So, there is this upcoming MMO called Wildstar, it’s in Beta, you very likely have heard of it.
If you haven’t it’s pretty simple to catch you up.
It’s an MMO with controls similar to World of Warcraft, it’s a sci-fi theme, it’s got an art style on the stylized cartoon level with tons of character, and the designers are a bunch of smart-asses.
I’m saying it’s got a twisted sense of humor.
I was fortunate enough to get a beta key earlier this week for the weekend beta testing going on right now. I’ve been playing where I can grab fifteen minute blocks of time, and yes there are a lot of bugs (mostly in sound files clipping and character/NPC facing or edge detection so far). I report what I can.
Here is the thing.
I might actually want to play this when it comes out. Like, I might really enjoy this as a long term investment of my time in something fun and rewarding.
Here’s a few of the things I really like.
First, the character generation. When it comes to creating your character, you are presented with a good range of real choices for faces with personality, each face looks like something you’d want to choose. I don’t know about you, but most games have maybe three faces that seem like something nice to use, and the rest are shit. Especially WoW, most of those faces I could just never imagine using, I think they were created just because they knew they needed more than three choices.
Not here, almost all of them are cool, distinctive faces with very different personalities.
But even then, after you pick one, you can choose to customize it more using sliders to move your facial features around. So yu get a good range of faces that already look great and distinctive, and then if for some reason you just feel like you wish the eyebrows were a little bit lower, or the chin wider, or the nose a bit less prominent, no problem.
I really like that. A lot of the new super-realistic graphic MMOs have a character generator that gives you super generic crap, and then expects you to use the color, shape and location sliders to do all the customization. A good idea if you’re an artist with a vision you want to fulfill, but I just want to get close to something cool and then touch it up a teeny bit, not spend 2 hours messing with sliders. Wildstar nailed it.
I also love the artistic style they’re using.
I like the Warcraft art style because it’s easy on the eyes as well as being distinctive. Things stand out because the details serve the vision rather than being a means to an end.
Wildstar feels like they have captured that same idea by going with a more colorful and cartoony style rather than hyper-realistic. By blurring the edges, you end up recognizing things from a distance much better and everything fits better.
I also like the racial designs. Not all of them, but I can see where every one of them will appeal to someone.
For example, let me show you my favorite race and appearance so far.
I hereby present you with BlasterBunny.
The Cub and I created him together, I ran around with him and realized… we made Stitch from Lilo and Stitch.
Technically, he’s a Chua, but let’s face facts; he’s a giant space chinchilla.
For those of you who, like me, are John Ringo fans and have read the Vorpal Blade series, especially the second book that introduced the race I’m talking about, this is beyond hilarious. All I need now is a hoverboard to ride, and I’m in heaven.
I’m serious. This is a character. And you can make a wide range of different looking characters with wildly different personalities within this race so they don’t all look the same.
Oh, and this one? He’s on the ‘evil’ faction. And with a wicked grin, he blows things up. Because he’s an Engineer. That means big guns. Blasters. Kaboom!
I made a few other characters as well, a human Exile Spellslinger, an Exile ESPer.
Basically, I’m just enjoying it.
It is, for lack of a better word, snarky.
Now, here’s the other thing about character creation and playing the game that I’m liking; you pick two classes, one for what you are, the other for how you want to play.
See, the classes are things like Warrior or Stalker or Engineer.
But then there is this second set of professions to choose from; Combat, Settler, Scientist and Explorer.
Those are entire classes built around how you want to play the game.
Combat, you’re going to have lots of special side missions to go kill stuff, they’ll give you even bigger guns to do it, you’ll get your Judge Dredd on.
For Settler, you’re there to gather resources fro the area to build improvements into the existing camps and make things that will buff or enhance stuff. You’re settling a brave new world, and someone needs to know how to get the vending machine working again. Or the perimeter defenses.
As a Scientist, you’re seeking out and studying all of the plants, animals, the ancient technology. Space archeaology is a thing. If you like gathering and examining and learning, this is for you.
And then there is the Explorer.
Remember that post the other day talking about the good old days, traveling on foot seeking out the edge of the world? trying to get to those inaccessible places in the mountains or the bottom of deep, dark caverns?
Yeah, that’s what this is all about. And you get quests sending you out to do it! And rewards and stuff!
Yes, you can be the Explorer, charting out this brave new world.
He looks just like Luke under the twin suns, doesn’t he? Spitting image.
About the playstyle, all I can say is there is a different attitude here that is in keeping with what I said about being an Explorer.
This is a game that welcomes you taking your time to explore the environment.
It was a bit of a shock. I had watched Angry Joe play the beta a month ago on Youtube, and he made it sound slow as shit and boring in the Dominion starter levels.
Playing that exact same section myself, I can see why he said that, and yet at the same time I had a different experience. Because he came at it looking for a shooter, for a ton of action, for run and gun blow through everything at top speed to powerlevel as fast as possible.
Why not? That’s how a lot of MMOs have trained us to play. We look for the exclamation point, we look for the easy to find glowing thing to grab or the ten rats to kill and return. Then on to the next thing.
I enjoyed the areas, even though I was retrieving books and stuff because it had sucked me into laughing at the snarky edge of the humor of it all. The Dominion is the big evil bully of the universe… the Empire to the Exiles Rebel Alliance.
But at the same time… this is an Empire that takes itself so seriously that they bust through to the other side, as caricature, as satire. And as satire, as unintentionally shining a light on being evil without being morally aware that they are evil, it’s really enjoyable. I found myself getting sucked in to the Dominion conversations, the actions, the shrines and seeing the duality of what they were saying and what was the actuality.
I didn’t play the Exile side enough to see if there was a sharper edge to the apparent Rebel Alliance band of misfits tone, outlaws on the fringe of the universe fighting for scraps theme, but as well done as the Dominion side is turning out to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were.
The pacing and quests are fine if you approach it expecting a game that encourages you to actually spend more than five seconds in their world. This game doesn’t see the leveling zones as a necessary evil, something to spend as little time in as possible before you level and blow through to the next place.
The addition of these extra classes, the Scientist and Explorer and such, is I think they’re way of cluing you in that maybe you should stay a while and check things out a bit before rushing off.
I did Explorer, and I tried some Settler, and it’s a surprise to nobody that I enjoyed being an Explorer.
When the Exiles had me scramble to the top of an asteroid to plant a beacon, when I found out they were going to give me a reason to climb the highest mountain, I was hooked on the profession.
I’m hearing in Beta chat that the classes that people are enjoying the most are ESPer and Stalker. I made an ESPer and tried the combat a little… it was cool, but I found myself really enjoying the Chua Engineer and the blaster cannon, even if other people were saying it’s not the best.
I didn’t try the Stalker, but the description of it sounds like a Warcraft Rogue with stealth using fist weapons. Certainly something worth checking out, hmmm?
I guess basically I’m finding it charming, enjoyable, and showing all the signs of having deep gameplay, and designed to reward taking your time to explore without taking forever at it.
Plus, seriously, you had me at giant space chinchillas.