We always feel that MMOs are difficult to review in a single article, and Wildstar is even larger than most. To give a broader sense of what playing it is like, we asked Philippa Warr to venture inside and report back in three parts (part one, part two). Part three covers player housing, long-term roleplay and the subscription fee.
There is a giant monstrous snail guarding the entrance to my space house. The house has a doormat made from bread. From that you can surmise that I've been experimenting with the decorating and cosmetic functions in Wildstar.
Early in the game you purchase a plot of land which hovers in the sky from a literal corporate clone. The land has a number of empty sockets wherein you can plug your home itself, plus various buildings, puzzles and structures to augment the area. They can also provide rewards and benefits in the form of items.
I went with the Cosy Draken House for my dwelling because it looks like a woolly mammoth pretending to be a house and with a big hump on the top for no good reason. The hump is currently augmented with a Spire of Doom but I'll eventually get rid of it. This is because the Spire of Doom doesn't really go with the Gaping Maw (a fanged mouth I would like instead of a traditional door) or the Vicious Creature porch which would then lead into the Gaping Maw. Unfortunately progress has stalled on this front because I need to pay for it using Renown. Renown is the game's social currency which shows up as green hexagons marked with a claw (or maybe a crown).
I will need tens of thousands of claw hexagons and must earn them through group tasks. Presumably the philosophy behind this system is that the more you play with others, the more you'll need an impressive house in case you need to show off to any of them. (Side note: it would be great if there was a back door which followed the same biological logic as the Gaping Maw, thus enabling me to ask friends who have overstayed their welcome leave via the Moon Door. The Moon Door would be a butt, in case this was too subtle).
For the surrounding sockets I have a jumping puzzle which gives me rewards for completing it within a certain time, a crafting bench where I can create items, a garden for growing plants and a couple of empty spaces I'm saving for future use. Decor for the space comes via item drops, purchases and my tradeskill: architecture. As an architect you'll need a lot of crafting resources but you can create fuel cans, fences, trees using basic recipes. By adding some hardware bits and pieces to the basic recipes you can find more interesting objects. A bit of experimentation turned what was going to be a sack of golden wheat into unburnt toast. That's what I plopped down in front of my door and enlarged to doormat size. Eventually I want it to look like my monster house is enjoying a nice breakfast.
This, clearly, is the part of the game where I start setting my own goals (hello, befanged breakfast monster house!) and start dipping in and out of quests. I'm far more interested in PvP and leveling up through that side of things or via dungeons, satisfied to dip in and out of the world storylines as I wait for parties to form.
The combat system - the telegraphed attacks and abilities which build and scale when you chain them correctly - is the primary reason I keep coming back to the game. The capture the flag game of Walatiki Temple particularly, as it's the right length for a break between writing articles. The customisation elements have also caught my imagination, although the resources and in-game finances required mean it's a far slower endeavour. Good for building relationships, though. I have a friend in the game whose tradeskill is as a tailor. He made me a cool set of clothes which I use as a costume so as not to lose the stats of my armour. In return I sent him a set of vintage beer mugs for his sky house.
At this point, Graham (you know the guy, beard, Scottish, managing editor of RPS - that guy) asked "Do you feel like you're roleplaying in a meaningful way? Do you know who your character is? Have they developed in ways that make you feel connected to them?" He also asked a question about cheesecake but that's probably less relevant.
It's an interesting point. Honestly, I'm probably not roleplaying her at this point. She's not a distinct entity from me and I've spent my time tinkering with her build to bring her closer to being a cipher for my own presence in the game. To put it another way, I'm adapting who she is to fit me, rather than the other way around. It's the opposite of what happened in the Mass Effect series. In those games my Commander Shepard made decisions I never would have because they fit the character I wanted her to be. By the end I was kind of hero-worshipping her, playing and thinking, "Man, I wish I was half this cool and decisive".
Cassielle, my main, has a backstory of sorts which I built when creating the character, but it's not a particularly in-depth one. She's part of the Dominion faction because I was fed up with playing as an underdog. She's an Esper because I tend to pick mage-type characters. I guess this means the character would have had to undergo intense psychic training but it isn't a point I've used for characterisation or which has been highlighted by Wildstar. Oh, and she's a scientist because I liked the idea of finding out more about the world. Actually that last part did inform her name - Cassiel was an archangel known for watching events. So there's a story there, but it's a not-very-fleshed-out one rooted almost entirely in my own interests and irritations. There hasn't been anything in the questing or the combat which has taken my perception of her in a different direction, and all the customisation I've been doing has moved her even closer towards just being a direct representation of my own whims and wishes.
Obviously I am now worrying that I have been doing this woman a huge disservice and overriding the will by neglecting to construct any kind of life for her prior to my appearance. Perhaps she, as a scientist and a practical woman, would loathe the idea of a toast doormat. Too many crumbs and mice. She might want a house that was easy to keep tidy and had awesome technology rather than having to worry about brushing her front door's teeth.
See, this is why I was hoping Graham was emailing to be all "Could you tell me more about the technical side of things? How many graphics does it have?" Now door dentists might need to be a thing. Actually, to answer the question Graham never asked, I'm on a 3.4Ghz i7-4770 with 8Gb of RAM and a GeForce GTX 760. I've seen a couple of people in chat talking about some textures behaving strangely, particularly the water, but on my rig I've not experienced anything funky on that front. The only big problem I've had is trying to enable the multi-auth security system which uses Google's Authenticator tool. I can't get it to recognise any of the verification codes it generates so I can't even activate it let alone use it. I'm the only person I know who has had that problem and an email exchange with NCSoft states that they're not aware of any problems with the setup.
The first major content update, Strain: Ultradrop, will arrive in July with two new zones while a PvP focused update is expected later that month. The MMO is very early on in its lifecycle but how those updates work and what they bring to the game will be helpful in showing whether the monthly subscription fee is one worth paying. Alternatively there's the C.R.E.D.D. system which is like EVE Online's PLEX. C.R.E.D.D. give you 30 days of game time. They cost £11.99 to buy from NCSoft and can be traded in-game for game currency, thus it's theoretically possible to maintain your Wildstar subscription simply by earning enough in-game gold..
Looking at the C.R.E.D.D. exchange at the moment, they're currently going for around 6 or 7 platinum. There are 100 gold in a platinum and, to give you a sense of perspective, I have 17 gold to my name at the moment. I've put about 42 hours into Wildstar (ENORMOUS FLASHING CAVEAT: that includes time spent faffing with screenshots, trying odd things, frittering money away to investigate items and generally not focusing on things which would generate money). Once the first free month for everyone runs out I'd expect the price of C.R.E.D.D to go up so I'm not sure how pleasurable it will be using that as your primary method of gaining play time.
The enjoyment I have got out of the first month so far has been worth the cost of the game and there's also still plenty to do. I'm only halfway to the level cap and when you hit that you'll get access to things like the 40v40 PvP Warplots which feature customisable and destructible fortresses. It'll be the strength of the updates which will govern whether I'd recommended subscribing long-term, but so far Wildstar is looking great.