I’ve always considered WildStar to be a great game with a lot of promise. I’ve praised it, I’ve critiqued it, and I’ve suggested it as one of our Five MMOs for Experienced Players. Carbine Studios’ flagship MMORPG has seen a lot of improvements and additions since its launch over a year ago, culminating in the free-to-play rebranding as WildStar: Reloaded last month. Since then, I’ve been diving back in to see what’s changed, and there are a lot of things that I like, along with others that still need some work.
Among the additions that I think are positive, the free-to-play transition and new player experience stand out most prominently. In the first case, Carbine has absolutely nailed it with WildStar’s free-to-play experience. Sure, there are some things in the NCoin store that are exorbitantly priced, but the game’s base content is just about completely available for you to check out without having to pay a dime. Furthermore, the new monetization model has been implemented relatively unobtrusively, so you can enjoy the experience without seeing an NCoin window every step of the way.
Second, the new player experience is streamlined, accessible, and dare I say it, so well done that it threatens to be more exciting than the rest of the game. The tutorials, which can be skipped, seamlessly introduce you to WildStar’s gameplay, backstory, and the characters that are relevant to your choice of faction. Game systems are explained clearly and introduced at appropriate intervals, and the quests that help you to get your feet wet are interesting and humorous. I’ve started fresh with a new character and am liking the experience almost to the exclusion to that of my main.
The excellent new player experience exposes some of the things that haven’t changed about WildStar and still need work. The mid-game levels still suffer from activity bloat and quest rote, for example. Whereas the early game has fewer, and admittedly railroaded, quest lines for you to tackle, once you hit level 15 or so you’ll likely be inundated by all of the tasks that are available. The variety of choice is certainly appreciated, but the sheer number of activities and the overwhelming way in which they’re presented detract from the experience. Moreover, the mid-game quests become longer and more grindy, requiring you to collect more of X items and kill more of Y monsters than before, which is little fun.
WildStar also still bases its gameplay on several features that still may or may not be your cup of tea. The game’s combat, for example, feels about the same. Paths, while interesting in theory, continue to feel dissociated from the core experience and without much meaning. Challenges have been incorporated a bit more clearly, but remain diversionary and uncompelling. Your feelings about these systems at launch will likely be the same in WildStar: Reloaded.
There are a lot of things that make WildStar’s free-to-play update a great relaunch, including the revamped user interface, new cosmetic and housing items, and of course, all of the content updates since the original release. Yet, the ability to play for free and the new player experience are themselves the best reasons to give WildStar another try if you’re so inclined. I’m finding that although I like my main character and some of the mid-game content, I’m enjoying the early game experience much more, as it seems to encapsulate what Carbine is going for with WildStar’s overall gameplay design. I wouldn’t be surprised if an overhaul of the rest of the game’s content is in the works, which would vault WildStar from being a great MMO to being a spectacular one.
Are you playing WildStar: Reloaded? What are some of the things that you like about the transition to free-to-play?