Carbine Studios lifted the NDA for Wildstar some days ago, so I can finally share my impressions about this game. This also includes screenshots with watermarks, so this is what you’ll see here. I have tried to include new ones which I took after they removed the watermarks, because the watermark is indeed very ugly. ;) But in quite a few of the screenshots (see the gallery at the end of this post), you can see the watermarks showing a number or my name. I’m sorry about that. Just ignore them! They’re also not of any special quality, etc. since the watermark made them looking good obsolete and I didn’t think I would get to actually show them to others. ;)
First things first, I would have loved to dedicate much more time to this game, but I couldn’t for various reasons. Also, a standard disclaimer: This is not a review and this is not going to be objective! It is about my “first impressions” of the game.
The TL;DR version is as follows: I really like the game. The music is awesome. The world is full of humour that made me smile and chuckle several times. The housing looks solid and like something I could be interested in for a long time. But, it comes with a monthly sub and since my RL job just gave me a great opportunity, I won’t have the time to be playing Guild Wars 2, Rift and Wildstar and thus, the one that costs the most is the one I won’t be playing.
Now for the longer version. When I first got into the closed beta, I actually wasn’t too enthusiastic about it. I had seen the videos that Carbine had published and had really liked the humour. I had read a bit about the game and while it looked “cute” (as in: comics graphics) and I loved the humour, it still did not seem like a game I would want to play on a regular basis. The longer I played in the beta, the more that changed. Now, when I say “the longer I played”, I do not mean that I got to any high levels. If you know how I play my MMOs, you know that I can spend hours online without gaining a single XP point. This is just how I am. So no, my characters did not get far and you need to keep this in mind, because while I think I can write down my impressions, they are, of course, limited to the bits I have seen.
The character creation was quite solid, but also mildly disappointing. While there are lots of options for your chin, nose, eyes, etc. there is no option to change your body height or size. If you are interested in Wildstar, you have probably read about that point before. It even led to Carbine reducing the breast size of the female characters, but they still all have an hourglass figure. And don’t worry, the breasts can still be seen without applying a magnifying glass! ;) I don’t mind the female body shapes per se, but I do mind not having a choice. This choice could be either being able to change the body shape a bit or having alternative races which feature a different body shape. In Wildstar’s case, this means Chua or male characters, as all the female characters have the hourglass figure.
Before I started playing, I had a look at the available races and while I prefered the story of the Exiles, I thought I’d actually want to play a Chua. The Chua are a “genderless race“, whatever that means. I had imagined it to mean that they are like asura (more in Guild Wars 1 than Guild Wars 2) where neither the “typical male” or “typical female” stereotypes apply (you know, breasts, beards, that sort of thing…). But apparently, Carbine meant “Lord of the Rings dwarves” where all Chua look more male than female (still no breasts, but lots of beards). I love the first, but not the latter. So, while I still liked the look of the Chua I created, I can’t think of him as being female.
My personal favourites are the Mordesh. They remind me a bit of the Undead from World of Warcraft or the Xadaganians from Allods Online. Unfortunately, while I like the Mordesh, I chose mine to be an engineer and I did not like that class. But more about this later.
One big thing was the housing. I only got to try it out during an earlier beta phase. I’m not going to get into any details here, because they made some changes and the points I would have criticized aren’t there anymore. Housing looks solid now and if you’re into this kind of thing, I’m pretty sure you will have fun! One great thing is that you do not just have a plot and place a house on there. You can get something out of it like buffs or rested XP. If you still prefer checking out housing before you buy the game for its housing, you can already find several videos (for example, here and here).
What I did not enjoy much was the questing and the combat. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that this game also requires you to move and dodge. But the telegraph system always made me try to position myself according to the pixel bars in front of my character and I did not really pay attention to any of the combat animations. I only paid attention to where the bars on the floor were facing. Part of that was also because I did not like the engineer class much. I would have imagined it to be a very agile and mobile class, but compared to others I had tried, it seemed sluggish. I tried out the medic and enjoyed that one a lot more. The medic can both be a healer or a DPS class. It depends on which skills you are using, which stats you’re wearing with your equipment and so on. I liked the skills system, by the way. It reminded me a bit of Guild Wars 1 where you unlocked skills and then chose which ones you take with you to combat. The higher in level you get, the more skills you’re allowed to take with you to combat up to a total of 8 skills.
If you’re worried about playing with others in crowded starting areas when the game releases: It now features open tagging. So you can attack a mob that somebody else is already attacking. There is no need to be in a party with them, you will get your experience points, your loot and can even advance in your quest if the mob belonged to one. Speaking of quests, some are pretty standard “kill those mobs over there!”, but some are actually fun and entertaining. I think in general, it’s a nice mix. At least in the lower level regions.
As I mentioned above, I still did not like the quests too much. Instead of stating how many mobs you have to kill, you get a bar that fills up. It may sound like the same, but it’s actually different. A weaker mob does not let you progress as much as killing a stronger mob. So while similar, it still allows for a bit more freedom in choosing which mobs to hunt. What I did not like was the map design and with that, the lack of being able to navigate around easily. I was constantly trying to figure out where to go for each quest (yes, even after reading the quest text!). This was not as bad when I had just accepted two quests and did them. But after going out to explore the region, accepting a few quests here and there and then taking a break of a few days, I found it difficult to get back into the quests.
Another area where I think the game wins is the world design and possible exploration. I also loved all the weird animals. My personal favourite here is the “Jabbit”. As I just wrote, I did go on to explore the maps a bit and the things I found were quite often beautiful and in a few cases, surprising and made me laugh. I will not go into details, because I do not want to put spoilers in here with the exception of the video below. This is a challenge. A challenge is usually something time-limited. Up until that point, I had only had kill challenges. This one is different, though. It does not only show the quirky world, it also is a great example of how the music just fits perfectly to your environment.
The soundtrack in general is amazing. I do hope they will make it available for purchase somehow, because I would love to get my hands on it. As an example and to hear something less silly then the song in the challenge video above, you can listen to the character creation theme here.
In general, I’ve enjoyed my time in the beta, even though it was brief and I was lacking time (and sometimes, motivation). My main caveat is the character design as I would have loved to get more options and not knowing what awaits us at the endgame stage. We do know there will be raids, but I am not a raider. So the question is, how many other things will be available, how much fun it is, etc. At least, the game has lots of “fluff content” as I like to call things like housing and cosmetic items for your character to wear.
But with my lack of free time and two MMOs I’m already playing, this isn’t a question for me. As I said, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to play a game with a monthly fee. So, is this Wildstar’s fault? Only as far as the monthly sub requirement goes. The game itself, however, seems solid to me and I had a good time in the game.