Carbine’s MMOG challenger isn’t afraid to be a theme park
The MMOG didn’t set out to become a theme park, but that’s what it has become. The term is usually used as a pejorative, denoting something false or, in the worst case, exploitative. WildStar is an exuberant and carnival-bright action MMOG that wants to remind its players that there’s a fun side to theme parks, too – that it’s no bad thing to be entertained, to simply play.
Set in a sci-fi universe rendered with the tone and palette of an ’80s Saturday morning cartoon, WildStar revels in its game-like trappings, and that is its most striking and attractive quality. The game’s two factions – the Han Solo-ish Exiles and scenery-chewing Dominion – are each comprised of colourful and diverse races. Humans are angular, exaggerated and expressive (art director Matt Mocarski cites Pixar, and particularly The Incredibles, as a reference point) while the Chua are three-foot-tall, villainous mousepeople that bound like Looney Toons.
On the Dominion side there’s also the Draken – hulking beast-people, somewhere between WOW’s Worgen and Wolverine – and the Mechari, towering fascistic robots. The Aurin are lithe Exile humanoids with rabbit ears and tails, and the Mordesh are a strange take on the undead, space zombies seeking a cure for their degenerative illness.
As one of these characters you complete quests on Nexus, a world divided into traditional MMOG zones and biomes. The game’s structure will be familiar to anyone who has played a game in this genre in the past five years – what does make it feel fresh is the work Carbine has done to celebrate, rather than bury, the theme park beneath.
Grow in power and the words ‘Level Up!’ explode onto the screen in pink-and-chrome
The Cassian humans are imperialistic and exploitative, and the game doesn’t try very hard to give them a positive spin.
Your ‘path’ determines which side-missions you’ll have access to: Explorers get jumping challenges, while Soldiers hunt boss monsters
Matt Mocarski, art director on WildStar