last Thursday, the 1-15 beta experience in WildStar had its NDA lifted for us schlubs in the press, allowing us to chatter on quite a bit about the game. We've seen articles discussing the early levels, we've seen streams, and we've been treated to a surfeit of information on the game in its current beta state.
I talked about all of that, and I want to talk about it some more because I am really excited about it. After playing the game through to 15, I've got a lot of stuff to look forward to as well as some definite criticisms. So above and beyond what I've already said, I want to talk some more about WildStar's beta.
One of the things I didn't mention at all in my Medic writeup was how the paths are coming together. That is... a touch weird, in places. But they're certainly fun in their design; I'll give them that.
Essentially, as you're walking around and doing as you do, you'll come across various path-related missions. When I was playing a Scientist, new missions popped up and offered me a chance to scan more of some entertaining style of plant, for example. Or I see a monster with a scientist icon by its head. You get the general idea. You summon your scanbot and start scanning away. Some of these things still provide a benefit after you've finished scanning them, like letting you swipe shields or something similar. Others are just scan-and-done.
The actual experience from these activities has been swapped over to Path XP, which essentially rewards you with more Path-related actions for doing Path-related stuff. This is a bit disappointing insofar as it means that you aren't gaining levels through your path, but it balances out for people who decide to neglect their path for a while. It still does mean that your actual content through leveling is going to be very similar regardless of your path; just the side stuff you do will be different.
On the flip side, all of these optional side ventures are actually fun. I've seen several spots on the map built up by Settlers (which I haven't actually played yet), and it turns otherwise abandoned areas into buff depots and much-needed vendors in the wilderness. Playing an Explorer felt like taking part in an ersatz version of Guild Wars 2's jumping puzzles, while playing Scientist meant trying to fill out my log book obsessively to see all of the neat stuff on display. These elements exist even without going this as a path route, but the bonus for paths is substantial enough that I was pleased.
The mechanical shift
Something I realized as I was playing around was kind of sobering, but also kind of wonderful: I'm not actually very good at the game yet.
If this sounds obvious, keep in mind that I have played a lot of MMOs at varying intensity levels. Most of them, let's be honest, require a similar skillset. If you've mastered tanking in Star Wars: The Old Republic, you're going to be able to pick up a max-level Paladin in Final Fantasy XIV and figure it out without enormous trouble. Sure, you won't be great, but you will have a reasonable idea of what you're supposed to be doing.
Several times in WildStar, though, I found myself getting hit harder because the skills I've practiced for several years are not necessarily relevant. Yes, I recognize several of the elements, but priorities are different. Movement and positioning wind up becoming a lot more relevant than sheer burn speed. Lots of things must be dodged, not to avoid damage but to simply survive. And it's not as simple as "double-tap to dodge" because some fights have more complicated evasive patterns to keep in mind. That dodge roll is great, but it will not save you from everything.
And it's great, really. While I'm in the midst of things I can find it frustrating, but after stepping back for a bit I realize that there are obvious things I'm overlooking that are majorly important. I remember one area that was giving me a lot of trouble until I really internalized the idea that there were environmental hazards around me and I needed to use those to make the fights easier.
And suddenly I wasn't just playing an MMO; I was in it. I wasn't blowing up robots; I was watching every scene in which the hero is outmatched by some huge horrible death droid, only to trick it into destroying itself through carelessness. That made any moments of frustration totally worth it. I was learning how to fight all over again, and I won not through gaining levels or gear but through smart play.
If it hasn't already been said, the presentation in this portion of the game is slick. If you told me I was playing a release build, I'd believe it, excepting a handful of placeholders and some balancing issues. This is a game that is very far along, and it shows.
Obviously, in wake of The Elder Scrolls Online's announced release date, the question becomes when we're going to see this game commercially available. To answer that, well, I don't know. I've seen people argue in favor of delaying it past the former's release date, I've seen people argue before, and there are no easy answers to be had.
Personally, based on the 1-15 experience, I'd think that we could see the game on shelves before too much longer, and I suspect the game will go for earlier release rather than later. It needs some optimization passes and a bit more time in the oven, but this is shaping up to be a really remarkable game overall. I'm excited about that.
Feedback is welcome via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below. Next week we're back on track for talking about the Aurin, and the week after that we're going to look at the year in review.
Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.