I’m pretty sure I can talk about Wildstar now. It’s in open beta, I don’t see any watermark on my screen any more, and it’s being heavily advertised. I think that means I am off the hook and I can talk about it in full. In the age of the internet, believing something is true is basically the same as something being factually true. Which is good. This post is both full of belief in what I am writing, and that I won’t get sued by Carbine or NCsoft. Regardless, it’s unlikely to get me in trouble unless you assholes rat me out. Snitches get stitches.
There is a lot to say about Wildstar. What needs to be said is something that a lot of people aren’t going to want to hear. In fact, it’s entirely possible that the devs and game team over at Carbine don’t want to hear it. It’s not something that the team is thinking about, judging from their peripherals and advertising materials. It’s certainly something in the beta that people didn’t want to hear, and yet was a consistent theme throughout my entire experience with the game.
This game is not for everyone.
Oh sure, it looks cute and has a great sense of humor. It has some bold goals. Some of the ideas are nothing short of inspired. However, once you get past the sheen, something can’t help but stand out. This game doesn’t understand where MMOs have gone, and is trying to recapture something that is gone. Unfortunately, it is something not lamented by any, save for those who can’t help but investing in rose-colored glasses. This game wants to be what was offered by the original or “vanilla” World of Warcraft experience, but more comedic and action packed. It wants to be World of Warcraft A.E., World of Titancraft A.E. if you will.
Seriously, this game is not for everyone.
I know what I am talking about here. I have been a bleeding edge raider since Everquest. I was in a guild that beat the Rathe Council pre-nerf. Sure, we were bitter that three guilds beat it the same night and only Afterlife got the shout out on the Everquest main page, but whatever. If you go to Allakhazam, you’ll probably still find item screenshots with my name and guild tag on them. That same guild transferred to World of Warcraft and we went on to do world first Ragnaros. I was an extremely high-ranked in PvP during the first system. I had my horse. I had my world defense channel rep. I am a multi-season gladiator. I finished hardmodes when they were current. I completed legendaries. I did the AQ quest (I got boned out of a black scarab but that is neither here nor there). The point I am making here is that when it comes to MMOs, I have a lot of experience under my belt.
Please, listen to me when I tell you that this game is not for everyone.
If you are a casual player, you will probably have a bad time with this game if they don’t drastically tune down content or do a redesign. Gear matters a lot, there is absolutely a best way to spec and design your abilities, and reaction time is king. All of the end content requires you to have a guild, and likely a lot of the burden ends up falling squarely on the shoulders of the guild leader. Elder Games (read: raids) are 40 man epic experiences…which will likely devolve rapidly into 20 strong players flat out carrying the rest. To make matters worse, if you aren’t playing optimally, you are flat out harming the experience of the rest of the group.
So much revolves around the tank and healers that you will once against get the tank and healer elitism rock star mentality returning with zeal. How do I know that? That’s what I was playing in beta, and I found myself backsliding into elite tendencies. The game is incredibly frustrating when you are doing group encounters and someone else is causing the problems. With the current state of Wildstar, it is very hard for anything that is “pick up” to do well. Even when the majority of the group has done it, if one person hasn’t, even with explanation, it’s tough for them to do it perfectly because the mechanics of the game revolve around two things:
See, bosses have Interrupt Armor. They have a certain amount of stacks of that armor. Each interrupt used removes a stack of that armor. Once it is gone, the NEXT interrupt stops them from doing the terrible thing. That terrible thing is almost always a party wipe if it gets off. Now, say something that two stacks in a five person group. That requires three interrupts. Good luck getting that to consistently work in a PUG. The world events devolve into kite and tank fests where the interrupt armor is ignored in favor of just getting the fuck out of Dodge.
The sad thing is that in a skilled group, it’s really not hard and it’s a lot of fun. The problem is that most people don’t possess the skills necessary to play this game to that level consistently. It requires a lot of focus and engagement. If you aren’t bringing your A-game, you really need to not be playing with other people in this game. There is no casual coasting along at this stage of the play experience. As you might expect, this starts a divide based along player skill. The Cans and the Cannots. This divide is readily apparent, and has been since several Beta stages ago. That elitism that people hated in Everquest and World of Warcraft? Yeah that shit is going to be rampant. I kid you not.
If that wasn’t enough, the PvP system is pure rating and mimics the Burning Crusade era style loot. This also creates a massive striation in good players and bad players. When you are playing Battlegrounds, losing causes your rating to drop. Since it’s basically multiplayer ELO, you are going to get some massive rage going on when people fuck up and don’t play well. This is beyond the PvP rage that already exists in any setting, of course. The gear that you get from rating, unsurprisingly, is leagues better than the gear that is not gotten from rating. Someone with the base quality PvP gear and someone without it? Holy cats, that divide is even worse. Of course, you ALSO need massively good reactions to be good in PvP, on top of all that.
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. I really like this game, even though the guildcentric nature is probably preventing from becoming too invested in the idea of playing it. I’m just not in the same place I was a decade ago when it comes to scheduling raid nights. That doesn’t mean I don’t like so much about the game, of course.
People just need to know that this game is really not for everyone.