Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Wildstar: My Impressions from the open beta.

Oh Wildstar. You certainly have a good sense of humour, and that's something that I can get behind. If you haven't seen anything about Wildstar, then you've been living under a rock. The open beta ran for a 10 days, finishing yesterday for those of us in Australia. I played 3 different classes to level 10, just to get a feel for how it plays, including once with a friend questing with me. So, without any further procrastinating, let's dive into it.

The Good:

Right off the bat, Wildstar makes an impression with its art style. Now this has somewhat divided the people I talked to in the beta, including several of my real life friends. I personally like the cartoonish feel they have gone for in the design, especially the stylized characters. The animation quality and texture work is spot on, and the game really does look beautiful. At no point did I find anything that looked particularly out of place, and the effort that has gone into the game shows.

Alongside this, you have the combat. Wildstar uses a system I find very similar to Guild Wars 2's combat. You have a limited number of slots for skills to prevent ability bloat and allowing you to really customise the way your character plays compared to someone else with the same class. I do feel that eventually there will be "best builds" for whatever you are doing, but this system allows for you to change out a skill to better suit a situation you are having troubles with.

The telegraphing of attacks when combined with the ability to dodge provides a far more immersive combat experience than most tradition style MMO's. A large part of being good at the combat in Wildstar involves knowing when to dodge and attack, and where to go when dodging. Some attacks have a very narrow cone, but a long range, while others have a wide cone and short range. If your character is stunned, a prompt appears telling you to mash one of the WASD keys to lower the stun duration.

If you have been reading my ramblings for a while, you know that I generally don't like PVP in MMOs besides Eve (as it is a PVP based game). Wildstar is a massive exception to this. Because of how immersive the combat is and the nature of the telegraph system, when you win it feels like you have have a real victory and that your skill allowed it rather than just stats. Someone who is good at dodging attacks while being able to apply their damage to a target is going to do far better regardless of gear.

I mentioned at the start that I played 3 different characters to around level 10 (Wildstar's level cap at launch will be 50), so I only got a very small taste of what they were like, and a tiny sliver of the questing experience. The three classes I played, the Medic, Warrior and Engineer had reasonably unique skill sets, but similar enough that nothing felt over powered. The Warrior and Engineers can both be tank style characters, so they have a lot of threat building abilities in one of their skill trees, while the Medic can be a healer as the name implies. To get an idea of what each class can do, this site has a great tool for viewing the skills of each one.

These aren't the only good things about the game, but they are the main things I loved about Wildstar. That being said however, there are some things that do need to be discussed.

The Bad:

While in the beta, I had a number of crashes to desktop. With the release date set for the 3rd of June (or the 31st of May if you pre-order now), there is limited time for these bugs to be worked out, but I do have faith that the major crash issues will be sorted by release. There is also a fair bit of optimization to be done, with people reporting frame rates as low as 10 on current generation cards on some occasions. Hopefully this all happens before the release.

As with any MMO, latency in Australia can be an issue. Like WoW, there are "Oceanic" servers, but these are still based in the US. While I never had major issues, there were a few times where I thought I had managed to dodge out of damage, but still took the damage anyway. Time will tell as to how this plays at the high levels of both raiding and PVP with the telegraph system.

Finally, and this is more of an issue with me than the game, I just don't feel invested in the story at this point. Where World of Warcraft took an established franchise and continued its story, Wildstar is an entirely new IP. The story is all there, but most of the time, I just didn't care. Granted, this might change when it's released and I am actually paying attention, but my experience in the beta is one of apathy about the direction the lore is headed.

To conclude, Wildstar is a solid MMO that seems to deliver a great experience. I'm really looking forward to giving it a go, and hope that it doesn't turn into another Old Republic, where it dies soon after release. From all indicators, it seems that the devs have done a fantastic job of providing content for the end game, but still giving a solid leveling experience. Roll on May 31st, and I'll see you on Nexus.


Sneaky edit: There was another day of beta that happened this weekend, and I'm pleased to report that in the 3 hours I played, there were no crashes to desktop and the game ran far better. Definitely pick this one up guys. It's well worth it.

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