So, Wildstar is all the talk these days around the MMO circle, and deserving of the attention that it gets, the game is really solid. By that, I mean it is not really reinventing the wheel by MMO standards, but what it sets out to do it does well. Rather than doing another Wildstar review, though, I want to touch on something that strikes me quite a bit about the game: the Limited Action Set (LAS).
IGN defines the LAS on their wiki here: http://www.ign.com/wikis/wildstar/Limited_Action_Set
And below you’ll see what setting up your LAS on a character looks like.
In other words, whereas previous big-name MMOs have allowed players access to as many of their avatar’s skills and attacks as they have free slots on their hot-bars Carbine has imposed a limitation of just 8 out of all of your skills at max level. Now, this is nothing new in MMOs as it seems they most often fall into one of these two categories: comprehensive (where all of your attacks and skills are available to you at max level and you are left to decide how you want to fit them onto your bars) and limited (systems where the total number of attacks you get is limited such as in the LAS).
Examples of other limited systems in MMOs can be found in Neverwinter, Tera, and Aion just to name a few, but just looking at those three games and Wildstar it is very clear that the term “limited” is somewhat of a misnomer in that each of these limited systems is different from the others. However, when compared to the free-form slotting allowed in World of Warcraft, Everquest II, and Rift the systems do indeed appear to limit what a player can do.
Now, there are two disturbing trends I find in this analysis of systems. The first is that newer MMOs seem to be favoring the limited systems more – since those systems by limiting players’ choices of skills also limits the choices a player must make in a situation that demands immediate action (dodging telegraphs, primarily). And the second is that because the LAS attempts to make players’ choices easier there is – in fact – less to choose from for those 8 slots.
I am an old-school MMO fan. I have played WoW and all the other MMOs I’ve listed as well as many others. I prefer the comprehensive systems that give you access to all your skills because I like the pressure of having to make those choices in the moment. It adds a new dimension of customization and challenge to the games for me. However, in the video below you can also see at 1:50 how the LAS adds a whole new dimension to customization on the fly.
That said, I have to acknowledge that in games with action combat (that is, MMOs where you must actively dodge and aim your attacks rather than tab-targeting) it would be much more difficult with an unlimited system like what is seen in older MMOs. Would they become impossible? I don’t think so, but perhaps challenging enough to diminish the fun factor considerably.
In the end, I understand the reasoning behind the LAS and other limited systems: by limiting the number of skills both available overall and available immediately in your build, the developers allow players to think less about choosing the right skills for a situation and focus more on the combat itself. However, the disadvantages to this are staggering.
For starters, theorycrafters should lament limited systems because with fewer skills to choose from there are going to doubtlessly be far fewer builds that are efficient. Secondly, having fewer options of skills overall makes a game feel small – even when developers like Carbine have poured their hearts into making an expansive, massive world with incredibly detailed combat, story, and characters.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below about which you prefer: limited or comprehensive action sets. Also, if you’re a fan of MMOs and haven’t played Wildstar yet, what are you waiting for?! The game is amazing, and you should definitely give it a shot.