It won't be long before Carbine Studios' highly anticipated MMO, Wildstar, will fall into the laps of all the players who wish to play it, and trust me, there are a huge number of them. But having played the game across multiple classes, multiple times and even taking a character just shy of the lv.50 cap, one of the biggest questions in my mind is what exactly is the overall difficulty of the game in later-level content. This is a huge question to consider since out of the 950k who are suffering just waiting for a beta key, what percentage of that pie (and the pie that includes the thousands of other people who don't care for a beta key even) would one consider "hardcore" or better yet, skill-shot inclined? If we're talking real pie, I'm thinking the piece would be thin enough to make you think it were part of the plate.
Of course, that's just assumption. Who am I to tell you how hardcore the community is or isn't? Still, that's not the point. When we look at an endgame scenario, 40-man or 20-man, every player will need to use their class to as close to maximum effectiveness as possible, at least during progression. If the content doesn't allow for this, or lowers the skill cap, then the game will be too easy for those who do reach maximum efficency (see Tera). Making appropriately difficult endgame situations is much easier to accomplish in tab-target games like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI, Rift, and more likewise MMOs that pop into your noggin simply because a good chunk of efficiency comes from min/max after you understand the encounter's battle mechanics and that while they are good to have, individual reflexes do not need to be equal to that of an FPS professional by any means.
So where am I getting at? Right, Wildstar. So if you scratch the surface, Wildstar shares mechanics of every other endgame-PvE driven MMOs: there is the trinity of class roles (Tank, Healer, & DPS) and then there are combat mechanics. However, just splurting out those two pieces on this write-up is not directly portionate to spitting those phrases our on a piece I would write for a game like A Realm Reborn, which has slower gameplay.
"Trinity of Class Roles"
Wildstar has the three standard roles: Tank, healer, and DPS. The classes in this game are all fairly unique but what they all have in common is they are all, in-great majority, designed with the concept of "skill-shot" in mind. While the skills themselves are not extremely difficult to land (subjective opinion), they are still skillshots and every player is different in terms of their ability to twitch-react. Having decent target acquisition and accuracy is a big factor in utilizing some of the effectiveness in one's skillset, especially on classes like Spellslinger and sometimes Esper depending on the fights' speed and movement requirements. There are instances where a tank could get knocked around and a healer with below-average reflexes might miss a heal because of constant, unavoidable and/or nessecary motion. While it's up to the player themselves to decide what they are capable of, sometimes, these factors are outside of their complete control.
If you don't like fast-paced action gameplay, Wildstar is not for you. There is a ton of constant motion... "but every game ha-" no... A MEGA TON OF MOTION. You will feel like your keyboard will break because of how fast your fingers are moving. The moment you start fighting monsters in Wildstar for the very first time, there is action gameplay. There are telegraphs to move out of, and in some instances, pressure from the terrain via land mines and what not and this all there to prepare you for the constant increase in game difficulty you will encounter as you push your way to Lv.50.
Because of the fluidity of the game itself, the game is far from relaxing in most occassions. It is much faster than Monster Hunter if I were to use something comparable and it only gets faster and harder as you progress through the game. Wildstar's combat is almost entirely twitch-based and the action is constantly on-going. You pretty much have to be focused at what you're doing, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the person. Am I discouraging you from playing? Of course not, but I'm just emphasizing the speed of gameplay.
On top of movement mechanics, there are your two dodge counters and then a sprint meter that you have to monitor to play efficiently. Ok, now i'm getting all hardcore, but it helps to dodge because telegraphs, or non auto-attacks, in this game are very punishing should you get hit. You are taught this at lower levels when lv.10 monsters will sometimes hit you for 4000 damage out of your 3.2k health pool and maybe the 1.5k shield you have at your disposal.
Overall, the game is hard. I'm not talking Legendary Mode Halo or Dark Souls or anything. I'm talking hard in the more realistic sense. You take a lot of damage if you don't dodge, and sometimes you can't dodge anything unless your gameplay mechanics are sharp. So instead of "hard" let's use "Punishing." Healing is not traditional and some of us know how the average populace plays this role in some current titles.
Wipes @First Dungeon
Alright, this is dependent on who you play with and what not but with the handful of random players I have ventured with in to the very first dungeon you're permitted to play, there were quite a handful of wipes to be had. In most of my wipes, it came down to players not dodging all the telegraphs all while being able to do their role at the same time more than the difficulty of the encounters themselves. Perhaps this could have attributed to ping and lag? I do not know, but some instances were fairly embarrassing. Other than that, the harder enviornment made people try harder and communicate more to progress further so that was a nice touch. Still, this was the first dungeon... This leaves me wondering on later encounters.
The future of Wildstar
While obviously, Wildstar hasn't even started yet, I wonder how far they will take this game in terms of where it needs to be to compliment its combat mechanics. You can't make a game too hard or else it will be less appealing to a large audience but at the same time, making it too easy makes it less appealing to most. The trick with action games is you have to be creative with direct fight mechanics otherwise you get bland fights with tons of tank & spank and the reduction of dedicated roles as skilled individuals just learn to dodge everything and do it all on their own.
Games like Tera, early on in the game's life at least, and while it's a different type of genre, Vindictus, became too easy because the games were very fast-paced so they had to offset fight mechanics to prevent total frustration and the game became duller and duller even before you actually reached endgame. Late game in action-based games was just difficulty increase through more harder hitting, higher-health monsters than requirements for creative tactics or individual plays.
Right now, Wildstar has the ingrediants to be succesful, but it has the mechanics to go down a darker path also. Action games are widely-known to be incredibly fun yet short-lived after you master the combat and kill everything on your own. Still, I have faith in Carbine and while there's only so much I can say, the game does fight mechanics quite well in terms of positioning. Still, what worries me is how some players are going to adjust to this new, faster, younger style of MMO.