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Friday, March 14, 2014

[Wildstar] The NDA is down, commence attack on the game's main faults!

Truth be told I've been in the Wildstar beta for a fair amount of time and have been itching to get some of the details off my chest. The game itself is something of an enigma to me because in some areas it shows great polish and vision, while in others it seems woefully behind its contemporaries. I don't mean to say it is a bad game, but I aim to highlight some of its greater failings. So buckle up cupcake, we're headin' ta Nexus!

[Spoilers Ahead!]

Movement in the world

To me this is a critical element of an MMO, it may sound silly but how my character gets around makes a big difference. My first real MMO was Final Fantasy 11, a game in which your character's feet were essentially glued to the ground. I can't count the number of times I wished I could toddle off a ledge to get down faster. Then I moved to WoW, a world where you can run and jump to your hearts content. But even more importantly, your character feels like they exist in that world.

Guild Wars 2 did a similarly spectacular job of making my character feel like they were in the world on the screen. Wildstar however suffers from strange animation clipping which gave a feel of my character's model seeming to exist in her own space, ignorant of any rules of the world (like gravity). Sometimes when I jump she'll appear to teleport up onto the ledge as the animation cuts out. I applaud their attempt to make more interesting animations, but their implementation results in my character feeling disconnected. The running animations have a similar awkwardness to them, making it seem as though my character has a stick propping up her spine when she sprints.

Though before TESO fans rejoice; TESO was even worse in this regard. I am sorely disappointed that this is getting through in so many upcoming MMOs.

A style all its own

Classifying the art style of Wildstar is difficult; it's like silver-age comic sci-fi had a baby with the Firefly universe and Anime. I've commented on the proportions of the female characters before so I'll leave that puddle of glue alone.

Exhibit A: A pregnant woman suffering from "Draenei Spine" syndrome
The world itself is vibrant and thematically consistent, though a bit on the unbelievable side for my personal taste. Each zone that I have ventured in has distinct themes and manages to pull them off well. I could believe that such a place existed in the setting. Unfortunately the game is so cartoon-y that I never felt immersed within it.

How the fuck did I end up back in Northrend...
The overall tone of the game seems to be a mix of a Saturday morning cartoon and Borderlands, landing squarly in the wild-west slapstick albeit a few shades lighter than you'd find on Pandora. While on paper the idea sounds golden, in practice this delicious sounding stew of ideas ended up lacking substance. The combination of tone and theme just could not draw me in, even though I wanted it to.

Oh look, Necrons!
Now Broadcasting...

The fundamental piece of Wildstar's combat are the broadcasts that accompany most attacks. Each is distinct, unique, and contains a great deal of information. The problem is that sometimes that information can be difficult to interpret on the fly and I have serious concerns about how much of it people will be able to follow in dungeons. That said, I applaud them trying to move the medium forward and from what I have seen in practice I cannot extol upon this idea enough.

Each enemy has their own special attacks that can have their own broadcasts. Now let me be clear, I am not talking about a plain old red circle. I am talking about a cog-shaped red circle that slowly fills out to show how long you have to get away, which is replaced immediately afterwards with a diamond pattern on the ground that marks the target site of an aerial bombardment. The broadcasts are simply beyond anything any other game I have experienced has tried thus far.

Those two lines signify when the areas will be hit with the special attack...and this is one of the simpler broadcasts
The downside is that this design ends up bringing the circle-strafing and kiting we all know and love hate from most MMO PvP and put it into the PvE. I've not tried PvP yet, but given the design of the game I'd imagine it will be similar to the PvE just with vastly smarter enemies.

Lack of Interface

The game suffers is its UI which I found it incredibly frustrating to navigate. It is not always clear when you are supposed to use your "datacron" communicator (basically SWTOR's holocomm) to contact quest givers, nor is it easy to swap between quests or navigate the lore journal. I made numerous comments about this during closed beta, sadly they seem to have gone unheard.
And that's just the map...
Keeping it Classy

While I am not fond of the "trinity" school of class design, there are ways to mitigate my discomfort. The first is to get rid of "pure" DPS classes (or really "pure" anything classes) which Wildstar has done. Every single class can DPS or take on another role, and between the six it is divided evenly between three healers and three tanks.

So now that I've spent the last few paragraphs telling you how awful the game is...well that wasn't really my goal. The game is great, but has some serious drawbacks I felt were worth pointing out. You might read them as "things I hope they polish before release" with the exception of course of my comments on the classes. My thoughts on them could fill a post all its own so I'll save that for another time.

1 comment:

  1. You're so right about the UI. Even the nametags look weird for some reason -- I think it's because you can see them at too much of a distance? I know WS will support mods at launch but it's too bad that I feel like I'm gonna HAVE to use them at this point.