Why WildStar is worth your time
As most people probably know by now, WildStar will be going free to play on September 29th. Whether you've played the game before or not, it's worth checking out. Here's a few reasons why everyone should take advantage of this to give it a try.
For me, the greatest draw in WildStar is the combat. Unlike traditional tab-target MMOs, almost every ability (including heals and interrupts) in WildStar has an area of effect, which is determined by your character's facing. Some abilities will hit all targets in the AoE, some will hit a certain maximum number, and some will only hit the closest target.
This adds an element to positioning that takes it beyond the usual 'don't stand in the bad' and 'vaguely face the boss' tactics seen in tab-target MMOs. An ability whose AoE is a thin, straight line can be used as a devastating multitarget attack, if you can position yourself on one end of a line of enemies. (Think of the triple headshot in the Deadpool trailer.) Have a DoT that needs to be cleansed? Healers can't just mouse over your name on their raid frames and cast a cleanse on you; they need to aim the cleanse, and you need to avoid moving out of it. This necessitates tactical thinking that is simply not present in tab-target games. It also adds a need for careful group coordination.
Another excellent aspect to the combat in WildStar is the need to perform various acrobatics. With the ability to sprint for limited periods of time (although sprinting prevents your character from performing any attacks) as well as the ability to perform a limited number of dodge rolls, there's many more ways to move around the battlefield than what's available in other MMOs. Using these abilities intelligently is crucial both to surviving and to maximizing your output.
All in all, the combat system is what really grabbed my attention when I first started playing WildStar, and I would not want to go back to a tab-target kind of system.
2. Endgame content stays interesting
Another one of my favorite things in WildStar is that even the pre-raiding endgame content is fairly challenging and continues to have a high replay value. Max level dungeons are not pushovers, even once you outgear them. Sure, the gear lets you kill things faster, but in general you will not usually be able to totally ignore a mechanic without wiping.
In other words, you won't usually be able to beat a fight by simply overgearing it. Skilled players with minimal gear will perform better than unskilled players with lots of gear - this is true to an extent in every game, but it is more prominently true, to me at least, in WildStar than in lots of other games.
3. So why isn't it more popular?
So why has WildStar not been more popular? Perhaps the somewhat rocky start led to a bit of a spiraling effect. New players found themselves having to level primarily through questing. While questing in WildStar to level is no more tedious than in other MMOs I have played, players coming from games like World of Warcraft, where it is possible to get into a leveling dungeon every 5 minutes or so, might have found the lack of leveling dungeon queues quite frustrating.
A related problem was the learning curve. Players who were inexperienced in other MMOs, and even players who had stuck to more casual content in other MMOs, often found some of the leveling instances fairly difficult and end up feeling quite frustrated, because they jumped up quickly in difficulty. This made leveling seem like more of a grind than it actually should have been.
Plus, reaching max level was not the end of the grinding process. After hitting max level, a character still needed to acquire more ability and AMP points in order to be maximally effective. Originally, this process was gated, so it would take many weeks to acquire these points.
Finally, in order to raid, there was a very long 12-step attunement process. It probably would not have felt so long if there were a constant influx of new players with whom to attune, but for most steps, there was no real motivation for someone who had completed that step to go back and do it again. (For example, there was no reason for someone to go kill world bosses ever again if they'd already completed that attunement step.) So a lack of new players could slow the attunement process while newbies searching for people who were willing to help.
Not to mention that some of the attunement steps involved lengthy RNG-filled instances (I'm looking at you, Malgrave Trail...) which could be failed at the last moment through RNG, necessitating starting all over again.
Fortunately, the devs at Carbine are very responsive to player input, and the attunement process, already streamlined in previous patches, will be cut down to just four or five steps in the free to play launch. The leveling process is also being reworked to make the learning curve smoother and to help introduce people to the meat of the game more quickly. New incentives to do things like kill world bosses are being added. There's some other great changes, like changing up stat priorities so that customizing gear with runes will be a little more interesting than before (for those unfamiliar with previous stat priorities, they would quickly degenerate into 'AP to class cap, then more crit!'), but these kinds of detailed changes are likely to be more meaningful to those who already play the game.
4. Choose chuas!
If you needed more reasons to play, consider this: you can play as a chua, a race of intelligent space chinchillas with rat tails and an obsession for doing science through violence. Or you can play as a matriarchal space hippie obsessed with environmentalism...again through violence. What more could you ask for in a game, cupcake?