E3 2013: Not so wild about WildStar
WildStar’s promising players the moon, but are gamers just star-struck? I know I personally wasn’t paying too much attention to the game until the recent video about paths. I’m not against the graphics, I think themeparks can be fun, and I’ve put up with PvE vs. PvP stats for about a decade and a half, so what’s another year? But… well, I just keep getting the feeling that there’s a lot of hype and no substance. The path video and the scientist path hands-on preview got me excited though. No longer were these empty promises! Someone had seen some of them first-hand! But maybe this was my downfall.
For those who don’t know, E3 isn’t about playing any game you want any way you want. Sometimes devs just bring the live game and let you have at it, but I find that often these games don’t have a lot of announcements to make and are mainly there to let… ah, “less informed” gaming journalists see the game. No, instead, you often have a developer leading you on a very strict path, if you’re even allowed to play the game. Maybe they release you with a premade character into a specific dungeon that “ends” when the boss dies. Or, as with my hands on with Wildstar, you might be restricted to a few class/paths and have to do the newbie experience.
Now, this can be good, especially with players who don’t know MMOs well. I had a young woman standing next to me who didn’t know a MOB from a muppet, and the idea of a map that shows you where your quest takes place is a feature just for her. That’s fine! It’s good to teach people how to play your game. The problem for me was that I know a bit about WildStar. I know who the Dominion are, I know there are two races we haven’t learned about, and I haven’t heard about a full hands-on with the settler yet. I was sadly stuck with known races, classes, and paths.
First, played a Cassian spellslinger that followed the explorer path. I was put on a planet and given the usual assortment of MMO stuff. I’ll be blunt: I thought I was playing World of Warcraft with Guild Wars 2’s combat with bad controls. There, I said it. I don’t mind WoW’s graphics or humor, and I’m sure the yellow exclamation marks will help themepark veterans orient themselves, but as a seasoned MMOer, I was a bit let down. I had the usual speak/click/kill/collect type quests, and it was just not something I was able to get into. I was literally doing this in at least five other games today. I did appreciate the combat, but not the controls, and being unable to remap keys during the demo probably added to my frustration.
More on that later, though. My spellslinger had style. She shot guns to cast spells, so that was fun to watch. If things got too hairy, I could teleport away, which stunned my enemies. Heck, just for fun, I double-jumped off buildings and teleported in mid-air. It was just cool to do. But I run around and kill things in almost every game. I’ve been a newbie a million times. I wanted to see something new, so I decided I’d stop doing quests from NPCs and try the “path” thing out.
As an explorer, I figured the best thing I could do would be explore, so that’s what I did. Oddly enough, my explore quests included killing. Randomly large boxes dropped from the sky. Explorer quest: Kill this stuff! I knew the soldier had these sorts of quests, but I wasn’t expecting it from the explorer. Eventually, I found a jumping puzzle. SWTOR and GW2 both had these, so I figured it’s at least a “newer” feature, or at least popular enough again that companies are willing to use it. It was fun enough until the controls started to rear their ugly head. While I had fun making cool jumps in town, the game’s double-tap to dodge really screwed with my jumping skills. In GW2, I disabled that and simply use my V key, but I couldn’t do that in the demo. I think I hulked-out a bit since I left the demo after failing the jumping quest for about 15 minutes straight. I’m not the best platformer, but this was an easy puzzle ruined by the controls.
A single lap around the booth and good fortune that people had given up on the previously long line meant I could do a second round of WildStar, but I figured this time I’d embrace combat. I gave up on the idea of trying out something unique about the game. I figured, if they didn’t want us to see the really cool paths, the demo must have been focused on combat, so I went with a Mechari Warrior following the soldier path. I’m normally a melee guy anyway, so I figured this would be a good choice.
I was wrong. While I will admit that I went offroad again since I’d just seen the same quests about an hour earlier, the problem was that the controls got awkward again. Normally I hold my right mouse in games to move while firing off abilities with my buttons. However, in the demo, one of my moves was a whirlwind attack that required me to hold the right mouse and the number 5 key. Since the game is more action-oriented, I can move while performing the whirlwind. In fact, I had to move or else I’d get hit. However, moving with WQE (I don’t usually backpedal, and the game wouldn’t allow me to remap A and D to strafe) while holding the right mouse button and 5 felt awkward and wrong. I tried moving it from 5 to 4 and even to 3, but it just didn’t work as well. I would have preferred to be able to change the controls more and mapped an ability like that to my mouse. I needed to be closer to my targets than the ranged Spellslinger, so during my soldier path quests, which are all about combat, I got hit more, wasn’t as effectively dodgy, and overall had a less satisfying experience. Yes, they were the normal kill quests you get from other games, but I couldn’t even enjoy that at least because of the controls, if not because I’d been doing kill quests all day (when I was allowed to play a game myself).
Now, my experience was fairly negative, but keep a few things in mind. This was a really restrictive demo. I’m sure I could remap these keys normally, which would have helped a lot. I was also looking forward to trying the non-combat aspects of the game and seeing something different from some of the other MMOs on my list. While I did try a single jumping puzzle, that’s not nearly as new or unique as scanning things for lore or building areas for quest givers. Maybe those would have been better for me and better for other MMO previewers at E3. As it was, my hands on with WildStar sadly felt far too similar to many of the other MMOs coming out now.