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A Game of Character, A Game of Characters

Som Pourfarzaneh Posted:
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There are a lot of great things that can be said about WildStarCarbine Studios’ flagship MMORPG is funny, polished, unique, and fun to play.  There’s a staggering amount of content available to play for both factions, and a cohesive story that mostly pulls it all together.  It’s extremely easy on the eyes, and offers some interesting developments in its handling of gameplay systems and combat.  The hype surrounding WildStar reached a considerable pitch at launch, and I’ll be the first to say that I have been impressed by the game’s ability to consistently exceed expectations.

Sidebar: someone mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie can be considered to be the Star Wars movie that we should have gotten instead of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.  By the same token, I’m finding that WildStar is the game that Star Wars: The Old Republic should have been (sorry, SWTOR fans!).

Before we get to the topic of this week’s column, let me also say that WildStar is not perfect.  I think Bill’s spot on in his review, so check that out if you want to know more, but suffice it to say that the game treads upon a lot of old ground.  While I enjoy WildStar’s combat, classes, and two-faction narrative, the game’s features are mostly derivative, if polished and evolved, versions of gameplay that we’ve been playing for years.  Carbine’s MMORPG also doesn’t cover itself in glory with its inconsistent framerate.  Its overall design draws enough similarities to the likes World of Warcraft that it seems to have to work that much harder to establish its own identity, but this struggle, I think, gives birth to WildStar’s greatest strength.

I'm also fully aware of the population woes and existing problems facing the game (see Gareth's article), but I still believe WildStar is a very fun game nonetheless.

WildStar is a game built upon character.  It’s charming, it’s quirky, and it relentlessly seeks to win you over with its tongue-in-cheek, scifi-meets-fantasy-via-space-western setting. Chad Moore’s team has done exceptionally well in building WildStar’s world, with a comprehensive backstory, interesting lore, and memorable cast of characters.  Say what you might about the game’s sometimes rote questing and imitative gameplay, but WildStar’s personality gives lie to any claims of it being simply a WoW clone.

I enjoy playing WildStar, but I think the game’s character, and characters, are what have hooked me into being part of its post-launch community.  Beyond participating in the bevy of activities it offers at any given moment (including the very proper housing system, good on you Carbine), I keep coming back to WildStar to experience the charm and wit on display, and to soak in the ludicrousness of the game’s characters and the situations they have gotten themselves into.  I’m the kind of person that likes to read quest text (there are dozens of us!), and often find myself quite literally laughing out loud while playing, or taking screenshots of WildStar’s very pretty and uniquely conceived landscapes.

To be fair, those moments have become fewer and further between the more I play WildStar, as the general pacing and rhythm of the game move into recognizably comfortable MMO territory.  Still, Carbine’s game positively oozes personality, which is something that is sorely missing from a great many number of modern MMORPGs, including some of WildStar’s direct competitors.  For me, WildStar’s sense of character and unique set of characters comprise its most potent staying power.  MMORPGs are more than the sum of a number of different gameplay systems stacked upon one another, and WildStar has nailed this gestalt perfectly, tying it all together with personality and quirk.

I can think of a handful of other MMOs that have (or had) as much character as WildStar, including LOTRO, Vanguard, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and Guild Wars 2.  What about you?  What defines a game’s character for you, and what MMORPGs stand out to you for their personality and characters?


Som Pourfarzaneh

Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.