Developer: Carbine Studios
Here we are – finally at end of the review that just wouldn’t stop coming (blame Carbine accordingly for their gigantic game, I say.) There’s still a lot to get through before the verdict, but here’s a helpful hub if you’ve missed my previous instalments or want a refresher on my previous musings on WildStar.
We begin this instalment by taking a look at the Limited Action Sets and the AMP system, which acts as the skills and talent tree for WildStar respectively. As long as players are out of combat, the flexibility and user friendly nature of the LAS is one of my favourite aspects of Carbine’s efforts. Being able to swap out abilities at a moment’s notice ensures players can try new tactics and combos, along with the option of powering up equipped abilities with Tier Points to unlock bonus effects. On top of this, being able to buy new abilities from the menu without having to travel to a trainer is a godsend, as it means players no longer have to make their way back to the nearest one upon levelling up (something a lot of MMOs still do, annoyingly.)
While the LAS is free to tinker with, the same cannot be said for the AMP system which acts as a skill tree of WildStar. Upon first glance it can appear intimidating, but with a bit of patience (and handy theorycrafting from the interwebs) it ends up being rather versatile in allowing players to choose between damage, support, and PvP bonuses. That said, respecing is expensive business, especially at level 50, but at least you can do so from the menu without visiting a specific NPC - another more-than-welcome timesaver which allows players to get on with enjoying the game immediately. Admittedly there are always going to be the best builds to choose for certain roles, but at least Carbine grants players with two templates to use (with more purchasable using end-game currency, which we’ll get to in a bit) so players can switch between setups. For instance, I can flick between my DPS and Tanking spec at a moment’s notice, with my abilities and AMP selections ready to go. This does mean that players will have to choose between fulfilling both PvE roles or throwing in a PvP spec to begin with, which as is a little disappointing in terms of being able to do all the content effectively, but at the same time it forces players to focus on specific aspects of the game and become good at them.
Which is probably for the best, because at Level 50 the difficulty gets cranked up a notch. Or 34.
Hitting the level cap is by no means the end of the ride in WildStar, with a boatload of things to do in what Carbine is calling the Elder Game. With experience points translated into Elder Points, which in turn contribute towards the currency of Elder Gems, the progression begins anew with the daily quests provided by the Crimson Isle (with new ones coming very, very soon with The Strain content patch) along with running veteran-mode dungeons and taking part in PvP. It’s here that players make the choice of what they want to achieve in WildStar – be it PvE glory, PvP domination, or riches through crafting.
For PvPers, the familiar battlegrounds of Walatiki Temple (ie. CTF) and Halls of the Bloodsworn (ie. Stopwatch) provide two differing but enjoyable modes that allow players to scrap with the other faction. I found both options to be well thought out and balanced, although organised groups will overcome zerg rushes every time, making joining random matches solo a crap shoot. The addition of Rated Battlegrounds, which add in a ELO-style rating and matches opponents based on gear will be great in the future, but while players are still hitting 50 and earning gear the matchmaking has provided some interesting matchups (with some teams quite clearly boosting newcomers for the PvP currency of Prestige.) However, if objective-based matches aren’t your thing, the Arenas (with 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 options) will allow you to jump into the fray and slaughter your enemies, so matchmaking issues aside, there’s an option for everyone. My only criticism would be the lack of organised competitions or ladders for these options, as the wait times (especially for Rated BGs) can be quite extensive, but hopefully this will be addressed in time.
Meanwhile, those looking to conquer the PvE content are in for a long journey thanks to the Attunement of the Nexus Key. Requiring 150 Elder Gems to buy (with the weekly cap being 140) those with it must begin a trial of skill and endurance to gain access to the raids of WildStar, ensuring that only the best will be able to take on the content meant for 20 and 40 players. While there having been cries of the requirements being too extreme, I personally think it’s not only the best way to ensure players are ready for the devious difficulty awaiting them in the Genetic Archives and Datascape raids (and be geared up appropriately) but it also forces everyone to have seen the content that Carbine have created for the game. It’s a strict requirement, even I’ll admit that, but I’m finding the sense of achievement completing each part of the rather extensive list to qualify for raiding not only be making me a better player, but has given me the sort of thrills I haven’t had in an MMO in a very long time.
Even if the Veteran-mode bosses are – and I say this because sometimes it’s a very one-sided fight – murdering me with no remorse.
So it should come as no surprise that at this point I have not been able to sample the raid content or the much-publicised Warplot, but even in the face of that fact it should be rather evident by now that WildStar has plenty of content right out of the box. With a big patch incoming within a month of its official release, providing Carbine keep up the pace of these additional pieces of content, then I would say the subscription fee (which is £8.99 here in the UK) is quite agreeable, but players can always opt to use their hard-earned in-game platinum (which is 100 gold) to by C.R.E.D.D. Much like EVE’s PLEX, it allows players to use real money for a quick in-game cash injection whilst providing the one who bought the C.R.E.D.D. one month of game time. It’s not the perfect solution of dealing with gold farmers (I’ve been spammed with quite a few unsolicited messages so far, although the frequency has dropped dramatically since launch) but the player-driven economy works, ensuring both parties get what they want in a safe manner.
And so we reach the moment of truth – is WildStar worth your time and money? It should be fairly obvious to all of you that have kept up to date with my review that I have really enjoyed WildStar, so much so that there have been several hours where I’ve forgotten I was even meant to be reviewing the game. Engrossed in the fast-paced combat, the arcade-style challenges, the incredibly deep lore that goes way beyond the well-crafted Drusera instances, and tackling the progressive difficulty that will push the skills of even the most seasoned of MMO players, there have been sessions where I haven’t made a single note. That to me speaks more than any marketable quote I could give you regarding WildStar, because at the end of the day it’s fun on a space-age, action-packed, multi-content-layered, deliciously presented bun.
Oh wait. There’s your marketable quote.
The design of each race is not only fun but caters to most tastes. From the familiar humans / Cassians, to the cute and fluffy Aurin, to the strong and savage Draken, to the adorably-psychotic Chua, there’s something for everyone. With the way each faction has been crafted in aesthetic design and in their narrative, there’s a reason for players to explore how the other side lives (and begin the unreasonable-but-totally-not-unreasonable hatred for the opposing side all over again) adding a strong sense of replayability beyond the usual thing of rolling alt. characters. I for one am almost certainly going to roll a new character with the Scientist path just to unlock the additional lore items, because the world building the writers have managed with the smaller aspects, such as collectable log entries and banter between NPCs, has been so delighting that I don’t want to miss out on any other potential gold.
Although in fairness, the Protostar areas are going to be hard to top. Damn those entertaining, money-grabbing clones!
From a gameplay standpoint, I’ve always stated that WildStar has never intended to reinvent the MMO wheel, but has instead provided a logical culmination of the best aspects the genre has given us over the last decade. Sure, the quest objectives aren’t anything new, but their delivery (and, in the case of kill quests, the ability to finish faster when dealing with stronger foes) ensures players spend more time playing and less time running to a specific place to get their shiny new loot. Topped off with a levelling pace that keeps players who stay along the sign-posted track at the right point in the difficulty curve, Carbine have made sure players are adequately and regularly rewarded for the efforts, which is a mighty fine thing.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect with WildStar. As mentioned in previous parts of the review, there are a few moments of grind in the game which, especially during busy periods where players are looking for the same items or enemies, can be a frustrating test of patience. Additionally, for all the great work Carbine have done introducing newcomers and genre veterans alike to the telegraph-based combat system, the lack of detailed introduction to things such as the crafting and economic side of things is a little disappointing, even if it can be understood either by doing a search online or learned by doing. On top of this, I do hope the PvP aspects are refined, or at least made easier for organised teams or competitions to be set up, or at the very least for the wait times to get into the fight lowered from where they are at the time of writing.
But even with those points, the evidence is clear – WildStar is fun. Super fun, in fact. As a genre veteran who has danced around fire-breathing dragons and their hatchlings, become a Jedi (the long-winded way), toppled lich kings, and wanted more, Carbine’s MMORPG manages to exceed my expectations in delivering a thoroughly entertaining online experience. With player choice being a huge theme throughout many of its systems, and a boat-load of content to keep players busy, I suspect that I will be entertained by WildStar for many months to come, and all the while accompanied by one of the most enchanting and downright rousing soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. Let’s hope the raids are as malicious as they have made out to be, and here’s to hoping that the story that has been started continues with the same level of quality.
Hats off to you Carbine – we’ve waited almost three years to get here, and it’s been worth it. Keep up the pressure and the only way is up for this cozmotronic effort.
For the Dominion! (Sorry Exiles of Hazak, but if my Stalker Maleicai finds you, he will stab you. Gracefully, of course.)
- A colourful, vibrant world filled with many layers of content for all types of gamers.
- Powerful customisation options, from housing and costumes, to mounts and crafting.
- Incredibly challenging content for hardcore PvE players, and fiercely competitive PvP modes.
- Occasional moments of grind can spoil an otherwise well-paced levelling experience.
- Tutorials for crafting elements & economic systems would have been welcome for newcomers.
- More organised PvP options (with shorter wait times) would be ideal.
The Short Version:
All things considered, WildStar has not only managed to weather the storm that was its launch period, but has continued to remain a fast paced, entertaining, and thoroughly challenging MMO for genre veterans while being accessible for newcomers. With powerful and versatile customisation options, and content for almost everyone, it’s a game that doesn’t reinvent the MMO wheel, but is the logical culmination of all that is great with the genre. Providing the same level of quality & regularity continues with its content updates, there will be more than enough reason to stay on Nexus.