Does WildStar redefine the MMO or will it fade into obscurity

Does WildStar redefine the MMO or will it fade into obscurity

first_imgEven though The Elder Scrolls Online released just two months ago, it’s not the big MMO that has the gaming world abuzz. Carbine’s WildStar launched earlier this week, and its colorful aesthetic and space theme have taken the MMO spotlight.Is WildStar really worth all the buzz, or is it just a slow period for major video game releases and the lackluster launch of TESO left an MMO-sized hole in everyone’s summer-gaming hearts? We strapped on our space helmet and dove into WildStar to find out.As always, WildStar is an MMO, so this isn’t strictly a review, but more a recounting of the early game experience.Carbine’s WildStar is a space-themed MMO, but rather than the empty black of Eve Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic’s various striking locales, WildStar is set on just one planet — Nexus. There are two factions (sigh), and they’re sent to Nexus in order to, more or less, claim it for their faction — and right from the start, WildStar disappoints. When you have an MMO that is heavily touted as a space MMO, you should utilize the vastness of the universe rather than limit everyone to one planet. Even worse, traversing across the planet doesn’t even feel fluid — when you “complete” a zone, you basically teleport to the next one. You can walk between some (all?) zones rather than teleport, but doing so will feel more tedious than it will create a sense of a fluid, cohesive world.To WildStar’s credit, many mobs do look like space aliens and robots, but to its discredit, the rest look like they could be copy-pasted into a generic high fantasy MMO featuring elves and dragons. Ultimately, at least in the early going, WildStar doesn’t feel like it utilizes its sci-fi space theme very well, but on the other hand, it’s also not completely overlooked.Despite the game only half-utilizing its space aesthetic, WildStar is pretty, but is also currently experiencing widespread optimization issues. Just because a game isn’t photo-realistic doesn’t mean it should be a breeze to run, sure, but when games released a year or two ago look and run better, one wonders what’s going on under WildStar’s hood.Carbine, at least, has stated that they’re working on the optimization. However, for every user with top-of-the-line rigs that can’t get WildStar above 20fps, there is a user running a middling rig that gets 30fps just fine. Internet research suggests that the issues don’t have rhyme or reason, so you won’t know if they’ll affect you until you try. Regardless, it’s frustrating when a game that won’t graphically blow you out of the water struggles to maintain 30fps.As for the game: it’s every other MMO. You collect quests from NPCs that have exclamation points floating above their heads, wherein you’re tasked with killing X critters, collecting Y items, or going to location Z. You spend a lot of time running long distances to turn in your completed quests, then running the same large distance in the opposite direction to complete another. The vast environment looks nice, but there isn’t much of consequence to see — pretty hues painted on a grassy hill, random mobs standing around waiting to die as is MMO custom, a nice skybox if you remember to look up, and another player off in the distance killing the target of your quest before you get there, forcing you to wait for it to respawn. You gain a level, click the notification to see what skills just unlocked and which attributes just raised, change your hot bar, then close the window. You go kill X space tigers that look like regular tigers without stripes, walk back to the hub to turn in your quest, sell your vendor trash, repair your equipment, and do it all again.Rad level-up. All this attitude makes you want to turn your hat backwards and skateboard to school.If the half-utilized space theme and generic MMO progression don’t set WildStar apart from the rabble, then two other facets of the game are supposed to — the combat, and humor. The humor, sadly, isn’t humor. It’s not funny. The game has “attitude,” which in the absence of anything else (such as compelling drama), is most closely related to humor, but isn’t. The game calls you a cupcake a lot. Welcome to WildStar, cupcake. Congratulations completing that quest, cupcake. When you level, sometimes the notification noise is accompanied by a voiceover that swears at you but gets bleeped out. You bleeping leveled, cupcake! “Attitude” indeed.Weirdly, the attitude isn’t even pervasive throughout the rest of the game. Quest giver text blandly explains why you need to clear out an infestation of 10 space-things-that-look-like-regular-things, the discoverable data cubes that dispense lore read like a standard encyclopedia, and skill and equipment popups just display numbers and forego a flavorful description. At least that means you won’t be called a cupcake again every time you compare armor.The other facet of WildStar that is supposed to set it apart is the combat. It’s touted as a reactionary, active combat system instead of the old hot bars and cooldowns system, but in practice it’s something in between. It’s not full-out action like Defiance or even Dungeons and Dragons Online, but it’s not only hot bars and cooldowns. Everything you do in combat (aside from jump and dodge) is placed on your hot bar; however, most things need to be somewhat aimed.Skills generate a MOBA-style targeting cone (or whatever shape) on the environment, and will hit things inside the cone. Then you wait for it to cool down and do it again. It plays just like the hot bars and cooldowns stalwart method, but at least you have to somewhat aim (a giant cone painted on the floor is pretty easy to aim). Enemies often have cone-based attacks as well, and you can dodge them, but you can also often slowly mosey away from them at your leisure.Ultimately, if the game were optimized, it’d be a fine-but-generic MMO to play for a little while. As of now, though, you have to not only purchase the game proper, but buy playing time. That’s a high asking price for the privilege of potentially being one of the users with an impressive gaming rig that, for some reason, can’t squeeze out more than 20fps while they’re killing 10 space rats and collecting 10 space tiger pelts.If Carbine can fix the optimization issues, there’s still a fairly generic MMO lying in wait.last_img

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