I’ve been playing World of Warcraft on and off for years, its not the most exciting game and certainly not the mot visually enticing, but like and old pair of well worn and loved slippers, there is something comforting about returning to Azeroth, it is in-offensive and I know where I stand and what I’m doing with it. As I’m now single and living alone, I have more time on my hands in the evening, especially now it’s Easter break at uni so I’m trying to make a conscious effort to spend some of this extra time doing things I love rather than just watching TV and whiling away the hours before bed. When I’ve been away from WoW for a while I like to start a new character from scratch as often so much has changed in game that spending time levelling and remembering how to play again is usually enjoyable. But this time it was different, I just couldn’t get into it. I’ve played the same old starting quests so many times (I nearly always play as a gnome mage) and nothing has really changed in game since I was last here a year or so ago. I ended up logging out after about an hour and wasn’t feeling particularly compelled to log back in again.
So I spent some time pondering what I could do next gaming wise. I played some League of Legends last year and really enjoyed it, but I think most of the fun came from playing in a team with my brother and ex who I used to live with- playing solo doesn’t really appeal and for me, it gets repetitive after a while, playing the same maps over and over. I really love the MMORPG format, I like exploring, questing and learning a bit of lore as I go. I’ve played quite a bit of Guild Wars II but never feel compelled to go back to it. I wondered about buying something new, but funds are tight and I didn’t want to shell out £50 for a new game I might not even enjoy (I’m looking at you Elder Scrolls Online!). Anyway, my brother mentioned that he’d just started playing Wildstar and thought I might like it – better than that, it’s now free to play so there was nothing to lose to in giving it a go. I’m what you might call a ‘sporadic gamer’ in that I get into a game for a while, but then life gets busy and I end up only playing a couple of times a month if that – at £9.99/month WoW doesn’t represent great value for me as some months I only get chance to play a couple of hours. Free to play seems like the way forward then.
So off I went and downloaded the Wildstar client but ended up having a nightmare getting it to install. I kept getting error messages and after some googling I read somewhere that I should try disabling some of my start-up apps to see if that was preventing the installer from patching properly. I unchecked the relevant boxes and rebooted my PC only to find that whatever I’d disabled was now preventing Windows from loading properly. Several hours and a phone call to my ex (who is a cyber-wizzmistress) and my PC is fixed and the game installed.
I started by choosing the gnome-magey-ist character I could find (naturally), the above Aurin Spellslinger and I was off. As I’m new to the game I decided to play the training levels and leave the helpful hints running. Unfortunately the opening cinematic refers to the ‘savage natives’ of the planet you’ll be landing on which really made me wince. Gaming is always problematic and I’d love to have the funds and technical know-how to build a diverse, queer, and feminist MMORPG but alas running this blog is about the limit of my technical abilities. So for now at least I am left playing games with problematic content. That said, finding cringe inducing script 30 seconds into a game does not bode well so I’ll have to wait and see if Wildstar can offer me the (mostly) inoffensive comfort of WoW which I am craving, or will have to be written off, and consigned to ‘Room 101 of problematic things that I’ve shown interest in and been forced to abandon for political and ethical reasons‘ where it can keep the likes of Game of Thrones, Bridesmaids (the movie, but the real thing can go in there too now I think of it), Top Gear and (most recently) Jenni Murray company.
First impressions of game play were that the training levels themselves are pretty neat. Simple and effective at taking you through all the essential controls, they are positioned as simulations which you can play whilst you are cryogenically frozen on board a spaceship orbiting the newly discovered planet that you will soon be landing on. Other impressions are that it feels visually more interesting and graphically more sophisticated than WoW and the game play – in particular combat, is more dynamic and requires more movement even as a ranged character. I’m enjoying the steampunkesque spacey meets oldy stylistics and found the training levels really helpful for giving me the basic info. I am also excited to learn that when I reach level 14 (or sooner if I shell out) I’ll be able to buy a plot of land and create a house. My house will act as by base giving me rested bonus, and items which I fill it with also give other boosts and interactions which is a nice new element and will allow me to do some virtual decorating!
So I’ve played a couple of hours now and am really enjoying the updated feel and the fact that its something different from my beloved World of Slippercraft. So far, no further jarringly problematic observations (bar the general kinds of questions, which I am content with muttering under my breath and begrudgingly accepting as being ‘par for the course’ if I want to remain a gamer…’why are the body-types so ridiculous?’… and ‘would my character really be wearing hotpants to rescue people from an icy wasteland?’). So maybe for now at least, it’s over between me and WoW, but I’m not yet ruling out returning, credit card in fist and keyboard between my legs if it doesn’t work out with my new intergalactic space beau with laser guns!