The Adventure Begins

Level 1-5 – Review in Progress

I didn’t have the best of luck with WildStar’s three day head start. Thinking that I should be prepared, I started downloading five hours before launch. This didn’t work out. The game hadn’t finished until the next morning, retrospectively this wasn’t such a big deal as players worldwide had difficulties getting onto servers anyway, accompanied by the various launch pains that MMO players have come to accept. When I finally got onto a server, there was some occasional lag, alongside a frame rate issue that seems to be affecting a large portion of players. Regardless of video settings, my rig only managed to squeeze out around 30 FPS, going up to 40 in low populated areas and subsequently dipping to 20 or worse if there were too many others around. There are various forum posts out there that propose different fixes, none of which have helped me. Regardless, this lack of optimisation at launch is frustrating to say the least.

I purposely didn’t take part in the beta for WildStar, thinking that a somewhat blind start on launch would make a more unique and fulfilling experience. Almost immediately I realised this isn’t true. Not that I haven’t enjoyed my first few hours with the game – quite the opposite in fact – it’s just that I wasn’t surprised or blown away. All of the necessary and enjoyable components of an MMO are here, at least in the questing I’ve played through so far, but there seems to be something missing early on. I assume of course the partial hollowness of the early game will be made right by the naturally evolving progression seen in most MMOs as levelling and new content come into play. I just hope I won’t get bogged down midway like in SWTOR.

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One of the heavy emphasises of WildStar’s online marketing was customisation. And in this respect it succeeds for the most part. I chose to play as an Exile, one of the two available factions. As obvious equivalents to the Empire and the Rebels; the freedom loving Exiles are escaping to the planet Nexus to avoid the clutches of the evil Dominion. Both are on Nexus for different reasons, and both have distinguishing features. Each faction has four of their own races available to play, and each of those capable of taking a class with some limitations. My main character is a Mordesh – a sort of elf like race of aliens suffering from an incurable plague, and specialising in science, hence their robotic accessories.
For my class I went with Engineer, meaning I can activate a personal mech suit while using long range canons and robotic helpers to tank, deal out damage and support allies. (yes the holy trinity is well intact in WildStar) So far I’m opting for a tank approach with heavy armour and crowd control abilities.

The final important decision you’ll have to make when you roll your first character is what Path you want to take. These are a cool spin on trying to adhere to the play style of different people and rewarding them for it. Once a path is chosen, you will receive missions depending on your location that are exclusive to your path. So if you chose Soldier, there will be bounties for killing large creatures, whereas an Explorer will find hidden and scalable locations to seek out. I picked Settler, this entailed finding building parts and then creating structures that I and fellow players could interact with for temporary buffs, with me receiving experience points if others used my structures.

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Unfortunately this level of customisation isn’t as robust in the character creation tool. In reality it’s a better trade off to have a character I feel is mechanically mine, rather than facial features I probably won’t even see half the time, but it feels like a missed opportunity that other games in the genre have done a better job with.

While not as hectic in the earlier levels, the promise of WildStar’s combat is very apparent. Each ability can be swapped out on a limited action bar and requires timing, matched with smart movement in the form of dodge rolls and positioning. This is aided by visible combat telegraphs showing the path of an incoming ability for yourself, allies and enemies. For a while I just fought the same enemies over and over again until the rhythm of the fighting felt more comfortable. Due to the engaging and active nature of the combat, the time in between receiving a quest and being rewarded feels fun and has prevented me from getting bored thus far. Hopefully as more abilities and combat options become available this trend will continue.

I’m sitting here in a beautiful green field at level 5, with my pet robot who I’ve taken to calling Tom Servo, ready to pursue my main quest. Yes the launch has been a bit rough, and between an annoying frame rate coupled with a recurring bug with the game’s music that sounds like a record scratching attempt gone awry; I know there are improvements to be made. Despite all this, I’m really enjoying myself, and I know the surface has barely been scratched with PVP, dungeons and even more awaiting me.
In the meantime Carbine Studios should be proud as they have weathered the storm of complaints and confusion at launch with a strong and responsive social media presence and attitude of getting the issues fixed as quickly as possible.

Developer: Carbine Studios
Publisher: NCSOFT
Platforms: PC