Saturday, May 4, 2013

A New Challenger Appears

What will be the best MMO that launches this year? If you said The Elder Scrolls Online, or even Neverwinter, then you'd probably be right, but you might not be...

WildStar is an MMO that's flying a little under the radar right now, which puts it right up my alley. It's a sci-fi / fantasy MMORPG in development at Carbine Studios, and our old friend NCsoft are the publisher (since they own Carbine). I'll link some videos and screenshots through this post, but I already know the first thing that will come to mind is, "This looks like WoW". Well, no surprise there, since Carbine has a bunch of ex-Blizzard devs on its payroll, but if you think it's going to be just another generic WoW clone then I believe you will be sadly mistaken.

At first glance, the story seems fairly ordinary: the location of the planet Nexus, home of the long-dead alien race the Eldan, has been discovered once more, and everyone heads there to grab as much treasure and alien technology as they can find. Ok, not the most original, but no mention of elves yet so I think overall we're ahead.

There are two playable factions, the Exiles and the Dominion. Each have four races available (only three of which are announced right now, so each faction has one more race to come), and there's none of that any-race-can-be-any-class nonsense you found in Guild Wars 2, classes are tied to certain races only.

On the Exiles bench we have:
  • Humans - Two hands, two feet.  The usual.
  • Granok - Beefy rock-monsters.
  • Aurin - Space Elves.  Goddamit.
  • TBA
And on the Dominion side:

And for classes:
  • Warrior - A melee damage dealer, they hit things with large weapons.
  • Spellslinger - A ranged DPS class akin to a Hunter from WoW or Ranger from GW2.
  • Stalker - A rogue-type class which can stealth and uses sharp blades.
  • Esper - A caster / support class that seems similar to the Mesmer from GW2.
  • TBA
  • TBA
Where things get really interesting is the Path system. Paths are almost like vocations / super tradeskills for your character, that change the way you play the game depending on which you have selected. They are based on the Bartle test, which was an attempt to ascertain what type of gamer people are in four key areas: Killer, Explorer, Socialiser and Achiever (those interested can take the Bartle test here, it will give you a random selection of thirty questions). In WildStar you can choose one of four Paths:
  • Soldier
  • Explorer
  • Settler
  • Scientist

Any class can choose any path, and they change the way the game plays for you. Soldiers, for example, get special missions to kill enemies, protect allies, destroy areas, etc. Explorers can unlock new areas and mini-zones where they will receive specialised quests of their own, and can even link remote areas together in a personalised fast-travel system. Scientists examine and manipulate wildlife and discover aliens relics to unlock new abilities. Not much has been announced with regards to the final path, the Settler, but you are said to be able to create and upgrade outposts in order to expand the frontier for your faction. Paths really sound interesting, and I can't think of any other game which has does something like this previously. The fact that you can bring along friends to mix and match different playstyles could really bring this Path system to the fore.

Unusually, Carbine have already stated that both player and guild housing will be in the game, not just envisaged for an expansion but actually at launch. This makes it something of a rarity among MMOs, which often pay lip-service to the concept (I know WoW devs have been talking about it for, oh, six or seven years now) but rarely follow that up with actual action. Heck, I think the last MMO I played that had player housing was Ultima Online back in the day, and that was a looooooong time ago.

The private beta is ongoing at the current time; those interested can sign up for beta consideration, with the game currently slated to be released later this year. No word yet on what kind of subscription model WildStar will use, but since it's an NCsoft-owned developer and is being published by NCsoft themselves, I think it's likely the game will mirror Guild Wars 2's system of buy-to-play, where you pay $60 for the game and there are no recurring subscription fees on top of that. I personally am very much in favour of that system, and so I hope that is what they choose to go with.

With the ability to include both sci-fi and fantasy elements, WildStar could well be the game that gives TESO a run for its money as the most eagerly-anticipated MMO of this year...