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WildStar Previews: Nexus Shines at PAX East

By Michael Bitton on March 26, 2013

Things have been relatively quiet on the WildStar front since Carbine Studios first revealed the game back at Gamescom 2011. Sure, there have been bits and pieces of information out there in the intervening months and years, but the game has been interestingly absent from the radar of the larger gaming populace. That all changed with PAX East 2013, though. Carbine Studios and NCsoft were out in force, with fully playable demos on the show floor, a panel, and a lengthy press demonstration. With WildStar now set to release sometime in 2013, it’s clear that NCsoft chose PAX East 2013 to get the marketing machine rolling.

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Unfortunately, due to a number of scheduling issues we didn’t actually have a chance to get hands-on time with the game at the event, but there is still a good deal to talk about today.

To save some time, if you’re completely unfamiliar with WildStar, you’ll want to check out this handy “What is WildStar?” video Carbine Studios released ahead of the show.


Done? Awesome! Let’s get to the good stuff then, shall we?

WildStar’s world is comprised of a mix of sci-fi and fantasy and the developers have taken a decidedly less serious approach to the game when it comes to WildStar’s personality. There’s a Pixar-like cartoony art style found throughout as you can see in the video above.

LOW GRAVITY AND DYNAMIC CONTENT

The high-level area shown during our presentation leaned more on the sci-fi side of things. This zone is a defense grid surrounding the planet of Nexus. The zone features low-gravity, which presents both unique challenges and benefits to players. For example, players can jump (and double jump!) in WildStar in order to avoid attacks and reposition themselves in combat (or even explore the world). In the low-gravity zone we saw, jumping was much more floaty and slow. Sure, this means you could leap much higher and farther, but the slowness of it meant you’d probably need to anticipate things you’d want to dodge in combat a bit earlier if you want to pull it off successfully.  In this way, zones in WildStar have their own gameplay nuances, ensuring that they represent much more than a simple change in scenery.

In fact, the defense grid area we were shown also featured a variety of dynamic stuff going on, such as space debris that would periodically crash onto the surface. The debris could be either hazardous or beneficial to you depending on what it was, but it could also lead to some interesting and quite hilarious possibilities, as well. For example, a seemingly innocuous looking vending machine may crash down onto the surface near you. No big deal, right? Except that when you go to activate the machine for a refreshing drink, it turns out that it is somehow possessed, sprouting arms and legs and attacking you with its limbs as well as a conical soda spray attack, among other things. Did I mention that WildStar doesn’t take itself too seriously?

After our epic soda machine mini-boss fight, we were shown the more fantasy themed starting zone for the Dominion’s Draken race. Like the defense grid zone, the Draken area illustrates some of the more subtle nuance that WildStar offers. For newer players, the fast paced and flashy combat right out of the gate should keep things interesting even at low levels, but the starting zone makes things even more interesting for MMO veterans. For example, there are Exile ships patrolling the skies of the island and if they notice you they may drop a bomb on you. A new player may get hit by the bomb or dodge away, but an experienced player may actually draw their enemies into its target radius to use it to their advantage. Landmines strewn across the landscape can be used in a similar manner, and a giant Vinball monster found deeper in the zone will fight other creatures if they are in the vicinity, enabling a smart player to use this to their advantage in the fight.

THE HOUSING IS THE STUFF

Housing is usually a feature you see come in post-launch (if at all) with most MMOs these days, but player housing is integral to the overall experience in WildStar. We were treated to an extensive demo of the housing system, and as someone who was an avid player of Star Wars Galaxies in its heyday, I can say that Carbine Studios has somehow managed to one-up SWG’s implementation. Sure, there aren’t player cities and you aren’t building your house in the open game world, but to say that WildStar’s housing is robust would be an incredible understatement.

You start getting involved with housing as low as level 6, which is when you’ll run into a Protostar corporation character that can get you started on the process. Housing in WildStar features its own progression system. You’ll initially start with a plot of land littered with environmental hazards and creatures and you’ll have to do a series of quests to essentially stake your claim on it. Additionally, you’ll be able to upgrade your plot by undertaking other housing related quests that require you to go out in the world and acquire certain items in order to complete.

Externally, you’ll be able to install all sorts of decorative and functional pieces onto your plot of land. You can add light sources or other purely decorative objects or you can even grow a garden that can be harvested from and enhanced with special seeds you find out in the game world. There are simply tons of possible functional options for players to install. There is also a time delay associated with placing certain functions and even some interplay with WildStar’s crafting skills. For example, you may need to have a crafter create a pre-fabricated low-gravity pad for you to install if you want to place one of those on your plot. You’ll also only be able to place these functions on pre-designated ‘hooks’ when outside your actual house.

Inside your house, objects can be placed completely free range, much like Star Wars Galaxies’ housing system. This means you can do crazy stuff like create new levels or walls to your house by using existing place able objects in a unique way. The pre-existing options appear to be nigh limitless, too. There are tons of objects you can purchase from the housing vendor, but you’ll also be able to acquire special objects from accomplishing tasks in the game. As one example, you can acquire the head of a powerful monster or raid boss to place on your wall and show off to your friends.

There’s a social twist to housing, too. Other players you give permission to may come to your plot and do things like help harvest your crops or fend off monsters who are attacking and both of you benefit from this. Additionally, there may even be underground tunnels in your plot to explore and tackle, say, five man content together with friends.

At this point, WildStar appears to be a bit like an onion. You can intuitively get a lot of what Carbine Studios is going for when checking out the game, but peel it back and you'll find many nuanced layers to all the features we’ve seen so far. Everything from the combat and the way the environment plays into that, to the gameplay offered by the Paths system, to housing, really require to dig in deeper to appreciate. WildStar is a game I’m incredibly excited to learn more about over the coming months and I’d strongly encourage anyone who isn’t put off by the game’s art style to take a closer look as well. You may be impressed with what Carbine has in store!


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