WildStar review

  • Best-of-genre combat
  • Fun, light-hearted tone
  • Deep crafting and housing
  • Brutal quest grind
  • Shallow storytelling
  • Generic environments and aged presentation

WildStar is a decidedly old-school MMORPG with one major twist: an action-packed combat system that'll leave your knuckles white and your forehead beading with sweat. The strategic and exciting fighting invigorates the whole game. PvP becomes rambunctious, chaotic fun; boss fights become chess matches in positioning and timing; even puny, standard monsters are self-imposed contests in killing efficiency. Sadly, the only thing that the glorious combat system can’t do is make Wildstar’s patience-breakingly long quest grind stay enjoyably the whole way through.

This space-quest takes players for a light-hearted romp through an oddball science fiction universe, and parodies a whole slew of tropes along the way. At the beginning you pick a side: Exile, a lovable group of renegades who have been ousted from their homes; or Dominion, the evil empire that did the ousting. They are competing for control of Nexus, an unfortunately-named planet that contains a multitude of ancient and valuable secrets.

But Wildstar's main attraction isn't the setting--it's the combat. By way of reticules, WildStar lets you see where each and every attack--yours, allies' and enemies'--will land before they actually strike, making for a tense and enrapturing experience.The best players can move their character to optimize every attack and strike multiple enemies at once. Before long, you’ll make every press of W, A, S, or D with strategic purpose, vying for the tactical upper hand and the momentum-turning dodge.

PvP insanity

WildStar’s PvP is freaking crazy. Targeting reticules fly everywhere. You’re dodging every single second. Your area-of-effect attacks can nuke entire groups of enemy players from a far. It’s chaotic, intense, challenging, fun, and accessible with a simple button click once you’re past level 10. There are tons of game types--capture the flag, domination, etc.--and several persistent offerings, too. Honestly, I would play a standalone game with nothing but WildStar PvP matches, thanks in no small part to that glorious combat system.

Amongst the huge cast of enemies, no matter whether you’re fighting overgrown space termites, ruthless mercenaries or robots six times your size, the combat feels alive. In a genre where battle often amounts to rote hotkey-sequence pushing, that’s a revelation. It’s the most satisfying combat I’ve experienced in an MMORPG. 

It’s helped by the Limited Action Set system, which forces you to equip only a handful of abilities at a time, even though you have a plethora to choose from overall. This makes mixing and matching abilities an interesting activity, almost like deck-building in a card game. New, powerful combinations are constantly discovered. For example, pairing my character’s immobilizing stun with a charged shot--which requires your character to stand still to reach its full damage potential--brought about rather effective results. Picking and choosing what you want to roll with is painful, but it’s the good, brain-tingling kind of pain.

The game’s visuals use a bright, cartoony aesthetic to reinforce the light-hearted tone, and boast an impressive draw distance, helping you feel the massive scale of Nexus’s zones. But I would hesitate to call any of the areas particularly original or inspiring. They often feel like parodies of MMORPG locales you’ve seen before. I did enjoy exploring each faction’s digs on the planet, which use some lovely visual storytelling: the Dominion’s towns are blood red and gothic, patrolled by hulking mechs. The Exile strongholds are heroic blue and endearingly weathered. This helps give your faction some personality and reinforces your role in the world’s conflict.

Your progression along the game’s leveling curve will happen, mostly, through quests--but nearly all of them are flimsy affairs, with no real narrative or emotional heft.  And that means they quickly become boring, almost indiscernible. It doesn’t help that there are very limited amounts of both cutscenes and voice acting. Instead, most of the storytelling is done through brief bits of text. Your character has no background, no emotions, no relationships to anyone. You’ll terraform land, pick strange glowing berries by super-leaping to the tops of trees, use lasers to turn placid creatures into ruthless predators, and much more--and all of it will have little impact on anything beyond your EXP total. 

More Info

Release date: Jun 03 2014 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: NCSoft
Developed by: Carbine Studios
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, Mild Blood
PEGI Rating:

Making the vanilla quests even more offensive is the fact that WildStar has one of the most brutal quest grinds in recent memory. Progress is <i>slow</i>. There are plenty of distractions, but you can’t avoid that at some point, you’re going to have to invest a significant portion of your life in getting your character to the level cap. With no motivation to do so other than pure joy of watching your level increase, it’s easy to get burned out rather quickly.

But there are occasional moments where the game’s quirky sense of humor takes center stage, providing a welcome reprieve from the grind. For example, my character once found herself embroiled in the inner workings of the Protostar Corporation, an evil affiliate of the Dominion, carrying out tasks like slaughtering failed clone-pigs and firing underperforming employees. It was a memorable and incisive bit of social commentary that served to illustrate just how enjoyable WildStar could be with a bit more attention given to storytelling.

Fortunately, the other systems that the game provides are both deep and rewarding. First and foremost is the Path system, which is a bit like an alternative leveling curve. Players choose from four paths: Explorer, Soldier, Settler and Scientist, each with their own form of progression. Settlers build bonus-granting stations for all to use. Explorers make their way to hard-to-reach landmarks (often using the game’s inspired double jump mechanic), and so on. Increasing your path level grants useful abilities, and more importantly, provides a nice break from the experience grind.

Second is the housing system. Players gain access to their instanced housing plot at level 15. From there, you can spend hours placing different things in and around your house, from decorative items to functional stuff like harvestable resource nodes. You can even customize the sky and lighting that you see. It’s a polished outlet for player creativity, with only a slightly irritating UI, and tangible rewards in the form of bonuses granted by your various furnishings and decorations.

Finally, crafting goes well beyond the “get your ingredients and press OK” style of many MMORPGs. You can customize your creations with the statistics of your choosing by using different materials in addition to the required ingredients.  That leads to a lot of enjoyable tinkering, seeing what benefits you can squeeze out of each item. Overall, it’s much more involved and interesting than what’s offered elsewhere.

Because the combat is so polished, so simultaneously strategic and action packed, WildStar can be an addictive and engrossing experience. It’s a shame that there isn’t more substance to supplement the action, to help the brightly-colored world become alive and meaningful instead of being simply eye candy. Perhaps it is only because the combat shines so brightly that the rest of the game seems so dull, but that’s no excuse. Come for the combat, stay for the combat, but don’t surprised if it can’t carry you all the way through to the end.

WildStar’s combat is among the best you’ll find in an MMORPG, but its world-building, presentation and narrative are lacking.

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  • Xelibri - July 12, 2014 5:39 a.m.

    Never again write conclusions about an MMORPG game untill you've reached max level and played on it for a while... There are some awful grind quests in this game but after going from lvl 1 to lvl 50 I've encoutered exactly 3 of them, one of which was my fault because I didn't gather all the quests from the area and had to go back to kill mobs.But the quests in general do not leave you feeling that you are pointlessly grinding, but that is if you read the quest text. If you don't care about the lore then any MMO will be a grind to you, no matter what kind of trickery the quests are. And there goes the second point you've got wrong in my opinion and that is the lore. It is absolutely awesome, it may not be J.R.R. Tolkien level of writing or G. R. R. Martin level of intrigue, but it's far superior to what WoW had to offer. Not only that at level 35 if I remember correctly you get to enter world story instances designed for single player that are filled with story instead of action. And the last point is that the first environments are truly generic, as it is with almost every game, but the further you get in the more intricate they become, and that's why you don't write conclusions on an MMO before you get to the endgame...
  • Cruddi - June 14, 2014 12:03 p.m.

    I'm grabbing my copy on Monday, I have been waiting for a bit because I dove right into elder scrolls and I feel that game was very bland not just in it's colour pallet. Because of my job I am not that active... when I get a few hours spare I do pound the hell out of it but most guilds won't touch me because of that fact, because of this I could not PVE as much as I liked. But by the sounds of this one I can join a PvE server (which I will) and play with more like minded players and get my PvE on! CANNOT WAIT to pound the Exiles into mulch for my garden
  • Bubbaduke - June 4, 2014 2:24 p.m.

    Really enjoying this game so far. I'm only level 9, and I already feel like I'm experiencing some pretty intense combat. Eagerly looking forward to dungeons and PvP.
  • Sakura-Sandra - June 2, 2014 2:44 a.m.

    It's just my first impression since I have only been able to play for a couple days so far, but I definitely think it's the next big MMO. I've played more MMORPGs than I can count so perhaps I'm just biased for the genre, but I am loving it. I really appreciate the path system combined with the class system to give you a few options for playstyle as you progress through the game. The path system offers you a way to play that suits your style (soldier path for those who love to kill things and explorer path for those who like to find hidden areas for instance). I've started 8 characters to get a feel for the different options and figure out what kind of character I really want to be, so I have a good grasp of the basics by now. I love the playstyle, because you can choose your class based upon what kind of fighting you want to do. I do not feel like playing a button-masher so I am steering clear of the warrior and the spellslinger for now, but I really like my esper for some unique hybrid options as I level her. My favorite aspect of the game so far would have to be the movement style (double jumps as well as special items/areas that allow you to jump so high you're flying. It reminds me of the old Crash Bandicoot games in that sense and I do love to jump around hehe. Oh and for my personal playstyle I really love the explorer path. Pretty much every RPG has inspired the urge to explore, but this game truly rewards you for it and caters to that kind of player in more than just an easter egg or hidden treasure kind-of-way. The explorer path opens up new quests in every zone for someone with just my sensibilities. It's so fun to be shrunken down to explore a hidden cave or find a way to open up a glowing path in the sky or to weave your way through the tree vines and up to the very top. These are the kinds of things I would do anyway, just to find a useless deadend that the programmers created for fun. Now that secret path actually has a purpose if you choose explorer. They also have a skill tree kind of thing (always loved that setup in the old Final Fantasy games) so every character you level can be unique even if you choose the same exact race/class/path combo. I love that sort of flexibility that allows me to play how I want to and allows me to change the way my class works later if I realize I need different abilities for pvp or something. The humor and cartoon style kinda lean Sam and Max for any fans of that old series (though nothing will ever truly compare to Sam and Max, Wildstar is the only MMO I've ever played that had even a little bit of that flavor). <3 I'm really looking forward to customizing my house and getting mounts later. That always adds more fun to any game. Wildstar looks like they really outdid themselves in those areas as well and I haven't even got to that stuff yet! I've been busy having fun creating characters and figuring everything out. Now I think I have a character I want to level as a main and I can get into the meat of all that soon! Anyway, just wanted to share my initial impressions since there isn't much to go on yet for those considering the game! It's awesome, I love it. Oh and P.S. (for anyone wondering about the negative feedback regarding the early release pre-launch, just know that the people who are struggling to get into their servers are people who played from the beta and already have a chosen server which might unfortunately be full now or others who are looking to play on a specific server for some reason, or people in EU who have less servers to choose from - if you want to buy this game and are worried you won't be able to play: don't. You can choose a server with a medium population if you're in NA and not trying to pick a specific one with your buddies or something. I've been playing all weekend now and every time I logged in I had 0 wait times, no queue and I was able to see the list of servers with several medium population options every time.)
  • james-white - May 14, 2014 3:22 a.m.

    Personally I'm loving WildStar, though I'm strange in that I prefer traditional questing to levelling in games like GW2 (events were great, but I'd prefer to have proper quests as well to make levelling smoother as there aren't enough Hearts). This game certainly gets much better after Level 15, and its dungeons are insane - though I can see why people are complaining. None of this stuff comes in until later and, for some, the game can make a poor first impression. Also, when you get to Level 14, I think, you unlock a min-dungeon called a Shiphand Mission which is a lot of fun. I'd recommend giving the game more of a chance, but I certainly think it was a mistake on Carbine's part, not making the beginning of the game more engaging. I should point out a big mistake in the article, by the way. It's only the first two zones in the game where you travel by talking to an NPC. You can walk between every other zone in the game with no loading whatsoever, like in WoW. Think of the first two starting zones as beign like the Wandering Isle, Lost Isle or Gilneas in WoW (though you can revisit Gilneas).
  • Frieza - May 13, 2014 2:34 p.m.

    I managed to get my hands on a Beta key a few weeks ago, and was super excited to play the game. I've been looking forward to this game for a year, and I had high hopes that it would be the next big MMO. The art style looked good, the combat looked good, the lore looked good... Sounds like a recipe for success, right? Wrong. It was one of the most boring video game experiences I had in a LONG time. Playing WildStar was one of the first, if not THE first game that made me feel like I was wasting time. I mean, I know I've wasted time on video games before, and one could argue that video games are a waste of time in and of themselves, but I don't remember actually FEELING like I was wasting my time. I felt a deep sense of regret for every minute I spent playing that game. Hell, in a WildStar live stream I watched the day after I tried the game out, the chat and I started talking about makeup tips. The game was so boring that a group of grown men were talking about putting makeup on one another. And to think I skipped out on a weekend of homework for that... I know it's just the Beta, but I seriously doubt that the game will change enough for me to change my mind. The game failed to make me care what was going on, and failed to immerse me in the story and the world. It felt soulless. They just didn't put the effort to make me care about the quests or the characters. So the combat is well done. Good for them. The graphics look nice. Give 'em a round of applause. But if you fail to make me care, then I wont be interested in your game. Sorry! There's going to be people who disagree with me (like always), but what I'm trying to say is that an MMORPG's ability to immerse its players in its story, quest, and world is very important. If the game doesn't make me care, then it doesn't matter how the game plays or looks. The game is going to bore me, simple as that.
  • Temperance11 - May 13, 2014 7:41 a.m.

    I played the Open Beta, honestly wasn't all that impressed. First impression is it felt like every other MMO I've ever played with one minor tweak in the combat (i.e. the AoE indicators). The art and style of the game is what sold me initially, it's a shame the gameplay doesn't follow suit.
  • Draaz - May 12, 2014 10:10 p.m.

    I'm thinking bout a year before it goes ftp and that's not a fail I'm sure it was the plan all along the devs need to recuperate the costs and then go for more players to try and attract the whales it's just good buisness best of luck to you I will try it but I don't pay sub fee's for anything but ps plus
  • Shyplay - May 12, 2014 2:13 p.m.

    I was looking forward to Wildstar, and when I finally got a beta weekend key I was disappointed to find that it didn't work. I was again disappointed two weeks later when I got one that worked and found immense amounts of lag. I will consider playing after the lag is fixed, but until then I will be playing other things.
  • Kaldor - May 12, 2014 9:39 p.m.

    You Do realize a BETA is there to test the game not to be a DEMO of the final product. Of coarse the BETA with have issues, it's a FUCKING BETA!
  • Balaska - May 12, 2014 10:51 p.m.

    Open betas tend to be demos. Wild Star is due for release 6/6/14, the open beta was a server stress test, so Shyplay is right. Personally I had no lag on the beta, what I did suffer from was boredom.
  • Robotzh8teme - May 12, 2014 11:46 p.m.

    Open Beta does tend to give one an idea of what game play will be like, however it is still A BETA. There will be bugs. Aside from that, I played in every Beta Weened, Beta bonus weekend and now the Open Beta... while there have been some light lag issues the OP reported, the game was very playable. The lag lasted all of about an hour or two (on my end) and I have a seriously outdated computer. Graphics settings were turned down and the minor problems went away. The first area, while may have seemed boring, is there like a tutorial. The first 10-12 levels (which go by so fast) are pretty easy... but if you go looking for trouble beyond that, it gets a lot more difficult and is anything but boring.
  • Shyplay - May 13, 2014 7:15 a.m.

    I will keep that in mind, and maybe I will try it again. Thank you all for responding.
  • Talvari - May 12, 2014 12:50 p.m.

    The tutorial for this game is dreadful ._. Generic plot opening (go figure for an MMO lol) with little context to get your character into the game and a gigantic amount of information thrown at you within the first 30 minutes of playing. That combined with a fairly messy map made the tutorial area leave a really bad taste in my mouth :/ I'm only level 12 so far in the beta but i haven't really experienced anything to make me want to play it as my next MMO. I'm currently waiting for 2.3 patch for FF14:ARR to hopefully spice things up there a bit more and was hoping this would be a good distraction but thus far nothing's really wowing me about the game. Going to continue playing over the next few days and try to get into the mid 20s before the alpha closes but I'm finding it tough since all i'm getting right now are super generic quests that i don't even feel the need to read as it's basically a case of been there done that... Also while i like the combat in general, a lot of the animations for Warriors don't really feel that fluid to me and feels a little floaty which is kinda off-putting and gives less feelings of satisfaction for me, but maybe i'll warm up to it.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - May 12, 2014 1:18 p.m.

    Yeah, I'm feeling the same. I REALLY love the combat here (played a warrior as well). Dungeons, in particular, are what really sold me on the group play. Super intense, very very fun. The rest is pretty whatever so far.
  • Talvari - May 12, 2014 1:49 p.m.

    I've heard some god stuff about the dungeons so i'm pretty excited to get into that. Haven't tried PvP either so there's that to potentially look forward to as well...Suppose I should reserve a lot of my thoughts about the game until i've spent more than 8 hours on it :P But first impressions are also important so hey, dungeons tomorrow maybe, Hype!