Sunday, March 23, 2014

WILDSTAR :: The New Frontier

This album. Oh, this album.

There's a reason I chose this title today, not simply because of the awesome that remains as Donald Fagen (hard to believe that was 1983, JUST SAYING) The subject matter is relevant in my context: the threat of the Cold War, the inscrutable enemy that threatens everything you hold dear. I've begun to realise this week that there are some people playing Warcraft who genuinely consider any potential 'competition' as an intercontinental ballistic missile of WoWKiller and, in many cases, simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of other titles to begin with. Well, I'm here to inform you that you can love more than one game at once, if you'll allow yourself the opportunity. The trick is to grasp that, like life, its all about finding the right level. I think the problem with many players is if you can't utterly immerse yourself in a game and get totally lost in the awesome to the detriment of everything else, the designers are doing something wrong.

Welcome to the New Frontier, my friends, where you don't need to be addicted to enjoy yourself.

Howdy *cough* y'all

This is Sharrow. She's an Granok Exile, you'll currently find her on Olyssia in the land of Beta, and I rather enjoy the sound her HUGE GUN OF DOOM makes when I am cutting a swathe through enemies. She is an Engineer, and this is the point where my understanding of the details completely breaks down, because I've only played (probably) twelve hours tops to get this far (I'm L9 currently.) There are a few things I can tell you. I know I won't get professions until L10. I know FULL WELL that if you're expecting me to race for end-game content you'll be sadly disappointed, because I'm already struggling to cope with the content I have. Mostly however, if you're expecting me to sit here and pronounce this game as the one that will stop me playing Warcraft... sorry, not gonna happen. Pretty much the only reason I've lasted this far to begin with is because its similarities to Blizzard's game are noticeable and frankly welcoming. It means I at least have a clue what to do when it comes to gearing and combat, and in terms of engagement, that's utterly crucial.

Where it has impressed me, and continues to do so, is the approach to what my actual 'makes big-assed games for a living' friend referred to last night as the 'kill 10 rats' mentality. In all MMO's, there must be grinding to level, and this one is no different. Where I have been impressed is the means by which that problem is approached and dealt with...

What are you doing, Dave?

I'll spare you the details of the Starting Zones I've been through: needless to say, if they'd not been enjoyable, I'd not have got this far anyway. Using percentages to indicate how far you are through a particular quest however is GENIUS: I am told some mobs give more % towards completion than others. Bonus objectives pop up EVERYWHERE, so much so they can actually become frustrating if you fail to notice you've activated one and your timer is running. However, you can stop and retry just about everything from what I can see, so there is no huge loss. Why we're looking at a cage with a chest on top however is a demonstration of what I've been impressed with Wildstar's approach to loot: it's not conventional. If this were Azeroth that chest would be on the ground. As this is 'Firefly with Aliens' (that's reinforced quite a bit) I have a chest I can't jump to conventionally. I need a boost, and that comes from the purple crystal behind the cage. I scan that with my Robot helper, and then I'm able to get the extra boost on the rock formation to grab my reward. Bear in mind I HATE jumping, and this game's made me do it pretty much since I arrived in this zone. I really enjoyed it as well.

Secret Stash? That's GOTTA be good... :D

My main frustration, especially in what is a pretty packed and buggy Beta world at present, is trying to be a Completist. I've missed SO many things on my journey and the desire to wander off and explore is tempered with the understanding that actually, I don't want to forge on, I want to say I've completed every zone. Tracking this is not yet as simple as it could be, and there's a frightful number of bugs to report (and I'm doing my best to find them all) Whenever I'm asked if a quest is good I'll always respond to the Survey that pops up, and when I finally get a chance to go back and get to L10 (which is unlikely to be until NEXT weekend's event) I will have the mysteries of crafting and professions to unravel. This, I will admit, I am looking forward to most of all.

I get a bag from L1 JUST FOR CRAFTING? GENIUS!

When I showed a screenie of my Interface on Twitter last week, this was enough to discourage people playing because it looks 'just like Warcraft.' In shock news, I'm not judging a game just on an interface, and making it look like the one I've played with for a decade is, I'm sure a deliberate attempt to help orientate players when they begin. It's why all geographical maps use the same legends, after all: it doesn't matter what you use to get to your destination, it's the journey that matters. There is however sufficient disparity to make it a challenge: I swapped skills on my main action bar, made some choices about what I use in which number slot even though I'M STILL CLICKING. I've salvaged things I've looted (no clicking on bodies to loot ARGH) and know the Cookery Recipe I gained as a reward but couldn't learn shouldn't be kept in my bags until I can. Blue items are better than Green items (I got a Blue upgrade from that stash, by the way) and loot in the early zones is as thin on the ground as it is in Azeroth. It is the same but different, and that's not a criticism at all. It is, as it happens, just familiar enough to be comforting, yet original enough to make me smile.

For those of you now expecting me to disown Azeroth and wander off to Nexus, there's about as much chance of that happening as me abandoning everything and running off to become a Hardcore Call of Duty fan. However as any good writer will tell you, the more you read the better you become at discovering ways to formulate your own ideas. Therefore I will warn you that there will be a smattering of WILDSTAR heading posts appearing in the weeks that follow, as there is also likely to be a number of LANDMARK posts as I've been lucky enough to have been offered a Beta invite. The key to keeping things interesting isn't just doing the same old thing day in, day out. Variety is the spice of life, and on the New Frontier simply understanding what the heck is going on is the main adventure at present. People have asked me whether I'd recommend this to players, I'll say this. It's a pleasant, yet familiar change from Warcraft, probably because I've never levelled in it before. I loved 'Firefly.' I love Westerns. It pushes most of my buttons, and I'd rather have something to play for a couple of months that's entirely new content, than spend my money on a pre-order for a game that doesn't actually exist at present.

No, I'm not leaving Warcraft, not even for a little while. Please don't begrudge me some enjoyment elsewhere however while I wait for Warlords.


WTBGold said...

My thoughts (almost) exactly. It calls to what's familiar where it needs to but provides a breath of fresh Nexus air in a new and exciting gameplay. I'm especially impressed by the scaling of the mob difficulty. You don't have any screenshots of it, but for those who haven't played, you can actually see a red outline of where the mobs will attack on the ground. It seems like it would be too simple but as the game progresses, things speed up, hit harder, and the patterns get more complex.

Also, just wait until you do get to the crafting. Anyone expecting it to look "just like Warcraft" will be a little lost. :)

Ross F. said...

I tooled around in the beta for a bit this weekend. Out of all the MMOs I've played outside of my time in WoW, this one I feel has the most promise. That said, I likely won't drop $60 and pay a sub for this one---would consider picking it up down the road if/when prices dropped and they abandoned the sub model.

WTBGold said...

Ross, they do have a Rift-ish model, where you can pay your subscription through in game gold, or trading gold for an item that you can then trade in for gametime. So, might be smart to grind out a ton of gold early on and buy a bunch while prices are fluctuating.

Craig said...

After playing a lot of mmos over the years I did not like the look of Wildstar to begin with, after giving it a try I have changed my mind. This game has a lot of potential but will need a decent spec PC to run this at high or ultra graphics settings.
Any old WoW players that have become tired of the game should definitely give this a go!