WildStar Preview: Taking It to the Next 15 Levels

| 18 Dec 2013 20:00
WildStar Char Gen 2

WildStar's 1-15 experience is definitely entertaining, with only a few minor nitpicks.

WildStar is a game that I have been eagerly anticipating. As an ex-World of Warcraft player, I am in the target audience for WildStar, and it's been actively on my radar for the better part of a year. I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on the game, playing for a day with game developers Mike Donatelli, Stephan Frost, and David Bass, and then playing levels 1-15 on my own as a member of the closed beta.

WildStar's character creation offers plenty of unique features for each race, so it made it a bit difficult to choose which one I wanted to play. In standard MMO fashion, each race can customize the look of their character. A Mordesh, for example, can choose any number of neon colors, which will determine the color of the bio-pods on their bodies, and will give off an obvious and permanent color theme for your character. Each race has similar options for a unique look, though some of them are a little...questionable...to my taste. The Aurin male, for example, has the facial expressiveness of an anime character. While I might personally shy away from flowers in my hair and large round eyes, I know of plenty of gamers who will appreciate its inclusion. My only gripe with WildStar's character creation is that you can't change body size. Though the facial customization is very extensive, all members of each race are the same height and have the same generic body type, leading to similar-looking characters in stature.

The opening experience for WildStar was well-constructed and surprisingly fun. Right off the bat, I was introduced to the basics of controls, combat, and the telegraph system. For the WildStar uninitiated, telegraphs are a visual mechanic that indicate an area with damage or negative effects. Telegraphs are a major component of WildStar's combat system, and will be heavily implemented throughout the game. By level three I had already seen a dozen or more different telegraphs, and I found myself jumping and dodging more than I ever had before playing an RPG. It was genuinely engaging to run around lining up attacks and trying to avoid enemy telegraphs.

My experience had been described rather succinctly by Mike Donatelli several days earlier. "I play the content, I kill monsters, I do my collect quests, my path missions, all that stuff. And whenever I do that, I find that I end up killing more monsters than I needed to. When I'm playing another game it's like, 'I need to kill 12 Bugbears? Then I'm going to kill 12 Bugbears and be on my way back to town by the time the last one hits the ground.' In our game, when I fight, I'm dodging and rolling, and I'm kicking people, I'm steamrolling. All of the sudden I look down and I see there's no monsters around me, and I finished that quest god knows when." Though I initially dismissed this experience as a game designer's love for his game, after having it for myself, I understood what he was taking about.

By the time I hit level 15, I definitely felt challenged by the mechanics. I had seen tons of interesting telegraphs, and I've only dealt with a small portion of the crowd-control abilities debuted in DevSpeak, the dev team's video feature series. If the first 15 levels are indicative of the rest of the game, I will need to seriously step up if I want to compete for endgame raiding. Enemies in WildStar require more than just running in with all of your cooldowns up. There have been enemies I've faced that were simply impossible to kill if I didn't carefully time my use of cooldowns, line up my abilities, and stay mobile to avoid damage. Players who think they can face roll their way through the game are in for a harsh awakening.

WildStar
WildStar

This brings me to my first genuine criticism of WildStar. Though the devs pride themselves on the thorough destruction of what they call "cigarette combat" -- i.e. taking a smoke break during a boss fight or not fully paying attention in combat -- no cigarette combat means no breaks at all. WildStar is more akin to League of Legends than World of Warcraft in terms of engagement, and during my play, I often felt that I couldn't walk or look away from the game without serious risk. If I needed to step away from the game to answer the phone or respond to someone in the next room, I would need to run all the way back to town, log out and lose my mid-session progress, or risk having my character killed by a stray telegraph I had to look away from. Despite what some hardcore players may say, distractions happen while gaming, and the ability to step away for a second is important in a game type that's average play session is longer than an hour.

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Hi Steve,

While I understand your critique of my writing, I think that my position is somewhat difficult to understand until you've played the game. The way that I approach MMORPGs typically consists of several-hour sessions at the end of the day or over weekends, and when needed to be fully attentive to every aspect of the game for hours on end, it can make it difficult to get up and go to the bathroom or even have a minute long conversation with someone else in the room.

While this is certainly far from a dooming criticism, I do think it's worth mentioning, as some people with busy lives (new mothers/fathers, emergency workers, etc) might find it to be an important aspect worthy of note.

Thanks for reading and responding, and I hope this clears things up.

Hi Steve,

While I understand your critique of my writing, I think that my position is somewhat difficult to understand until you've played the game. The way that I approach MMORPGs typically consists of several-hour sessions at the end of the day or over weekends, and when needed to be fully attentive to every aspect of the game for hours on end, it can make it difficult to get up and go to the bathroom or even have a minute long conversation with someone else in the room.

While this is certainly far from a dooming criticism, I do think it's worth mentioning, as some people with busy lives (new mothers/fathers, emergency workers, etc) might find it to be an important aspect worthy of note.

Thanks for reading and responding, and I hope this clears things up.

So his only critique about the game is that its TOO involved and the combat is TOO engaging, like League? Yet people dont want cigarette combat, yet hes bitching about the game not having it? Seems like hes just nitpicking to find a problem where there is none. Typical game reviewer.

So his only critique about the game is that its TOO involved and the combat is TOO engaging, like League? Yet people dont want cigarette combat, yet hes bitching about the game not having it? Seems like hes just nitpicking to find a problem where there is none. Typical game reviewer.

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