I know, I know… that’s not the nicest title ever, but seriously? The first time I saw the trailer announcing WildStar, my eyes rolled so hard they nearly popped right out of my head. A stilleto’d, boobalicious, valley-girl-hippy bunny girl was paired with a behemoth, burping, he-man rock man and a rough-riding, snark-talking, steam-punk cowboy. Talk about stereotypically sexist character designs and don’t even get me started on the boob-torpedoes on the spaceship’s pinup nose art *eyeroll* (see, there it goes again, its an involuntary reaction I swear). Despite all that, I decided to go check out their demo at PAX (I’m a big MMO junkie so I’m always on the lookout for good ones) and I actually got to talk to one of the devs and he managed to spark my interest in it quite a bit.
The major seller to me is the way he described the lore of the game’s universe as a mixture between Firefly and Babylon 5. Those are definitely two of my favorite sci-fi shows and the dev (who seemed rather surprised that I even knew what Babylon 5 was) had me hooked as soon as he mentioned that those were their main influences for the storyline. The lore goes that there was an ancient, highly advanced alien society that has completely dissapeared from the known galaxy, leaving behind only their mysterious homeworld from which no adventurers have ever returned (aka the Vorlon and Shadows from B5). The younger races are divided into two factions, much like the Alliance and the Brown Coats from Firefly, and both are racing to understand the techonology of these mysterious ancients. The idea of a space western MMORPG set on an epic backdrop is honestly very appealing, especially if they’re pulling themes from those two great shows.
The story for this game has definitely got the possibility of being very deep and very epic, which is something I always appreciate as a lore buff (guess that means I should play a Scientist in the game).
The gameplay, too, seems rather intriguing with innovations in both character progression and action-oriented combat. The combat style is a nice mixture between the more action-y styles of Tera and its ilk and the classic WoW-style abilities. When a mob attacks you, you can attempt to dodge out of the way and if you can successfully dodge their attacks and land yours for long enough, then your character gets a damage and xp bonus. Its really fun and engaging once you get the hang of it and keeps the combat enjoyable (instead of zoning out during battles like you can do in other games once you get your rotation down). In addition to that, WildStar has both typical classes (with sci-fi-ish names, of course) and what they’re calling character ‘paths’. These paths, Soldier, Explorer, Scientist, and Settler, which mirror the four Bartle categories of gamer play styles are chosen along with class to determine the way your character will interact with the world. The Soldier is very combat oriented, the Explorer is responsible for searching the land, Scientists focus on researching lore, and Settlers build towns and farms. Each path opens up its own quest and progression lines, making a playthrough as a Warrior Soldier different from a Warrior Explorer or a Warrior Scientist. The devs are promising that this will be an MMO with unprecedented depth to the story and gameplay and its definitely shaping up to be that way.
The combat is very entertaining and boss fights are pretty frequent.
The only hesitation I have with WildStar right now is their choices around character design. They only have three race/classes announced right now with really only the three specific people from the trailer and demo as the examples. The dev I talked to assured me that the rock and bunny people come in both genders as do the humans, but whether or not there will be lots of sexual dimorphism is yet to be seen. There will be some serious *headdesk*ing going on if it turns out the bunny women are modled after dainty playboy bunnies and the men are steroidal hares with a massive macho-man complex. There will also more than likely be several other races (and perhaps a whole other faction’s worth too, as it wasnt specified if races are cross-faction or faction specific). Going off of the dev’s (somewhat misguided) assurances, they included the bunny girl in the trailer “because they had to have a girl” and “they wanted the cutest, anime-est one possible”. I’m assuming they threw us this oh-so-generous bone because its what they assume all gamers, be they women or men, go for in female characters *eyeroll* (whoops, there it goes again).
Why is it that games always take 'cartoonish art style' as an excuse to go overboard with itty bitty waists and a round big in your face chest?
Like many games, I’m going to have to look past the marketing to see if they’re selling themselve short by following the ‘sex sells’ mantra. I’m hoping that the bunny girl is just one in a variation of female character types in the game (’cause there’s nothing wrong with stilletos or supersaturated cuteness, unless its the only thing offered up as what women could or should be) and I’m even hoping that maybe some of this character design is shown to be a tounge-in-cheek portaryl poking fun at the over-the-top sexualization of women that’s so entrenched in gamer cultuer. I’m not going to hold my breath on either account, of course, because I’ve been dissapointed one too many times in those regards. This is definitely a game to keep an eye on though. It’s gameplay feels very strong, even at such an early development stage and the character paths seems like a very promising innovation.