Player Versus Player: the column where MMORPG writers collide and debate the issues you care about. With 2013 behind us, we cast our eyes forward to the lush, release-heavy lands of 2014. Both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online wait in the wings to earn your subscription dollars. But in a time when free-to-play has become the law of the land, is there room for both? Join Chris and Rob as they weigh in on which game will win the day and then let us know what you think in the comments!
The issue: In a thunderdome battle to the death, which game is the better bet: Carbine’s Wildstar or Zenimax’s Elder Scrolls Online.
Representing each side:
Rob “Grakulen” Lashley: Rob has shouted at more than his fair share of dragons, and for his money, Elder Scrolls Online is the way to go.
Chris “Syeric” Coke: What can he say? Chris was born a Chua, remains a Chua, and will probably marry a Chua. Wildstar is his bet.
Chris: Welcome to the column, Rob! And what a topic this is for your first go ‘round in Player Versus Player. Wildstar versus Elder Scrolls, the battle to restore the subscription fee and kill the other guy trying. Unfortunately for Zenimax, I think Carbine has the upper hand in this one. The Elder Scrolls might be a giant IP but Wildstar makes up for it in sheer style. Look at the art style. The colors, Rob! The colors! It’s like Dreamworks and Blizzard got together at the Pokemon ranch and Wildstar popped out in a Carbine branded egg. Combined with their awesome sense of humor, this is a game I want to play.
Rob: If I wanted an oversaturated palette that reminded me of something from a bad 60’s acid trip I would watch My Little Ponies Friendship is Magic with my daughters. While WoW has done stylistic graphics extremely well for the past decade I think players are ready to flex their computer’s, and in this case console’s muscles, and have a more visceral experience.
Chris: What I really like about Wildstar is that they’re pushing the genre forward at the same time they’re taking it back. I mean, on the one hand we have all of this awesome dynamic content. I can mine an ore node and have a giant rock worm come out and swallow my face? That’s dynamic content I can get behind. But then you have things like huge raids, real exploration, and long-term, hard fought goals… these are things we used to love but developers have tried to convince. Classic ideas aside, they’re still adding the refinements of 2014: rotating challenges, telegraphing, and some seriously intense herb gardening.
Rob: Taking it back? Let’s talk taking it back. To the tune of 20 years. Something that is not talked about enough when people mention the success of World of Warcraft is the fact it had such a successful IP to draw on at launch. Blizzard also had a huge RTS player base to tap into. As much as people loved Azeroth then I think it is safe to say that just as many people love Tamriel now. Elder Scrolls doesn’t have to take it back because they have been there since the beginning. You can also keep your huge raids. There's a reason that everyone stopped doing them. Logistically they are a nightmare. People look back upon them fondly with rose-colored glasses but ditching them was a smart move. I’ll take solid group content and massive 3 faction player versus player combat over a raid where 10% of the players participating are just “fluff.”
Chris: I can’t argue for Wildstar without arguing for the path system. Carbine is using Bartle’s player types -- achiever, socializer, explorer, and killer -- to develop fun content for every player. Sure, being a scientist, settler, explorer, or soldier might not replace the leveling experience, but it doesn’t need to. It enhances it! And that right there is a philosophy I love. Wildstar isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it’s about adding to it and making it better. As an explorer, I like that the game will toss me a new objective with some neat rewards. This dungeon I found? This is my dungeon, Rob. But you may come in if you share your Settler’s pic-a-nic basket. These are the possibilities we have!
Rob: Sure paths may be cool but you are still locked into a standard character class. Specific character types keeps MMOs stale as year old bread. I think Guild Wars 2 has proven that a lot of players are ready to move beyond the standard cookie cutter roles of the trinity. While you’ll be busy playing around with paths and forced to roll alts to experience all WildStar has to offer you can play as one character and learn all of the skills in ESO. Want to be a battlemage? Put on that heavy armor and start casting until your heart’s content.
Chris: Let’s talk about combat. We spend a lot of time being murderous, so murdering should be fun, right? Wildstar is going the action route but in a way we’ve never seen before. Winning a fight isn’t just about avoiding a tail swipe or Cone of Cold. You have to be on your toes, moving around, being active, even for special buffs! It’s a lot more like a console game in that way. Also, have you seen these debuffs? This is the first game where I actually want to be blinded or disarmed. Combat seems a tad chaotic and a whole lot of fun. And by George, it has the trinity. Thank you, Mr. Gaffney, you’ve saved my dungeon run.