Wildstar – or should I just dispense with the formality here and call it by its more accurate title, “World of Warcraft 2”, is a game that clearly does everything NOT to break the mold that World of Warcraft forged back in 2004. Of all the clones we have seen come and, more often than not, go since then, this one should probably take the award for most intentionally attempting to recreate the vanilla WoW experience many of us fondly remember. It should come as no surprise – after all, many of the founders of Carbine Studios worked on vanilla WoW as well.
Wildstar places the players on the fictional planet of Nexus, a planet recently discovered by the two factions players can align with in the game (The Dominion, reminiscent of the Empire from Star Wars, and The Exiles, filling the role of the Rebel Alliance nicely). These factions battle for control of the resource and technology rich planet through traditional PvP and PvE methods. The game is a traditional “Theme Park” when it comes to the linear progression through quest driven zones. Enemies wander in place, as is typical of most games in this genre, and await their fate at the hands of murderous players. Quests are generally creative, and filled with both pop culture references and light humor, taking on a very similar vibe to WoW immediately. As the player levels, they are introduced to many other systems, such as crafting, abilities, AMPs (essentially, a talent grid allowing you to specialize your efforts into different areas). Most of these systems feel tried and true, but a bit more flexible than prior games (all classes are hybrid classes to some extent in this game – with no damage-only classes).
Visually, the game uses a cartoon-like style akin to WoW, but in some ways goes even further with its over-the-top silliness. Emotes are even more outrageous, and animations are smooth yet extremely “bouncy”, with super agile characters that can double jump by default (this is very fun by the way, particularly on mounts). The sound effects and music in the game are quite good, with the occasional audio pop or sync issue, but all-in-all a tight package. I particularly enjoy some of the areas where the music has an almost “Metroid-like” quality to it, and the western music in a zone that reminds me greatly of the Badlands zone from WoW had me grinding in a spaghetti-western trance.
PvP options include Battleground-like maps, Arenas (following the WoW popularized 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 formats), Dueling, Open-world PvP on select servers, and a new 40 vs. 40 mode at level cap that includes base building prior to the fight. I have yet to participate in PvP outside of my preferred methods, Battlegrounds and Open-world skirmishing over quests, but I will say that the gameplay is very responsive, characters feel very grounded to the world, and overall they pull off an action game in the MMO space quite well (an area where many titles suffer). Typically when I lose a fight in open world PvP, I can point exactly to the cause, as opposed to feeling like lag or sync was the issue (such as “they outnumbered me”, “I failed to avoid that attack”, or “I got agro on some NPCs, which swayed the fight against me”). This is a very good thing, one of the more important facets of gameplay to get right in order for a game in this genre to be successful!
PvE options include quite a lot of quests, events, and challenges that pop up as you move around the play space (similar feeling to Guild Wars 2 of just wandering around and always having things to do if you choose to). Shiphand Missions provide small, single serving solo or group instanced content, and wind up feeling like fun little quests with Rare item rewards. Adventure and Dungeons are 5 player content akin to a traditional instance Dungeon from WoW, though Adventures seem to focus more on choose-your-own-adventure style story and play variance, where Dungeons are the same each time (packs of lesser minions plus boss encounters with Rare loot). I am going to go ahead and say that while I am pretty tired of traditional questing mechanics, I find myself having no issue plodding along grinding content in this title, due to the variance as you travel, and also due to the engaging combat (grinding is actually pretty fun). For me though, the real fun begins after the level 20 mark, when the training wheels come off, and enemies actually begin to get challenging. The dungeon content that opens up at 20 is also quite good and challenging, and random groups do not seem to fare very well in my experience. With a group of friends, these dungeons are extremely fun, with twitch skill and execution of your class being a huge factor for success or failure.
Overall, I get the impression as I climb the level ranks (currently 35 out of 50 cap at the time of this review) that the game will continue to become more difficult (especially fun on PvP servers where you find yourself skirmishing with players of the opposing faction as often as you are completing quests). I can honestly say that fans of this genre will have a good time with this title, but it does start out a bit slow for the first 10-20 levels. Given how closely this title resembles Vanilla WoW, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for it. I believe that it is of high enough quality that many fans of the original gameplay of World of Warcraft will take to this new space setting, and stick around to participate in what is sure to be challenging end game raid content.
This title will not blow your mind with high levels of innovation, but what it takes from other games and from WoW it does exceptionally well, and is a clean and polished experience (not to say it is bug-free, but the bugs that do exist are innocuous and do not break immersion often). This is as close as we have come to a WoW 2 in roughly 10 years since the original, and given that they are aiming for the early WoW experience, and not the more modern expansions, combined with the timing of this release (huge gap in WoW content patches), they may have a shot at sticking around and pulling off a successful game over the coming months and years.
[easyreview title=”Wildstar Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]
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