I’ll admit that MMO’s have never really been my genre. I struggled to find any affinity with World of Warcraft and I only shared a few disappointing hours with Star Wars: The Old Republic, just hoping it was Knights of The Old Republic 3 (it's not, it just really is not).
However, if you read my preview of Wildstar from Carbine games, then you’ll know that it managed to steal my heart and connect with me in a way that no other MMO has. Thats due in part to the fantastic combat system but also because of its seeming refusal to take itself or its players too seriously. If you're familiar with the genre then you’ll pick up WildStar with ease, which is more of an achievement than you'd imagine as it shows Carbine isn't embarrassed by its roots and instead is choosing to joyful show off its similarities while building upon a lot of core mechanics making, offering some vast improvements.
So, to begin at the beginning. Well, Wildstar is set on the planet Nexus, an ancient home world for the hyper-advanced Eldan race, which for many years was nothing more than a myth. You must choose your side in a battle for ownership of this infamous planetoid. You can choose from one of two factions. The Exiles who are a rough and ready group of refugees and mercenaries looking for a new home. Or, you could fight for the Dominoin, an evil empire who have already crushed everyone in their path (they in fact are the ones who booted the exiles from their home world) and are looking to harness the power hidden within ancient Eldan technology left on the Nexus.
Either one, you’ll find yourself thrown straight into the middle of a long battle for control, putting you as hero of the hour with a lot of people ready to throw quests your way. You’ll need to go through a few tutorial quests to get you going, but once you've cleared the basics Wildstar opens up its gates to the planet Nexus and you're free to go head first into whatever adventure you fancy. Unfortunatly this is where Wildstar hits its main hurdle, managing to become a victim of an age old problem within the MMO genre. Narrative is delivered too sparsely for your character of choice to blend into the already rich tapestry.
While there is truly a lot of lore hidden in the world of Wildstar, most of which is to be had from a rather large abundance of books, audio logs and other such text thats been carelessly littered throughout the planet, you’ll only really get a sense of this if you are willing to spend your time digging around for it. This means that a lot is left unknown as you spend your time levelling up and relying on short and random bursts of cinematic greatness to guide you along your verse of the Nexus history books.
In a world this vast and beautiful however, having to search for the story is actually quite forgivable and in a way, really pushes you to explore every corner of the planet. Possibly the biggest MMO I've seen, Wildstar splits the planet Nexus into well over a dozen zones, all of which offer heights to climb, dangers to traverse and knock on effects to gameplay you may be used to, with gravity shifts, radiation and tornadoes all to be wary of and change your game plan accordingly. This ethos of ever changing surroundings and the openness of exploration, even within the movements available to you, made me feel like i was playing something much more akin to a platformed than a standard MMO. I enjoyed nothing more than a leasuriley stroll along with some sprinting and double jumps thrown in as I explored. Everything here feels truly fluid which is a great achievement for the guys at Carbine, who have clearly worked to offer the next step in control within the genre.
It doesn't stop at simple movement, oh no! Carbine have tweaked the pre conceptions of a standard MMO fighting control scheme, having transformed the idea into a fluid and fast paced juggling act. Dodging and diving around the enemy, avoiding their attack which will convienetly paint the floor red to mark danger, while you yourself time and place a perfect hit. No longer are your attacks in the hands of lady luck, the challenge here instead is to learn the art of war and the dance two enemies will often participate in. This new system is not only refreshing but its amazingly fun and I still have yet to find it a chore.
Again, this is all a great testament to the work of Carbine Studios, managing to take simple mechanics and not only invigorating them with new life but actually making them enjoyable in their own right, obviously all part of the plan to bring in as many fans as the servers can handle. From genre veterans to dabblers to complete newbies.
Some things cant always be fixed though, which is evident in the games questing system which still works on a cycle of ‘talk to this guy-slay that thing-run back to this guy for reward’. So yes, you can expect to do a lot of fetching, harvesting and slaughtering in your journeys but the most mundane quests aren't all that bad as you’ll, on occasion, be allowed to auto-complete, meaning you’ll simply video chat to that gentleman who wanted you to find him 6 obscure items, rather than run all that way back to him. Hey, you're the savour of the Nexus after all. Time is money.
Wildstar is choc full of humour and personality though, with quests offering some of the craziest I’ve heard of in any MMO, My favourite saw me given the chance to mow down hundreds of space zombies on a super charged hover motorcycle. Theres some mini games thrown in too such as a make shift simon says, a rather unique take on interrogation involving pressing the right key when certain lights aline on a model and even a simple button basher that left me blistered and stressed (if you remember the torture scene from MGS then you’ll know what I mean)
Some of the quests open to you will change slightly depending on the path you choose. From explorer, scientist, Soldier or Settler. each will offer you some tasks that are more suited to its respectable path, while moulding how you interact with each zone to once again better suit the play style you've aligned more with. As a Soldier I was encouraged to take on the role of a warmonger essentially and found big rewards for battles I fought.
This spirit of customisation, from your character down to your overall experience, is something that Wildstar does really well and is a huge asset to the game. Once you reach a certain level, player housing will unlock which is not only a brilliant idea but something that is deviously addictive. As soon as I began the process of construction, I felt that same buzz I once had from Animal Crossing, already feeling the urge to find new furniture and change the colour of the sky. Wait, no that is right. In Wildstar, if you want a moody purple sky behind your house, consider it done!
Its not all for looks here though, every players house offers a vast list of daily buffs, giving you the advantage you need and with what seems like a bottomless list of items to decorate your home and 6 open allotments, you’ll be at it for hours. I know I often had to fight the urge to change little things here and there, constantly wanting to alter the benefits my home could give me, as well as make a more impressive lair. Sim fever will bite you in full once you realise that you can also go crazy customising your armour and equipment. Finally I can get that bright pink armour I always dreamed of! (Im not ashamed and neither should you be)
Theres so much to do and explore in Wildstar its really quite mind blowing, and I haven't even touched on raiding or warplots yet, so it seems that Carbine Studios have done damn good job of building an MMO thats offers something for everyone. Even from a financial stand point, with the CREDD system in place, its a very real prospect that fans can play to pay buy selling their valuable in game resources to other players for CREDD, an exclusive currency that translates to game time!