Comparison Combat: ESO vs Wildstar

So I’ve posted before on both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls. I’ve tried to keep out of the usual arguments that go down between 2 competing products. I even analyse why both could fail but, I don’t think I’m quite done with the Epic Battle for MMO supremacy just yet, in fact, I’m just getting warmed up.

It’s time to make my allegiance known to the world and of course deride the product that is competing against it. I feel like trolling a little too as per usual, if the great Syp can do this based on a personal feeling of innovation then so can I.

Round 1.. FIGHT


Is this really even a contest?

Tamriel is just beautiful.. That’s B-e-a-utiful. The world is large with some wonderful structures and breathtaking visuals to see. The world is mostly toned down, a rich expansive of certain themes playing around you but there is enough nuance there to make it something more. The structures and sights create a wonderful contrast that enhances the world around while also making themselves look that much more amazing. They stand out amongst the land to draw the eye and player interest, naturally shaping the players attention far better than any glowing map indicator.

There is a level of detail to the world that just astounds me, The flora and fauna that make up the world: small plants and flowers, gullies and mountains all around. The buildings themselves are wonderful detailed with some interesting architecture, the crumbling ruins with makeshift passages and crumbled remains dotted around. The wealth of everyday objects and npc that form part of the environment, making it looked lived in and like people live in this world rather than inhabit it.

Everything is grounded within a certain consistent reality to encourage immersion in this world. Yes it has a toned down aesthetic, far more muted than some but with the amount of detail, the nuance of colour that compliment rather than overwhelm, and the wonderful lighting it’s a world that leaves you in awe and hungrily wanting to see more.

eso 2014-03-01 19-45-17-546

And then we have Wildstar, a land of bright colours and Flashy effects designed to grab attention and assault the senses. The world does have some interesting design, a design for the grandiose and often times ridiculousness but it’s one that lacks any sort of subtlety to its design. Often times it’s more like a diabetic drug addicted Guild Wars 2 vomited on the screen, an artistic vision that’s been warped and twisted into something no longer recognizable.. or appealing.

Now I could understand if the went this way as a way of further optimising the game to run smoothly but it actually runs like shit because of the lack of restraint in the use of pixel and particle effects. It does have some good moments but it just lacks the creative vision, like say borderlands or GW2 in it’s use of colour and design that could have made it something more.


So I can get the land of puns and overdone stereotypes or I can have the world with some startling emotional, cheeky and in-depth story.. hmm, such a hard decision.

To me, even if I sometimes see the story within ESO as boring and trite, which it is, as it always seems to be focused on immersion above all else it is something that enhances the world around it. It attempts to create a world wherein the stories and such have a natural path and order to them, some everyday based problems of loss, greed, and corruption that play out across the world. Of people and forces vying for greater power and just working hard for their own path of living. That actions have had a consequence and you’re there trying to fix it.


It is also a story that you mostly have to seek out for yourself. Quests and the people you need to see are scattered across the world, waiting for you to get involved. Then there are many lore books as well, hidden throughout the world that create a rich tapestry of stories and lore.

Sometimes the breadth of all this story and lore is a little overwhelming to me. I’ve never been that interested in it, yet now it is the gigantic weight coming down on me as I try to make my way around. There is a background there of thousands of years, a wealth of lore hidden behind the curtain just waiting to be explored and that constantly gets hinted at or referenced. It’s a lot to take in but one that makes the world that much more compelling.

In Wildstar it seems near everything is focused around the factional warfare between the Exiles and Dominion. The Exile are there seeking to defend their new home and the dominion just trying to be assholes. There is just so little thought that goes into the story and the easiest way for them to expand the levelling curve was to create this ridiculous conflict Point. The lack of creativity is astounding when just looking around you can see wonderful settings like Firefly or Blake 7 that could have served as an inspiration yet they prepare the gutted out version devoid of any soul.

There are some interesting elements here: the pioneer themes and space cowboy appeal, the remains of ancient civilizations but the mostly seem to be part of the story so as to further this conflict. A new apocalyptic device to either stop or exploit. It’s all just like watching a Saturday morning cartoon; it’s a fun ride for a short time but once you start questioning the stupidity of the plot, the characters, the setting, the conflict points, the.. you get the point, it all falls apart into an extremely shallow affair you quickly become bored with.

Quest design

Let’s see who wins here hmm… I can follow the markers, in a well designed linear path from quest hub to hub, never stopping in some near-endless grind to the end or I can be.. semi in charge of my own path.

In ESO there is a design around exploration and I absolutely love this approach. Nothing is completely handed to you. Gathering materials seem to blend into the environment, quests and such are hidden all around and the many map points of dungeons, public space and ruins to explore need to be found first.

I didn’t feel as strangled by the design when questing through ESO which is an amazing feeling. I could go as fast or slow as I wanted. I could stay on the path or venture out and there was a lot out there to find if I wanted story, experience, gear or other rewards and I felt like I had more time to just experience my surroundings.

A crypt waiting to be explored

A crypt waiting to be explored

In Wildstar you are a slave to design once more. It can be comfortable, constantly clicking on the exclamation point and following the glowing lines and map indicators but eventually it gets very tiring. Sure this whole system has received a makeover, the paths system seems great but it’s little more than a basic remodel.. a facade. It’s still the same familiar basic system with little to innovate or reinvent.


Both titles seem to have jumped on the action combat train but while one actually attempts to create a more open-ended system the other is content to continue that march towards simplification.

I have to admit that I’m really loving the combat system in ESO. It’s the restrained skill deck that has been made popular in recent times but with a surprising amount of customisation. Each Class has three skill lines, focused on a particular playstyle to choose from but then everything else is freely available. It’s wonderful that you can pick up and use any weapon, or wear any armor. Each of course has its own benefits and synergy with particular styles of play creating a wide range of customisation choices..

You have a set of skills to use but there is also a selection that is determined by the weapon you are using which adds to the familiar action style while also bringing in some new elements that improve on the formulae. The use and combination of the light, heavy, block and interrupt create a more engaging combat scenario where the control of the situation is more with the players. With the polish added to the animations as well as the collision detection it has a great feel to the combat as well.

While Eso has a focus on restrained combat feel with customisation Wildstar abandoned tact and went for a focus on particle effects. Everything is flashy; every skill is a combination of lights, ground effects and blasting sound and every character animation is some dance of an over-dramatic acrobat. But it’s all a mere diversion so that people don’t look behind the curtain, cram more effects into your surroundings so no-one questions the uninspired and unequivocally simplistic system that is questing, combat and skill building. Just one set of 5 skills and bouncing around like a retarded rabbit from the beginning to the end of time…be still my beating mmo heart.


Ahahahahaha..haha..ha.. really? My position on innovation was said on twitter over the week and went something like “sticking feathers up your butt does not make you innovative” or, just because they might have re-purposed features from other games and mmo’s does not make it new. You want innovation then get out of the AAA space towards smaller indie projects and those being kickstarted. Or alternatively look towards smaller long running MMO’s like Eve.. there’s innovation.

Now do we even think this is a fair fight?.. Oh sorry, I forgot housing, raiding and hoverboards … because that obviously makes a huge difference.


14 thoughts on “Comparison Combat: ESO vs Wildstar

  1. I would’ve loved a more subdued WildStar setting. Two factions fighting over control of a wild, unknown planet is a great premise for a MMO. I didn’t really get any of that feeling in the first few zones. It felt even more linear and generic than World of Warcraft.

  2. The action combat is enough in and of itself to cross both of them off my “must try” list. They’re both on the “have a look in Open Beta if there is one – might get a blog post out of it” pile because of it. I’d be surprised if I play either of them even if they eventually go FD2P (still never played either SW:TOR or AOC so going F2P doesn’t automatically push the “play now” button).

    If I was thinking of trying one, though, some of the negatives and positives you have up there kind of reverse polarity for me. Saturday Morning Cartoons are byword for happy times, for example. I’d love to play an MMO with that sensibility. I also love puns, providing they’re witty and clever. On the other hand, my brief exposure to previous ESO narrative and lore (mainly Morrowind, which I strongly disliked) makes me nod in agreement with “boring and trite”.

    Visually, the screenshots from ESO look stunning but the in-game video I’ve seen…doesn’t. WildStar, I haven’t even bothered to look at any video for, I’m that uninterested. I like their original design aesthetic though.

    Are either of them planning an Open Beta? With MMOs you never really know what you’re going to think until you get a hands-on. I had no intention of playing The Secret World, for example, but a couple of hours in my first Beta Weekend and I was hooked enough to buy it and play pretty much non-stop, at least until it until GW2 came out. Maybe if I get to play one or other will really grab me. I doubt it but it’s not entirely impossible.

    • I’m pretty sure Wildstar will have an open beta but I don’t think ESO are going too. There are a lot of keys going round for both though and I’d definitely recommend having a look at each as they both have a different feel. They’re definitely a must try, if only to see what the next two major releases this year are doing.

  3. Arguing pros and cons for these MMOs is like arguing if a mini-van or a sports car is better. They both let you drive from point a to b, but are targeted for different client bases. As long as both survive the 3 month mmo death window, then the market isn’t going to collapse just yet.

    • oh, arguing fro one side is most definitely a futile effort… but its fun =p
      In saying that I do hope both find their long term audience

  4. I’m an unapologetic ESO fanboy, not because of the PvE content which I don’t really care about, but because the AvA combat is going to create some great emergent and organic content. DAOC may have only had 250,000 subscribers at its peak, but that’s the gaming demographic I come from, and if TESO reproduces even half of that magic then I will be a happy camper.

    Oh and btw, Zenimax actually listened to the feedback of their beta testing and implemented the following changes:

    1. Given that most negative criticism of the quest structure was that they were too linear, all the starting quests are now optional. Players have the option to start at the home city of each faction and strike out from there in any direction they choose.
    2. In regards to combat being too floaty and not having too much weight they have also implemented NPC collision detection. You can’t roll and dodge through enemies anymore, and being surrounded and killed is now a real possibility. Collision detection remains off for players though, as it was a choice between that or less players in Cyrodiil due to hardware constraints.

    More information here:

    If you don’t like TESO, find it boring and trite, or just not your cup of tea, none of this will matter, but for myself personally, to see a developer respond to criticism in a timely and expedient faction gives me hope that this game will be a keeper. No hate for Wildstar fans, though, to each their own.

    • Unapologetic here as well

      If I’d added PvP to the round one battle then well.. it wouldn’t even have been a contest haha. I love that large scale PvP. Having played gw2 for a year it was time for something different and ESO looks to do this but far far better in every way.

      Aware of all the changes and they’ve been fantastic so far. It’s rare to see a dev team so not up their own ass and willing to change elements that will improve the game.

      I just find parts boring.. at first. It’s a lot to get into based on the immensity of the background. last beta I basically just spent the entire time taking my time to explore the daggerfall area, reading and seeing what I could and I felt that much more engaged.

  5. Ugh… I can’t believe someones interested in the PVP in that game. If your team is losing you can just jump ship and switch instances. Thats right, the FvFvF combat is instanced. Its not based on server, its based on instances. If your factions instance is losing you can literally switch to a new one.

    All this means is the combat is going to suck balls. People will keep jumping ship. No community will be built like in GW2 where you actually saw the same people week-in and week-out. Your a meaningless cog in a slaughterfest with absolutely NO impact on the actual game world. Your actions and victory mean nothing in the greater scope of the game. You are as pointless to the game as anyone else playing in it.

    Graphical arguments are quick to become hurdles to overcome. ESO took a starkly realistic approach, and its going to bite them in the ass as graphics get better and their game starts looking dated. It’ll be great for the first year, but after that…

    Wildstars is more World of Warcraft style, which means it can potentially look fresh and up-to-date 5 years from now.

    Both games fail miserably at dealing with content and how they are going to keep players coming back. If PVP is all your offering in those regards, there are a ton of better Sandbox titles that do it better. Free to Play is the only reason people will touch these games in a year.

    • The people I play with are not the kind of people who jump ship if we are losing, and we will happily play the resistance if that is what happens. We’ve had our asses kicked constantly in many formats of games, from Tekken tournaments, Counterstrike clan wars to pushing rating in WoW Rated BGs, and we have always persevered and improved. Perhaps that is what you will do if faced with the same situation, but either way, winning or losing, we will have a ball. Community is not based on the lowest common denominator of player – I am quite certain that I will see the same people in and out when I log in to play this game, and the people who I will make an effort to meet will be those who have the same kind of mindset as my gaming circle does. I believe that there are disincentives for faction jumping and if it becomes a major problem I actually have faith in Zenimax in addressing the issue because of how they have reacted to criticism to date, and because as of right now, AvA PvP is their current end game. But bollocks to that, let the faction jumpers jump – I have no interest in meeting people who have no ticker. Those kind of people are useless in any game setting, except perhaps as cannon fodder or as a distraction.

      Dark of Age of Camelot was instanced in almost exactly the same way, i.e. faction zones were locked away and there was a large (albeit) instanced PvP zone set up in the same way as Cyrodiil is, and that game became a by-word for faction versus faction gameplay. Servers were also limited to 3,000-4,000 people, which is almost the same size as the instanced PvP zone in TESO (2,000 people I believe). Yet it was able to maintain a small but dedicated fan base, and realm pride and realm identity were hallmarks of that game.

      For a better comparison here is a link to a nicely written piece comparing the two games:

      I actually disagree with you as to the overall fate of TESO (I don’t know about Wildstar, I don’t belong to the audience it is targeted for) but we shall all see in a year’s time. It depends on what you qualify as success – it seems like you are saying that TESO will go to free to play in a year. I’ll take that wager, and if I lose I will concede publicly on this blog and your blog and say, yep, Scree was right, and his prescience was a wonderful thing to behold. I’ll also go one better and make a prediction as to subs – I’m betting in a year’s time that the game will have between 500,000 to 1 million subs. That might seem low compared to the dancing panda that is WoW, but it will be double-triple-quadruple the success of its spiritual antecedent, DAOC, which is highly revered in the MMO PvP community but only had 250,000 subs at its peak.

      I’m quite happy to be wrong, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is. That’s the thing about serious PvPers – you come to accept that losing is part of the game, and it’s not a total loss if you learn something in the process.

      • I agree with the losing part. You keep going and trying, learning to win against the odds and overall that is a far more fun way to play. The thing is though with the intial commercial popularity of ESO there will be a lot of more casual pvp players, or pve and just jumping in for a bit that don’t think like that. They are in it more for the win, to feel powerful. Hopefully zenimax can keep that in check

    • it isn’t as easy as just switching whenever you want. During the play in that area you earn alliance points, these are used to purchase and upgrade a to of things within the mode but you also need to spend a fair amount of these to change. So, to switch, you actually need to be playing first. This is a lot different from gw2 where, if you earned enough in game currency you could switch whenever you wanted.

      As for graphics well, they really up improving in the same dramatic way. From one generation of gpus to the next it really isn’t improving as much anymore so graphics and the look now will last a lot longer than the used to. As for wildstar well, it already looks outdated

  6. I detect some dislike for Wildstar.

    Personally, I find both your varying levels of love and hatred to be amusing. I don’t really see too many differences between the two to be honest.

    I mean, Wildstar my be bright and cartoony but TESO is just plain boring. I’d call the former the lesser evil really.

    Both combat systems are close enough to each other that the differences are pretty minor. TESO let’s you block and always have access to a melee interrupt and stun breaker while Wildstar has abilities that have alternate uses and little minigame-like casting mechanics sometimes.

    Questing is similar too, the vast majority of TESO quests I’ve done are the same sort of “follow the breadcrumbs” thing that Wildstar and pretty much every other MMO released in the past 8 years has done. Sure, I like the little microdungeons you can find in TESO while on your way to somewhere else but they aren’t really common enough to call them a main feature.

    Really the only special thing I see in TESO is the RvR or AvA or whatever the hell they’re calling it. And even that section of the game has some pretty massive issues.

    • I find my indecision rather amusing as well. Well, it’s more being rather cautious uyet optimistic.. I have hope but experience had taught me different.

      As to why I like it more than the other. Yes, the differences in gameplay between are rather minor when you see it at first but after playing it feels like such a huge shift.

      • PvE wise, I rather enjoyed Wildtstar’s combat. It was pretty fun wrangling mobs to maximize my AoE damage on my spellslinger. Whereas in Elder Scrolls games I like playing stealthy archers and TESOs stealth system is just plain woeful.

        Too bad the PvP in Wildstar is even more spammy and AoE happy than GW2. Even TESOs stealth zergs and terrible combat resource management system can’t compare to that.

        Also, even after all the hours I’ve put into it, seeing other people running around the same microdungeon I am in TESO makes bile rise in my throat. Normally I don’t give a flying fuck about muh immersion and such, but as something that is fundamentally a perversion of one of my favorite game series TESO hits me right in the balls. Maybe it’ll get better after launch when instancing and phasing spreads people out, but damn if it doesn’t make my hackles rise. Oh well, one more reason to stay in the PvP area.

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