The Nexus Telegraph: Is WildStar a World of Warcraft clone?

Eliot Lefebvre
E. Lefebvre|04.07.14

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The Nexus Telegraph: Is WildStar a World of Warcraft clone?
This isn't a metaphor.  Metaphors are subtle.

That was quick, so we can all -- oh, wait, no, I need to write more. Also saying we can all go home is pointless; most of you are reading this from home. All right, we'll start over. This is one of those things that gets trotted out every time a new game comes along, and in WildStar's case it comes out twice as regularly, since it's the first game in history to use colorful and stylized graphics other than World of Warcraft, except that it isn't.

It's kind of ridiculous, and it's a bit of a pet peeve. As someone who has played World of Warcraft extensively, I find the list of similarities between the two pretty shallow, and it comes across more as a way of dismissing the game without bothering to learn about it. So let's talk about where WildStar does take its cues from Blizzard's game, where they differ, and why saying it's just a clone is absurd.

Both games do like to put eyes and mouths on things that don't normally have eyes or mouths, but so does The Secret World.Let's start with the similarities. WildStar shares stylized graphics with World of Warcraft, although the style is quite different; entire articles could be written on that, but the point here is that they both use models not meant to conform to realistic proportions. Both games feature quests. World of Warcraft has taken to using telegraphs on enemy attacks, much like WildStar. In both games you're using equipment to improve over time, using a class-based leveling schematic. The trinity structure is in both. They're both two-factions game, and both seem to have an unhealthy obsession with the idea that raiding is the best thing you can do and is where all of the best rewards should be held, a modern take on the idea that only kings may rule.

And... that's about it.

Even those similarities are pretty strained connections. Yes, both games feature quests. World of Warcraft has retained the same basic questing format for its entire existence, however, which consists of someone standing in place until you arrive. Once you have done so, he or she will offer a couple paragraphs explaining what you need to kill and why. WildStar, meanwhile, gives you a tweet's worth of information (with more elaboration if you ask), and half the time doesn't even offer you the quest until someone calls in to talk to you once you're in the area. Going back to questgivers is rarely a thing until you've finished the whole flow of a region.

Is one of these better than the other? Well, WildStar's model evokes memories of City of Heroes cell phone contacts, which is objectively always better. But both models work perfectly fine; they're focused on doing two different things. One is slower, one is faster-paced, one is more about leaving and returning, one is focused on moving forward for most of your experience.

Then there's the actual gameplay, which is going to be familiar only in the broadest strokes to someone who's played WoW. You have a bar with abilities, but it's a short bar that you can't expand. Leveling up means more points to sink into those abilities -- points that you can re-allocate at any time. The AMP system is a far cry from WoW's current talent trees, freeform aiming is a completely different beast from everything other than a handful of AoEs, and the very mechanics are made different through the split use of health and shields.

You can ride on lots of stuff that seems strange, but you can do that everywhere.That's not getting into the crafting or the path systems or the the stat system or... you get the idea. There are way more points of disconnection than anything.

At points, the game does certainly evoke the feel of WoW in its earlier days -- the sense of strangeness taken with a straight face, a sort of winking humor combined with a love of the absurd. But speaking as someone who's played both games extensively (albeit WildStar less, both due to time and because I don't want beta burnout), I saw only comparisons that you can illustrate with broad strokes. It's a WoW clone in the same way that Star Trek Online or The Elder Scrolls Online or Guild Wars 2 are WoW clones, which is to say that it isn't at all.

Does it borrow bits of the language from World of Warcraft? Of course it does; it'd be silly not to. But it's not the first game to make use of intentionally stylized graphics after WoW's launch or the first to use a questing model. It's not trying to reinvent the wheel.

So why does the comparison persist? Because at a glance, yes, it has stylized graphics and questing and two factions, and sure, that's an easy thing to say. There's no need to actually learn about the game or understand what it's doing; it's easiest to just say that it's another game trying to be WoW whether it is or isn't. You can boil it down to a catch phrase -- that makes life easy.

I may not have liked The Elder Scrolls Online, but I volunteered to play it in beta when I had the opportunity. Without giving it some time, I wouldn't have had any sense of what the game actually was. Calling it by a catchphrase and writing it off then and there would have made my life a lot easier, but it would have been an opinion formed upon nothing.

Do I think that everyone's going to like WildStar? Heck no. Some people don't like questing on a very fundamental level. Some people are going to be turned off by stylized graphics in any form. There are players who are going to find the whole action set building to be awkward or find the classes unengaging or dislike the races or the lore or the atmosphere or whatever. I can think of many reasons why people might dislike the game, and that's fine.

But writing it off as a World of Warcraft clone is silly because it isn't.

Feedback, as always, can be left in the comments below or mailed along to Next time, I'm going to be talking about what I've seen at PAX East and points related. If you're going to be there and want to give a wave, by all means, let me know!

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 other Monday, 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.
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