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So, after getting all disgusted over asinine raid attunements I’ve actually ended up with a copy of Wildstar after all. You can blame ‘social factors’ for this one – some of my old gang from Guild Wars 2 are playing, and are co-founders of a guild there together with some of their old mates from LotRO (and are allied with a guild connected to MY old kinship from LotRO), and browsing around the guild looked pretty fun, with an ethos aimed at the “over 30 and have kids” crowd… so I picked up a copy and am now busy levelling up Tremayne the Engineer (now at level 38), with a side order of Charonis the Medic (all of level 17), putting most of my ESO activities on the back burner for now.

I still think ESO is the better game – or at least, the better MMO, because Wildstar arguably has tighter design as a game. ESO has atmosphere, a sense of place, stories and character interactions that evoke genuine emotional responses. Wildstar is so busy swinging a wrecking ball through the fourth wall (and the other three walls, and the roof) that even when you lead a group of soldiers into battle, one of them dies and you have to go tell his grieving widow it feels more like they’re playing the hoary old war movie clichĂ© for laughs. Wildstar stakes no claim to be literature – as I suspected, it’s a Saturday morning action cartoon series, but if its emotional range doesn’t really go beyond “shits and giggles” at least it delivers competently on that front.

What Wildstar does have is a lot more mechanics to get your teeth into. Where ESO pretty much throws the toy box of abilities wide open and lets you pick and play with anything you like, Wildstar’s classes are more narrowly defined but then have deeper customisation within that narrow definition. If talent allocation and optimising skill rotation make your eyes light up, then Wildstar has more to offer – it truly is a child of (vanilla/BC) WoW, only now with 100% more active dodging. The crafting system is – well, it’s either deep, or insanely over-complicated. I’m inclined towards the latter, because some of the complexity seems to be bolted on for the sake of adding complexity. Maybe the Chua designed it. Unlike ESO’s crafting, which is pretty easy to grasp but requires dedication and investment of skill points to master, Wildstar’s features multiple mechanics, talent trees, achievements and a darts-like mini-game where you try and hit a target to make a specific item, and elicits a reaction of “huh?” even from Mensa-level IQs.

If I had just been soloing around and maybe trying PUGs for the group content, I doubt Wildstar would have grabbed me much. However, the social factors kicked in – I’ve been lucky enough to fall in with an active guild of like-minded individuals, which is always the key to finding a game to stick with. It helps that Wildstar scales everybody’s level to group content, so I’m not stuck looking for a team of people at my exact level, and a level 50 joining some of us lowbies for an adventure doesn’t carry us through trivial (for them) content. Chances are I’ll be turning up on Nexus regularly but more for the company than the scenery.

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