO's anymore.
To keep this simple I'm splitting my review into 3 categories, The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral. I'm trying to be objective as possible with this but I'm still sure some will disagree.
1) Comedy - One thing you will noticed about this game almost immediately is their comedy style. When you first level up an announcer says what a "Badass" you are. Every time you level you will get similar messages which I never really noticed repeating. Even quests you do can have the most ridiculous of situations which like to poke fun at old Sci-Fi or action movie tropes. Really you can just look at a plethora of videos on their website where they explain some aspect of the game in a comedic manner. This really is one of the selling points of the WildStar as no other MMO is quite like it when it comes to the tone.
2) Double Jump - Pretty self-explanatory. Being able to double jump in an MMO is amazing. It doesn't sound like much, but it honestly just makes the game ever so slightly more enjoyable.
3) Crafting - I was pleasantly surprised about the crafting system in this game. Its not anything new in the MMO scene, but it is done extremely well. First off there is a separate crafting inventory so you never have to worry about bag space while you're out collecting materials. Second, the rate at which you level your craft and level up work out perfectly. Everything I was crafting was either my level or even a couple levels higher than me. Meaning I was always able to get some real benefits out of my profession while leveling. The gear you craft (at least in my exp from being an Armor Crafter) was also much better than quest rewards of the same level. In fact I found that a few crafted green quality items were better than some quest blue quality items of the same level.
Finally the way in which you learn patterns is quite interesting. For example, Technologists (Essentially Alchemists), have to explore with different ingredients to discover variants on basic recipes. Cooking is similar but to a more extreme where different spices made the food give different stats. Other professions that crafted gear learned new recipes through a tech tree. The tech tree had you craft certain pieces of gears to unlock a new one. It's a bit overwhelming at first but you will quickly find that it makes crafting all the more satisfying.
4) Fluid Combat - Outside of PVP where lag is an issue, The combat in WildStar is very fluid. As it is an action based MMO, a lot of damage can be avoided by dodging out of the way. In WildStar this means a good amount of attacks are telegraphed with a red targeting reticule on the ground. You can either run out of these or throw out an interrupt (which I highly recommend always having at least one on your bar). On boss fights, these basic avoidance mechanics can become extremely fun as some crazy patterns can start appearing that you have to skillfully get out of.
The actual combat itself is very responsive. There is very little delay in hitting a key and the ability firing. Many abilities also feel like they have quite the impact and outside a few outliers, you can really feel when one of your attacks lands.
5) Player Housing - WildStar has one of the best, if not the best, player housing models out there. Your initial home is free and available to you at level 14. You can teleport to your house at anytime and while there you gain rested experience. What is truly amazing about the housing is how much you can customize it. You can change the sky dome, pick from a good amount of base houses and even set up various "Fabkits" you find out in the world on your property. Fabkits can vary from a kiddy pool to a mountain range, to even some npc squatters on your land. They can also contain mini-dingeons, Challenges, or even resource nodes which periodically respawn.
Besides these Fabkits, you also can get décor items. Some can be bought at your house through a store, while a lot more can be found out in the world from quest rewards, challenge rewards, dungeon drops, and even made by other players who have the appropriate profession. Décor items can be placed just about anywhere, they can be scaled in size from extremely small to so large it is scary. The minor adjustments you can make with them and just the fact that there are literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of different items, means that your home will almost never look the same as another player's.
6) Promising Amount of Content - Even after only a month into release, WildStar is already releasing new content. The devs have stated before that they had already planned patch cycles months in advance and were working on them before the game even released. This is almost unprecedented in a new MMO. These devs seem to be forward thinking and so far the evidence points to their promises being true. Time will tell for certain.
Everything in this category are either aspects of the game I disliked but I certainly can see the appeal of or some things that I enjoyed that I can certainly see some people hating.
1) Classes - One of the greatest aspects of the class system in WildStar is that everyone single one of them is a hybrid. Meaning every class can be a damage dealer while Stalker, Warrior, and Engineer can tank whereas Medic, Spell Slinger and Esper can heal. Every class being a hybrid avoids the "hybrid tax" and it also helps to encourage more people to try either healing or tanking since it will always be available to them. It also helps that you get multiple skill sets you can switch between so you can easily switch roles on the fly.
What I dislike about the classes is that they suffer from only being able to use one weapon type. This has become a common theme with new MMO's which I wholeheartedly dislike. A two-handed sword is cool and all but why is it a warrior could never pick up an axe or hammer instead? Why must the medic only be able to use Defibrillators? (Yes, they seriously use Defibrillators as weapons) It seems like a minor nitpick but it is certainly something that bothers me in general.
Lastly I personally found the classes boring. It may just be that I don't care for the Sci-Fi theme but I personally would of preferred some real caster combining magic with science. Sure you can say Spell Slinger does but its not reflecting that well in game, at the end of the day all you do is shoot a gun as that class.
2) Holy trinity - This game uses the traditional tank + healer + damage dealer formula. I only mention this as not all new action oriented MMOs use this anymore.
3) Challenging - WildStar is hard. Dungeons in particular are quite challenging. Even the very first dungeon at level 20 can be a wipe fest to a group with 1 or 2 people unfamiliar with it. Yet, overcoming these dungeons feels ever so rewarding. That said, not everyone will like this. I'd say it even bothered me some times and some might consider the game too hard in general to be worth the time investment. This is really personally choice but this is by far the hardest MMO I've played dungeon wise in many, many years. But don't make me mislead you into believing these places are impossibly hard. No, they are quite simple if you are organized but good luck with that in pick up groups.
4) 20/40 Man Raids - This is a call back to very old school raiding. Making the raids so large helps to encourage community building where large guilds are needed. They also help bring back a feeling of nostalgia for people who raided in classic WOW. But also remember, getting 40 people together was awful in classic WOW and this kind of raiding is not for everybody.
5) Graphics - WildStar's graphic style is extremely cartooney and not that high fidelity. It looks better than World of Warcraft's current graphics but with the facelifts that is happening in the next expansion, WOW will actually look better than WildStar, at least in my opinion. I make this comparison as both have cartoon style graphics but I'd say WildStar takes the cartoon nature a bit further. Character models are less properly proportioned which leads to many characters having long limbs, big heads, and small bodies. Whether you like that or not is really up to you.
1) Questing - One of the most unappealing parts of WildStar is questing. You have your traditional, pick up quests, go kill X amount of guys and come back. Even the quests that try to do something a bit different with the use of vehicles or some sort of use item just feel unpolished and incredibly clunky. What's worse is I would say the starting zones inside the space ship for both the Exiles and Dominion are the worst starting zones I've every played for a AAA MMO release. They are just so....boring.
And that was a general theme of all the questing. Sure it does get better after leaving the starting area and there are a few pretty cool or funny quests but for the most part it will just feel like a grind. It was to the point where I honestly could not stand questing for more than an hour or two at a time.
2) Challenges - To go in line with questing, there are Challenges. Challenges are essentially optional quests with better rewards. These can range from races, to collecting items, or just straight up killing sprees of a certain type of creature. You discover challenges as you get near them, some self-activate if you kill a creature or speak to an npc related to it while others have to be activated from your challenge log.
Honestly, at first these won't seem that bad but after awhile challenges will come to just annoy you more than anything. For one, challenges do not give experience, they just give some sort of loot as a reward. Said loot is also spun on a roulette and picking a prize only increases your odds of receiving it and does not guarantee it. The reason why I consider challenges bad is simply that there are too many and they become incredibly obnoxious. You will often come into a string of challenges that you'll want to complete for the possible item upgrade or décor item but when you hit one every 5-10 minutes, you burn out on them fast. Some challenges also can take upwards of 10+ minutes and if you leave the area before time is up, you automatically fail. Really the whole system just seems poorly implemented.
3) PvP (bots) - WildStar's pvp is a resounding "okay". Nothing special. Latency is an issue, especially for melee characters where you will often get frustrated as you fail to hit an enemy player who is clearly inside your attack over and over again. Yet, I still had quite a bit of fun with it but what really destroys the experience is the many, many bots. In my several hours pvping, it was rarer for there not to be at least one bot in a game than a game with just people. In fact, I had quite a few games where 4+ people on my team were botting. It absolutely destroys any fun to be had.
4) Interface/Feed back - WildStar's interface is extremely poor. It does not bring your attention to important information that well at all. This is especially true for whatever you are targeting. It will show you a cast bar but the look of the interface makes it so it doesn't catch your eye. I often found it a struggle to pay attention to my target's cast bar even when consciously trying to do so. You can most likely get interface mods but really the base interface could seriously use some improvements.
5) Limited Action Set - This system seemed solid to me at first but I found it incredibly flawed after awhile. The Limited Action Set merely means you can only have a set number of abilities on your bar at any time. You can pick and choose abilities from your three skill trees to make whatever set you'd like. On the outside this seems fine and it even works in pvp. But as far is pve goes I found the system entirely pointless.
The reason for this is that at any time, as long as you are not in combat, you can switch skills out on the fly. So when running a dungeon, you would simply change your skills around depending on what you'd need for the encounter. So if a boss didn't need interrupts, you could switch that out for another damage skill or what have you. I did this a lot when I would tank dungeons. I often switched out interrupts, survivability, threat dumps or even just tossed on some damage all dependent on what I felt was best. But since you can switch so readily (and free as it has no cost) why even have the system in the first place? All it really does is punish the unwary. You can easily lose an encounter by one person missing one key ability on their bar.
6) Explaining itself - Finally the game just does a bad job at explaining itself mechanically. Some stuff is pretty self-explanatory. Crafting might take you a few minutes to figure out but its not hard. Same with stats, Unlike traditional stats like strength or Agility this game has stats like Brutality, Moxie, Grit, Finesse, and so on. Again, you can figure it out in your character menu but the game never really tries to explain it to you.
The funny thing is the tutorial does teach you a lot of basics, but they are the basics of all MMOs. Like...moving, equipping items, staying out of the red. But finer details unique to the game are almost exclusively ignored. A great example of this is how interrupts work. Most mobs can be interrupted with a single ability that does so but elite mobs have something called "Interrupt Armor". This means if a mob has say 1 armor it takes 1 ability to break the armor and second to actually interrupt them. I can't tell you how confusing this was for me as no other MMO I've played had done this. Most other games I see a cast go off and I throw out a skill to stop it. But not knowing how it worked it made me fail to interrupt in my first couple dungeons runs until I finally realized what it meant.
To me WildStar is an utterly generic game with some cool call backs to classic MMO's and a couple nice features. I don't hate the game or anything but I don't really like it either. It is a combination of a bunch of small stuff which made me not want to resubscribe to the game. Perhaps if I had hit max level I would be singing a different tune but since I found it to be such a struggle on what class I wanted to play, I could not reach level 50 before I would of needed to throw another $15 at the game and I really did not feel it was worth it.
So why all the hype? While playing the game I saw nothing but praise for it in general chat and people absolutely falling in love with it. I'm at a loss as to why people have seemed to taken such a liking to it. Maybe I'm just an outlier who can't see the appeal. Maybe its a large crowd from WOW killing time before the next expansion. Maybe it actually is an amazing game at max level and I'm missing out. But one thing is for sure, I will not be going back to the game any time soon.