Hands On: WildstarBy Tom Yeates | August 17, 2011 | Previews | 1 comment | Share
NCSoft were quick off the mark this morning, holding a Press Conference just after 9am and, as well as a slew of Guild Wars 2 information, a new trailer and a boss battle demonstration, they announced a brand new MMO being developed by Carbine Studios – Wildstar.
Carbine Studios is made up of a core team with a lot of experience in game development and MMO’s in particular, they count former World of Warcraft, Everquest and Warhammer Online developers amongst their number, as well as a number on people who have worked on other series such as Diablo and Starcraft. Their debut game, Wildstar, has apparently been in development for the past four or five years before it’s first reveal at gamescom on Wednesday.
STYLE, STYLE, STYLE
Storywise, we were told that the Eldan, the most powerful race in the galaxy have disappeared. Nexus is a newly discovered planet that boasts a plethora of magical discoveries and technology and resources and several different races head there to find fortune on this new world. If I were making a generalisation, I’d say it’s all the usual sci-fi/fantasy fare but I feel that this would really sell short what Carbine are trying to achieve here.
The visual style was one of the most striking aspects of the demo. It’s here that the Warcraft breeding shines through – the game is very stylised and considering this was the first reveal of the game, the level of detail and polish was very impressive. The animations were solid, and whilst the character designs will be considered very “cartoony” by some, it is definitely a unique look which helps Wildstar to immediately stand out in what is becoming a congested market place.
Wildstar also boasts an interesting take on the standard MMO class system. The designers were very sure to tell us that they are behind the concept of player-choice, that players KNOW how they want to play and should be allowed to do it the way they want to. To that end, the game not only has you choose a race and class, but also a path. There are four “paths” based around the four key types of gamer that Carbine has identified: players who like fighting, exploring, collecting or socialising. So you can pick from the rabbit-eared, super cutesy-anime-thingy Aurin’s, the bog-standard, seen it all before human or the stoney looking, towering Granok. Then you can pick between playing as a Warrior – based around the concepts of blade weapons with added technological firepower; an Esper with the ability to slam enemies into the ground with a psychic fist, amongst other things or a gun toting Spellslinger, with enchanted guns of course…that shoot magic (what else?). There will most likely be other archetypes, but those were the only three available in this build of the game.
Aside from the artstyle, this is Wildstar’smain twist to the MMO formula. I chose a Granok Warrior, picked the Soldier path and loaded
in. There was a tonne of voice work already in the game, with all the quest text I encountered being fully voiced. By picking the Soldier path, I had identified myself as someone who is looking to fight…all of the time. Clearly, deep down I am somewhat of a renegade – a troubled warrior poet, sulking at the injustice of the world but fulfilling my orders to the letter because it’s the only life I know…Interesting, Carbine…very interesting! In the game, the Soldier recieves bonus objectives to capture and hold key points on the map, defending them against several waves of enemy attack. Sometimes these involve friendly NPCs, sometimes they don’t. They don’t take much time, and provide you with something extra to do aside from normal questing.
By picking the Soldier path, I had identified myself as someone who is looking to fight...all of the time.
I was mildly impressed with the combat, it was familiar, as it was the quintessential hotkey/click based combat of all other MMOs but the Warrior had several abilities which worked as three part chains, all excellently animated which gave me the sensation of being much more involved in the combat than in other titles in the genre.
It’s the theory behind the paths system that Wildstar is really counting on. If you are the type of player who lives for combat, picking this path allows you to essentially activate combat nodes at your own convenience, without the need for grinding, providing you with xp and of course…the thrill of unleashing constant waves of death. If, however, you love exploring and discovering the lore of the world then picking exploration as a path gives you sites to survey, mountains to climb, places to see! It’s an interesting concept and if Carbine can develop it further then they might have created a breathing space for themselves in the MMO closet. This is what Wildstar needs to do – to prove itself a contender in an increasingly engorged MMO market, one that’s soon to see the release of Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, TERA and of course the existing competition of World of Warcraft. For all Carbine’s efforts in a unique visual style, a new universe, engaging combat and a new spin on character creation I can’t help the sneaking suspicion that the game simply isn’t different enough to achieve Carbine’s goal of creating “the next great MMO”.
But, Wildstar DID impress me with its debut and if Carbine have enthused the rest of the game with the polish on show in this, it’s first public demo then they could well be onto something really solid.