The NDA Drop
The big news from yesterday is that Wildstar dropped the NDA and announced an official launch date and that preorders start March 19th. I have been in closed beta testing for quite some time now, and as a result have tried my best to maintain radio silence about the title. I have occasionally referred to it as “that space game” when I absolutely needed to, but generally speaking it is just safer not to say anything at all. Granted I have not played a ton of hours, in part because the game really doesn’t move me to play a ton of hours. Every so often there is a game that just doesn’t feel “right” to me, and Wildstar falls into that category firmly. Of note the other major release that also did was Guild Wars 2 and a few days ago I wrote about my feelings there.
For a long while I simply had trouble playing the game. For whatever reason there was a specific graphical glitch that would cause my frame rate to absolutely tank. So the game itself became extremely hard to play at 5 frames per second. However the last several builds have fixed the issue and I have tried to poke my head in several times to continue to give it the old college try. In part much like with Guild Wars 2, I keep wanting to try and figure out what everyone sees in this game that is so spectacular. For a long while segments of my friends list have been completely devoted to it. Combine that with the fact that a friend of mine now works for Carbine… and I really want to know what it is about this game that makes it special.
The Las Vegas Strip
One of the things that distracts me about the game is just how “busy” it is. The design ethic the Carbine has employed is one where something is going on in every possible corner of every screen. So the above picture is on the Dominion starship, and while you can’t really get the full effect in a still frame, there is literally motion everywhere. While this makes the game feel more dynamic and alive, it also makes the game feel a bit like the Las Vegas strip, with lights and sounds and motion everywhere. While playing I get a sort of sensory overload most of the time. This would be fine if this was just a city phenomena, but even when you are out in the world there are doodads and holograms floating about waiting to be clicked on. The “more is more” design ethic almost gives me a headache at times.
The characters are well crafted, and the voice acting is at times extremely good… and even when it is not it is at least passable. One of the weird disconnects is that the dialog the npcs are voicing, rarely syncs up with what is actually saying in the chat box. So this adds a bit to the feeling of too much going on screen, since I have to watch the chat box and listen to the npc at the same time. Additionally the UI feels like it needs a bit of work, namely in the minimap. I find it hard to determine where I need to go to reach my next objective without constantly opening the main map. There are symbols and indicators on the minimap, but it is simply not clear to me what they mean. I have not really noticed something akin to an arrow off one side of the map to show me where the next quest I have highlighted is.
Confused Control Scheme
The game employs a rather unique combat style, in that the game does not rely heavily on hard targets but instead involves a lot of cone and arc based attacks that fire in front of the character hitting everything in the path. This in itself is really cool, but the experience while playing the game feels really odd to me. I feel as though Wildstar really wanted to be an action combat MMO, but stopped just one step short of doing so. For a long while I was using an addon that allowed you to toggle on permanent mouselook, and it drastically improved my enjoyment of the game. I feel like the game overall would be more enjoyable if it had a control scheme more like Neverwinter or Elder Scrolls Online, where mouselook controls the view and primary attacks are on left and right mouse buttons with a targeting reticle in the center of the screen.
The combat itself feels too busy for the wow style movement interface. Maybe this is not as evident with the games ranged classes, but as a melee class I feel like I am always working at cross purposes to get out of the big red “stupid” on the ground, while still trying to keep my attack facing at the right target at the right time. Controlling the game makes me feel like I should have an extra pair of hands. Last night when I streamed for a bit, I did not bother downloading the latest version of my mouselook addon, and it greatly diminished my enjoyment. Since it is not likely that we will see an action combat interface this far from launch, it would be great if they simply added in the ability to turn on perma-mouselook by default instead of having to rely on a third party addon for it.
Extremely Content Dense
Similarly there are always “hold the line” type events out in the wild where you help the citizens of an area defend against baddies. So the game itself is exceedingly rich and for 100%ers it will take you a long time to unlock all of the secrets in an area before moving on to the next. Problem being, I have not been a “must get all the achievements” person for a really long time. However I do find myself wanting to do the little combat challenges along the way as I unlock them. In the video above I kill a single snail and find out that I need to kill a certain number within a time limit to get a bonus prize. My goal from that point on became finding more snails so I could get the doodad. The bonus prizes are never that good, but just the fact that I get to kill stuff with a purpose is enough for me to enjoy it.
Right now I am completely up in the air as to whether or not I will play this game. There are certain aspects I really like, and certain aspects that turn me completely off about it. It is like a pair of ill fitting shoes, that look really cool… but no matter how many times you wear them they just don’t quite fit. At this point I am not sure if I could honestly say what would need to change to make me love the game. I plan to keep playing the beta off and on and seeing if I can reach a point where the game just feels like magic. I think if I can ever reach the housing system, that may in fact be the hook for me. I do love that as I am out and about in the world various housing things can drop. The gameplay is not “un-fun” but it is not the type of thing that just drives me to play more and more of it.
Right now the biggest deterrent to playing is the price tag and the subscription that goes in tow. I have no problem with a subscription model, in fact I tend to prefer them for a game I am really serious about. The problem is, Wildstar is not a title I am extremely serious about. Were it like Guild Wars 2 where I could pre-order my copy and play it at my leisure with no strings attached I would gladly do so and have my order in on day one. However knowing that I have 30 days to decide if I like the game well enough to continue playing, means I really need to time playing the game in the first place during a time when I have a lull in other games. The June launch date is likely too close to Elder Scrolls for me to really get into it seriously. I think they are planning to pick up the people for whom ESO was not that great of an experience, and also grab the people who are tired of waiting on Warlords of Draenor to launch.
Wish Them Luck
Ultimately I wish them the best of success. I still stand by the statement that I have made multiple times that we need a lot more success in the MMO world in whatever form it comes. Specifically we need more stable games that are not named “Warcraft”. When a game launches, specially one with friends working on the staff… I feel personally invested in its success. I feel like they are launching at the best possible time this year. I just hope they have enough time to set their hooks into players because Warlords of Draenor comes along and pulls people back into a new World of Warcraft adventure. I feel like so many games are vying for the same pool of players that has not really gotten much larger over the years. Someone is going to lose as a result of this, and my fear is this game is more likely than anything to pull players away from Rift than it is from WoW.