I have been in Closed Beta since early March and with the NDA release I can give my impressions. I have an Exile toon to about 18 and a Dominion toon to about level 8.
Wildstar has been liken to Vanilla WoW and from certain points of view that comparison is valid. The first one is the leveling. This is slowest leveling game I’ve been in quite some time. I’m not breezing through content or levels, but it has never felt grindy or punishing. The zones feel very Vanilla WoW. There is one area that looked and felt like the original Stonetalon Mountains. There are patting mobs everywhere and in the early teens some of those mobs are tough. There is a palatable sense of danger in the wild.
Dying is a real possibility and the penalties are fairly steep. When I got into trouble, I would blow everything I had, but early on your options are limited to one big cooldown and health potions / med pacs, which in Wildstar are on a fairly a longish cooldown (5 minutes). If you do, in fact, die, you get one opportunity to rez at your body for an escalating cost. If you use it, you get put on a 30 minute cooldown. Die again and your only option is to rez at the nearest holocrypt with a nice hike, though the hostile mobs, to your previous destination. Death is also a place where Wildstar’s signature humor shines through. Every time you die, you get a snarky announcer guy who basically makes fun of your fail. The lines are varied enough that I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same one twice (or maybe I have).
3/24 Update! I found a great blog with an example of the snarky announcer: http://nexusnightly.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-taunts-after-you-die-crack-me-up-is.html?m=1
I don’t have huge expectations for a character creator. The best one I ever used was Champions Online, but the majority of my gaming time was playing in SWTOR and WoW. Wildstar has a more than adequate character builder.
You pick your race, class and path combination and get to work on the customization. There are the usual hair style, skin color, and faces options. What is odd is there isn't any kind of height/weight slider. Wildstar does give you a silly amount of customization options for the face.
Factions and Races
There are two factions in Wildstar. The rebellious Exiles and the imperial Dominion. You choose from one of 4 races. Each side as a short race (Exiles – Aurin, Dominion – Chua), a tall race (Exiles – Mordesh, Dominion – Mechari), a big race (Exiles – Granok, Dominion – Draken) and a normal race (Exiles – Human, Dominion – Cassian). The Cassians and humans are basically the same models.
The Aurin are a small race with furry tails. They remind me a humanoid foxes, though one variant has rabbit like ears.
After playing both sides, I decided I liked the Exile side better. The quest are more fun and the humor is better executed. I'll talk about the starting areas in my next post, but they give you a good feel for each race. The opening quest for the Dominion has you torturing fellow Dominion citizens while the opening Exile quest is a rescue mission. One early quest on the Exile side that set the tone well for me. I won’t spoil it, but after that quest, I never wanted to play a Dominion toon again.