In a genre oversaturated with the same old, Wildstar plays it pretty safe. Luckily, Carbine Studios’ debut title does so with charm and subtle dashes of innovation. It’s not the MMORPG revolution some people are so desperately seeking, but it is a small step in the right direction.
Wildstar is a sci-fi adventure with a wild west vibe a la Firefly featuring a brightly hued hybrid World of Warcraft/Ratchet and Clank aesthetic. Set on the freshly discovered planet of Nexus, players are initially asked to join the Dominion, an empire set on galactic domination, or The Exiles, refugees who’ve been forced from their homes by the Dominion, now set on revenge.
After this initial premise is established, however, players are unleashed on the world and the story becomes mere background unless you choose to seek it out. I was a little disappointed by this, as Wildstar sets you up for an entertaining, if not especially original, plot. To distract you from this, Wildstar almost immediately presents you with a slew of assorted tasks to accomplish, almost to an overwhelming degree.
While many of these are your average MMO staples – fetch quests, kill this many beasties, etc. – the game mixes it up just enough to prevent things from going stale. While out in the field battling yetis or dinosaurs disguised as rocks, you may be presented with various challenges which call for you to quickly take down as many monsters as you possibly can within a time limit for prizes.
If that isn’t enough for you, each area has a few particularly powerful monsters that require you to join up with other adventurers to defeat. They’re fun impromptu activities, and early on give you a taste for cooperative battle.
The addition of paths also brings a unique twist to quest progression throughout Wildstar. Players are asked to choose a path during character creation: Explorer, Soldier, Settler, or Scientist. While your class determines the role you’ll assume in combat, your path shapes the way in which you interact with the world itself. As soon as you arrive on Nexus you’re given a series of additional path quests to complete.
During my time in the game I played an explorer, in which I used the game’s surprisingly adequate platforming mechanics to scour the map for secret locations while getting to know a region in its entirety. As someone who loved exploring in other MMOs, I appreciated the extra incentive to go out and wander the colorful landscape. Paths are a delightful way for players to personally tailor their gameplay experience, and they offer a nice break from typical quest grinding.
If you’re looking for even more extra content, achieving level 15 unlocks the game’s fantastic housing system. Perhaps housing is the wrong word for it. You’re basically given a plot of land, and the rest is up to you. The player has nearly unlimited agency. You can build any sort of house you want, using materials collected throughout your adventures or using the game’s crafting system. Do you want to have a farm? Go for it! Want to build an elaborate platforming maze? Sure thing. It’s been said that once players reach level 15 they get sucked into the housing black hole, and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s sheer customizability and the allure of collecting or creating new pieces of furniture is highly addictive.
At its foundation, Wildstar’s questing and side content is what you’d expect from this sort of game, but Carbine adds so many extra layers on top of this that you almost get distracted by the fact that you’re doing the same thing you’ve done in every MMO since World of Warcraft took over.
In a similar vein, Wildstar’s class system offers your standard defense, physical, offensive, and support roles while catering to players’ unique play styles. As you gain levels you’ll unlock new abilities – no surprises there. Things get more interesting when you take into account there are only 8 hotkey slots. Once you go over that limit it’s time to get creative. You’ll have to customize your abilities depending on your situation. Playing as a medic, I had to switch between damage dealing and healing movesets. If I was soloing, I’d create a combination of the two. Limited to 8 abilities, you’re required to consider your strategy more carefully, providing another splash of challenge that makes the game just a bit more interesting.
Your performance in battle is also affected by Advanced Modification Protocols (or AMPs), which you can access from level 6 onwards. AMPs truly allow you to fine tune your character. They give bonuses to your Assault, Support and Utility stats, allowing you to choose both your strengths and weaknesses. You can improve your abilities and unlock new spells as well. Different types of AMPs can be unlocked in numerous ways, making some more difficult to acquire than others.
Wildstar similarly adopts standard hotbar based MMORPG combat and gives it a welcome upgrade. Those who prefer to spam the same keys over and over again might find themselves dying pretty frequently, even early into the game. Enemies can pack quite a punch, proving that even basic solo battles require that you pay attention.
Monsters and players alike use a slew of abilities that have an area of affect that extends from the user, in red, blue, and in the case of healing spells, green. Instead of targeting an enemy or party member, you must align your ability’s field with your objective before pushing the hotkey. Luckily you can move around while all of this is happening, but it still gives combat a frantic, fast paced feel that’s equally exciting and fun. You’ll quickly learn to jump out of the path of powerful enemy attacks and make use of your stun abilities. Some enemies might even use radiating attacks with longer cast times, but whose area of effect gradually grows larger. Combat in Wildstar is a lot more engaging than your average MMO – a most welcome achievement.
Wildstar, at its core, is a very standard MMO with standard MMO elements. Its ability to take these elements and present them extremely well is where Wildstar triumphs. Its mechanics are familiar, but go an extra step to make the game feel more engaging. The level of player customizability too is admirable and gives the players a lot of power, encouraging them to keep coming back for more. It’s not completely groundbreaking, and the story can fall to the wayside, but if you’re looking for a well-made lighthearted time sink, Wildstar might just do the trick.
[+Beautifully crafted world that’s fun to explore] [+Offers players dozens of ways to play] [+Takes standard MMORPG mechanics and delivers them extremely well] [-Storyline tends to fall to the wayside] [-Still in the end a WoW inspired MMORPG. We’ve seen this type of game before]