It was the most promising MMORPG of 2014. Then it was the most disappointing MMORPG of 2014. And now it’s (maybe) the most promising MMORPG of 2015?
I’m talking about WildStar, which as of today is officially free-to-play. It’s the latest (and hopefully the last) MMO to launch with a subscription plan and then make the slow, arduous transition to a friendlier business model.
Here’s how it works:
“We place no restrictions on any of the game’s content. Every zone, every dungeon, every raid, every battleground… they’re all available. All players will be able to create characters of every race, class, and path, and choose any tradeskills they like. Characters can achieve level 50 and path level 30, just as they can under the current system. There are some initial restrictions on services and social functions—which can be unlocked through the Cosmic Rewards system.”
Those services and social functions include limiting guild creation to paying customers and doubling the amount of rest XP earned. It seems like a decent business model—actually free-to-play instead of the “It’s just annoying enough to make you pay” model of Star Wars: The Old Republic. But the real question is whether anyone’s interested.
WildStar screwed up. There’s no two ways about it. Promising to overhaul the MMORPG genre with a tense, skill-based game, instead it delivered something that was…well, pretty much impossible. Or at the very least a grind. I’ll refer you again to this Reddit thread from December (six months after launch), where user fooey pointed out that only 1.3 percent of WildStar players ever killed a raid boss.
So alongside the free-to-play launch, developer Carbine tells me the early-game content and dungeons have been reworked. I haven’t gotten around to trying it, but the words “less grindy” were thrown out there. Carbine hopes this time players give the game a try—a proposition made easier by the fact the game’s free—and then actually stick around instead of being run off in the first few hours.
Will it work? I don’t know. I feel like WildStar’s following the same well-tread path as The Old Republic and Elder Scrolls Online, where even after it goes free-to-play the negative launch buzz persists. But it’s worth checking out. I mean, it won’t cost you anything except time, and prior to last year’s dud of a launch this was one of the most hotly-anticipated MMOs in a long while. Maybe the updated version can recapture some of that hype.