Back on the old Massively-That-Was, we used to feature a sporadic series called “Why I Play.” The idea was for each of the writers to share why he or she enjoyed playing an MMO, past or present. To discuss what was it about that game that appealed so strongly. To recount past favorite moments.
For my second turn at bat here with Nexus Telegraph, I wanted to do my own reprise of Why I Play, only with this particular title. I feel its slightly scandelous to state before the MMO community that you like WildStar these days, especially following all of the drama, fallout, and shaky state of the game from this past year. After all, isn’t this just a hardcore-fest that bombed and deserves to be buried in the desert outside of Area 51?
As rough as a year as it’s been, I still contend that there’s a terrific game here that was crafted with artistry and fun in mind and has the potential for a bright future. It’s a title I log into daily, eager to see where the next stage of my journey takes me. Why I play WildStar might not jibe with the bullet features on the back of the box, but I think that what I have to say speaks to the title’s true strengths. Here we go!
There are game worlds and then there are game worlds. Some are painfully generic and lackluster. Some are patchwork creations of ideas that don’t fully mesh with each other. And some, like Nexus, are well-conceived and crafted.
From the first screenshots that I saw back when WildStar was announced, I knew that I wanted to comb over this virtual world. It had a visual style that I dug, but more than that it wasn’t the same, old trip down fantasy lane. Nexus is the wild west frontier with an element of ancient ruins, retro sci-fi themes, and galactic politics in one exciting package. Every zone I’ve traversed so far has been memorable and brimming with its own personality, full of secret niches and stunning sights.
It’s just not a boring place to adventure, and the fact that there is a world-spanning story that starts to come into play in your higher levels only adds to the desire to want to see it all.
2. The housing. Oh the housing.
I know that gushing about WildStar’s housing has been done oh so many times before, but it seriously deserves all the praise it gets. This is about as perfect a system that I’ve seen in MMOs, save for slightly annoying placement controls. Giving players not only a tract of land to decorate but use in a real, functional way makes housing an intregal part of my gaming sessions instead of a place that I occasionally visit as if it was a long-forgotten relative.
While we’re supposed to be looking to PvP or raiding as the big endgame activities, I already know that housing will be the goal I’ll forever be chasing. I begin every login session running Thayd challenges to get more housing items and end every session heading up to my plot for mining, farming, and even more decorating. This is the slice of game that’s wholly mine, and I think nothing of spending an hour customizing my home while chatting with the folks in the housing channel.
Carbine’s done a terrific job continually improving the housing element of the game, with more features, decor, and size limits. I hope that this continues to be a priority for the team, because it’s one of WildStar’s greatest assets.
It might be weird to say this, but I’m in love with melting pot of races in this game. Nexus features many sentient species, some native and some transplanted, and most all of them are fully realized with customs, speech patterns, attitudes, and goals. Seriously, in so many MMOs I can’t be bothered to pay attention to the NPC races, partially because they’re forgettable and partially because I know that when I leave an area, I’ll probably never see them again.
WildStar’s alien line-up is really the game’s cast of characters, each playing a part on the grand stage of the planet (and beyond). There are the eight player races, of course, but even more outside of the character creation screen, including the adorkable Lopp, the Protostar clones, the uber-sincere Freebots, the brain-sucking Squirgs, and the Amazonian Torine. They’re often ridiculous and silly (Freebot cowboys?) but pay attention and you’ll see deeper motives, darker decisions, and greater virtues emerge.
Playing WildStar is like hanging out in Star Wars’ Mos Eisley cantina… forever. Why wouldn’t I want to be here?
4. There’s a good feel to it
The feel of a game — how it looks, handles, animates, and responds to controls — is a hard thing to define (and plenty subjective too). I just know that some games fight against me to play them and some fit like a glove.
While I’ve never been the biggest fan of action combat, I have to admit that WildStar is pretty engaging with its fights. The weapons have good oomph to them, enemies react to being hit, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on in a fight, and having loot explode at every victory makes for a good time. Even better are how the characters move, emote, and traverse the landscape. The entirety of Nexus is my personal hoverboard skate park, and you will usually find me thrashing and grinding my way across the landscape. Double-jumping? One of the best things ever, in my opinion.
WildStar’s become the gold standard that I’ve unconsciously been comparing other titles to when it comes to how I wish those characters would move and handle.
5. And eight other things
A quick list of other reasons why I play WildStar? OK, I can do that. The soundtrack is — and I employ no hyperbole here — one of the best video game scores I’ve ever heard. I really dig doing challenges and shooting for those rewards. The discovered lore more often than not is quite well-written and can be chilling and hilarious in turns. I get to play out my space cowboy fantasies. Neat cutscenes that help to tie the narrative together. Every Lopp quote ever. The crafting system is kind of neat once you get into it. Character costumes — shared across one’s entire account — are so much fun to create and customize.
Even with a shift of business model and downplaying the “HARDCORRRRRE” attitude that WildStar adopted upon launch, this will never be a game for everyone. It could just come down to what clicks with you and what doesn’t. WildStar clicks, hard, for me. There are a lot of avenues for improvement, to be sure, but this is a game that appeals to my playstyle, my sense of humor, and my desire to create as much as destroy.
So that are some, but not all, of the reasons why I play WildStar. What are yours?