A requiem for WildStar

Life is slowly starting to settle back into something resembling normalcy after last week’s craziness in which we packed up our house and moved to a new state. It’s a lot to get used to, and I feel like most of my life has been upheaved. For a guy who craves stability and routine and comfortable surroundings, it’s pretty jarring.

So I didn’t need to hear that on the day of my move NCsoft announcing that it was going to shutter WildStar. I didn’t need that. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that day that the news didn’t impact me much because there was nothing left, but now that I’ve had a few days to process this news, I find myself incredibly sad over this sunset.

WildStar wasn’t a perfect game made by a perfect studio — I think we can all agree on that. Carbine was a mess internally with too many forces pulling in too many directions, and the end result was an MMORPG that had ambitions but also misunderstood the market by being subscription-only with a hardcore endgame design. It hyped up paths only to give us this half-hearted system that failed to live up to its potential. It went a little over-the-top in some areas, like how the announcer would scream at you for challenges and level ups.

But it was a game that I loved, despite all that. There was so dang much to love about WildStar. The fusion of scifi and western with a touch of horror really worked. Nexus was a fascinating planet full of secrets that I genuinely wanted to uncover. There were abandoned laboratories, a ghost girl, a spreading infection known as the Strain, space pirates, amazonian natives, sentient veggies, and more.

Out of all of the MMOs that I’ve played, WildStar easily has the greatest collection of memorable NPC races assembled under its roof. From robot cowboys to the loot-obsessed Lopp to the clones of the Protostar Corporation, everywhere I turned I saw personality bursting at the seams. It was like the best Saturday morning cartoon had come to life and we got to play in it.

The graphics, the visuals — maybe not your cup of tea, but WildStar will always be one of the loveliest and most striking games that I’ve played. I adored the stylized and colorful graphics that didn’t make scifi this sleek and pristine thing. There were couches with busted springs and goofy-looking spaceships and hologram taxi drivers who would actually chat to you while you were en route to your next destination.

Undoubtedly, WildStar’s greatest legacy will be twofold: Its housing and its music.

My only quibble with the housing system was its slightly awkward placing tools, but past that, I adored it. Your own personal sky island where you could customize everything from the ground to the sky to your house outside and in? Functional plots that could be used to gather mats, take on challenges, and dive into pocket dungeons? It was amazing.

Because the art style of this game grooved with me so much, I really enjoyed setting up my home using parts of it. Being able to collect and even craft housing decor was the greatest carrot that this game dangled in front of me. I was never a master architect, but I had a blast putting together various homes and trying to figure out how to do fun things like give an unorthodox spaceship multiple interior levels or put a light source behind a window so it looked like sunshine was beaming in.

Jeff Kurtenacker’s score will be the only part of this game that will live on in a way that we can experience it, and for that, at least, I am glad. WildStar’s expansive score is flat-out stunning in its mastery, diversity, and enjoyability. It could be goofy, sad, creepy, stirring, and exciting in turns, and it lent a lot of personality to an MMO that already had a lot of it.

What else can I say? The holidays, the hidden secrets, the amount of stuff to do, double-jumping, hoverboarding, the crazy amount of pets and mounts, the fun of scenarios, that one dungeon where your party went insane and had to battle a giant vending machine, the zone where you had low gravity and could jump for miles, the joy of playing as a robot-toting Engineer, the tremendous costume system — it was all really, genuinely great.

It might seem hypocritical to say all this while not having played WildStar for well over a year now, but we all saw the writing on the wall. WildStar wasn’t going to make it, and there was little point putting in game time to an MMO that wasn’t being actively supported and developed. If we were living in an alternative universe where WildStar was reasonably popular, had a casual-friendly endgame, and had a studio that was pumping out regular updates — then yes, I’d still be playing. Heck yes, I’d be playing.

As it is, I feel heartsick over this shutdown. There’s a really good game here and so much work that’s being tossed into the trash. I don’t have any hope that NCsoft would sell or hand off this game, so that’s that unless we enter into emulator territory.

So I guess that there’s only this — thank you, WildStar, for a wonderful ride. You weren’t perfect, but you were far better than most people realized. You deserved much better than this.

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11 thoughts on “A requiem for WildStar

  1. Marathal September 10, 2018 / 9:22 am

    I wonder if the secret to a successful game is having someone at the top that is there to just say no. If you take 20 of the best game designers and have them collaborate of something it may be visually and on paper look great. But you still have 20 people looking to make their part shine brighter than the rest. Then it all goes to pot.

  2. Asmiroth September 10, 2018 / 12:29 pm

    So much potential… a real shame

  3. Nogamara September 10, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    @Marathal I don’t disagree with your assessment, but I don’t really see this as the problem.
    It’s not that WildStar had 20 half-assed parts. In fact it had many really good parts, but some were just less good than the competitors (or at least in sum not good enough to draw people).
    WildStar released at the tail end of the classic MMORPG wave, I’d say. It was kinda marketed as one of many WoW killers and tried to grab some of WoW’s current and former players – but it didn’t find enough traction, right from the start. For most people I know it was a classic three-monther, and hardly anyone stuck around (I also didn’t). I didn’t come there for what they were officially marketing though, I wasn’t hell-bent on raiding in WS, but I was seeing how it would work. And then, with other games and not exclusively playing WS, my interest kinda fizzled out.
    So why did it fail? I have no clue, I can only say that it didn’t really hold me for years 😛

  4. Bhagpuss September 10, 2018 / 2:07 pm

    WildStar is one of those rare MMOs that looks significantly better in screenshots than it does when you actually play it. Most MMOs are the opposite. Looking at my own extensive collection of screenshots it looks as though it must have been absolutely gorgeous but I remember the zones feeling cluttered and claustrophobic, the color palette jarring and the textures eye-straining. Couple with the often irritating audioscape – not only that infuriating announcer but many of the abrasive ambient sounds – and WildStar could be a tiring, sometimes exhausting experience.

    The hyperkinetic gameplay certainly didn’t help, although I took the unusual step of turning all the indicators off at the start and just completely ignoring the supposed requirement to dodge or strafe out of endless circles and cones. It didn’t seem to be necessary in open world play and I had no trouble leveling up while playign as though I was in Rift or EQ2. Still, it wasn’t the most compulsive of gameplay. There were a lot of quests but they weren’t especially engaging. I felt about them much as i feel about WoW – less could be more,

    Even so, I had some fun there and I’m always sad to see an MMORPG go dark. I hope someone’s working on an Emulator. Reddit doesn’t seem to think there will be one…

  5. Gamera977 September 10, 2018 / 5:30 pm

    I hope the move went well.

    Nerdslayer has a very nice video over on his YouTube channel on his opinions of what went wrong with Wildstar if anyone is interested in more detail. Not sure if I can post links here or I’d just post the direct link.

  6. Sylow September 11, 2018 / 11:22 am

    For me Wildstar wasn’t even a three-monther. It was a less-than-a-week game.

    The trailers were nice, funny and charming. I was looking forward to the game, i didn’t bother much for the news or anything. Then the game hit and it was just all loud and obnoxious.During game design, there must’ve been a “a funny thing every oh-so-many minutes” rule. No matter what happened, the next joke, carefully crafted with a crowbar, was sure to come.

    My wife and me still remember her character, mostly since i tended to call it “the bunny shrimp”. But one funny character design is just not sustaining a complete game. All the rest of the game was built to annoy.

    You wanted to know more on the world? Now, here is your 60-character mission text. Enjoy.
    You want to go at your pace? Now, here is the game, screaming “faster, faster” to your face.

    I feel sorry for the developers who now lost their jobs. I think they did their very best to save a sinking ship. Based on the game at launch, i am surprised it made it as long as it did. It’s testament to the abilities of those people who in the end ran the game, that it was able to hang on for so long, despite the mess the game was at launch.

  7. Nogamara September 11, 2018 / 11:43 am

    @Sylow I guess we disagree then. I think it was only loud and obnoxious in comparison to, say, LotRO and the Shire 😛 Maybe “whimsy” is a bit of a bad term, but it kinda also fits. It was colorful, bright, maybe a little shrill – but that’s just a style of play. I always found LotRO to be annoyingly boring in that regard. Sorry if harping on LotRO, it’s really not bad, it’s just the perfect anti-WildStar for me.

    I loved the character designs, it wasn’t all run of the mill elves and dwarves (in space!). Sure, there were some tropes, but overall I couldn’t really complain. I’m really trying hard to read what you meant with the crowbar or the faster, faster – and in both cases I can think of one thing that I didn’t love, but in no way could it sour my gameplay. First, the level up sounds and popups, those were a little in your face, but how often would they really come? Not so often. Those challenges? aka pop-up quests that were “Quick! Kill ten foozles until the timer runs out!” were absolutely annoying to people who want to take it slow. But in my case I just did them when it suited me and ignored them when it didn’t – they weren’t important, just bonus XP. On the rest I had zero problems leveling up slowly in my pace, and playing as a team was also done better then in some other MMOs.

  8. pkudude99 September 14, 2018 / 11:43 am

    I’m with Sylow on longevity in WS. Just prior to launch I joined the open beta so I could see what I thought. I didn’t think much of it and after maybe 2 hours was done and knew I wouldn’t be buying the game at its official release.

    My 2nd impression at the F2P changeover was a little better but about a week later I’d lost interest, so I had a 3rd blog post about it and then nothing for another 9 months.

    I made 1 final blog post about it saying I was giving it another go, but as I recall, I only lasted a few more days before losing interest yet again.

    Oddly enough, I can’t really say anything felt bad about the game, it just …. didn’t grab me. And I always had other games to play that did “grab me” so they always had higher priority.

  9. Carica September 15, 2018 / 6:07 am

    WildStar was by far the funniest and had the best cynical dark humour (and also amazing voice acting) in any game I played, and also had such a great housing system. And oh those sweet double jumping on hoverboard… Although I’m also guilty of falling out of it soon after it went f2p, I had such a great fun when I played. it’s such a crying shame that it didn’t last. 😦

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