WildStar has been flaunting its active combat and colorful, light-hearted presentation at many a convention, and I finally had an opportunity to get my hands on it during this year’s New York Comic Con. As a more console-focused gamer, I’ve only dabbled in MMOs, but even I could spot the differences almost immediately. WildStar has many of the hallmarks of MMORPGs, but its combat seems inspired by character action games like Devil May Cry and God of War.
“You’re never just standing in one place hitting one button over and over again,” said David Bass, senior community manager for WildStar. I was a bit put off by the controls at first, but once I had a handle on them I started to understand what he meant. Every fight, from the lowliest of enemies to larger creatures that easily outclassed me, required constant movement, dodging, and use of special attacks.
Double-tapping WASD, double-jumping with the space bar, and learning the array of number keys on their fancy gaming mouse left me with a major desire for an Xbox 360 controller. MMO players may scoff at that notion, but WildStar goes so far towards action that a more action-oriented input device might be ideal.
“We’ve heard that a little bit recently,” Bass admitted. “We’re looking into possibilities for it, we don’t have any plans for official support right now but we’re trying to see if it’s something that would be easy to do. To have full controller support when we have all this UI and menus that you have to bring up, it requires a lot more thought and planning before we can just go ahead and do it.”
Even with my clumsy, console-plebian fingers, I managed to get a handle on the controls after only a few minutes with the game. In the demo, I jumped into a PVP server where the game’s two factions, Dominion and Exiles, were divided across a large canyon. I took on a few quests, but mainly I spent my time taking in the game’s vibrant graphics and fun writing.
“We think that what really sells an MMO is a strong personality type and style,” Bass told me. “A lot of games out there — there are already very serious games — there’s already a ton of stuff out there that’s gritty and dark. We definitely have a darker side to the game. There’s cool stories in it that are very edgy and a little creepy, but at the same time we can have a little fun. There can be jokes in the game, you can have these really ridiculous characters, ridiculous story lines…like, here for example I’m trying to capture this little squid thing and it just took over my mind. Now it’s on my head and all my controls are changed, so I have to figure out how to move forward.”
That immediately attractive style and inviting writing is something that’s very important to a game like WildStar. In development for upwards of eight years, the game is a massive undertaking. “You have to have a lot of money to fund a game like this,” said Bass. In an industry that burns through franchises with annual releases and studio closures, WildStar is a vastly different kind of project, one the team at Carbine Studios is taking the time to polish and perfect. “It doesn’t matter how good the content is if there isn’t enough of it, but it also doesn’t matter much content there is if it isn’t good content,” said Bass.
In many MMOs, the discussion quickly turns to end game content, and that’s definitely something the team is addressing. “A lot of people still love raiding, so we’re going to have raiding — twenty man and forty man — but it’s also not the primary focus of our end game,” explained Bass. “A lot of games, what they miss out on are players that enjoy playing solo at the end game. So we have raiding, but we also have a full solo story once you’re at the end game that you can experience by yourself. It tells the story of what happened to Nexus and why this planet disappeared years and years and years ago. That’s something you can enjoy in a group, or something you can enjoy by yourself because we think that audience is underserved.”
The aim for quality and quantity, the depth and polish, and the colorful environments all indicate a winning formula to me. WildStar has all the hallmarks of a great game, so hopefully after all this time they can pull it off. It'd be terrific to see a PS4 or Xbox One version.
“I think the first thing would be controller support and then we could talk,” Bass concluded.
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