Yet Another MMO Log: WildStar

WildStar kind of caught me by surprise. Having just dumped 60+ of our primitive Earth hours into The Elder Scrolls Online, you think the last thing I’d want to do is commit untold time into another virtual world. But following increasingly-positive reports of the end-product and how it acts as a spiritual successor to classic World of Warcraft – not to mention some murmurings on the ways that it parodies the genre – I decided to give WildStar a chance, rolling a Human Exile Medic on the North American Stormtalon server. A sci-fi MMO, complete with cat-people and comic overtones? Sure, let’s do this.

Having only just reached level 16, I don’t think I’m quite ready to evaluate my experience in a feature, but potential settlers for the Nexus immigration program might appreciate my early thoughts:

The first questing area I encountered in WildStar was similar in scale to World of Warcraft’s Outland.

The Pros

  • Even early into the game, I felt that the composition of the background music was fairly exceptional for an MMO. Scored by Jeff Kurtenacker – a music veteran with experience in TV and film, and who notably previously worked on World of Warcraft – it’s an evocative mix of fantasy and the kind of new-age country you might hear in FireFly, with some old-school gaming samples thrown in for good measure.
  • The combat system is (mostly) fun, even if it makes no apologies about laying bare its inspirations. It’s a clear mix of World of Warcraft (with its heavy focus on timing cooldowns and buffs correctly) and Guild Wars 2 (with its attack cones and projected damage circles), but it also places a particular emphasis on causing interrupts, which force enemies into a weakened state wherein they take increased damage. This can be especially cool when teaming up with other players and putting together cross-class attack combos, or just zerging the enemy grounds.
One quest-line acts as a homage/parody of the Ridley Scott horror classic, Alien.
  • In addition to the usual class/race choices (though it should be said, it seems like you can tailor your class pretty well; I’m an assault/support Medic), there is a separate “Path” activity system, which allows you to choose a role for extra side-quests. I picked the Settler, which lets me aid in town construction projects, as well as place universal buffs in settlements. As I’ve levelled it up, I’ve also unlocked the ability to drop down campfires and mail boxes for other players while out and about, allowing players to rest up or conduct business without trekking off to a nearby town. Other paths include the Explorer (encouraging, well, exploring, and involving lots of jumping puzzles); the Soldier (offering assassination quests and additional combat); and the Scientist (who can mend robots when working in tandem with a Settler, but is primarily a “scan this object for extra game lore” profession).
  • There is a game-wide advice chat channel, which acts as a space for new players to freely ask the kind of common questions that come up time and time again in this genre. Whether players want detailed advice on class builds or just want to know the keyboard shortcut to hide the interface for taking screenshots, everyone seems to be extremely friendly so far. It’s an excellent idea that could work in many online games, and I know it’d likely result in fewer verbal bouts in Orgrimmar and Stormwind.
It’s quite easy to band together in a raid group to take down group bosses.
  • Speaking of which, while it’s certainly early days yet, the community is fairly welcoming. There’s a mutual sense of “None of us know what the heck is going on”, and, having only cut my World of Warcraft teeth on the later days of The Burning Crusade, I imagine this is what “Vanilla” was like (and indeed, people in WildStar’s chat have made that comparison). No doubt players will get more cynical as time goes on, as they endlessly run instances to get a piece of house furniture or whatever the trend is in this game, but it bodes well for the time being!


  • While working through story-based quests and the typical “assist this settlement” quests, it’s not uncommon to run across “challenges”. These time-based tasks might ask you to kill X monsters, acquire a certain number of pick-ups, or even complete more esoteric objectives like proper jumping puzzles. The really cool thing about challenges is that they reward decent loot (which only improves as you earn a better grade for completing the challenge) via a slot machine, which is a fun way to engage the player. The only real issue with this system is that Challenges often pop up during legitimately difficult quests, and they tend to interrupt the flow of play in general.
Much like Guild Wars 2, WildStar has costume and dye systems to get the look of your character just right.
  • I personally really like the art-style, with its incredible sense of scale and exuberant use of colour, but some of the individual model proportions are a little exaggerated for certain race/gender combinations and will definitely put some players off. Overall, it’s what I imagine WoW would look like if it was made in the last year or two.
  • Likewise, I can see some players being irked by the writing. On the one hand, I really appreciate the meta-commentary and parodying of MMO conventions found throughout, and it feels like the developers were having fun while crafting this universe. On the other, its attempts to seem cool and “lololrandom” can come across as a little forced, with some overuse of Internet memes and language like “nubs”. However, the writing for quest texts and the lore pickups generally feels genuine, and I definitely had one or two laugh-out loud moments while playing.
Be prepared to explore every nook and cranny if you’re going to complete all the challenges in a zone or find some of the elusive rare mobs.

The Cons

  • After blasting through the early content with relative ease, I really struggled to progress through levels 8-14. Even after tweaking my ability set to output more damage and healing, I was just totally overwhelmed by certain mobs, forcing me to hope another player dropped by or beat my head against it until I won. It’s unfortunate that this part is such a slog, because it will definitely dampen player enthusiasm before they get to what seems to be WildStar’s coolest feature. That said, I do feel like a greater difficulty curve might benefit the game in the long run; if [zone] chat is to be believed, WildStar will have some serious end-game content.
  • There is so much to keep track of and so many systems in play that even those who consider themselves competent at this kind of game might find WildStar overwhelming. Tutorial pop-ups do their best to prepare you, but as soon as you finish the starter quest chain, you’re dropped into a pretty massive, WoW-esque overworld, with little direction outside of reward reminders as you level.
Welcome to my home away from home.

Let’s end on a positive!

My excitement over reaching level 14 might be causing some degree of bias here, but the housing system is outstanding so far. The Penny Arcade folks weren’t kidding about the Animal Crossing comparison. After travelling to the capital city of your chosen faction, you’re given a plot of floating land in the sky (somewhat reminiscent of the Chao Gardens from Sonic Adventure 2), which is basically a private instance that you can invite other players into. Once you’re there, you can customise seven pieces of the land (buying extras such as crafting tables, BBQ layouts, and date spots), and you can go so far as to set the atmosphere if you have enough funds. This almost pales in comparison the in-house customization, though.

Not only can you set all the major details of the exterior and interior (like the walls, ceiling, floor, wall-trim, etc.), but you can also place any decor object you’ve found in the main game wherever you like. And I don’t mean just on a grid; you can parent objects together, resize them, and place them at just about any angle. Improving your decor also increases the rest bonus EXP you earn while logged out, so there’s some practical aspects there, too. I’m still exploring all the stuff you can do with housing, but needless to say, I’m pretty impressed so far.

This canopy was originally intended to be placed outside, but I thought it’d make good decor for my bed!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to saving up for my hover-board mount; as they have power, I’m told they work on water!


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