On Tuesday, I talked about how the overall presentation of WildStar devoured me whole, convincing me of the powerful playground the game is. Today, in this second part of Live from Nexus, I want to talk about what makes the gameplay of WildStar so strong, and why you should give this MMORPG a go.
When I first wrote about WildStar approximately two month ago, I described the game as a fairly standard MMORPG packed in beautiful graphics. After surviving the Headstart (which went better than expected. Big up, Carbine!), I have come before you to revise my opinion. In this and the next post on Thursday, I’ll be reporting live from Nexus why WildStar is more than your run-off-the-mill endgame treadmill and why you should bother checking it out. Today, I want to tell you about what made me change my mind from a more aesthetical point-of-view, while Thursday’s post will dive deeper into the different convincing gameplay elements.
My mind works in strange ways. Yesterday, while waiting for the washing machine to finish and browsing my favorite gaming sites, I was reminded of the fact that Trion is bringing ArcheAge to the west. This makes my tingle with joy, especially knowing that the company is offering different “Founder packs” to get into the alpha. I’m all about getting into a game earlier than the unwashed masses, so I went and checked them out. Alpha access…the thought of that made me wild. Would I already be knees-deep in ArcheAge this weekend? Would I already see what all the fuss is about, sailing my own ship and tending my own farm?
I would…had I spent €140.
Complexity is one of the most discussed topics in MMO country, and with good reason: in an age filled with simple, mass-pleasing click-games like Candy Crush Saga and Farmville (does anyone still play that?), we “true” gamers desire games that cannot be immediately understood by our grandmas and little brothers. We want titles that take time to ease in to, that have us browse the Internet in search of the perfect “build”, force us to take a crash course in Excel to make that spreadsheet and make us talk with abbreviations like “DPS”. We want to get lost in the numbers, we want to be made dizzy by the possibilities…we long for complexity.
We? Well, to be honest, I don’t.
Yesterday, Mentum died. Who’s Mentum? Well, Mentum is…uhm, was, my hardcore Crusader in Diablo 3. He was strong, willful, proud. Most of all, however, he was stubborn. Raised to fight evil in every corner of Sanctuary, Mentum would not retreat from the hordes of demons standing between him and the Prime Evil that must be put to rest. No matter how large the pack, Mentum would leap right into the fray, smack his shield into an ugly visage and strike with his blade, calling upon a wrath fueled by divine purpose. No one could stop him from smiting evil. No one…but death.
There’s just some things too damn embarrassing to do. One of them is playing Twister without any clothes on. Next to deciding to play a game that forces you to grope your fellow players in order to not fall with your (now naked) buttocks on the ground, you will also show everyone all of your mortal husk. As much as we think of our own bodies as beautiful works of art (at least I do), the reality is different: everyone’s corpus is littered with imperfections and flaws. Standing around butt-naked is already bad enough, exposing all your weaknesses to the world around you. The only thing worse is to play a game like Twister naked, forcing you to throw around every bit of excess fat, loose skin or abundant body hair. Everything that people can criticize about you is flung around, as you try to win a game that is already pointless to win.
This year’s April Fool’s, Blizzard thought playing butt-naked Twister was a good idea.
It started of well, with a barrage of cool announcements, all of them obviously jokes. My personal favorite were the patch notes for WoW 6.0, which showed that the developers know what their target audience is about. One-liner after one-liner, Blizzard delivered a cool prank everyone could laugh about. A few other obvious April Fools followed, and soon a link to a new ArtCraft article popped up. ArtCraft! Heck yeah, finally we’ll see some new models! Right? Right?
This was the moment where Blizzard thought they were doing well in their game of April Fool’s Twister. Right hand on good joke, left foot on brilliant fake patch notes; so far so good. Why not up the ante? People are laughing about how we’re bending our body ever so gracefully, why not show them all of it? So Blizzard decided to pull down its pants, throw of that XXL shirt and come out with the big guns: a fake ArtCraft article.
Now, a fake ArtCraft article isn’t bad. It’s nice to play with your audience expectations. What’s bad is to illustrate a sensitive topic in it: gender depiction. I don’t feel attacked by it, trust me. In fact, I could get a good laugh out of it. A little bit of satire doesn’t hurt me, so when Blizzard decided to continue playing in their bare skin, I was the guy in the audience laughing about how ridiculous they look. To Blizzard’s regret, most of the audience didn’t like seeing them naked. Most of the audience wasn’t entertained by that ArtCraft article. Most of the audience was at least mildly enraged.
So, while Blizzard’s busy getting dressed and recouping from a backlash no April Fool’s joke of them has ever seen, all I can tell you, dear readers, is that there’s two things not worth your time: writing satirical, out-of-taste April Fools articles about gender stereotypes and playing Twister butt-naked.
Oh, also, asking your Twitter followers for article ideas is also dangerous. You might end up writing an article like this!
Music makes everything better. Absolutely everything. Annoying chores you should have done two weeks ago? Pump some Rise Against through my speakers and I’ll do them like my life depends on it. Having to wait at the bus stop because the drive decided to show up too early for a change? No problem, my homeboys from The Gaslight Anthem got me covered. Ideal background music to faff your way to 90, playing a blond elf hell-bent on carnage and bloodshed? Electric Six!
I don’t know what it is about the silliness of their lyrics or their actually pretty cool instrumental work, but for some reason, grinding your way through the levels goes a whole lot faster when I’m being told that electric demons start fires and someone has naked pictures of my mother (no matter how wrong that sounds). I can actually imagine Lorellis humming some of their tunes while doing the dirty work of the Argent Crusade in the Eastern Plaguelands.
Talking ’bout those fellas…I really love the Eastern Plaguelands. Well, scratch that. I love the people I meet in them! Fiona’s traveling band is fun to travel along with, though most of her companions don’t get much personality. The focus is on Tarenar and Gidwin, who want to join the Argent Crusade for…reasons. Well, they’re fun to have beside you, and the fact that Fiona offers you free transport from one quest hub to the next (along with entertaining dialogue) is a nice bonus. Plus, one single quest to get my reputation with the Argent Dawn up to Revered? That’s service, Blizz. Lazy service, but service. Also, the Brotherhood of the Light (see screenshot below).
I parked Lorellis in the Badlands yesterday evening, after wrapping up my journey with Fiona, her ambitious paladins and the other members of her band (Fiona & the Paladins should be a real band). Outland is just a rough ten levels away, though I won’t mind staying in Azeroth until level 60. Questing in ex-Draenor is such a chore and I will probably need some strong support to make it through that part. But heck, as I said: music makes everything easier.
What do you say? Electric Six has a new album? Heh, this will be smooth sailing!
I blame one Blizzard game for not playing another Blizzard game more than I want to. Ironic how Blizzard is its own competition. Not that they care: I paid for both Reaper of Souls and a monthly subscription to World of Warcraft, so the guys in the financial department aren’t making sad faces as far as I know. Still, kicking all kinds of supernatural ass in Diablo 3 has kept me from my fabalicious Blood Elf, but there’s still some progress to report.
Monday evening I made the XP sprint to level 40, which is a nice milestone due to the fact my riding speed increases. Also, I finished one of the two Plaguelands, giving Lorellis some rest in Andorhal before moving to the other. While out there questing, I noticed two things about the quest design that came with Cataclysm: Blizzard made the quests either really serious in tone (though you miss most of that when you’re one of those guys who don’t read quest descriptions) or just plain silly (which you will also miss if you just follow the built-in GPS to the quest location). Personally, I don’t mind these two extremes, but I can understand when people say that questing feels like a fantasy comedy show with a dose of pop-cultural references. To me, that’s what makes the leveling process enjoyable. I’ve seen enough of WoW‘s attempts to be gritty, dark or even grimdark, and I feel like the game is suppossed to feel somewhat satirical. So, when a Forsaken researcher complains about the fact that the druids and paladins have been cleaning the Plaguelands too well, I get a smile on my face and happily help him with re-infecting the local population and wildlife.
So, here is my brave warrior at level 40, gathering some rested XP in the inn, waiting for me to make the push through the “old world” and into what used to be Draenor. Will he find spectacular looking armor in the demon-infested lands? Will my patience last me through the terrible quest design of Burning Crusade? You’ll read all about it right here!
Let me be honest with you: I think some of the best features of Reaper of Souls were already implemented before the expansion was released. Yes, having a new Act to plow through is great, and I’m sure the Adventure mode will be fun once I get to it, but the re-worked loot system and tweaked skills that came with the pre-patch really made the game interesting to me. You might make the assumption then that today’s release of Diablo 3‘s expansion didn’t thrill me much. Well, up until a few hours ago, I would have said “yes”, but then a Crusader came along and dragged me into a play mode I hadn’t explored yet.
The Crusader, Reaper of Soul‘s new class in shining armor, instantly fascinated me. Being a fan of the Paladin class in Diablo 2, seeing the Crusader brandishing shield and one-handed weapon, smiting foes with his righteous fury intrigued me, and so I was sure to roll one once the expansion hit. Well, as soon as I would have finished Act V on my Demon Hunter. And as soon as I got tired of playing the Adventure mode. Oh, and after I decked aforementioned Demon Hunter in all-new Legendaries, and…you see, the Crusader was pretty far down on my to-do list. Was.
Enter Hardcore mode. Since quite some of my friends have returned to Diablo 3, Hardcore mode is what they are all about. And who can blame them? Knowing you can just return from the dead makes Diablo 3 a harmless game of hacking trash monsters for loot to partake in some hamster-wheel progression (much as C.T. Murphy describes over here), but once you add the fear of dying permanently, losing your entire character, the game changes. Every pull becomes exciting, every engagement with an elite monster a blood-pumping thrill. Suddenly, you take more time to plan your skill loadout, to stock up on potions and to maybe, just maybe, don’t go all Leeroy Jenkins and pull a room full of monsters farting lava and burping laser beams. In short, blind genocide turns into strategic murder.
Wow, that came out wrong.
Anyway, what has the Crusader to do with Hardcore mode and vice-versa? Well, after getting bored progressing through the fifth Act alone (I don’t want to speed through it with groups yet), I decided to dive into Hardcore mode, a mode I had played fifteen minutes during the launch week of Diablo 3, picking the Crusader as my class. And boy, is it awesome! Sure, I’ve only cranked up the difficulty to Hard so far, but the Crusader is a fun class to play (wielding two-handed weapons in one hand? Sign me up!), and having the danger of seeing him truly die gives the game a whole new twist.
So, do I enjoy Reaper of Souls so far? Mwah, it’s okay. Do I have fun playing an already available mode with a class that is just damn fun to play? Oh yeah! I’m reaping souls, hardcore style, and I bet Malthael can learn a thing or two from my Crusader when it comes to mass murder.
Not sure if you know, but right now, WildStar’s very first Beta Weekend is happening! Of course you knew, unless you’ve been dodging MMO news for the last weeks. Being interested in the title myself, I pre-ordered to get access and have been exploring Nexus for the majority of the weekend. My opinion so far? Well, it’s much of the same stuff I’ve been doing for the past years in many other MMO’s, but in a shiny new coat!
I don’t want to drag this post too much, so here’s the deal: from these approximately ten hours of playing WildStar, I can gather that, at its core, it’s a schoolbook MMORPG. From the interface to the quest design to the two-faction divide, everything looks and feels like your run-of-the-mill online RPG. After I realized this about an hour in, I was disappointed, devastated even: had the forums and tweets of enthusiastic closed beta players lied to me? Was their opinion tainted by their blind fanaticism for this game? After recovering from this mild depression through a moment of self-reflection and the sudden realization that, quite frankly, this is just a game. What did I honestly expect?
Okay, so there’s nothing special about WildStar then? Wrong! It’s true, at its heart, WildStar feels and plays like a dozen other titles, but what sets it apart from its rivals is one major thing: presentation. Everything WildStar has, it presents right. From the almost Disney-like cartoon graphics, the fantastic music to the presentation of actual gameplay mechanics, WildStar excels at making it look and feel good. Combat is not just tab-targeting, it’s fast-paced action-packed fireworks in the style of Guild Wars 2. Classes are not your typical wizards and rogues, but gun-toting Spellslingers and psychic Espers. Everything about it feels like people took some real effort and time to think about it, which can’t be said about every MMORPG. So yeah, WildStar takes the same old, and puts it into a very sexy and enjoyable coat.
I could go on and on, almost copying the Mistress of Faffing’s post, but let me wrap up it up here: WildStar is a heck of fun, but if you’re looking for something mold-breaking and genre-defying, hang on to your dollars. If, however, you’re like me and don’t mind seeing something familiar in a new suit, then why don’t you join me and others in the next Beta Weekend? Just…just don’t roll a Chua. They scare me…