Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wildstar beta: First Impressions (part 2)

So picking up where part 1 left off...

The aesthetics of the world are cartoony, colorful and fun. It is kind of close to WoW's style, but seeing as everyone else tries to go for dark, gritty realism, I really don't mind seeing some WoW influence. Sometimes you forget that video games can actually have *gasp* a color palette!

Click on the pic to see it in full size and awesomeness!
Just exploring can be amazing as you encounter new places and weird aliens. Each region has a story to tell and you can help sway the events through quests. For one place on Dominion side, I helped clear up a plague by finding out where it came from and who was responsible. The town went from a burning hell hole with its citizens dripping plague, to a much cleaner version. Oh, and I helped build a hospital--which required hassling the local farmers for money. But that's life in the empire, right?

And that's the another thing: many of the quests have a lot of personality. Granted, you do have the mundane "collect X many bear asses", but there are enough fun ones that bring something new and memorable to the table. Such as (once again, on Dominion side) one quest that took me to a mining station off-world. My toon had to wear one of those bubble helmets that you see in retro sci-fi comics, and due to the difference in gravity, she would gently glide down after a jump. Then I had to go through creepy corridors, discovering parasite-infested bodies and the miner's last recorded words, which reminded me a lot of System Shock 2. Very cool stuff. Not to mention, fucking awesome view!

Wish I had figured out how to hide the distracting interface.

In addition to quests, you've got challenges. They'll be certain items or enemies that will trigger them and you'll have a timer to kill/collect as many X as possible. Sometimes I found them fun, other times annoying. The rewards for successfully completing a challenge will scale with how well you did, although sometimes it's impossible to achieve higher than a bronze.

Something new in this game are paths. You can choose one from four, and they basically are tailored to how you like to play the game. Like killing a lot of stuff? Then you would go Soldier. Exploring? Explorer. And so on. I mainly did Settler path, which was building stuff and came quite handy, because I could build banks, mailboxes and boosts (i.e. increased speed, stat boots, extra merchants). Boyfriend went the Science path which unlocked extra lore about the world, and as he says, you got to "science" stuff. I did try a bit of Explorer, but did not find it as enjoyable or useful. Sure, you get a speed buff to go running around, but twice I fell off a hill and died. I guess the trailer was right!

There's also trade skills, which is an element I did not miss from The Secret World. I kind of hate having to farm materials to make stuff, but I will say they do something different. You've got a trade skill tree, and as you create more stuff, you unlock the ability to craft higher end goodies. And with better quality, you  get to choose the stats for that gear. As I mentioned before, I mainly focused on moxie and finesse for my esper class, so I would make weapons with those stats. You also have power cores for these craftable items, and the better the power core, the more stats you can put on your gear.

I also went with mining, which wasn't made easy because I couldn't see ore nodes on my mini-map (I had to go to my main map, which interrupts gameplay). However, neat things would occasionally happen when I'd mine a node. Sometimes the node would sprout legs and become this bug-thing and I had to kill to quick before it scurried away. Other times I'd get a giant ore worm and when I defeated it, a wormhole (har har) would open up and I got a 2 minute spree to farm as much ore as I wanted in another dimension.

Housing--yes, there is housing in this game. At first I was leery of this, because I thought it was some Second Life crap leaking into MMORPG's, buuuuuut it was actually a plus for this game. Everyone can get a plot of land in the sky and you can build/decorate it with whatever stuff you find. The more decorations, the better experience bonus buff you get if you log out on your land. You also get useful stuff like having your own personal farm, ore mine, exploration cave, even a dungeon! and such to help level up your skills. You can even visit other player's houses and have roomates. And if you're busy and haven't logged in for awhile, then other players can farm/mine/whatever your resources and split the profits with you.

So is this game worth getting? Well I had a lot of fun, but I would still wait six months before committing. Like every MMORPG that thinks it'll break WoW's streak, they're going to start with a monthly subscription. So far, no one but WoW has been able to maintain the monthly subscription model. Wildstar might pull it off because it's pretty damn polished, even in its beta form, and provides quite a few unique things that I think players will enjoy. Personally, I prefer buy-to-play since I don't feel obligated to get my money's worth of gameplay each month, but we'll see how this goes.

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