ETA: 10/8/15. Many people are finding their way here as Wildstar goes F2P. Please know that this was written from my beta experiences in the game and some things will have changed. If the article is too long and you are just looking for a TL;DR summary: I don’t like WildStar’s style or mechanics, but its not really a bad game. Its just a niche MMO that really only appeals to a certain audience. Now that its F2P (as predicted below) whether or not you fit in that audience is up to you to find out.
Its five for Friday, and while in yonder years I would do a full on write up of a game when the NDA dropped, these days…I’m just not that keen on it. So I’m hijacking my new Friday format to answer the burning question: “Why don’t you like Wildstar?”
Along the way we will answer that secondary question – why its perfectly legitimate to call Wildstar “WoW 2.0 In Space,” despite assertions to the contrary.
1) Turns Out Paths Are Not That Unique
So when I get into the Beta, I start doing some digging and asking around about Paths. I know they are loosely based on Bartle’s dichotomy, and so normally I would pick and Explorer. But the devil is in the details – how exactly do you let one explore? Well, turns out, for Wildstar, at least according to what I’ve read and the players I talked to in game, Exploring involves some wandering, but also a good bit of platforming. I hate platforming. So I decide to pass on exploring. I know its been a big deal (love it or hate it) in GW2 and I’m sure Wilstar wanted to capitalize on some of that as a trend in MMO gaming.
Well, no big deal, I’m also a lore hound, and so I figure Scientist works for me. It requires you to carry around a noncombat pet that can die in combat but can’t fight for you (strike 1), but hey, I play a lot of pet classes, so I can live with that. Somehow, I managed to not complete my first Science mission, in the tutorial arc, which is bad. Because you can’t go back and finish it, and this is a themepark MMO – which means now my science level will now never be as high as it could be. Granted this is Beta, but how often will this happen in the full game? Is it just this one mission I can’t go back to? And with that one miss, we have turned what could be a fun – well, path – into something that feels like a must do (strike 2). And so I dive with enthusiasm into the next couple of missions only to find one that requires me to…wait for it…go platforming to complete it. And sure enough I miss. And miss again. And miss again. But I have to complete it, because if not I’ll be behind! And then I won’t get the rewards and XP that everyone else has and….you know what, forget it (strike 3). Someone tell me why being a lore hound means you have to saddle yourself with a noncombat pet that dies every time you get into combat and platforming?
I guess “loosely” really is the key word here. In reality, its just four bonus rounds to give you a crutch through replayability (and some are not even that – some of the soldier missions basically amount to killing extra waves of the same enemies in the same area – ::yawn::) Because Wildstar is going to be a game that looks to get you to level multiple characters to the top of the charts to keep that sub going, and this is a way to help swallow that bitter pill. Quick, can anyone think of another themepark MMO that has become famous for getting people to level alts all the way to the top?
2) Why Am I Paying For My Abilities?
I’m just not sure I get it. For the most part, developers have figured out that artificially slowing you down and capping your power is a bad thing. Its just not fun to hit that ding finally, be stoked about a new level, and have nothing to show for it. We want those abilities to pop up in the hot bar. We want to see tangibly how we are now more powerful and can kick more but. That we have indeed climbed higher on the curve. But not here. Get your hoverboard ready kiddos, because you are going to need to ride back into town to buy that new sword swing.
That’s just a money sink right? What kinds of games need money sinks? And how many games these days make you buy your abilities when you level up?
3) I Can’t Play What I Want To
Many bloggers have been over this before, but it truly is one of the things that turns me off. I want to play a Mordesh Esper. But space zombies don’t have brains. Or something. Look, to paraphrase legendary game designer Luke Crane, if I as a developer create a game where magic is dead, and I have a player that says, “I want to play the last living mage,” the answer is always and emphatic, resounding “YES.” Particularly in a game like Wildstar where your character is supposed to be a hero. Heroes break the mold, the do the extraordinary. I don’t care that space zombies don’t have the brains to be an Esper in your lore. That is completely irrelevant. The real question is why my extraordinary, heroic Mordesh can’t be an Esper. And the only viable answer to that question is a developer saying “because I don’t want you to.”
This isn’t 2004, and you don’t have an
11 million 9 million person playerbase. Open the options up.
4) The Totally Original Art Style
Its cute, its whimsical, its fun, its like nothing you’ve ever seen before!
5) I Got Deus Ex‘d Into Playing The Exact Same Area All Over Again
I can’t believe this actually happened, but it did. I completed an sub area, to finish off a greater area. I had succeeded, mission accomplished, well done, good job! Go stand here and watch the victory animation unfold so that you can move to the next area!
But then, the hand of God descending…well, not really, because they hadn’t put in the graphics for it yet…but I gathered from the quest text, that the spaceship I was waiting for had been blasted into oblivion. The NPC I had spent time and effort saving was now dead. The NPC whose gratitude I had for saving said NPC is now pissed. And to make things even worse, to fix things, I have to go back into the same area and do more missions. Why?
Because the developers decided that having the players move to a new area was not as good as reusing space they had already designed for yet another leg of missions.
Really? We are skimping on areas now? We are reusing the same areas over and over again for new quests, just to squeeze some extra time in them and to keep from having to design new areas and new levels? And we’ve done it in such a way as to make you absolutely powerless in the storyline, and to reveal the “do-over” as a result of that, well, it doesn’t come off as anything other than a punishment for a crime you did not commit.
That’s not smart design. Its not good design. Its crappy design, and perhaps even worse, lazy design. If we are going to make a themepark MMO, what is the point of making people ride the same rides over and over again? Isn’t part of the reward the progression of uncovering new rides?
Of all the things I’ve mentioned here, this one took the cake. I still am shaking my head as I write this. Whose idea was it? Did they think it was a good one? I mean isn’t having to double back into areas for quests the epitome of bad quest design? This is basically that, but more.
Bonus) The Silver Lining
Wildstar isn’t all bad. It has its moments. In the good ones, it feels almost like a sort of fantasy version of Firefly/Serenity. A Wild West Fantasy Sci-Fi Pulp Mashup. And I can see the appeal in that, despite the fact that I’m not a big fan of space bunnies and space zombies.
The abilities are fun, despite the generic three tree of skill progression (tank/heal or DPS? Oh, the choices…), and the limited bar is part of that.
This is one of those games, that I could see dipping into from time to for fun. But the sub really does make that an impossibility. Perhaps once the game transitions to F2P – and make no mistake, it will eventually do just that (once they figure out that they are WoW but without millions people willing to sub up) – then I could see giving it a run through.
And one final thing – I have always said Wildstar was “WoW 2.0 in Space.” It is an improvement over WoW, there can be no doubt about it. There are things here that, while not really innovative, are steps forward from where WoW is. In fact, you might say that if Blizzard were to remake WoW today, Wildstar, at least mechanically, is probably what you would expect them to do. In that sense, it is not a bad game. But the comparisons are aboslutely deserved, and nobody can complain that they don’t know what they are getting out of this game. Its all but written on the tagline.