Monday, June 16, 2014

[Wildstar] Telegraphing Dropped Cryopods

After seeing Wildstar this and Wildstar that across the blogs I read as well as my Twitter feed, I finally decided to give it a whirl on Thursday. At this point, I’m level 15, and the game isn’t too shabby. The game itself is reasonably fun, and a good, polished take on the Themepark MMO so far; however, getting to play was a trial unto itself.

The first thing I did was download the client. Or try to. When I downloaded the patch launcher, anytime I tried to boot it I’d get, “Cannot connect to patch server.” An auspicious start.

Folks suggested flushing your DNS cache (didn’t work), or use a VPN to connect. The actual “easy” solution that worked for me was to modify my HOSTS file (under C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc on Windows 8+) using notepad and add the following two lines:

Once I did that, the patcher connected just fine.

Once the thing downloaded, I went to the NCSoft site and purchased an account. Went back to the launcher and went into the game. However, when I tried to log in, it said it couldn’t find a North American account and switched it to the EU. And then it couldn’t connect anymore and was stuck.

After digging around my account settings, I realized buying the time/product wasn’t sufficient. I had to apply a code to my account. I realize this is probably to allow for CREDD, but I wasn’t expecting it, and it was mildly vexing.

Back to the game itself, the game couldn’t connect to the EU servers, and wouldn’t flip back to NA. I searched around for a way to switch which region I was attempting to log in to, but nothing existed within the game itself. After some digging on the internet, I found out the region select is in the settings of the launcher, not the game, despite the fact the game was the one that switched me to EU in the first place.

At this point I was about ready to quit. It was seriously the most frustrating process I’ve ever had trying to even start a game, let alone play it. This is a released product? But I had already paid for my time, and damn it all, I was going to get in.

Once in, picking a server with other bloggers (Evindra), I made myself a character. After digging through some of the races, classes, and paths I decided on an Aurin Spellslinger Soldier. I’m pretty stoked about the rainbow punk-rock look that I managed to put together:

Rainbow punk-rocker mouse-person.

The game itself, at least the first few levels, isn’t really different from any other MMO out there. It’s basically what TERA should have been from a whole picture standpoint. Combat is quite similar, and the telegraph system is pretty enjoyable. Some “spells” (because I’m a gun-toting caster) can be cast on the move. Other, more powerful ones need you to be stationary; it makes timing really important, as well as understanding enemy movements and abilities.

It mishmashes sci-fi with fantasy relatively well, and I actually rather like the over-the-top everything. From the voice-overs for the zone introductions, to the nearly 4th-wall breaking comments of NPCs you pass by. I do find the fact that character voice-overs not matching the text quite distracting, though. It’s often close enough that you start reading with it, and when they quickly diverge my brain just shuts down.

So very pretty.
It’s very pretty, as well. However, I quickly ran into issues where the client video and input would freeze, but the sound would keep playing. Windows would eventually kill the client for not responding. This happened pretty much every 10 to 15 minutes for an hour before I finally figured out lowering the graphics settings would fix it. But again, extremely poor performance from a released product, and quite frustrating.

Being an MMO, the gold spammers are already out in full force, and Carbine helpfully provides a way to report spam. Or it would be helpful if the UI wasn’t outright broken out of the box:

Seriously? Fantastic.
I also got stuck in a tiny vertical tent by sitting on a cushion. Thankfully, Wildstar does provide a “Help, I’m Stuck!” button which causes your character to suicide and reappear at a graveyard, but default geometry/terrain where all I did was right-click the cushion.

To put icing on the awful experience cake, on Friday when I logged in and was at the character select screen, I got this helpful error message:

Not actually helpful.
Turns out they have region-locking code that ran amok. Now, to be fair, if the forums are any indication, the issue only occurred for a period of about 30 minutes, so I applaud them for fixing it quickly, especially on a Friday evening. But it’s just one more thing on the pile of frustrations.

I played quite a bit on Friday once I was in, and reached level 12. Some things haven’t been obvious, like how to salvage things from your inventory (I think I missed the tutorial on it), but the ability UI as well as their AMP tree have been quite self-explanatory. I’ve just gotten started in on crafting, and the fact that each profession has a “tech” tree of things to build/discover is amazing. I still like Final Fantasy XIV’s crafting better, but I think Wildstar has a pretty good approach to it here.

The Soldier path is just a bunch of extra combat missions, and I think I’m regretting not picking Scientist or Explorer instead, but at the same time it gave me a ballcap so I could complete my rainbow redneck character fantasy, so I’m still pretty pleased with it.

Hoverbike, military ballcap, mullet-esque hair. Living the dream.
I just reached housing, but I haven't really explored it yet, nor dungeons, so we’ll see how difficult they are. I’ve managed to solo a few 2+ group quests at my level, so I think I’m probably sufficiently skilled to pull them off if they’re as tough as other folks are saying. The game is a solid entry into the Themepark MMO space, but so far doesn’t feel like it has truly set itself apart from any other Themepark MMO aside from the look and feel (which does account for a lot, I realize). The technical issues are embarrassing at best, and subscription preventing/losing at worst—I nearly rage quit before even launching the game I was so annoyed.

I’m sticking around for at least a few more levels—I want to see these reportedly difficult dungeons. But I haven’t seen anything that would make this game supplant WoW for me long-term. Still, it's made for a pretty fun and satisfactory play time so far.

Spaaaaaaaaaace! On an asteroid.
#Wildstar, #FirstImpression

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