“Personality infuses everything we do.”
That was one of the early statements in our press session with NCSoft and Carbine Studios at PAX with regards to WildStar. Just a quick glance at the trailers for the game easily shows that’s the case.
But personality and quirky fun alone don’t make for a successful game. To that end, we got our best look so far at the nuts and bolts of WildStar gameplay.
At the heart of the combat system are the leads that monsters give when they’re about to make attacks, known as “telegraphing.” Put simply, you don’t want to be where the big red circle, or line, or cone, or X, or whatever is, or you’ll take a beating.
It’s easy enough to dodge out of the way of single attacks, but dodging attacks from a bunch of baddies is a challenge, and one of the boss-type monsters we saw let loose with an attack that covered multiple areas, forcing the player to spasmodically dance between the circles of death.
While tells like this aren’t an entirely a new concept, the fact that every monster does them is a novel approach, and one that’s likely to increase accessibility and keep the learning curve steady as encounter difficulty ramps up. Freeform targeting and lots of movement options make for what looks like some fun, action-based gameplay.
If the monsters themselves are too much for you, you can also make use of environmental aspects to take them out. In one instance, we took a potshot at an enemy and then lured him into a minefield for some gore-splattered – albeit T-rated – fun.
Another way in which WildStar is innovating is in its paths – soldier, explorer, scientist, and settler – which give you an additional way to play that’s separate from your class role.
We got a look at the explorer path, who has tools at her disposal to help her find points of interest all around the map and – with some help from loftite, a mysterious mineral that counters the effects of gravity – the means to reach these far-flung vistas.
Once the explorer is perched upon a high bluff or plateau, a scene unfolds that directs her to another point of interest. In this case, the camera zoomed down to a cave, which, we assume (because we didn’t take the time to visit it) contains all sorts of other interesting doodads.
Rather, we skipped ahead to another area that contained the most awe-inspiring sight of our tour: a giant robot, the Annihilator, perhaps a hundred feet tall, trying to free his ankle from the jaw-like grip of the sliding roof enclosure over a pit of green goop. When I asked, “Does he ever break free?” the response I got was a sly wink and a vague allusion to the endgame story.
Rather than just have your typical game-full-of-exploring-and-story followed by endgame-raid-raid-raid, Carbine is going to “save” some of the momentous story elements until after you’ve reached level cap. I’m already liking that notion better than how some other games do it by blowing their story load early and then consigning you to rote repetition. We’re betting that’s when the Annihilator breaks free and starts wreaking insane amounts of havoc.
WildStar‘s trying to cover a lot of ground, and, in all honesty, we’re not sure how well it’s going to take. The game at once seems irreverent and strategic, freeform and directed. It might have a broad appeal or it might spread itself too thin.
Whatever the case, it’ll be something to watch as it develops. The art style is phenomenal, the attitude is sassy, and the story elements seem intriguing. Now all Carbine has to do is just pull it all together into a coherent gaming experience.