Familiarity breeds contempt in the video game landscape. That’s only half-true, as preserving the fun essence of a played-out genre while bringing in established tropes from another genre can make a world of difference.
Enter the upcoming PC title Wildstar, a sci-fi themed MMO that borrows a lot from action RPGs, open-world titles and fighting game genres to make the most well-worned out genre elements such as combat, exploration, and story feel fun and exciting again.
Hours later with the closed beta, here are the top five reasons why we’re banking on the success of publisher NCSoft and developer Carbine Studios’ new kid on the block for 2014.
It’s A Fresh and Beautiful Kind of Sci-Fi
If you recall an 80s Wild West-slash-sci-fi series called BraveStarr and wished it was an MMO, Wildstar would be the cure for that long-standing itch.
Players can choose to either side with the space cowboys-and-pilgrim group called the Exiles, or the British Colony/religious sect archetype called the Dominion. Each of them have their own specific races, ranging from the rabbit-eared nature-loving Aurin to the short mad scientist rodents Chua; alas there’s no way to create an overweight avatar.
The entire game moves and feels like a high-res digital cartoon on your monitor. From Eldan ruins to a village filled with water-bending aliens that look like the Skeksis in The Dark Crystal, the stylistic art choice makes the world come alive.
Animations from the Aurin’s ears and tails to the Mecharis’ robotic gestures gel together as though the animation staff had a hand in the Disney Renaissance back in the 90s. If World of Warcraft’s simple-yet-colorful art direction can still withhold the test of time since 2004, the same can hopefully be said for Wildstar.
“Old” Classes Made Anew
You may have your archetype tanks and damage-per-second mages represented in Wildstar, but they’re given a pretty cool sci-fi retooling that makes the starting experience seem oddly familiar yet fresh. Each of the six classes (Warrior, Spellslinger, Engineer, Medic, Stalker, Esper) have their own special traits and resources to amplify their skills.
The Spellslinger can enter a spell surge that adds in additional magic abilities to their existing arsenal. The Engineer can build up its Volatility resource with their ranged launcher weapons to use exclusive area-affecting and heavy damage-dealing abilities. They also can go in a super-charged mode where they deal twice as much damage but receive a lot more.
There’s a class tailored for every MMO playstyle out there. The Medic or a heal-focused Spellslinger can help out that particular group lacking in the life-sustaining and buffing department. If you prefer going all-out with magic at a safe distance with an energy-stacking mechanic that lets you unleash a huge payload, the Esper is perfect for that specific blend of sniping and spellcasting.
You can also pick one of the four XP-earning paths: the soldier, the settler, the scientist and the explorer. A majority of side missions on the Nexus are open to specific paths, with each of them tailored after open world optional goals from GTA V and inFamous.
Tired of just killing things in different ways? Choose the Explorer’s path and go for some Tomb Raider-style platforming and Civilization-style map-unraveling. Do you like collecting every speck of junk you come across? Pick the Settler’s path and use those scraps to build and fix things for extra rewards.
Paths are tailored around gaming habits of a typical MMO player so that all that extra time can be used to gain more XP and coin. As far as the closed beta is concerned, there isn’t a time on the Nexus where you’ll be bored and feeling empty for faffing about.
The Little Story Things All Adds Up
Most MMOs these days forget that the starting experience has to matter just as much as the end-game uber raids. Within a few hours and depending on your chosen faction, you’ll either be fixing up the natural order of the Nexus’ wildlife and summoning forest guardians to smash Dominion techno-catapults, or helping out a famed Dominion explorer unearth the secrets of the Eldan.
A poorly-made MMO can make all that feel like a chore. Thanks to bits of lore you come across, the off-hand humorous exchanges of the Nexus denizens and the ever-changing-to-the-story environments, players will feel invested in how all of their contributions stack up to forwarding the plot along.
As long as the final game keeps this balance of gameplay and narrative, other companies may have to pay attention to Carbine Studio’s method of handling MMO pacing.
Telegraphs That Changes MMO Combat
With combat being more action-focused like Guild Wars 2 and Dragon Nest, challenges from enemy mobs should reflect that. Enemies are surrounded by a red field of varying shapes, which pop up on the ground after a major attack.
Be it a delayed burst hit or a rapid-fire flurry of projectiles and claw swipes, players can either dodge out of the way, stand on a specific spot where there’s no red field, or interrupt it with a hard-hitting attack. This actually makes players improve their reaction skills to oncoming threats.
Wildstar's combat system is not your usual 'attack and wait until the next round' MMO fights. Besides worrying about gear stats, you also have to work on your reactions and the active skills of your chosen class. The red fields can appear fast and in different shapes and areas, so timing and positioning takes precedence over stats.
The CREDD System
Sure, Wildstar will be subscription-based; one month for US$14.99, with additional paying schemes. However, NCSoft and Carbine Studios introduce a new Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction and Development (CREDD) system that lets players get away with not paying for a subscription.
Similar to EVE Online’s PLEX system, the in-game certificate grants players a month’s extra days of play. It can either be bought for US$19.99 (not to be confused with the US$14.99 monthly subscription) or for an undisclosed amount of in-game gold between player transaction. So a player who has money but no time to amass lots of gold for in-game items can buy CREDD and sell it to other players. A player who doesn’t want to pay for a subscription can amass a huge personal stockpile of in-game gold and buy a CREDD off other players.
This is a viable way to keep player types happy and curbstomp gold-farming in a way. This benefits fans of MMOs if they either don’t have time or pressed for funds to keep the subscription going. Keep in mind: CREDD is priced using in-game gold, thus it fluctuates depending on the in-game economy. Additionally, it cannot be gifted to other players.
Stoked for the Wildstar MMO, or just think it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be? Voice out your two cents below.