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.
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.
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.
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.