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

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