First Impressions: Wildstar

First Impressions: Wildstar - Beautiful environments, adorable characters.

This week, Wildstar opened its arms to players for its open beta period, and I figured it was as good a time as any to give the game a shot. I’d been watching from afar, listening to what friends said (mostly positive) but not sure I was all that interested. However, after playing in the open beta, I can honestly say I am! As always, I’ll be honest; there are great things about the game, and quite a few gripes, which I’ll share in the hopes that anyone considering buying the game will make the commitment with as much information as possible.

First of all, the game is cute and I find myself immersed despite its cartoony aesthetic and super-saturated palette. Character creation is fun, and I immediately fell in love with the Aurin (purple hair!) and their bouncy personalities. The classes aren’t your usual fare; while there’s some similarities in the classes available to you, esper and spellslinger are a bit different from your usual mage and ranger archetypes, and the more active combat style works really well. This is what put me off other MMOs like Tera, so I’m surprised it works so well here. Combat did strike me as odd at first, but after I got used to it I found myself enjoying the mobility a lot.

First Impressions: Wildstar - Making friends with the local wildlife.

Questing is fun, even though I heard the opposite from a few friends. I especially like that, as an “Explorer”, I get to complete little side missions that involve exploring the map and finding trees to climb or radioactive pools to mark. I haven’t tried PvP yet, and I’m not sure when I will, but for now I’m having a lot of fun in the PvE.

One of my favourite things about the game, however, is its soundtrack. The musical score is gorgeous, reminiscent of Firefly in some places, and Star Wars in others. Everything about the game’s atmosphere has been perfected; every sound is really fitting for the environment. This is something particularly important to me, as I realised that a lot of my nostalgia for WoW was flared up by the sound and aesthetic of the game.

I do have some issues with the game, as I mentioned. The first thing I noticed was that the game runs really hot on my GPU, which is shocking as other more powerful, graphically intensive games run upwards of 20ºC cooler. The temperature varies wildly as well, no matter what I do with my video settings. V-sync changes nothing, and tweaking the settings seems to make no difference. My temps will be low for a few minutes then soar randomly for a while, before settling down again. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason for it as well, though I did notice my temps are always high indoors.

I also hate the camera with a fiery passion. It sticks pointing downwards at my character, seemingly at random, and it’s incredibly annoying. I’ve been told there are add-ons that resolve this kind of problem, and make the camera follow you at all times, however I’ve yet to find this add-on and am frustrated that I have to use an add-on to resolve something so simple.

First Impressions: Wildstar - Naradra, my Aurin Spellslinger for beta, but probably not my character at launch.

Ultimately, the problems I have with the game aren’t enough to put me off, and I did end up preordering so I could play with a friend. Would I recommend it? Yes, but only if you’re happy with a brightly coloured, very cartoony aesthetic, and more action-oriented combat rather than just stand-still-and-press-buttons. There’s still a lot of pressing of buttons to activate abilities, but there’s a lot more movement and manual targetting (though you can set yourself to auto-target your selected enemy in PvE.) If you are interested in the game, you can get 20% off on Green Man Gaming by using the following code: FUSWJT-B1DU64-JBV8UY

That will obviously only last for a while, but get it while you can if you are interested!

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My bosmer admiring the Ebonheart Pact landscape.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - So reminiscent of Morrowind.

This is going to be a slightly different First Impressions post, as all of my previous posts in the series have been overwhelmingly positive, and as an upfront disclaimer this post won’t be. Some of you have probably read my post on why I won’t be playing ESO, so this one may come as a surprise to you. That’s right, I picked up The Elder Scrolls Online despite promising myself I wouldn’t. Before you try to burn me at the stake, in my defence I got a great deal on it and stuck to my guns on the Imperial Edition being the worst thing to happen to gaming ever (okay…not ever, but it was still pretty bad!)

I’m really glad I tried the game. It’s surprisingly pretty in a lot of ways, particularly the environments. The Ebonheart Pact zones are so reminiscent of Morrowind, the first TES game I played, and frankly I appreciate that, even if it is what some would consider slightly fan-servicey. The environments are a lot more lore friendly than I thought, and while the quests are a bit “fetch and return”, there’s still a bit more variety to them which makes them more entertaining than your average grindy questing experience in MMOs.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My bosmer nightblade, Sirantha.

I went with Ebonheart Pact because I initially planned to when I was excited about the game last year, and Nord was the race I planned on going before I picked up the preorder copy allowing me to play any race in any faction. Also, my boss was there and offered to get me into a guild he’s a member of, and the environments appealed to me. I have a Nord Dragonknight and a Bosmer Nightblade primarily, with a focus on the latter. The combat is fun, if a little confusing due to the skill trees, but at least it still feels somewhat open to allow for a lot of self-development and lack of restricted weapons and armour combinations. This makes for interesting class combinations like Sorcerer tanks and healing Templars, which is alien to me but seems fun.

Exploration is rewarding, as well as a great deal of fun to do. I love finding little hidden chests and battling to unlock them, then receiving some small item to say, “Good job! You found this before other people did.” There’s also vampires and werewolves in-game, and how you become one of either is pretty interesting — one method is to have players bite you at a ritual site (which they can do once every seven days) to contract the disease that morphs into these two supernatural beings, giving you an additional skill tree to draw on.

I have genuinely enjoyed the time I’ve invested so far, and will definitely be playing a little bit more. However, despite the fun I’ve had and the few hours I’ve invested, I don’t think I’ll be subscribing, at least not yet. Why? Apart from the fact that I’m already invested in two subscription MMOs, there are a lot of flaws I see that are putting me off, at least for now. The paygated race still sticks in my craw; despite it not giving any bonuses it still feels like a cheap trick. But that’s something I knew before buying the game, so what else gets me?

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - Pretty skies that remind me of my first night in Skyrim.

First of all, I’ve always played every single game in The Elder Scrolls series in first person. I find it far more immersive and have always enjoyed it. It just doesn’t feel like a valid option in TESO; the FoV is absolutely wretched and I can’t find a way to modify it so far, and as there’s a large amount of PvP in the game — with it arguably being the whole point — being in first person would put me at an obvious disadvantage. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for how awkward third person feels. It’s clunky, and I’m not sure I like it. The combat is punishing, which is fine, but it is relatively frustrating to die repeatedly even in low level PvE content. Yes, this is somewhat a case of l2p, but I don’t know if I’m willing to put in the effort when this was never a problem in previous TES games, even on the hardest difficulties.

I’m also not a big fan of PvP in MMOs, with very rare exceptions (EVE Online being a very notable one where I went full PvP and even pirating) so I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be getting out of the game, particularly if I don’t want to do end-game since I’m already invested in and enjoying another MMO full-time.

There are a lot of oddities that bother me, such as the fact that you only receive one copy of the preorder/beta items, and if you happen to delete your character that received the item, as many people have done due to playing around with classes, that’s the item gone forever. Can you contact support to have it returned? Probably. Should you have to? Absolutely not.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My Nord Dragonknight exploring the old starter island.

Ultimately, I won’t be continuing my subscription after my free 30 days are up. Will I come back to it? Probably, because it is a lot of fun, but not for a little while yet. It may not be the game for me right now, but it’s certainly not deserving of the huge amount of hate it’s received (though, nor is it particularly deserving of the massive hype surrounding it either, in my humble opinion.) Should you pick it up? That depends. If you’re looking for just another MMO, this won’t be for you, the same for if you’re looking for an Elder Scrolls game. It isn’t really either, it’s somewhere in between. It’s definitely a change of pace, with some adopted features from Guild Wars 2, and a lot of similarities to Dark Age of Camelot and even to some extent Warhammer: Age of Reckoning in its Realm vs Realm style combat and keep sieges. If you think you’ll enjoy that, by all means, this might just be the game for you. It’s fun, but something I will keep on the backburner for when I have the time to invest into it fully.

First Impressions: Banished

First Impressions: Banished - The fun part of RTS games, city-building!

I’ve heard a lot of interesting things about Banished in the last two weeks, with people recommending it and others crying in frustration at their village being destroyed by a tornado. I knew I had to check it out, and I was only too pleased that it wasn’t an Early Access game; even if it’s just a perception the Early Access phenomenon really bothers me.

I wouldn’t say the game is especially pretty, but its aesthetic fits what it’s trying to do, and it’s extremely impressive that it was all created by one developer. The premise is that you have a group of exiled people who now have to rebuild their life. Think somewhere between Sim City, Age of Empires and Black & White (but without the pet). It’s actually a lot of fun, and I’ve been able to throw 10 hours at it without really noticing. I have just finally stopped starving my citizens, something I feel pretty proud about.

The struggles you’ll face are what you’d expect: starvation, freezing, disease, and natural disasters for example. Most of these can be easily combated by collecting food to store for the winter, gathering logs and changing them into firewood, building hospitals etc. However for a long time I seemed to be perpetually terrible at feeding my people! It’s hard to manage your population as if you build too many houses, your population will slowly expand, and if you don’t have the resources to support that growth your people will start dying. Luckily, Gatherers seem to be an insanely good early game food production method, so I’ve been able to start off a new town and grow to 50+ adults (plus students and children) with pretty steady growth.

All in all, though, it’s a great game for someone like me, who enjoys the building and resource gathering phases of an RTS, but not the micro-managing aspects of army-building and invading my enemies. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys building and resource simulations, it’s a lot of fun and not too badly priced! Pick up Banished for €18.99 on Steam now.