Another massively multiplayer online game touted as a “WoW-killer,” Wildstar pits the nature-loving Exiles against the tyrannical Dominion in a battle for abandoned technology on the planet Nexus. As someone who traditionally hasn’t taken to the style of MMOs, this game excited me with its approachable nature; everything from the colorful outdoor landscapes to the furry, koalamouse-looking race (Chua) that adorn the games advertisements seems to say “Hey, it’s ok; I won’t intimidate you like those other games.” That’s a fair assessment; Wildstar contains a number of features that make it much friendlier to those who are new to the MMO genre. But it doesn’t take any significant steps out of the box compared to its dominant competitors, so even though Wildstar is a good MMO, there isn’t much about it that will pull players away from other games.
One of Wildstar’s best assets is its plethora of side quest options. You’ll start your journey to Nexus by creating your character, choosing from a variety of races and classes, but you’ll also select a Path to determine your secondary objectives in each realm. You can choose from the Soldier, Explorer, Settler, or Scientist, each of which take on completely different tasks. As the Explorer, I received missions where I scaled tall mountains and went on scavenger hunts for items, receiving special Explorer-exclusive perks as a result. Your Path selection can mean that you experience completely different parts of Nexus than your friends, and I have to admit that’s pretty neat. In addition to path-related quests there are region-specific quests that trigger based on finding locations, and typical NPC-issued side-quests as well. Certainly nobody can accuse Wildstar of not having enough to do.
One of my favorite aspects of Wildstar is a simple innovation that completely changed the feeling of the game: telegraph markers. Whenever a player uses a skill or spell, that targeted area of effect is marked on the ground for other players to see. Friendly telegraphs show in green, while enemy telegraphs show in red; this makes massive events and raiding much easier for newcomers to survive since they can run to friendly spells when in danger, and flee enemy attacks more easily. This means that you can’t simply click a target and expect your attacks to hit; in order to make contact, you’ll have to aim and time your attacks precisely.You can also mark your character as a particular role when organizing raids (DPS, Tank, Healer, etc) so that everyone knows who to find when in trouble. These sound like minor facets, but get 30 people together all casting spells and attacks while fighting a gigantic boss and you find that these simple improvements make a world of difference.
Still, for all that Wildstar does right, it doesn’t contain much in itself to really set itself apart in terms of world or story from its rivals. Nexus is a colorful, vibrant world full of vibrant, colorful characters, but more often than not it feels a bit childish compared to World of Warcraft; it’s hard not to get that sense while bouncing off giant mushrooms to catch fireflies or fighting with puffball enemies that are more adorable than intimidating (also the Chua). The characters in Wildstar have some depth to them, offering varied backstories and motivations for action, but no character really grabbed my attention or piqued my interest enough to make me care about the quests I was doing like when playing The Old Republic or, a non-MMO that I think gets questing (and side-questing) perfect: Batman: Arkham City. Inevitably, I just trudged from mission to mission, gathering items or defeating baddies to receive my rewards and move on. Like many/most MMOs, Wildstar is best experienced with friends to provide a bit more intrigue and depth to the experience.
Player v. player combat is a vital part of an MMO to many players, and Wildstar’s telegraph system makes combat feel more precise than traditional MMOs. That said, I predominantly played the traditional player v. environment gameplay in Wildstar, since my main concerns in a game are story and mechanics. As far as PvP is concerned, like DC Universe Online, timing is crucial to making hits, and those who aren’t skilled in their character move-sets are sure to be defeated. PvP feels as refined as PvE to me, but there’s also the fact that I’m generally terrible at PvP, so unfortunately I’m not the best person to make recommendations about gameplay in that regard. Their most recent content update, “Sabotage,” introduces a new 15 v. 15 arena, Daggerstone Pass, which potentially adds to the excitement.
WildStar presents a new experience for gamers looking to delve into an MMO landscape. There’s plenty to be impressed by, but don’t expect this game to be the one that changes online gaming for you or converts you into an MMO gamer if you’re not one already. That said, if you’re looking for a new game to play while you’re waiting for your favorite MMO to give you new content, or maybe you’re a seasoned player looking for a new world to conquest, than the world of Nexus could be for you. It could also potentially make a great gateway MMO; since WildStar offers many of the same tenets and action as other MMOs, this one could be a great way to determine your interest in online gaming without hitting the knowledge barrier of established franchises. WildStar just released in June, so the community is still young, learning, and tolerant of newcomers (like I was). If you’re looking for a new world to dive into, fly a ship to Nexus and get started.
Final Score: 4 out of 5