Carbine Studios was founded in 2005 and the past eight years have been spent building the tech and content for their first game, WildStar. A cartoonish sci-fi MMO, WildStar's main aim is to acknowledge the multitude of reasons why people play MMOs, and cater to each and every one of them.
Come watch the final class trailer, introducing the game's robot-spewing Engineer, and I'll explain what I mean.
One day someone will write about an MMO and not mentioned World of Warcraft, but that won't be today. If you're making something like WildStar now, you don't need to compete with World of Warcraft as it was when it was released in 2004. You need to compete with with it is now, after 9 further years of continuous expansion and development.
Which, to credit its ambition, is what WildStar is doing. Its PvE questing is structured in such a way that as well as hitting up NPCs for new quests, you get phonecalls from people as you play with little tasks to keep you engaged. Whatever you're doing, chances are you're progressing towards completing three different things simultaneously.
When you get in a scrap with some bads, the combat is a little more tactical than I'm used to from the genre. You still trigger skills from a bar along the bottom of your screen, but each of your attacks paints the ground with its area of effect. Placing an enemy within the optimum area to efficiently deal the most damage in the least amount of time takes positioning and timing, and felt more tactical than other skillbar MMOs. The enemies attack the same way, so you're also required to dodge around a little to avoid them.
There's the path system, which aims to reward you for the way you prefer to play, whether it be by reading every piece of lore you can find or exploring the world to find the most impressive vistas.
And then there's raiding, player housing, instanced war plots for PvP, a race of what are basically raccoons... I don't know if that stuff is any good, but it'll be there. That's a lot of stuff.
I've now played a mid-level character and I've played the opening three levels. The latter takes place on a spaceship above the planet Nexus, where the rest of the game takes place. These early levels swiftly teach you about combat, send you on a couple of fetch quests, and serve to establish its frontier fiction of robots and cowboy hats.
I had fun in both areas, but I want to play more before I write more. Thus far, it feels like MMO+; a thoughtful step forward that'll successfully appeal to those who obsess over games like these. Whether it hooks those of us who only dabble, I'm not sure. I'm downloading the beta as I type this and so hopefully I'll be able to report back next week. In the meantime, watch this "WildStar flick", which does a good job of selling the things that are fun about its world.