An exciting new content rich "space cowboy" based MMOG that delivers across the board.
Telegraph Combat System
Bugs... so many bugs...
Poor Guild system
Limited solo content at end-game
Wildstar is an exciting new content rich “space cowboy” MMOG that delivers across the board. While the game is not revolutionary, it does bring a new responsive level of interactive play style to the table that outperforms other MMOGs in many ways. With more than 7 years of development under the hood, this refreshing game has a lot to offer to all types of players and is ultimately a fun, immersive and challenging work of art. I have played all but one class, reached level 50 and played end-game content including the July 1 Strain drop. This Wildstar Review is based on that experience.
Release Date: June 3, 2014 Game Type & Platform: MMORPG (“Wild West” Sci-fi) | PC Custom Features: Telegraphed Combat, Paths, Challenges, Adventures, Warplots Billing Style: Purchase & Monthly Subscription ($14.95/mo) with C.R.E.D.D. Alternative (in-game money)
In 2005, a group of developers left Blizzard to start their own company called Carbine Studios. NCSoft acquired Carbine in 2007, saying they were working on an unannounced MMO project. Finally, at Gamescom in 2011, Wildstar was first announced, and this new genre MMOG began to catch the interest of gamers worldwide.
This game shows us purchased subscription-based fantasy MMOGs are far from dead, and for good reason. The game sports an unprecedented amount of content for a new MMOG, the most reactive combat system I’ve seen, and a solid foundation for a growing and expanding their crazy and fun world for years to come. I thoroughly enjoy the gameplay style, theme, and overall look and feel of the experience. Within this review, I am going to dive into every feature of the game. I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the awesome. Buckle up and let’s begin!
Factions & Races, Character Customization, Classes & Paths, Story & Lore, Quests & Challenges, World, Discoveries, Towns & Cities, Adventures, Instances & Dungeons, Housing (FABkits, Decor & House Repair), Warplots, Mounts, NPCs & Enemies, and Tutorial
The content of Wildstar is a diamond in the vast sea of MMOGs. The cartoony art style is smooth and fluid, the classes and paths diverse and fun. The story is immersive and interesting, and while the quests follow a normal MMOG pattern, they are thoroughly enjoyable. The world is vibrant and alive, and the instances are very challenging compared to other MMOGs. Housing will surely be a trademark feature of this game.
In Wildstar, there are two Factions, the Exiles and Dominion. The exiles are the rebels, and the dominion are all about order and discipline; and of course both factions are at war with each other. Each faction has 4 playable Races. The exiles have Human, Aurin (a tribal race with big eyes, animal ears and tails), Granok (a race of stone creatures) and Mordesh (formerly beautiful creatures cursed with decay). The Dominion has Cassian (the dominion version of Human), Draken (a dragon-line warmongering race), Chua (short furry creatures), and the Merchari (a robotic race created for the Dominion).
Character Customization is fairly standard, allowing for things like body type, face, hair style, etc. with the ability to focus on facial features such as chin length, eye size, mouth depth and nose angle.
There are six Classes available for both factions, and each one caters to a different play style. And while the classes revolve around DPS, Tanking or Healing, each class can switch between two of the three roles. The Warrior (DPS/Tank) is the melee class, using a huge sword to dispatch its enemies. The Engineer (DPS/Tank) is a pet class that uses a heavy gun to blast away foes. The Esper (DPS/Healing) is essentially a sci-fi caster that uses illusion and has solid healing abilities. The Medic (DPS/Healing) does play the standard healing role, but can also be a versatile AoE DPS machine. The Stalker (DPS/Tank) focuses on stealth and high melee damage (but can also tank, which is very cool), and the Spellslinger (DPS/Healing) is the dual-wielding space cowboy that also uses a form of spell power in conjunction with their weapons. Each class can be further customized through Skills and AMPs, which are covered under the Mechanics section.
Wildstar features a secondary class system called Paths. A path is essentially a support class that provides additional gameplay beyond the standard questing, leveling and combat approach and also features unique path-based abilities and rewards. There are four paths, each focusing on a different set of goals. The Soldierfocuses on military-based activities including assassinations, defending bases and killing various creatures. The Settlerfocuses on gathering resources, building up the game world and allowing for the creation of power-up structures at hubs. The Scientistfocuses on the discovery of lore and technology, and also analyzes creatures and foliage, artifacts and culture. The Exploreris all about discovery and mapping every corner of the world, which includes access to movement speed buffs and finding hidden treasure.
The Story of Wildstar is very well done and passively drives the overall gaming experience. A quick introduction: The Exiles and Dominion have arrived at planet Nexus where an extinct race known as the Eldan have left behind secrets and technology for the player to discover and explore. The Lore is presented in an excellent fashion that is not overwhelming and allows those who really want to dig into the back story to do so voluntarily. Essentially the game does not shove story and lore down the throats of the players, instead it makes it part of the experience in a fun and non-invasive way, and those who just want to focus on combat and gameplay can essentially ignore it if they want.
Quests are very well done. While they aren’t anything truly innovative or new, they blend in with the gaming experience, and the player quickly gets lost in the fun factor. The only downside is there are so many things to do that new players are often overwhelmed. While there are the typical “kill X”, “gather Y”, and “escort Z” quests, there are also quests where players get to pilot battle robots, vehicles, and ships, and even drop plushies on enemies. Players even get the chance to save planet Nexus from an asteroid Armageddon style. Some quests also have memory games (using the “Simon Says” approach of memorization) while others require the player to quickly press their key in succession, hold it down, or press it at certain intervals. Occasionally, when a player completes a quest, enemies which were hostile become neutral (and sometimes even afraid of the player), allowing the player to more easily exit the quest area.
The game features mini-quests that are constantly popping up called Challenges. They can be initiated a number of ways, including killing a target, picking up an item, or approaching a specific area. They usually last 4 minutes and require the player to kill, gather or arrive at a location within the timeframe, and as the player progresses, bronze, silver or gold levels are achieved. Once completed, the player is presented with a list of items they can “roll” for. Many challenges offer decor and other highly sought after items. If a challenge is failed, the player can try it again immediately. If the challenge is completed, it can be retried after an hour.
Some quests require you to not be mounted in order to engage a “transport point” (e.g. a whirlwind) yet if you are mounted it doesn’t tell you to dismount or automatically dismount you when you enter it. This creates confusion for many players and is one of those poor design decisions that negatively impacts gameplay. Some quests also get you ‘stuck’ in a place you cannot escape except through recall or jumping to your death, and on more than one occasion I had to reset a quest because it simply stopped (including the main storyline quests). However given the sheer number of quests in the game and the fact these issues only impact a couple of them, the delay in progress due to bugs is minimal.
The World of Wildstar is large, beautiful and diverse, presented in a colorful cartoon style featuring lush jungles, dry deserts, frozen mountains, hidden laboratories, biospheres and space moons; all broken into different zones, many of them seamlessly blending into each other. Some of the zones have unique features such as lower gravity (which is a key part in exploring the zone) or plants that will actually trap and eat you if you don’t struggle to break free. There are also numerous off-world space/ship events and adventures ranging from breaking out of jail and flying a probe in a zero-g environment to investigating a mining accident caused by parasites. There is a very good balance to each world area. The Exiles and Dominion have their own starting areas, but start sharing areas beginning with Whitevale, which is level 22-28. After that time, all zones are shared. In total, the zones are very large and content rich. I liked all of them except for Grimvault, which follows the traditional “destroyed ugly landscape” theme of so many other MMOGs. I wish they would have embraced something different for the zone, but given the scope of the game and content, only disliking one area is hardly a bad mark against the other fantastic areas available to explore.
There are numerous randomly-placed Eldan discoveries spread throughout the world, and it’s first come first serve. Some provide buffs while others provide a treasure trove of valuable items. These are rare enough to be excited about, and when a loot bag does pop up out of the ground, it’s fantastic.
There are two major Cities in the game, Thayd for the Exiles and Illium for the Dominion. Having just one major city is a good design and guarantees they are always buzzing with action. Each major city has all of the amenities a character needs including auction house, guild registrar, crafting stations and mount vendors. Every zone has one or more Towns, some of which are small, while others are larger. Some towns also have amenities such as crafting centers. All towns have a mailbox.
Adventures are dynamic themed instances designed for parties of 5 people. What makes an Adventure different from a Dungeon is party members can make decisions that affect the outcome. This results in enhanced replayability of the areas and different results each time an Adventure is played. Dungeons & Raids are more static than Adventures, with predefined events and creatures. But one thing is for sure, boss fights in Wildstar are monumental feats of crazy difficult fun and reward. Many hardcore players hold Wildstar’s dungeons and raids as being the best in the industry.
One way to define the differences between Adventures and Dungeons is Adventures are more about story and experience where Dungeons are more about mechanics and loot.
Housing is one of the most refined and uniquely representative features of Wildstar. Each character gets a housing plot at level 14 (including a teleport to the plot with a 30 minute cooldown). Within this plot one can build a custom home and also fill out 6 additional sub-plots. Sub-plots are built through FABkits, which are items found through gameplay (quest rewards, drops, vendors, or auction house) or crafted by Architects. There are many different types of homes and FABkits to choose from, such as mining fields, crafting centers, or even jumping puzzles. Plot sections can be upgraded and need occasional repair to maintain (and if a sub-plot needs repair, it will stop producing, so if you wonder why your minerals aren’t regenerating, the mine probably needs to be repaired). The flexibility of the system allows a player to build out the core sections that are pertinent to their particular interests and play style. The system even allows for one to customize the environment (including sky and ambient lighting/fog) and overall look & feel of the house. Decor items serve as the true customization objects and can be placed anywhere in the plot or within the house. Furniture, Plushies, Flora, Lighting, Artifacts – you name it, and there’s a lot to find. Not only do they have visual appeal and sometimes provide an interactive ability, Decor items can also provide a rest bonus a character receives when they log out in their housing area. One way to tell if a Decor item affects your rest bonus is if there’s an icon next to it when you look at the item in your crate. A player’s house plot also has a Bonus Billboard which allows a 24 hour bonus to be applied to the character for PvP, PvE, or grouping. One can also set the Residence Settings for their House, allowing for Resources to be shared with neighbors. One can also set the Visitor Rules, opening a house to the public, or keeping it private. To access Residence Settings, click on the Remodel icon (Ctrl-F2) and then the blue icon in the upper left of the panel.
Warplots are massive 40 v 40 custom built PvP battlegrounds. Once built, and with the permission of the owners, two warplots are then pitted against each other in a match to the death; with each warplot acting as the home base of the other side. There are two win scenarios – the destruction of the opposing side’s generators, and draining the enemy’s energy pool to zero. There are also boss tokens which can be used to place raid bosses that can act as either offense or defense. The risk? The losing team’s warplot is destroyed and must be rebuilt. Each experience is different, and it’s probably the most advanced custom PvP system of any MMOG I’ve ever seen. But the barrier to entry is quite thick, requiring a lot of people to team up and activate a battle. It would have been very nice if they added prebuilt practice warplots for players to randomly jump in (like Adventures) so they could get a feel for the system before investing so much time into a first battle.
Mounts are a key part of Wildstar, allowing for speedy travel throughout the world. A character can obtain their first mount at level 15 for roughly 11 gold. There are a number of mounts to choose from ranging from horse-like creatures, lizards, and rolling “techno” gerbil balls. One can also customize their mount by adding flair, which allows players to make their mount look different from others. At this time no flying mounts are planned. A complete list of mounts can be found here.
Unfortunately (and surprisingly) there are currently no pets (e.g. vanity critters that follow you around but don’t fight) in Wildstar. I hope Carbine adds this feature soon as the game’s theme is perfect for it.
Most NPCs are found in cities, towns and quest hubs, and are members of the playable races, but there are also other races one encounters such as the rabbit-like Lopp or the chubby aliens that speak funny gibberish. There are a wide assortment of Enemies ranging from the strange and unusual to mutant versions of common creatures. In the open world, they generally come in four forms: (1) single basic mobs; (2) group basic mobs; (3) single elite mobs (defined by their red texture and a skull on their plate when selected), and; (4) world boss mobs (you can’t miss these). There are faction-based humanoids that use weapons and attacks similar to characters, and wild creatures that use specialized attacks, some of them absolutely devastating. While there is a fair amount of reused base monsters (from a modeling perspective), the overall breadth of creatures to fight is very diverse. The only issue nearly every new player encounters is identifying the elite mobs; quite often it’s hard to see the red texture, and since Wildstar doesn’t require a target to be ‘selected’ to engage it (due to the AoE nature of combat), many players often engage elite mobs. While they can be solo’d, it’s very difficult and most of the time a single character attempting to solo an elite mob ends in that character’s death. But having these elite mobs scattered throughout the zones creates a great additional challenge for parties.
The Tutorial is helpful for new players, showing them the basics of the UI, combat, and ways to interact with the game; but it’s lacking in a few areas, such as explaining where 2nd and 3rd tier AMPs come from. I’m confident Carbine will refine and expand the tutorial over the next few months.
Experience & Level, Stats & Attributes, Abilities & AMPs, Action Sets, Stations, Regeneration, Consumables, Status Effects, Travel, Group Finder, Zone Instancing, Companions, and Death
Wildstar follows a fairly standard approach to its internal mechanics as it relates to level, stats and abilities. Stations are a new concept which are very helpful and provide bonuses to anyone who wants to use them. Travel is fairly standard as well. The group finder works better than most, and the death system isn’t invasive. Overall, the framework here is good, but not evolutionary.
Like most other MMOGs, Wildstar is an Experience and level-based game where the max Level is 50. It takes on average of 3.5 to 4 days of gameplay to reach level 50. The game does a very good job of notifying the player not only when they make a level, but what benefits they received. Once a character is level 10, they begin to receive skill and AMP points, which I will cover below.
The Attributes of Wildstar are defined through three categories: core, primary and secondary. The core attributes are Health, Shield, Assault Power, Support Power and Armor. There are six primary attributes which directly influence core and secondary attributes. They are: Brutality(Strikethrough and Critical Hit Severity), Finesse(Assault Power), Moxie(Critical Hit Rating, Critical Hit Severity), Tech(Support Power), Insight (Deflect Critical Hit Rating, Deflect Rating) and Grit(Base Health). The secondary attributes include a number of support values such as Strikethrough (which reduces the chance foes can deflect your attack), Critical Hit Chance (which impacts the chance of critically hitting an enemy or critically healing an ally), Armor Pierce (all damage ignores this percentage of an enemy’s armor) and Lifesteal. Attributes also have bonuses that are given when a character reaches a certain value (or rank). For example, when a character obtains 375 brutality, they get the rank 3 bonus of +25 strikethrough. This is a nice support system that entices players to “get that extra 3 points to get the bonus” whenever possible.
Every class has a collection of Abilities that represent the attacks and actions usable in the gaming world. They are categorized as Assault, Support, Utility and Path. Assault and Support abilities take into account the associated core attributes, and Utility skills utilize the combination of both. Path skills are unique to the chosen path and don’t reference any core, primary or secondary attributes. Starting at level 10, a character receives one ability point per level that can be distributed into the chosen abilities they have received or unlocked (through purchase and meeting a level requirement) in order to strengthen the ability.
AMPs are essentially the Wildstar talent tree that is categorized as: Assault, Hybrid A/S, Support, Hybrid S/U, Utility, and Hybrid A/U. Characters earn one AMP point per level beginning at level 10. Tier 1 AMPs take 1 point each, Tier 2 takes 4 points each and Tier 3 takes either 2 or 6. In order to open a tier, at least one of the branches must be maxed out. While the Tier 1 AMPs are important, the Tier 2 and Tier 3 AMPs really begin to help support the play style a character has adopted. Tier 2 and 3 AMPs are unlocked by finding or purchasing (and then using) the item. Many Tier 3 AMPs are very rare, costly and difficult to get, but have a substantial impact on the character’s overall power.
Action Sets define what Ability and AMP configurations a character has active. In the early stages of the game, a character can build out 2 action sets and switch between them when out of combat. The traditional approach is having a PvE and PvP set. A player can reset the Abilities for an action set for free, but to reset the AMPs for an action set, it costs gold, and the higher level a character gets, the more gold it costs. Once a character hits level 50 and begins the “Elder Gem” end game (explained under Gameplay), there is the option to buy 2 additional Action Sets, which allows for more custom configuration (e.g. Raiding, Dungeons).
Unfortunately at this time, there is no gear loading available for action sets, so if a player wants to switch between PvE and PvP (for example), they have to manually swap out gear (and keep the extra gear in their inventory).
Stations are spread throughout the world and are usually found in cities, towns, and at important waypoints. Some are static and always available, but most are built by settlers. Stations provide numerous forms of power-ups, vendors, and other benefits (such as a mailbox). Power-ups can include experience boosters, speed boosters, critical hit chance enhancers, and other combat-based augmenters. They last between 10m and 30m depending on how many resources a Settler has put in them. Station bonuses can make a big difference, so always power up when you can!
Regeneration doesn’t really become an issue until a character begins to take a lot of damage each encounter, and even then, hit points (and shield) recover rather quickly. However, as a character enters their 40’s, combat becomes more intense and some recovery is often necessary. For this, we have Consumables, which come in three flavors: instant medi-shots (which are bound to the X key and come in many different variations), food (which regenerates over time), and boosters. Instant shots are the life savers you use during combat, but they have a cooldown period of 5 minutes. Food is a big part of the game as it’s created through the cooking skill (which is discussed below under tradeskills) and quickly heals (and enhances) your character. Most food is consumed over 10 seconds, so the downtime is minimal. Boosters are stat boosters that enhance a player’s abilities for a limited period of time.
Status Effects are the buffs and bonuses applied to a character, and there are a lot of them which can be obtained. Stations, Consumables, and other bonuses (e.g. your housing daily bonus) are all counted as Status Effects. Combat can also apply effects, such as poison and blindness (which is very well done). The affects impacting your character are displayed above the left side of the ability bar.
Travel throughout the world is done through walking and running, riding mounts, taxi service, portals and recall. Many zones require a portal to enter and are so large that a taxi service is usually the best way to travel around. It costs money, and the automated driver will attempt to entertain you during the flight while the trip provides a nice aerial view of the region. The first available recall location provided to a character is the first transmat bind point they encounter in the starter area. Transmat points are usually found at every major town in a zone, and the player must bind to the transmat to recall to it (a character can only be bound to one at a time). A character can obtain additional recall locations, the most common being their home city (which has a cooldown of 24 hours) and their house (which has a cooldown of 30 minutes).
While I would traditionally put Group Finder under community, I’ve included it under Mechanics because it serves as the core entry method for battlegrounds, arenas, dungeons, adventures and warplots. The finder works very well for getting into adventures, dungeons and PvP. One can also toggle their PvP flag through this UI if they want to go and harass other faction players who also have their PvP flag on (with a non-PvP server). The group finder is cross-server, so it pulls from a much larger pool than just your current server population.
While Wildstar is a true MMOG, it also utilizes Zone Instancing, which means if a Zone has too many players in it, the server will create another instance and start putting players in the new instance. This is necessary for today’s MMOGs because there can be so many players in an area it’s simply overwhelming. The disadvantage to this approach is you can try and hook up with somebody you’ve been talking with in zone chat, and find out you cannot see them. This is because they are in another instance, but the zone chat is all shared. The way to fix this is to group with the individual and they can then synch with the party leader by right-clicking on the leader’s name from the party panel.
The Engineer class is the only one that has combat-capable Companions. While 3 robots are available (one for Assault, Support and Utility), only 2 can be active at any given time. Companions can have their stance defined as Passive, Defense or Aggressive. They can also be assigned to stay and assist, and can also be commanded to attack. stop their actions, and go to a location. There’s no question the robot companions serve as a key influence on an Engineer’s performance, however the AI for the robots is horrendous, and one of the biggest problems currently in the game.
Death is fairly standard in Wildstar. You can resurrect at the location you died for a cost, resurrect at the nearest “graveyard” or wait for a player to revive you. Either way, your items take durability damage. If you die more than once within a specific period of time, the game will not allow you to resurrect at your current location and force you to go to the equivalent of a graveyard.
Currency, Inventory, Character Item Slots, Items (Quality, Binding, Repair, Costumes & Dyes), Tradeskills (Gathering, Salvaging, Crafting, Schematics, Tech Tree & Talents), Work Order Boards, Hobbies, Runecrafting, Merchants, Trading, Auctioneer & Commodity Broker, C.R.E.D.D.
It’s always difficult to tell how solid a new MMOG’s economy is going to be as it often takes months to establish the value of in-game currency, items, crafting and services. The diversity of and demand for items in Wildstar seems strong (which is a good sign), but it’s simply too early to see how the economy plays out. While I really enjoy the crafting system, the Runecrafting (socketing) portion of the game is a bit tedious and not really worth pursuing until end-game. The Auctioneer and Commodity Broker are packed and active, but they need to have their interfaces redesigned as it relates to selling items.
The Currency style in Wildstar follows the traditional Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum standard. I’m not sure why a space-cowboy based sci-fi MMOG adopted a currency style from every other fantasy MMO, but there it is. There are also a number of custom currencies (which are covered throughout this review): Renown (awarded for grouping and playing with others), Prestige (awarded for PvP), Influence (awarded for grouping and playing with guild members), Elder Gems (end game experience reward) and Crafting Vouchers (award for doing daily crafting quests).
Inventory follows the traditional slot based approach we’ve seen in other MMOGs. The overall size is managed through 4 bag slots which are expanded as a character finds larger bags. One nice feature is when a character does swap a larger bag for a smaller, the total inventory auto-adjusts without the need to move any items around. Another feature is the game has a separate tradeskill resource bag for crafting and path-based materials, so a player’s bag doesn’t fill up with all the resource-based goodies they’re constantly looting. The inventory system also supports item sorting.
New players are often unaware they have a tradeskill bag that has been gathering items for them and they can sell these items for gold on the commodity broker or to vendors. To move an item from the tradeskill bag to the inventory bag, just open the tradeskill bag and right-click on the item you want moved to your normal inventory.
The Character Item Slots are fairly standard and include: Weapon, Shield, Head, Shoulders, Chest, Gloves, Pants, Boots, Harvesting, Weapon Attachment, Support System, Gadget, Key, and Implant. Most items are provided through quest rewards and world drops, but I had to buy my first gadget in the 40’s. A character can only use one harvesting item at a time, so if one chooses to take two harvesting tradeskills, they will need to macro the item swap. Gadgets are build by technologists (and can be found as world drops) and Keys are used for raid access. The other slots such as Weapon Attachment, Support System and Implant are essentially Wildstar jewelry.
Items come in one of six quality levels: Gray, White, Green, Blue, Purple, and Orange. Gray items are junk items and can be sold to vendors for some cash. White items have no real enhancements to them. Green items have basic enhancements. Blue items have more advanced enhancements, and Purple items have high level enhancements. Green and blue item drops are fairly common, but I didn’t have a single purple drop (weapon or armor; not counting crafting items) by the time I hit 50, so they probably need to up the chance of purple world drops. Orange items are end-game “elite” items that can be purchased from specialist vendors (for custom currency) or crafted. I have yet to see one. Some of the end-game items also have enhancements that are unlocked through various means (such as killing certain creatures). Wildstar follows the standard item binding approach with bind on equip, bind on pickup, and account bound (e.g. can be traded only between characters on the same account). Worn items have durability and require repair through use and upon death. Prior to 50 the repair costs are negligible and I never had an item go into the red.
Costumes are a big deal in Wildstar, allowing for players to visually customize their character to look crazy, cool, or outright strange. In order to configure a costume the player must visit a Stylist (available in the major cities and some large towns). Players can use any type of costume or armor piece they desire, but only of classifications (e.g. light, medium, heavy) the class can use. Multiple costume configuration “slots” are made available as the character levels up, allowing for multiple costume configurations.
As with any MMOG, Tradeskills play a major part in the overall gaming experience and directly impact growth, play, and the economy. I think Wildstar has done a good job with tradeskills, balancing progress and reward with crafting refinement and mastery. Each character can only have 2 tradeskills active at any given time, but can switch between other skills for a cost. If a character switches between skills, they retain the original skill and can switch back, allowing for a single character to master all skills; however switching can be costly and most players prefer to build different skills on different characters. There are four categories of tradeskills: Gathering, Salvaging, Crafting and Hobbies.
While the core of Gathering is similar to most MMOGs, they added a bit of a twist as well (which I will cover in a moment). There are three gathering professions available: Mining(Ore, Gems & Crystals), Survivalist(Leather, Pelts, Meat, Bone, Wood), and Relic Hunter (Relics & Omni-plasm). A character can take two gathering professions at once, but can only use one gathering item at a time, so setting up a macro to switch items is necessary. However, simply “shooting” the resources (when you have the gathering skill) causes them to explode with some of their goodies, albeit at a decreased rate before the node disappears. Wildstar has enhanced the gathering experience by making the nodes little living creatures that can often get up and run away. There are also times when a giant worm will jump out of the ground and attack you, and once you kill the worm, you can venture into its lair and have two minutes to loot all of the nodes you see. These little things make a big difference in the overall fun factor of the game. Resource nodes (which come in five tiers) appear on the minimap and the main map, are plentiful and spread throughout the world. Some are larger, and some are smaller, and a character often has to “chase” a juicy node that’s constantly spitting out resources. It’s rather fun!
Salvaging is available starting at level 6 and nearly any item can be salvaged, but the results depend on the type of item. Weapons & Heavy armor provide Ore, Gems and Crystals. Medium Armor provides Leather, Pelts and Bone. Light Armor provides Thread and Cloth, and all items can provide Power Cores, Rune Fragments, Signs and Scraps (trash).
There are six Crafting professions available at level 10: Weaponsmith(Weapons and Weapon Attachments) supported by Mining, Armorer(Heavy Armor and Energy Shields) supported by Mining, Outfitter(Medium Armor, Support Systems) supported by Survivalist, Technologist(Boosts, Medishots, Field Tech, Reagents, Power Cores) supported by Relic Hunter, Architect(FABkits, Decor, Warplot Deployables) supported by all gathering professions, and Tailor(Light armor, Bags, Cloth) supported by Survivalist. The crafting system focuses on configuration and doesn’t include any sort of process interaction, allowing a crafter to focus more on what they want to make than whether or not it’ll be successful. The crafting of most any item is based on a “core” component (for Weaponsmithing and Armorer it’s a Power Core). This core defines that quality (e.g. green, blue, purple) the item will be, and also what sort of “overloading” it can have. Once a core is defined the crafter can then choose what stats the item should have and how much power should go into those stats. Once a power limit has been reached, the chance of failure raises. This empowers the crafter to decide whether or not they want to try and make a more powerful version of an item and risk failure (losing components) or make a “safe” version of the item. The good thing about this approach is it gives the crafter a choice and doesn’t force the chance of failure upon them.
Schematics serve as the core plans for craftable items and can be unlocked a number of ways including progression, item drops, vendor purchases, crafting progressing and tech tree achievements. There is a very good balance of progression relative to the schematics unlocked by the game as a character improves their crafting skill. There are five tiers for each crafting profession: Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, Artisan and Expert. It is actually quite easy to progress from one tier to another, but the real in-depth nature of the crafting system isn’t defined by the tier one can access, it’s through the Tech Tree, which is quite extensive and entices crafters to build items of all kinds to unlock special items of different types, and it becomes harder and harder to move down the tech tree and obtain all of the available options, some of which are also connected to the daily quests. Crafting Talents provide bonuses to your crafting abilities, and the points used to choose the talents are acquired through the Tech Tree achievements. The overall Crafting experience can be different depending on the craft, for example crafting Weapons is very different from Cooking which is different from crafting as an Architect (creating house decor items), however Weaponsmith and Armorer are similar.
Once a character reaches level 50, they open up end-game crafting schematics. For Weaponsmiths, they are “Epochos” and “Adventus” and cost 8,000 and 20,000 crafting vouchers each. The components are very costly and can be difficult to obtain, but the resulting items are well worth the time and money.
An excellent tradeskill guide can be found here, and an excellent chart of the crafting system can be found here.
Work Order Boards are daily tradeskill quest givers spread throughout the world and are identified by the orange hammer over the board. From here, a player can craft specific items and obtain crafting vouchers, which can be used to purchase items and schematics. Each major city has a crafting voucher vendor right next to the Work Order board. At this time there are 11 work order boards available throughout the world. They are located in: Malgrave, Wilderrun, Illium, Ellevar, Thayd, Celestion, Deradune, Algoroc, Garside, Whitevail, and Southern Grimvault.
Any character can also pick up the two available Hobbies: Farming and Cooking. Farming is as simple as “shooting” plants to collect the herbs, produce, seeds and mushrooms. Seeds can be planted in a character’s housing garden and harvested at a later time. While the majority of farming materials can be used for cooking, so FABkits require produce and/or herbs, and some cloth (Tailor) requires herbs as well.
Runecrafting becomes available at level 15 and represents the item slot enhancement system for Wildstar. Runes come in eight categories: Earth, Fire, Water, Omni, Air, Life, Logic and Fusion. They are designed to enhance core, primary and secondary stats, and also provide set bonuses. The types of runes one can craft are: Attribute, Class Rune Sets, Elder Rune Sets, General Rune Sets, PvP Attributes, and PvP Rune Sets. The rune sets are quite powerful and have different variations available for the core set (which is seen in the runecrafting UI). To place a rune in an item, the item must have an available rune slot (some slots have to be purchased to open). The act of applying a rune is called engraving, and this is done at the rune workstation (which can be confusing at first as most players are accustomed to a right-click application approach). The average rune requires fragments and signs to create. Rune fragments and element signs can drop from mobs, or be acquired through salvaging green and higher items. Runes can be replaced, but not removed. Unfortunately, the overall design of the rune system is such that most players do not consider slotting their equipment until level 50.
One extremely poor design is the game will not let you craft while mounted, but it will allow you to start the crafting process while mounted; however as soon as you attempt to execute it, you receive a “You are Mounted” message and the whole process is reset. This needs to be fixed.
Merchants are spread throughout the world and offer a wide variety of items ranging from weapons and armor to bags and crafting materials. There are also reputation vendors which are a good source of AMPs.
Secure Trading between players can be initiated by right-clicking on their panel.
Wildstar has implemented two auction-based systems for players to exchange items with each other. The first is the traditional Auctioneer, which is used for buying and selling Weapons, Armor, Bags, Costumes, Gear, Housing, Warplots and Schematics. The second is the Commodity Broker, which is for Crafting Materials, AMPs, Runes, Farming, Survival, and Dyes. The commodity broker also allows for the creation of buy orders and sell orders, allowing a player to request other players meet a specific order for a certain amount of money. Unfortunately the UI for both is terrible, especially if you want to sell an item – it forces you to go through every single item in your inventory with no search or alphabetized sorting. You cannot drag or click any items to check value (they must always be typed in) and the interface is very confusing, especially when it comes to Buy Orders and Sell orders. It would also be nice to be able to create buy orders for weapons and armor; I hope Carbine adds this feature in the near future.
C.R.E.D.D. is the in-game real money transition system which provides 30-days of subscription play. It allows a player to spend in-game money for a tradeable free 30-day game pass, or buy them with real money and sell them for in-game money. On our server the price is slowly going up; when I initially wrote this, the price was 2 platinum 38 gold. On July 6, the price is 5 platinum 5 gold.
Combat, Movement and Targeting, Aggro, PvE, PvP, Exploration, Progression & Achievements, Rewards, Mentoring & Rallying, Macros, Learning Curve, Difficulty, End Game and Replayability
The fluid, strategic and visual nature of the telegraphing combat of Wildstar is one of its trademark and strongest features. Both PvE and PvP are rock solid and extremely fun & engaging. The game is designed to be explored and progression is very well balanced. There are plenty of rewards and achievements for players to pursue, and the difficulty scales very nicely. While there are some limitations to end game and replayability for solo players, the amount of content available for those willing to group and do instances is more than any other MMOG has offered at launch.
The Combat in Wildstar is hands down the best of any avatar-based MMOG on the market and has set a new standard for interactive and responsive fighting with the telegraph system. While other games have implemented a telegraph system, none of them have gone to the extent WildStar has, where every single combat action is telegraphed, including the real-time movement and directional changes (which are critically important in PvP). The telegraph system shows you where all attacks are taking place, how they travel, and how long they last. Due to the nature of the action and area based combat, the outcome of a battle can change very quickly, even for skilled players. As such, Movement is critical in Wildstar; dodging to the left or right, and sometimes even double jumping to safety is often necessary to avoid a deadly attack, especially against elite or boss enemies. Since combat doesn’t require Targeting, a player can engage enemies with their attacks while constantly moving. Targeting is only really used for issuing commands regarding a specific target (e.g. companion attacks) or monitoring a specific foe. The majority of combat in Wildstar completes without the player ever officially targeting a monster since almost everything is AoE based.
One nice feature I like about Wildstar is that hostile enemies don’t immediately Aggro if they’re at the right distance; they’ll show a “notice” sign which allows you to either back up or ignore. This essentially sets the edge of aggro range for mobs, but once you move in too close the edge, the enemy will attack.
The PvE in Wildstar is enjoyable, engaging and rewarding. It serves as the centerpiece of what really sets the game apart; an immersive world full of creatures to fight, many having unique styles of telegraphed combat paired with AoE carnage. For those who want to focus on PvE (and stay away from PvP) the game has plenty to offer. A lot of effort went into balancing enemy density, wandering paths and aggro distances.
Once a character reaches level 6, they can use the Group Finder to queue up for Walatiki Temple Battleground, the first available PvP instance. With the real-time telegraphing system, strategy tied to movement is a big part of the PvP experience. Another very cool aspect of the the PvP system is once given access, a player can level their character all the way to 50 just by engaging in PvP. As with many other MMOGs, PvP has its own reward currency called Prestige, which is awarded at the end of every PvP session. There are three types of PvP areas: battlegrounds (large teams), arenas (small teams) and warplots (huge teams in custom built maps). Once a character hits 50 they can begin doing rated battleground and arenas. New arenas and battlegrounds become available as a character levels up.
Exploration is a very important part of Wildstar and it can be quite rewarding by providing data cubes, eldan stashes, crafting resources and hidden quests. It is also a key part of following the Explorer path. Achievements are also awarded for those who explore 100% of a zone.
The Progression in Wildstar is balanced. A new character levels up pretty quick until 12 or so, and it progressively begins to slow down. I had no issues running out of quests all the way to level 50 and didn’t have to grind once.
There are more than 1,000 player Achievements and 254 guild achievements at launch. At this time the player achievements are character specific (there are no account achievements) and there are no rewards available for Achievement points.
Wildstar is all about Rewards, including exploding bodies of carnage and items, flying chunks of ore when mining, an 80’s metal narrated “LEVEL UP!” event, jumping puzzles, numerous challenges, juicy items after a difficult boss fight, vehicular slaughter, achievements galore, and more. Carbine did a very good job of rewarding players throughout their experience with a constant influx of value and notifications informing the player of their growth and acquisitions within the world.
Wildstar supports a Mentoring system that allows any higher level character to temporarily “downlevel” to that of a lower level friend. The higher level character retains their abilities, but all attributes are scaled down to the appropriate level. This means a level 50 character could mentor a level 8 character and adventure with them without having a huge (and unbalanced) advantage. This is a nice feature that entices (and allows) veteran players to help out friends and guild members. The game also supports Rallying, which scales a character’s attributes to the intended level of an instance or battleground. It’s essentially the opposite of mentoring, scaling upward instead of down.
The game features Macro support right out of the box that enables pretty much any form of LUA scripting and customization.
The Learning Curve is fairly short and easy. The starting areas do a good job of introducing players to the telegraph system and establish how to interact and work with the game world including how to equip items, engage in combat, complete quests and utilize world objects. The most confusing issue players initially deal with is how to get Tier 2 AMPs (they are either purchased or found, and take 4 points each).
The Difficulty of Wildstar scales well. The starter areas are very easy and players aren’t really presented with death-possible scenarios until level 8 or so. Once a character reaches level 14 they are exposed to larger groups and elite mobs and learn to be cautious while managing aggro. Once a character hits 20 they get a feel for the overall “danger” of the world, and it stays fairly steady all the way up to the high 40’s; but once a player hits Grimvault (stepping stones to end-game), the difficulty grows. Ultimately, the entire experience is fun.
Once a character hits level 50, they enter the End Game of Wildstar. The first thing that happens is the experience bar switches to a 75,000 bar, and each time the player acquires 75,000 experience they are awarded with an Elder Gem and the bar resets. A player can acquire up to 140 elder gems per week. Achieving level 50 also opens a number of other features. First there are Veteran Adventures and Dungeons. They’re harder and provide better loot, and are part of the attunement process for beginning Raids. There are also daily quests and challenges in the Crimson Badlands and Northern Wastes, but the zones are small and they can both be completed in under two hours. My personal opinion is right now, even with the Strain drop, there is not enough content for non-group end-game daily PvE gameplay. But the Strain drop’s Northern Wastes are well done, and the daily rewards better suited for end-game – it’s definitely a step in the right direction. However, if you have time to group and run adventures and dungeons, there’s a ton of content. Obtaining a Beloved rating with end-game factions also opens up some valuable item purchases. The process of opening the first Raid requires a player to purchase a Genesis Key for 150 Elder Gems. Once purchased, the character can then begin the attunement process by completing 12 steps, which are outlined here. Once attuned, the player can begin the 20-man raid of the Genetic Archives and the 40-man raid of Datascape. At level 50, Expert “Prototyping” and Eldan crafting also become available. Besides the Genesis Key, the Elder Gem Vendor sells a number of valuable items for: Housing, General Goods, Mounts, Armor, Accessories, Veteran Armor, Veteran Accessories, Genetic Archives Armor, Genetic Archives Accessories, Genetic Archives Weapons, Datascape Armor, and Datascape Accessories. Some of these items allow for additional ability and AMP points. A character can unlock an additional 7 ability points, and 10 AMP points through the Elder Gem vendor.
At this time, all end-game instanced content (e.g. Adventures and Dungeons) requires a party. It would have expanded the end-game experience for many players to allow solo (or 2-man) versions of end-game instanced content.
The Replayability of this game is excellent. When I hit level 50 with my first character, I couldn’t wait to build another character to 50 because the overall experience was so enjoyable; that and I want to try out additional play styles in a vibrant game world I thoroughly enjoy. This is a good sign of a solid game with great longevity and fun factor.
Community & Support
Social, Guilds (Influence), Contacts, Neighbors and Circles, Parties & Raids, Renown, Mail, Addons, Population, Spam, Botting, Quality, Forums, GMs & Reporting, Support Sites & Wiki
While the game does a good job of bringing players together, the Guild system is very weak and alienates the productivity of guild members when they don’t play with each other. It’s unfortunate the team at Carbine didn’t learn from the best guild system on the market – Everquest 2. There are also issues with parties, being able to see what quests other members are on, and even losing what direction a party member is on the minimap and main map; however, the Renown system is a good idea and rewards characters for playing together. Carbine is doing a great job of curbing spam, and the quality of support is very good. Botting is a huge issue, and even after a month, harvesting botters that teleport between nodes are everywhere.
Wildstar prides itself on being a very Social game, providing a number of community-based systems to bring players together. Unfortunately the game doesn’t really accomplish much beyond other MMOGs to enhance the overall social experience. But that’s not to say it’s bad; it’s just standard.
Guilds are pretty basic in Wildstar, but are one of its weakest features because there is no real customization of notifications (e.g. you can’t set what activities are announced to other guild members) and the UI doesn’t even tell you where other guild members are (which is counterproductive to bringing members together for grouping). A good guild system has some sort of announcement feature when a member accomplishes something (e.g. leveling up, uber item finds, downing a boss). Wildstar has none of that while other MMOGs do. These oversights are detrimental to the overall purpose of a guild and I hope are addressed in upcoming patches. Influence is the guild experience earned by members and spent to acquire guild perks and bank slots. Perks come in multiple tiers and do one of three things: (1) provide a benefit for 7 days; (2) allow the summoning of a mobile bank or vendor, or; (3) unlock the ability to purchase certain items from the renown vendor. Once a perk is purchased, the influence is consumed. This means guild members must constantly be earning new influence if they want to keep perks active. A complete list of the perks can be found here.
One big issue with Wildstar is the poorly designed and executed Guild Influence system. Guild Influence serves as the basis of guild enhancement (where your purchase perks, etc) that really makes a guild worth being a member of. The only problem is the guild obtains no influence unless other guild members are partying and completing content together. This means there is no guild-based reward of any kind for completing content or playing the game just as a guild member, and people who want to have more fun/casual/smaller guilds will rarely get anywhere unless they group together. Carbine should allow guild members to earn influence (albeit substantially decreased) through their actions when not grouped, but then provide the full amount when grouped. That way smaller groups of people (families, etc) can form and slowly build their guilds, and players won’t be forced into grouped performance by the guilds they join. Enticing players to quest and complete dungeons together is one thing, forcing them to do it to reap the benefits of being in a guild is another.
The Contacts interface is fairly standard, but in addition to having a Friends section, it also has a Rivals section. The game will also add people you’ve grouped with to a Suggested tab so you can connect with them in the future. There is also an Ignore tab.
The social interface has a tab called Neighbors that is used to share access to your home. This is a cool feature because it controls whether or not other players can visit and benefit from your house bonuses and harvest materials. A character can also mark a neighbor as a Roommate, which allows the neighbor to add, remove and move items; but they cannot change plots.
Circles are a secondary social group system of up to 100 members allowing players to collaborate and chat within a different “room”, regardless of any guild affiliation. This is a good way to support alliances between different guilds that want to connect key members to each other for running instances or just helping each other out.
The Party and Raid system of Wildstar is very standard compared to other MMOGs. One can assign loot options (e.g. free for all, round robin, need before greed) and communicate through party and raid channels. Players who participate in Parties and Raids receive Renown, a form of currency that entices people to play together and can be used at Renown vendors to buy many different types of items. As mentioned above, one problem with parties is the UI constantly loses track of where your other party members are.
There is currently no indication of what quests other party members are on, so the only way to find out is to ask them. I hope carbine addresses this deficiency soon, especially as it is counterproductive to grouping with other players.
The Population of Wildstar is quite large and estimated to be well above the 1 million mark. During prime time most servers are heavy and many are at full capacity. The starting and low level areas are packed full of people, but the best indicator is the busy nature of the capital cities, and Thayd is always crammed with people.
Spam was a problem, but Carbine has gone out of their way to nail them as soon as possible. While I was getting numerous spam messages the first 24-hours of the game, a day or two later they stopped. The spammers then started using the Arena invite system to spam, and also began to send out mail messages. Carbine added a report feature to the mail system, but it didn’t work for a number of days. Once they fixed it and the reporting began, the spam stopped. They also added a “Filter Invites” feature to the client that prohibits any invites from being sent to players; this effectively stopped the alternative methods of spamming players, but it can be cumbersome for new players who want to join a guild and can’t figure out why they aren’t receiving invites.
Botting has become a huge problem for the game, especially in the areas of resource harvesting and PvP. Even more concerning is the fact the harvesting bots are able to “teleport” away from the veins, showing there is more than an issue of automation on the client side; the botters have somehow “hacked” the connection and mislead the server interpretation of movement and position. To compound the issue even more, these botters are still persisting more than a month after release (complete with teleport). While thousands of accounts have been banned, even after the Strain drop, the botters still appear to be out in full force. Carbine has really dropped the ball on this issue as other games have acted within days to correct such exploits.
The Quality of the community is good and I believe the required purchase price and subscription fee help keep a majoroity of the riff-raff away. This is no surprise as free to play games tend to have the worst communities out there while subscription games tend to have the best (and most dedicated).
The Forums are alive and well, full of players providing information, asking questions, sharing experiences, and reporting bugs; but more importantly, the Carbine staff members seem rather involved in answering the important posts.
Unfortunately there are no GMs available in-game, but there is a built-in bug reporting system (/bug) and ticketing system (/ticket) players can use to report problems and create tickets.
While there are occasional issues with render stuttering and regular LUA interface errors, the game client is pretty solid and only crashed once for me. It appears Carbine still has a few minor hiccups to work out with their server technology as I’ll occasionally get random disconnects, and sometimes combat will lag a few seconds. Unfortunately, the bugs are rampant in Wildstar, and more than a month after release, issues that should have been fixed in days or weeks still persist. They also don’t seem to be deploying hotfixes (only actual patches), which have resulted in important easy to fix errors going unfixed for days (and even weeks). The game does support two-step security out of the box, which is a very good thing.
The Graphics of Wildstar present very well with Carbine’s custom 3D engine. While the visuals aren’t on the same level as a game like Final Fantasy XIV, they are very well done for the cartoon-like game style. One very nice visual effect is that of the cloud affected ground lighting; as clouds pass in front of the sun, the lighting properly dithers, digresses and returns, providing an excellent ambient feel to the area.
The Audio of Wildstar is well done; this includes combat sounds, ambient sounds, NPC narrations, Taxi driver chatter, and creature sounds. But the most impressive audio aspect of the game is the Music, which I believe to be some of the best for any MMOG I’ve ever played (and that’s saying a lot!).
The core Interface is fairly basic and works well, but there are a lot of missing features (which have been discussed above). The good news is Wildstar supports Addons, of which there are a ton that can enhance the game greatly, many of which are listed in the Resources section at the end of this review.
Except for a few issues 12 hours after launch, the Connectivity has been great, although I know some other people had problems with servers filling up and prompting a long queue-based wait time. There was a point where the game was taken down for two hours in the middle of prime time, but since then, the only Downtime has been for weekly maintenance, which takes place around 12:30am and lasts an hour and a half.
Wildstar supports two-step through the Google Mobile Authenticator, adding to the level of Security. It also rewards players who use the two-step authentication with 2% more experience, renown and prestige when playing the game, which I think is pretty cool.
Patching is standard, automatically applying when a player runs the launch client. The download speeds are good, but it seems the deployment technology of Wildstar may not support hotfixes. One example is their patch adding a Spam report button to the mail UI, which was completely broken (and crashed LUA). It took them 5 days to patch this simple problem. When issues like this came up with Guild Wars 2 (for example), they had near immediate mini-patches to address little easy to fix problems like this, but they also had rapid deployment technology. It seems Wildstar is built to have “chunky” deployment rather than rapid, which impedes quickly fixing minor issues. So when a patch breaks something, even if it’s minor, don’t expect a quick fix.
While I thoroughly enjoy the game, Wildstar has numerous Bugs, and in some regards, the most I’ve seen with any new MMOG; but to be fair, this game also has more features at launch than any other MMOG. These bugs includes serious problems with pet AI, monsters that will reset during combat, UI bugs, costume display bugs, gold loss bugs through mount vendors, gold lost through cancelling auctions, gold lost through riding skill updates and repairs, and the occasional lack of responsiveness from dodging attacks; and many of these bugs haven’t been fixed more than a month after release! The UI constantly loses track of group members, so you can’t see where your friends are. There are also bugged quests, and an occasional bug that causes the client to hang/stutter for a few seconds; often in the middle of combat. I’ve even had my sound suddenly click on and off and then die altogether. A restart of the client resolves this issue. The most concerning issues revolve around the loss of gold, which keep springing up. Given the fact the Strain drop on July 1st failed to address most of the outstanding bugs, it shows Carbine has numerous issues to deal with relative to their goals and QA process. So far they’ve focused more on releasing content (some of which introduces more bugs) than fixing numerous broken systems.
But I want to give credit where it’s due. Their customer support team is responsive and seems to be doing a good job. Players are frustrated, but appreciative of everything Carbine has done. Now if they can only upgrade their deployment technology and start fixing the things that people have been complaining about since BETA.
Even with the bugs and shortcomings, Wildstar is a fantastic game with more content than any other MMOG I’ve seen at launch. I’ve had a blast playing it and believe it’s enough of a refreshing change from the other products to entice any fantasy MMO gamer to give it a shot. The game experience is so enjoyable, building other classes to re-experience the content is a blast. I do believe Wildstar is the most important MMOG launch since vanilla World of Warcraft; and I do not say that lightly. This game is worth every penny, and the folks at Carbine are doing a great job interacting with the community and planning future content. Once they get their QA and Bug Fixes under control, I think the game will be successful for years to come.
I’ll be playing Wildstar for some time, and I hope this review helps bring those who are still on the fence into the world of Nexus. You can purchase Wildstar directly from Carbine here.