Hands-On With WildStar

In our first hands-on, Michael "Ragar" Branham tells us why we should be excited about Carbine's upcoming MMO

Last week, during their WildStar Wednesday blog post, Carbine mentioned some press events they’d organized to share some new information about the game as well as show off one of their latest builds. I flew out to try the game in San Francisco, while Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer went to check out the game at Brighton in the UK. This was my first opportunity to try out the game since PAX Prime 2011 and I was excited to see firsthand what had changed in the last few years. We’ll be sharing some of the details we picked up during our trips at a later date, but I can share with you my thoughts about what I’ve played so far.

Playing in a Pixar Movie and the Wild Plains of Deradune

Given that this is somewhat of a “first impressions” preview for anyone who didn’t get to play at PAX Prime or GamesCom in 2011, the best place to start would probably be the art style for the game. When the original WildStar trailer came out, there were quite a few people going around saying that it looked like something that came out of Pixar. The art’s actually one of the reasons I was drawn to the game in the first place: I’m a big fan of how the game looks. I think the art style they’ve chosen allows for more expressive characters than you usually see in games with realistic models and that just gives them a lot of personality. The closest comparison most people can probably think of for the art would be World of Warcraft, but that’s really just because of a lack of other brighter colored, cartoonish-style MMOs. The general design of the world and the characters that populate it, especially the monsters, stands out on its own.

During my time with the press build, I was limited to the newest zone Carbine’s announced so far, Deradune. Much of the zone feels like a wildlife preserve or a hunting ground in Africa. That last one’s probably more accurate since a good chunk of the zone involves a group that’s decided to set up shop here to prove their skills as hunters. You actually start off by doing some quests to prove your skills to them before branching out to see what else Deradune has to offer. While questing you move from shallow rivers and veldt-style open spaces to climbing cliffs and combing the beaches. You’ll also find more Eldan relics and a sizeable underground tunnel system (I’ll get into that later on when I talk Explorers).

Warriors, Telegraphs and Rewards for Playing Well

The bulk of my time at the press event was spent playing a Warrior with the Explorer Path.  If you’ve played a Warrior in other MMOs, the basic concept here is the same: smack your target around with your build’s filler attack of some kind to generate resources (Kinetic Cells in this case), then spend those resources on other abilities for big hits/cooldowns/etc. Some were DPS attacks like the Plasma Saw you start off with or the channeled Whirlwind attack I saw at the Ability Trainer, while others had more utility to them like one I believe was called Bolstering Strike (in addition to the damage it would regenerate a portion of your shields). There were also all of the various abilities not related to the resource system, like Emergency Reserves (a tanking survival cooldown), Leap (a movement cooldown with a stun on landing I believe), and Bum Rush and Plasma Whip (both abilities served the purpose of a moving taunt – BR moved you toward the target and PW was the opposite).

Resource generation felt good for the level range I was playing – I was averaging something like three Relentless Strikes filler strikes per Kinetic Cell, so while I wasn’t always able to use my bigger hits, it was common enough. The amount of time between Cell consumers seemed to work out well with how often I needed to move for Telegraph attacks. Just because it’s low level questing doesn’t mean you get out of having to move around. Remember those Telegraph big-hit attacks they show in all of their older videos? The ones where a red circle/cone/other shape shows up on the ground while the monster’s casting something? You’ll see those attacks even from random mobs in the open world. They might not be one-shots or have horrible consequences like you’ll probably see in some of the instanced dungeons later on, but you’re encouraged to either run or double-tap dodge out of range. Not just because you’ll be avoiding the damage and any knockdowns/stuns/other effects, but because you’re rewarded for it.

WildStar not only rewards you for defeating your enemies, but for doing it well. Dodge a Telegraphed attack? XP bonus when the battle is finished. Interrupt enemy spellcasts or pull off a kill-streak and you’ll see similar bonuses. Besides helping you to level faster, these bonuses also serve as a teaching tool of sorts for later content. By training you to study the Telegraph patterns of mobs you fight so you may later dodge them for the XP bonus, the game’s preparing you to avoid those same patterns as well as more complex ones once you start seeing them in dungeons, raids, or even PvP. Same thing with interrupts – by associating interrupts with a reward, even a minor one like this, that encourages players to use them instead of hoping someone else catches it so you can keep your rotation going. Hopefully they’ll have a replacement reward at max level for these activities (not like XP helps much when there’s no more leveling), but in the meantime it’s a good way to encourage players to learn to play their class more effectively.

Exploration and Questing on Page 2 -> 

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