WildStar – Fun, Engaging, and Free to Play

Warrior with Attitude
Warrior with Attitude

WildStar has been out for some time, but in September, they changed to Free to Play. While they talk about being able to experience all the content, they have a long list of caveats on their Free to Play page. This is an interesting contrast with Tera, which is Free to Play with a Premium option which basically gives you an XP and Gold boost and a fancy mount. Tera’s list of caveats are the feature list for Premium which costs $15 / mo rather than a list of Don’t-Gets for the WildStar free-2-play choice. Anyway, with all that aside, I gave it a try and bottom line – I’m impressed. This is not a complete review, I’m sure you can find a ton of those out there, and since it’s F2P, you can try it yourself and see. I’ll do quick comparison with some observations compared with Wow, Tera and some other games I’ve played recently.

So what does WildStar have going for it? Yes, it’s a Wow Clone. No bones about it. Two factions vying for dominance on the ancient planet of Nexus and the technology of the Eldans who have disappeared. Well, its a start. But recall that Wow has had since 2004 to build their brand.

Not that Big Really

The first thing one notices about WildStar is the small size of the download – 12 GB. What! Only 12 GB?? Wow is 40GB and Tera is more than 30 GB. And you’d be right. WildStar is just starting out as a franchise and the size of the download shows it. The environments feel a little cramped and a little same ole same ole as you move around. But not claustrophobic, just not wide open like Wow or Tera. But the character models are detailed. So they are not going to have to backfill with new character models later like Wow has had to do. Update: Actually, the environments from level 6 or so on feel very spacious. There are long vistas and while the mountains and foliage is stylized, nothing feels cramped in those areas.

Map of Low Level Area
Map of Low Level Area

Great Art Style and Attitude

The Cute Race
The Cute Race

But the thing that stands out is the consistent art style and the character attitude. I’m sure you’ve seen the YouTube videos of the trailers WildStar, and if not do a search and watch them. Lots of attitude. In the story line, character models, animations and poses. Everything just looks fun. And that starts with the opening intro scene that you’ll be pushed through. You’ll wake up in a cryopod in either faction and have to fight the other faction right away and then get down to the planet.

Beautiful Stylized Landscapes
Beautiful Stylized Landscapes

But Quest Way-points are Hard to Find

The first thing I noticed was I kept getting lost. There is a sense of chaos and rushing, which is reasonable since your ship – which ever faction you choose – is under attack. I get that. But I’m not new to MMOs and the quest way-points are just not clear. There is a bright yellow line on the floor and the mini map, but if you follow that, you will surely get lost. It’s only of use about 1/2 the time. There are little (1) or (2) on the map, but those are out of range of the mini-map, or compass, so you have to stop and open the big map to see them. I never had this much trouble with Wow, or Tera, or … Just check out here how many MMOs I’ve played, let alone all the RPGs that came before them. None of them were so confusing. Didn’t these game designers play anything else before they designed theirs? And this game has been out for, what, since June 2014? They have had time to fix it. They apparently don’t see the problem. Well, the quests points aren’t impossible to find. so calm down and get through that. It gets a little easier as you get used to it.

Nuvo Quest Giving – Sort Of

So the new style of quest giving is that you don’t visit quest NPCs, or back track to turn in quests. GW2 pioneered this concept and Tera has taken up the challenge with Vanguard Requests, which are given and turned in from a panel, no NPCs required. About 1/2 of XP now comes in Tera via these requests.

But WildStar is schizo about whether it likes this or not. About 1/2 of the quests are given / turned via NPC and 1/2 come from items on the ground or via a Communicator, which is a remote discussion with an NPC. How about we settle on two of the three? And eliminate all the backtracking?

Update: I just played through the Exile 3-6 area and it had some very interesting quests. Most of the quests were via the communicator so i really was engaged and playing through rather than back tracking. Kudos to that design.


So WS has a great way to manage outfits of armor you’ve seen. Rather than the Tera – Costumes only to change your look. WS has taken the lead of GW2 and Wow – Upcoming changes in Legion expansion. In this scheme, you can mix / match the look by “wearing” any previous armor pieces that you have possessed. And they are unlocked for the whole account, I guess.  WS provides a Holo-Wardrobe panel where you design your outfits and unlock [purchase] pieces for your look. But they make you pay gold to “wardrobe” pieces of armor you already own. Really? How lame is that? GW2 does a similar thing with their special currency called “Transmutation Charge”, which can be purchased for real money or from unlocking maps by exploring them. I guess if you want to dress up more, you can roll a toon and then explore some cities  for T charges and then delete the toon. Rinse / Repeat.

But the biggest issue with Wardrobes is how difficult this makes simple things like hiding a helm.


So something simple like hiding this butt-ugly bug-faced helm is complex and confusing until you see it done once. First, you have to know that the feature is in the Holo-Wardrobe to start with. Then you choose a costume, not the default of no-costume. Then the buttons light up to hide the piece. No you don’t have to purchase the helm to hide it, but that’s not clear. And then you do have to purchase the change for 0 yes zero coin to make it stick. Look for the button on the bottom right to do that. Sigh… And all of this was changed recently, so no wiki or youtube video shows the correct steps. I’ve made a YouTube video that I’ll upload in a minute.

Button Mashing – Oh, But Wait

Combat is more like Tera than Wow. And even more, shall we say Kinetic? It’s common in low level areas to get jumped by 3-4 mobs, so keep in your toes. And watch for those red marks on the ground. Some games give you those only in starter areas, but it’s built into WildStar as a permanent feature. The shapes are strange too. Not just an oval or box in front of the mob. There are notches in the boxes where you can get out of the way. Odd, but true.

So it looks like I need to spam the 1 key while the other skills are on CD. But wait. It works to just hold it down. There is apparently no auto attack. But that’s ok. My hand wasn’t nearly as tired when I just held the 1 button down to spam the 1 skill until the others came off CD.

And you pretty quickly get two other things that help:

More skills that are very powerful. I was feeling much more powerful after a few more skills. And the “R” key is some sort of super armor boost that doesn’t last long, but is powerful. But I need to re-assign that key to something more convenient on my game pad.

And there are boosts and buffs all over the place. I suggest being a settler since you can make these out of found trash yourself. That’s your job. And you can then use them to really thrash those mobs- up your HP and your Crit by making a booster item that sits on the ground somewhere and the boost lasts many minutes.

A Buff
A Buff

This is a buff. Yes, there are three flaming rocks going around you for five minutes that show that you have a powerful buff on you. And it really helps with the killing. And I’m a settler and I made the machine to make that buff myself. Hooo Haaa, Sir, Yes Sir. That attitude rubs off apparently.

Wait? How Many Toons Do I Get?

Just how many toons do I get anyway? They say the freebee account gets 2. But…. That’s really Per Realm.

Oh. Apparently You Aren't Limited to Two
Oh. Apparently You Aren’t Limited to Two

But if you want more toons on your realm, they aren’t that expensive. Unlike Tera that charges about $8 per slot, WS charges about $3 per slot. So having 14 toons on a realm is not that expensive. I confess I’m an Altaholic. What can I say. No interventions please.

I like Free-2-Play games because I decide how to spend my money. And while some of the Caveats on the WS F2P FAQ are pretty lame, I’m disposed to give it a while and see if it grows on me.

Warrior attitude