When Wildstar first came to light a couple of years ago, the world was greeted with a slick, funny trailer and some early gameplay footage as a general proof of concept for this Frontier-themed MMO. Then it disappeared – had the natives risen up and wiped out this fledging colony of a game? Had the studio gone native? Nope, seems NCSoft just wanted to concentrate on Guild Wars 2 for a while. Fair enough. Now that behemoth is well and truly ‘out’, the developer Carbine is once again ramping up communication on this potentially unique game.
To recap – Wildstar takes place in a science-fiction universe, on the planet Nexus which is on the edge of known space. There are two factions – The Dominion and the Exiles, and both are trying to colonise the planet and discover its secret, as it used to belong to a mysterious race known as the Eldan. Depending on what race, class and path the players choose, their journey across Eldan will be one fraught with dangers, wonders and tongue-in-cheek hilarity (we hope). On the surface, Wildstar seems more geared towards PvE and Co-op gameplay as opposed to hardcore PvP like other games. The two factions offer a basic context for fighting to go on, and there are PvP system in place which you can read about in the interview (they weren’t really shown off during the demo though), but a lot of Wildstar seems to be geared towards other, obviously competitive styles of playing a game.
The Draken are one of the newer Dominion races that has been revealed. Ferocious, and easily identifiable by their ma-hoosive horns
Setting up your character follows more ‘traditional’ means in the sense that you have to choose your class and path fairly early on, and are locked into it from the beginning of the game. The classes follow typical archetypes, just under stylised names – Stalker is basically a Rogue, Esper and Spellsingers take up different aspects of Magic-based classes (Mage, Healer etc…), and the Warrior is, well, the Warrior. Depending on what race you choose, you may be locked into certain classes. The Exile race ‘Granok’ can only be Warriors, for example, while the Aurin can’t be Warriors at all. Humans (both Exile and the Dominion Cassians), can be everything. Each class has some flexibility as to the roles they can play, and the role is probably going to be linked to some degree by what ‘Path’ you choose, of which there are also four and are deliberately designed by Carbine to match four key playing styles that they think MMO-players group towards.
The first and most obvious Path is the ‘Soldier’, which is basically for anyone who likes killing things – they get access to special combat skills, new weapons, and are generally kill first, and don’t even bother asking questions. The scientist is for players who like to find out more about the game world or universe that they inhabit. They get to study the various plants, animals etc… of Nexus, and are capable of unlocking hidden chambers and can interact with lost technology. Explorers are an interesting class in the sense that their ‘thing’ of exploring the heights and lows of Nexus, going places no-one else can reach and mapping out the landscape, could easily have been folded in the scientist in some respect, since both are about gaining knowledge of the world.
No frontier is complete without rocket artillery
The Settler is by far the most interesting path, but at the moment it’s the only path that could potentially be a let-down. Designed for the ‘social’ gamers, the gamers who just like to hang-around, talk, and offer help, advice, even services that a game can allow for, the Settlers take care of the hub and NPC areas. The pinnacle of this is for them to actually build structures – whether it’s actual vendors, something they called ‘minferstructures’, or things that can improve the economy, the security, or the quality of life in an area (actual gameplay values). All these tasks require a varying amount of resources to achieve, some taking longer than others, and most allow for collective action to help a building go up quicker. The thing is, is that almost everything has a timer to do it – build a guard post to help you with local mobs, it’ll be gone five minutes later. Throw up a random barricade because, well, I don’t actually know what that’s for, and it’ll be gone the next time you turn around. Even the pre-set buildings and vendors – like shops, prisons etc... despawn after a while.
It’ll be interesting to see whether it actually engages settlers to maintain these buildings (because they do have pretty important functions, or sell good gear), or whether it’ll erode their sense of purpose because nothing they do lasts. It’s also the only path that, I feel, is not incentivised to actually progress through the game. The soldier is inspired to progress to kill bigger and badder things. The scientist is enticed to progress to find bigger and better tombs or technology, and the explorer is driven to climb higher and higher. But the Settler? Their thing is actually to just hang-around and make sure the distillery is working, or that the trains are running on time. While your overall level will probably, eventually, make you concede that you should go to the next area and hang around there, it’s still just a lot of hanging around. Like we said, will be interesting to see how that Path pans out. While some races obviously lend themselves to certain classes, and certain classes to certain paths (Warrior – Soldier, for example), it’s unclear the full spectrum of how all the races, classes and paths can interact with each other, as none of the paths have limitations on them at the moment.
As a Settler, you could spawn in a guard post + guards like these to give some temporary protection to the area.
The things that haven’t been talked about so far – Tradeskills, which apparently is basically ‘crafting’, but again you get a unique twist on things with Wildstar, and you get to create things like gadgets, augmentations, weapons etc… The pricing model, the end-game, the specifics of PvP and how paths connect into that are all due to be talked about in the next couple of weeks, we hope. There’s also the fact that we haven’t touched upon player housing (which seems like an interesting enough diversion) and combat (which seems pretty standard, although the free-form targeting mixes things up a bit), but we’ll save all that for a more extensive hands-on session.
We liked what we saw of Wildstar back in 2011, and we like what we see now. It might be a little too... traditional, compared to the likes of Guild Wars 2, but provided it tries to innovate in other ways than the less risky design choices shouldn’t be too much of an issue. At the very least, Carbine have created an amusing, mystery-filled world that practically begs to be delved into, and while the whole ‘Frontier’ thing probably won’t be reflected in the mechanics as much as we’d like, it’s certainly a good enough idea to latch on to. We hope to get our hands on some playable code to find out more. Wildstar is due out on PC later this year.
Most Anticipated Feature:I want to know how a Settler can be influential in PvP. Who can build the best trash compactor, perhaps?