Beta Preview – Wildstar Beta Weekend 4 Impressions

So, my first real shot at Wildstar! (I played for a few minutes at PAX East) The Beta is in decent shape. I did run into some issues, as expected. As this is a beta preview, I’m not going to be going over that any more than I just did. Wildstar looks to be in good shape and well on its way to release.

 

Graphic Credit: NCSOFT Corporation

 

Lets get one thing out of the way, Wildstar is a lot like World of Warcraft. No, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It takes just about all of what works and either builds on it, or takes it sideways. There are a few important distinctions to acknowledge about Wildstar though. That is what I’m going to focus most on here. Things like character creation, classes, races, etc. have a different and distinct flavor, but don’t stray far enough from “WoW” to warrant taking up your time here. The website does a great job of reviewing those.

 

COMBAT
Combat is still “push the ability” based but is much more interactive, as the abilities have targeted areas and are not auto-hit. For those who have played Neverwinter or The Secret World, that is the functionality I’m talking about. This works well and the abilities are different enough to make them all fun to use and/or combine. Wildstar brings both simplicity and depth by limiting how many abilities you can have on your hotbar at once. This is also limited by level, so as you level up, you have more and more access to abilities, available at once. For example, at level 7, you can put your abilities in slots 1-5, eventually unlocking 8 slots in total. It looks like you are able to create multiple “sets” of these 8 abilities. However, that option was unavailable to me at my point in the beta.

 

USER INTERFACE (UI)

Graphic Credit: NCSOFT Corporation

Another great addition are “Paths.” This an additional option, chosen during character creation, which basically gives you one extra line of things to do during your game. The variety here is great! You have 4 options: Solider, which unlocks more battles, and fun prototype weapons; Explorer, which awards you for finding and/or reaching certain points on the map and allows you to open some hidden passages; Settler, which allows you to gather resources which you use to build or sustain supplies at buff stations in various points in the game. However, the Settler option also allows you to build huge expansions onto some towns in the game, giving even more new stuff for everyone. Finally, Scientists are for you lore people. They can research and analyze to obtain information about a ton of things in the world. All of these paths have their own unique quests and work well together – a great addition for people who want this type of content. They have their own separate XP progression, similar to trade skills in “WoW.” You can focus on them or ignore them completely. Oh, and don’t think this replaces crafting, that’s still in the game too.

 

The most obvious difference is in the visuals and tone of the game. The tone leans towards a more Saturday morning cartoon feel and it’s doing it pretty well. It doesn’t go totally goofy but isn’t afraid to be silly either, while keeping some element of seriousness in there. There are a few points where these two clash (something goofy a bit too close to something serious) but other than that, it works well. Overall, I do like the visual style going on here. I’ve always been a bigger fan of sci-fi than fantasy, so this cartoony mix of the two works well for me. On that front, what you see is what you get, so that’s all personal opinion.

 

So does Wildstar look like it’s worth your time? Maybe? This is where (hopefully) my ability to separate “like vs good” comes in.

 

First, some background on my MMO history. I’ve played “WoW” on and off, since around Burning Crusade. By “on and off” I mean, I play for 2 or 3 months straight, get tired of it, and don’t play for a year until something pulls me back in for another 2 or 3 months. That’s not the game as much as it is me. I’ve done the same with a lot of other MMO’s – Neverwinter, The Secret World, DC Universe Online, etc. I’ll play for a while, enjoying it and just loose interest.

 

After about 5 hrs of playing Wildstar, I became pretty confident the same thing will happen for me here. However, that’s not to say this isn’t good…because it is, very good in fact. It looks like it’s sticking close enough to “WoW” that it will work, while doing enough new things to make some converts. However, if you’re like me, this isn’t the one to keep you interested.

 

TLDR
If you’re looking for an updated “WoW” spin off/sequel with new mechanics, a little more flavor and some sci-fi thrown in, Wildstar should  be at the top of your list. If you’re someone who has trouble sticking with your MMO’s, you’ll probably find the same issue here and with a subscription model, it’s a bit of a risk.