WildStar is Carbine Studios’ freshman effort… but don’t let that fool you. This team is filled with MMO veterans, all trying to make a monster of a game that gives you every thing you’ve loved from past MMORPGs, without the stuff you may not have liked. Did they succeed? For the most part, absolutely. WildStar is a polished, content rich experience that theme park MMO fans will go gaga over. But that doesn’t mean it will be loved by all. We’ve covered the game in our columns and our Review In Progress series for weeks now. But this is the real deal. I’ve spent over 60 hours in the game since launch, and I bought my own Deluxe Edition from the WildStar site, though Carbine did give me a 6-month code to keep up with the game post-launch. So what did I think of my time on Nexus? Read on to find out.
AESTHETICS – 10
The look and feel of Nexus may be an acquired taste, but that doesn’t mean it’s not expertly crafted. From the Pixar-esque design and animations of the races and cast of characters, to the beautifully crafted UI (a far cry from the pyramid hell it was in beta), WildStar is easily one of the more unique and interesting looking games on the market. Some gamers might not appreciate its over-the-top and zany atmosphere, preferring instead the realistic visuals of titles like ESO, but it can’t be denied: WildStar’s art direction is top notch across the board.
Additionally, the score by Jeff Kurtenacker will go down as one of the most memorable soundtracks I’ve ever heard. It’s a crime that the OST is not yet available for purchase, as I’d put “Justice Doesn’t Always Wear a Badge” on repeat. The sound effects, wildlife ambient noise, and sparse voice work are all incredibly well done. It’s not a complaint, but rather a matter of taste – but some folks might get a bit rundown by Fred Tatasciore’s voicing of the level-up emotes and zone introductions. Me? I love that kind of stuff, as it feeds into the weird and wild tone that Carbine is aiming for. But it must be said: not everyone is a fan of the animated and over-the-top nature of Nexus. I likened WildStar to candy in a few of my Review In Progress pieces, and like candy… it can give you a toothache if it’s the only food in your diet.
GAMEPLAY – 8
Straight out of the gate, I’ll tell you why there are two points taken off from WildStar’s Gameplay score. One point was deducted for the sheer “been there, done that” feeling of quest hub syndrome life in Nexus offers. The other was taken off for the Path system not going quite so far as I’d hoped to alter the gameplay experience. In fact, at times being a Settler feels like just busy work, while being a Soldier feels like just more kill quests. Being an Explorer winds up being “chase the glowing arrow”, and being a Scientist is pretty much “click this and read”. The Path system is one of Carbine’s best ideas, it’s just not yet fully realized. It shines when used to actually do something unique and fun in a group situation (such as Settlers repairing a guard robot, while the Scientist activates it), but these moments are too few and far between. Luckily, dungeons are made to take advantage of Paths as well, it’s just the open world where the tasks set forth feel monotonous.
Additionally, my other big gripe is about the questing. There are some fantastic questing experiences in WildStar. Shiphand missions that take you off planet into your own private instance, long chains that have you exploring and fighting your way through encamped enemies. But most of the time, you’re just doing what you’ve always done: collect this, kill this, go here and talk to this person. Thankfully WildStar doesn’t put tons of text in front of your face for each mission, as NPC interactions are limited to about the size of a tweet. It’s as if they know most people will skip the quest text and just look for the locations on their map. Don’t get me wrong, Chad Moore has done an incredible job crafting the world and lore of Nexus. If you’re so inclined there are tomes of writing to dive into and explore. In fact, I’m really hoping someone makes an App that lets me read my lore collection off line. But none of this changes the fact that you’re still killing and collecting most of your way to the level cap. The challenges, Path missions, and other doodads help break up the monotony, and it’s really nice to use PVP Battlegrounds to gain experience too.
If it weren’t for WildStar’s combat and movement systems, the leveling process in Nexus would be a real chore. Instead, thanks to the freedom offered by dashing, double jumping, and the movement required by telegraphs in combat, WildStar’s action is ahead of the curve. I was worried, as many were leading into launch, that the red and green telegraphs would make fighting a jumbled mess. But on the contrary, it only adds to the experience while testing player skill. A lot like Smite’s action, combat in WildStar is a big plus in my book. I find myself trying to sprint, double-jump, and dodge in every game I play now.
Don’t let my earlier gripes fool you either, I still think that WildStar’s overall mechanics and systems are spot on. If you’re sick and tired of themepark MMOs, chances are you’ll tire of life on Nexus quickly. But for fans of the subgenre, WildStar is absolutely packed to the gills with content. Just watch the above feature trailer… when was the last time a game launched with this much to do in-game? Even housing, which fans of another fantasy MMO are finally getting ten years later, was in at launch and it lets you put dungeons, challenges, and more on your own private Idaho.
There’s pretty much something for everyone in WildStar. From deep and complex crafting, to a veritable treasure trove in housing, questing, Battlegrounds, Arenas, dyable gear, costumes, an auction house, a commodity broker, Warplots, dungeons, adventures, veteran dungeons and adventures, a 20-man and a 40-man raid… every bullet point you can think of for a theme park MMO has been hit and then some. And for the most part, they all work wonderfully and are enjoyable. Minus the also-ran part of its questing experience, life in Nexus is wholly enjoyable and more varied than most veteran MMOs… and it’s only one month old.