Sunday, May 11, 2014

Second Impressions : WildStar

Let's get one thing out of the way right at the start. I was wrong. WildStar is not, as I commented in response to Jeromai's thoughtful and revealing "First Impressions" post yesterday, " of the ugliest MMOs I’ve ever played".

I would like to withdraw that opinion entirely and offer my apologies to Carbine and their artists and designers for my rush to a hasty and inaccurate appraisal. Moreover, I would like to acknowledge that Tobold was entirely correct to point out that "the game only opens up in the third zone" and that, by implication, I probably should have waited until I got into what you might call the "game proper" before passing judgment.  In my own defense I can only offer that, if you don't want your new MMO to be judged on what players see in the Tutorial, you probably shouldn't make your Tutorial GO ON FOREVER!

Every hair of the bear reproduced.
Corrections made, apologies behind me, from the lofty heights of level nine (still a level shy of the optimum TRIL (Tobold's Recommended Impression Level) I am going to go out on a limb and say this:

I like WildStar.

I wasn't expecting to like it. I didn't especially want to like it. It just so happens I do like it. It's gaudy, goofy, and just plain daft but it has...something. Specifically, it has lots and lots of somethings from other MMOs, most of which I liked the first time round and am happy to see given another airing. It's like watching one of those movies where you can spot all the director's influences yet without feeling that you'd rather be watching those movies instead.

No longer the ugliest but definitely still the busiest.
Just to take one very obvious example: The Lopp. Having done no research whatsoever into WildStar's world and lore, my introduction to The Lopp came in-game as I ran across a bridge in the first non-tutorial zone on the Dominion side. Not for the first (or the last) time in this morning's three-hour session, what I saw there in front of my Chua Engineer provoked a fully-articulated "What the...!?" from me, sitting at home staring at the screen in confused disbelief.

In this case what I was staring at appeared to be a two-foot tall moustachioed rabbit with three-foot long ears and eyes the size of dinner plates, wearing a fez and carrying a spear. Even in the avowedly non-realistic setting of Nexus this introduction came as something of a surprise but that particular example of the species turned out to be a sartorial conservative compared to his Chieftain, who appeared to have been dressed by a five-year old girl on a Haribo high and to be rather pleased about it.

Why do you call us "Big Folk" when your ears alone are taller than I am?

The Lopp, then, don't closely resemble anything seen in a Western MMO before, or not by me, at least. Long-tailed rabbits in fancy dress that walk around on their hind legs (although come to think of it, none of them do "walk". They all stand in place and...jiggle.). Never seen anything like them at all - until they open their mouths.

I forget where I first heard the word "shiny", now such a recognizable MMO trope. It might have been among the Ratonga in EQ2 or maybe it comes from WoW or the Goblin Beast-Tribe in either of the Final Fantasies. I do know, however, that for the past two years I have associated it most closely with The Skritt, GW2's race of bipedal rats, who spend most of their time running about squeaking about "shinies", at least until enough of them gather in one place to generate the hive mind intelligence that allows them to focus on something beyond the surface sheen of objects (most likely World Domination, if you believe the Asura, although you can put that down to professional jealousy. Probably.)

A short conversation with Chieftain Aleli at the Lopp camp at Glitterfur Caravan later, however, and it's like we've slipped sidewise into Tyria. They talk in fractured English (with a cod Eastern European accent, which may be in dubious taste but at least makes a change from all the cod British accents that make The Dominion seem not so much like an Evil Empire, more The Dick van Dyke Memorial Home for "resting" character actors).

The Lopp (and yes, I do see what you did there...) exhibit less than stellar intelligence (when asked how they got to Nexus they reveal they hitched a lift with some other race because they have no "Vroom ships" of their own).

Umm...I am a Chua, in case you hadn't noticed.
Most importantly, they will do anything for other races' cast-offs, which they see as the greatest of treasures or, more accurately, you will do anything, because yes, of course, WildStar is at heart a quest-driven MMO and Glitterfur Caravan is a Quest Hub. So, kill these wolves Highland Howlers, gather these ground spawns shinies, earn faction, open up more quests, rinse/repeat.

Whether this appeals all depends on your tolerance for whimsy, repetitive actions and barely competent voice acting. No device with the capacity to measure my tolerance for at least two out of those three has yet been invented, so I was in Hog Heaven, as no-one in England has ever said, even ironically.

Moving from Quest Hub to Quest Hub is not my thing so I mostly just ran around, spoke to anyone with the traditional exclamation hat, said "I can do that!" to them all in blithe disregard of my capabilities (largely unknown) or their intentions (largely ignored). I'm already playing my Chua as a bumbling innocent, a kind of cross between Benny the Ball from Top Cat and  John Finnemore's character Arthur Shappey from the magnificent Cabin Pressure so helping people without knowing why or what for counts as roleplaying.

In the process there was a lot of fighting. Mob density isn't uncomfortably tight in WildStar but neither are agro ranges insignificant. Also, I have a Big Gun and an Artillery Bot - I'm going to go around a cow? I don't think so! And anyway, here's another surprise:

I like WildStar's combat.

It's not pretty but then why should it be? This is War!
I really wasn't expecting to say that. It looks horrible in videos and even worse in static screenshots. All those jarring "telegraphs" aka ugly red grids. Written descriptions of how it works make it sound fiddly-faddly, awkward, unimmersive and just plain annoying. It's none of those things.

Turns out the telegraphs are quite fun to play with and before long they look no less jarring than spell effects and explosions. The double-tap dodge is easy to use although I'd prefer a hot-key like the divided hemisphere GW2 provides as an alternative. Dodge is a bit of a luxury at these levels anyway. A spritely Chua can often simply scuttle to one side and get out of the box without having to dodge and that old favorite, back-pedalling with both barrels blazing, hasn't stopped being highly effective yet.

You'd never guess it to look at him but there's nothing he likes better than a kick-around.
And he didn't even want to use me as the ball!

There's much, much more I could say about WildStar even at this very early stage. Like how dense and packed the Lore appears to be, with books filled with lengthy text lying around all over the place and NPCs just falling over themselves to go into detailed, if pithy, explanations and explications. Or how complex (maybe just complicated but let's give it the benefit) the progression appears to be, clearly enough to keep a player like me occupied for a good, long time). Or how visually intriguing (if seemingly flat in places and over-busy in others) the world is, full of curious little details and quirks just begging to be examined at considerable leisure.

Over the remaining week I'd like to get to level 10 and take a look at both crafting and housing, then to level as far again on the Exile side (where I just bet every voice actor speaks with either an authentic North American or cod-Spanish accent...) to see how that grass grows. Even at this very early stage, though, I can say for certain that, were WildStar launching with a F2P model I would be playing it at launch and if it were Buy To Play I'd have pre-ordered.

Over 'ere son! On me 'ead!

For very much the reasons Jeromai outlines in his reply to my comment at his post linked above, however, there is no chance I will be buying WildStar as a subscription game. I would like to play it but I would not rather play it than the MMOs I am already playing (or not playing...) and therefore a subscription makes no sense for me at this time.

That's not to say I don't think it's worthy of a subscription: as a main MMO it almost certainly is. Meanwhile I'll play it as and when there are free trials or offers and bide my time until either the game changes payment models or I'm at a sufficiently loose MMO end that a subscription would make sense.


  1. You can pay for your subscription with in-game gold, just as in EVE. So you can essentially make it into a Buy2Play model.

    1. Again, it's a good option for someone planning on making WildStar their main game but I imagine you'd need to play a lot to generate enough in-game coin to pay for it. EQ and EQ2 have a similar scheme - not sure if it works exactly the same way but I think it's similar. The prices people ask for the Krono there are not unmanageable for someone who plays regularly and has high level characters but would be far out of reach of either a fairly new player or anyone who played casually.

      In the unlikely event that it turns out you can buy a sub with the coin you can earn in a few hours play here and there then yes I'd be very interested but I can't see that happening and Carbine would have to put a stop to it if it ever did.

    2. One thing they are carefully not mentioning, but is BOUND to happen is the following as well.

      Someone who already has a subscription, but buys extra CREDD to convert into gold. Such a person will be extremely hardcore, extremely committed, and have stuff way out of reach of those who merely pay a sub and grind in time for their gold. I should think this may end up a tide problematic for certain people to swallow in a WoW-inspired game where keeping up with the Joneses and showing off is a foundational aspect of gameplay.

      Anyhow, the prices set by this sort of high level economy will definitely kill any hopes and dreams of a new or casual player to buy their way with in-game coin. It's a good stepping stone upward for those willing to drop $$ to exchange into gold, but it's not likely to work the other way around unless one is willing to spend hours grinding like a Chinese gold farmer (at which point you're by definition a type of hardcore and are better off just paying the sub fee) or are really good at playing the auction house.

  2. I was in the same boat at level 10 as you were before you started liking it.

    Hit 13, first shiphand mission
    Hit 15, first adventure (and second LAS). Housing hits here too.
    Hit 20, first dungeon

    Got a 15% discount and preordered. I have two months to play subscribed to get value to see if I buy a third (with box and discount)

    Lvl 25 get your first mount.

    It gets better from where you are. You may end up preordering by end of OB if you put the time in :)

    1. It does get better with each level. (Though Zubon's question about why we should put up with this extended time to effectiveness is relevant here.)

      But the nagging question in the back of my mind always arises: that all of this is for rent and will not be accessible the moment I stop a subscription. Which then sort of kills the desire to keep inputting time and effort into accumulating stuff. For me, anyway.

      And mounts seem to be at level 15 now, though the price shown on the interface seems to be a little off. I sat around puzzled why I couldn't buy one though I had -juust- a couple silver extra. Had to vendor off a bunch of potions to get from 10g 17s to 10g 67s before it let me buy one.

    2. Well, Mrs Bhagpuss, who wasn't even interested in trying the open beta on the grounds that she didn't like the graphics, has already moved to "I'd try it if it was F2P" on seeing some of the amusing antics my Chua gets up to.

      Right now, I don't think either of us is looking for a new full-time MMO but in the future, who knows? We might well end up buying it at some point even if it doesn't go F2P. It really depends on how much other things hold our attention, I think, rather than how good WildStar is. It will still be there when we're ready for it :P

    3. @Jeromai Zubon makes a good point in general terns but in respect of WildStar we are talking about the first handful of hours in a game that one might expect to play for months at least. I don't think the problem is that fun (or effectiveness) is being gated behind time spent so much as the damn tutorial is insanely over-long.

      If the tutorial lasted no more than fifteen minutes tops and then you arrived in the open-world zone, I think I'd have liked the game from the get-go. Then again, I am a serial tutorial-hater who absolutely loves being dumped in media res and left to figure things out so I appreciate my view may not be representative of the target market.

      Other than that, I agree that a sub puts on pressure don't need. I pay my SOE All Access sub like a club membership and I don't feel any of that kind of pressure there, but with the last two non-SOE sub games I bought - TSW and FFXIV:ARR - I did feel exactly that push to play or waste money and when it came time to re-sub I chose not to do so.

    4. @Jeromai - you get renown for grouping and a level 25 hover board for cheap renown last weekend anyway, didn't check this weekend!

      I dislike subs in general, but I am can also easily value my time for entertainment outside of other options. I didn't get into GW2 so time in that game, while "free", feels wasted. We'll see how it feels in WS once it goes live :)

  3. I never actually got it to successfully run and connect over the weekend. Hell, it took me a day just to log in due to NCSoft's auth system sending me a code which took a day to arrive.

    It seems to be working for me now, though.. just as I'm about to head off to work. Ah well, guess I got a week to try to find some time to poke around in it.

    1. Yes, it is fiddly. I had several log-in failures. I guess that's what open beta is supposed to highlight though. Let's hope they get it fixed for launch.

  4. I spent some time with Wildstar over the weekend. I didnt get very far into it, but it was enough foer me to say "It's a fine game, and the combat's quite interesting, but I don't feel compelled to play it either."

    Maybe in a few months after I'm burned out on ESO and have exhausted the new TSW Tokyo content I'll give it another look-see. Nothing was really "wrong" with it, it just didn't really grab me either.

  5. I'm a little late to the comment party as usual but I recalled one thing from this as I was poking around the keybindings this morning. I had the same issue with dodge doubletap because I also use a mouse button to dodge in GW2. They added a directional dodge keybinding in Wildstar so it effectively does the exact same thing it does in GW2. Not sure if it's useful, but that's never stopped me before.


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