WildStar – Before and After Launch

Before

I’m writing this on Friday before the WildStar head start launch. By the time you read this, I’ll have already been playing for a while.

I’m anxious to start playing, but I don’t feel nearly as much excitement as I did for the ESO launch.

Part of it might be that I saw a lot more of WildStar in the beta than I had seen of ESO in beta. I feel like I know how everything works in WildStar. (I probably don’t, but I feel like I’ve seen most of the game systems.) I don’t feel like I’m going to encounter anything radically different in the gameplay mechanics after level 10.

Part of it might be that I’ve already seen the first 7 levels of every class and both sides, so I know right off the bat it will be a "chore" to get past that. It’ll only take an hour, but still, the very first thing I can look forward to in the game is blowing through a bunch of stuff I’ve seen a million times so I can get to something new.

Part of it might be that I’m not so much anxious to play WildStar as I am anxious to play something other than ArcheAge. In other words, I need to play something new to keep from burning out on ArcheAge, which has been filling the "new, shiny MMO" role in my life lately. Rift 2.7 was supposed to do that, but it wasn’t shiny enough.

After

It’s now Monday morning, and I’m writing this after playing two days of WildStar.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I AM NOT PLAYING AN AURIN. I’m sorry, but I had enough of playing the super-popular cute race in FFXIV.

I didn’t wake up until around 6 (Eastern), which was some three hours after launch time, so all of the server problems had been ironed out. I was able to log in and play throughout the day without any incident.

On a last-minute whim, I decided to start out with a skinny human Spellslinger. That was a huge mistake. That class is incredibly boring for the first eight levels, and I found myself mechanically chugging through the tutorial zones I’d seen a million times in beta with zero enthusiasm. Once I got to that third zone (Settler’s Reach or whatever it’s called), I was depressed and bored with WildStar and ready to log out, cancel my subscription, and play a different game.

Instead I merely logged out and made a new character. I went with the Engineer. I don’t know why, since I already knew that the engineer was at least my third choice of class, but I guess I wanted to make a Granok, and I knew I wanted my Granok to be an Engineer. I played for two levels and found myself reading the zone chat more than playing, so I logged out again.

Finally I made a human Esper+Scientist, which is what I thought I was going to play in the first place. I pounded through the first zone on auto-pilot, then I made the most important decision of my short WildStar career: I decided to go to Everstar Grove instead of the Northern Reach, and suddenly the game was fun! Amazingly, and thankfully, I had managed to never see that particular zone in beta, which made it a lot more enjoyable (even though it was infested with Aurin).

I’m not totally sure why I like the Esper. I think it’s because you have to make more decisions during combat. With the Spellslinger, you don’t do anything but circle-strafe and spam one shooting skill. (A gross oversimplification, I know.) Same with the Engineer, Medic, Stalker, and Warrior. Those classes make me really want a permanent-mouselook setting. But with the Esper, since most of your abilities require you to stand still, you have to decide whether to dodge, pop your shield ability, or take the hit. I dunno. It just feels like the Esper matures beyond button-mashing right out of the gate.

By the way I totally agree with Syp about the announcer voice and challenges. I want to turn them both off. Even if one wanted to drop everything and work on a random Challenge, they’re impossible to finish right now and it sucks when somebody screams at you for failing. Even when I feel like I’m on a roll and finding plenty of mobs, I still end up only 50% complete. Somebody make an Addon for that please. (At least I learned that if you close the little Challenge window it goes away without yelling at you.)

When I got to level 15 I queued for a 5-player "Adventure," which is something like a Dungeon but different in that it’s a lot more confusing in terms of what you’re supposed to do. It turns out you have to gather together in one spot at the beginning and then choose a mission to run. When you finish the mission you run back to the starting spot to choose another mission. I think you do three or four of those. Each mission has a mini-boss and the last one has a bigger boss.

I’m not sure I’m going to like dungeons and group play in WildStar. It’s hard to tell from just one Adventure, but there are so many colorful flashing things happening on the screen that it’s damn near impossible to see what’s going on. It’s like GW2 on steroids. I’m hoping that the more you play, the more you’ll be able to key on specific visuals and filter out the useless noise (and/or that some Addon will come out that makes it better). And also I’m hoping there are some settings to tone down other players’ effects. (This is something that FFXIV got exactly right, incidentally.)

(I know some of you are probably screaming, "What about the house at level 14?!? That’s the whole point of the game!" Sorry, I’m just not into housing. I got one, looked at it, dumped out some decorative items on the ground so they didn’t clog my inventory, and left again.)

All in all I enjoyed the headstart, however looking back I find that I don’t have nearly as much "launch fever" for WildStar as I did for ESO. I think I played too much in beta. ESO felt like something totally new to explore, whereas WildStar feels very familiar to me, both from my beta experience and the too-familiar MMO mechanics of the game.

That might end up being a good thing in the long run, considering that I crashed out of ESO in a month.

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