Wildstar PAX Impressions: Reach for the Stars
It was no surprise going into this year’s PAX East that Carbine Studios was out to prove something on the showroom floor. Their upcoming MMORPG, Wildstar, has continually impressed thanks to its various innovations in gameplay and vibrant art style, but in order to establish the game as the premier MMO experience, Carbine had to pull out all the stops.
Upon first arriving in Boston for PAX East, it instantly became clear that Wildstar is primed to make the push into the upper echelon of the MMO world; taxi cabs were adorned with Wildstar imagery, advertisements for the game were rampant and Carbine’s space on the PAX showroom floor was nothing short of massive.
With all of this hype, the question remained if Wildstar would deliver upon its promise of changing the way gamers think about massively multiplayer online titles. Suffice to say that from what Carbine’s president, Jeremy Gaffney showed the Entertainment Buddha staff at the Wildstar booth, this is one MMO for which the sky is the limit.
At first glance, Wildstar captures the player’s attention thanks to the great visual direction of the game. Lush forests, lava-filled gorges and everything in between display the wonderfully diverse environments that players will quest their way through and Wildstar’s various races and enemies are brilliantly inspired and instantly recognizable. This, perhaps, is one of Wildstar’s strongest suits, but by no means its only.
During Entertainment Buddha’s time with Wildstar at PAX, Jeremy Gaffney spoke emphatically about the game and made it abundantly clear that every single developer at Carbine is just as passionate about the game as he is. Without this level of determination and dedication to make the kind of game that not only the public will enjoy – but also the development team – Wildstar would surely be destined to fall by the wayside as so many other MMOs before it have.
How then, does Wildstar plan to continually stand out?
Simply put, Wildstar’s key to success is making a game that can be tackled from any conceivable direction. Anyone who has dedicated time to a MMO before will be able to explain that no matter how much you love the respective game, sooner or later it becomes more of a chore to log in each day than a labor of love. Wildstar’s numerous features ensure that no matter how many hours you spend online, there will always be something new, fresh and exciting to experience.
Gaffney illustrated this point to the EB team by showcasing one of the most popular MMO elements, end-game raiding, and how Wildstar has managed to evolve this area.
Wildstar’s raids are more about thinking critically and adapting to ever-changing situations than they are about going in with the best gear and idly mashing attack rotations. In one of the demo videos we were shown, a top-tier raiding guild was featured as they attempted to take on a massive boss. The guild’s first attempt went poorly, as the players attempted to utilize traditional raiding strategies that boiled down to initial positioning and damage-per-second attacks.
These tried-and-true strategies proved to be nothing short of an utter failure for the guild. Perhaps symbolically, the players met their death as the floor in the boss room systematically gave out from underneath them, signifying that Wildstar will be a changing of the guard in the MMO world.
After chuckling at the guild’s failure, we were shown the same group of raiders attempting the boss a week later after practicing and learning what to expect from the fight.
Watching the guild operate was nothing short of impressive. Tanks maneuvered about the battlefield, baiting the falling floor tiles with expert moves, ensuring that the rest of the guild was safe to focus their attacks on the hulking boss. The orchestration and teamwork required in the fight was staggering, easily more complex than offerings in other popular MMO titles. This learning curve is to be expected of all raiding in Wildstar. While difficult, it is what Gaffney and the rest of the Carbine staff expect will keep players coming back for more.
Of course, raiding is just one small aspect of what a MMORPG needs to survive and thrive in the competitive market. The EB staff was shown other videos that detail many of Wildstar’s other impressive features.
Warplots are Wildstar’s answer to keeping player-versus-player combat fresh and intense. Billed as ‘the most intense PvP in the history of intensity’, Warplots are 40 on 40 matches that take place on player created battlefields. Wildstar has hung their hat on customization since the early days of development – specifically through their housing program – but Warplots take things to a whole new level.
When discussing Warplots, it is not just simple terrain modification that players can customize. These end-game battlefields can be tweaked in an impressive amount of ways; various structures, walls, enemies and even usable items can be strewn about the battlefield, allowing the player to play god when it comes to combat creation. No two Warplots will ever be the same and learning how to adjust and overcome the various user-created challenges keeps this PvP aspect as fresh as the ever-changing strategies needed in high level raiding.
Raiding and PvP improvements and innovations are just the tip of the Wildstar iceberg, however. For players who aren’t inclined towards group-focuses content, Carbine has a number of features and mechanics for those who wish to go solo.
The ‘path’ system is perhaps the best example of Wildstar’s ability to cater towards a more single-player experience. Outside of traditional questing, players will encounter numerous different missions for their given paths. These paths are chosen at character customization outside of a player’s class. Wildstar’s four paths – Explorer, Scientist, Settler and Soldier – offer a new level of gameplay for player’s to experience outside of simply grinding out an area’s quests. These additional missions are optional, but provide extra experience and a break from normal MMORPG gameplay.
For example, the Explorer Path is all about uncovering secret locations and climbing to the highest peaks. Those who absolutely love to take in the expansive worlds found in MMOs will enjoy the geographical exploration that the Explorer offers, making it not only something fun to do, but an additional way to progress through the game. The Soldier is obviously more combat focused and will be given challenges that task the player with defeating waves of enemies and starting huge public battles. The path system is as welcome as a breath of fresh air to the MMO world.
In Entertainment Buddha’s time with Wildstar at PAX, there was never a dull moment. Even with all the features mentioned above, there was still plenty more to take in and experience. If there is one thing that Wildstar is all about it, it is pure enjoyment. By creating something for every type of gamer, Carbine has done an impeccable job of bringing Wildstar’s Nexus to life.
Set for a June 3, 2014 release date, Wildstar is finally right around the corner. Any reservations that the gaming world might have had about Wildstar’s staying power may be left by the wayside. Wildstar is destined to be the definitive MMORPG for years to come.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”