An exiled spacefarer has discovered a lost planet. A planet of legend, once home to a powerful race known as the Eldan. With excitement and exotic technology beckoning them from across the stars, other Exiles have traveled to this planet, Nexus, with the intent of building a new home.
But the Exiles aren’t the only ones with their eyes set on the tall mountains and lush forests of this exotic world. The people of the Dominion, an interstellar empire founded by the Eldan generations ago, believe the planet is theirs to claim.
So begins the battle for Nexus. The galactic stage for the upcoming MMO WildStar.
Developed by Carbine Studios — a team with roots in World of Warcraft, Everquest, and City of Heroes — WildStar is spinning up its engines and preparing for a launch sometime this year. Carbine is finally ready to start talking details after going dark for a long while following WildStar’s debut in 2011.
“This is the first step of emerging from our hidden volcano lair,” explained WildStar Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney. Gaffney and his team want to make “the next big MMO.” A lofty goal, but an attainable one — if early areas of Nexus are any indication.
It’s a big, colorful world. The team is striving for the same strong shapes and memorable characters Pixar employs in its work. The Exile and Dominion trailers are proof enough that Carbine is headed in the right direction.
WildStar is governed by several important design philosophies. Chief among them: play the way you want to play. It may sound obvious, but Carbine believes that MMOs have probably failed you before. Maybe, Gaffney mused, getting to the end of an MMO sucked. Or maybe arriving at the actual end sucked. Either way, Carbine plans to protect you from these pitfalls by giving you a “big, frickin, interesting world” to level in, and free-form combat designed with flexibility in mind.
Choose Your Path
WildStar provides more play style variety than the standard selection of races, classes, and factions (but it has those, too). Carbine has built a path system to give you even more control over your time on Nexus. During character creation you can select one of four paths: settler, scientist, soldier, or explorer.
Paths reward you for playing in a certain way. As a soldier you receive bonuses for killing critters and you can activate large group battles for other players in the zone. Alternatively, an explorer receives rewards for uncovering different areas in each zone and can access things like underground tunnel networks that make zone traversal much faster.
Each path grants you special abilities, and each opens up specific quest types unique to that path. So not only can you select a faction, race, and class, but your path will fine tune that experience to suit your gaming preferences. It enables specific types of play outside of standard class progression, and caters to certain types of players — like those that favor combat, exploration, or even lore.
To date Carbine has revealed three races belonging to each faction. Humans can be selected for both Exile and Dominion players, as Carbine wanted newcomers to have a “safe choice” regardless of faction selection.
Rounding out the Dominion races are the Mechari and the Draken. Fierce and fearless, the Draken are the warrior backbone of the Dominion’s star-sprawling empire. They hunger for battle and are fueled by the desire to conquer challenges of strength and skill.
The Mechari, created by the Eldan themselves, serve as the Dominion’s intelligence agents and stewards. Cold and calculating, the Mechari are completely committed to the wellbeing of the Dominion.
The Exiles also have humans fighting for their cause, though these humans are a scrappier, more rugged sort than their Dominion counterparts. The Aurin, with fluffy ears and fluffier tails, represent the nature-loving members of the Exiles, driven from their home world after the Dominion ravaged it for resources. Then we have the Granok, who support the rest of the exiled peoples on shoulders of stone. Strong of body, the Granok have “more boulders than brains,” but their hearts are in the right place. They also enjoy drinking beer.
Every MMO needs a diverse set of classes. So far WildStar has this covered with the warrior, stalker, and spellslinger (Carbine has other classes still in development).
The warrior, as you might expect, handles up-close-and-personal combat, wielding massive melee weapons and close-range skills. The stalker fills the role of assassin in WildStar with a variety of stealth techniques that allow you to approach enemies unseen. This class uses dual claws to tear into unsuspecting victims.
And then you have the spellslinger — a wizard with guns — that unleashes storms of magic with a pair of pistols. You can build the spellslinger to focus on one target or tackle a larger group of creatures. Or a little of both.
So far the class-based skills in WildStar feel simple, perhaps overly so, but this is within the context of a few hours of play. Much more remains hidden in Carbine’s secret volcano lair.
Down and Dirty
The planet Nexus boasts a variety of zones, but Carbine only opened up one for show. Grassy plains, trees, rivers, and hills fill the savanna of Deradune, making the zone a pleasure to explore. The Draken have built a home here, charming in its simplicity. The walls of the village encase piles of skulls to honor the dead and celebrate the warriors that put them there. Because of the Draken presence in Deradune the wilds surrounding the village are especially dangerous, as the Draken drop containers filled with powerful monsters to better challenge their warriors in battle.
When it comes to battle, WildStar is fast and physical. Every ability creates a visual “telegraph” that highlights the area of the ground about to be affected by the skill. These include offensives skills and defensive ones used by you and your party.
These telegraphs force you to stay active when engaged in a fight and dance around enemy attacks while also keeping your own skills on target. More importantly, the visual cues function as an additional method of communication for parties. About to unleash a powerful healing ability? Lay down a telegraph so your fellow adventurers can run in and snag a health boost.
Carbine has a lot more planned for WildStar this year. Many aspects of play, including the elaborate housing system, still wait in the shadows for a chance at the spotlight. But WildStar already boasts incredible potential. Its mix of science-fiction, bombastic color, and unique zone design promise to win over an MMO crowd hungry for something new.
WildStar will launch “when it’s ready,” but hopefully that means by the end of this year.