WildStar is a busy game. In every direction, shiny baubles and fluttering flags and swirling beacons of light compete for your attention. The world of Nexus is awash with color--or, more specifically, awash with all of the colors, many of them splashed across the screen at any given time as if by an artist determined to exhaust his entire supply of paint. Developer Carbine Studios, apparently unable to choose a single art style, squeezed multiple ones together, crafting an audiovisual potpourri that's as eclectic as the game's narrative themes. A horn-heavy tune, the kind John Williams would be proud to have written, calls out during a planetside battle, evoking Star Wars and its galactic tensions. Graceful gazelles glide across the grass while the music whispers a hint of Disney's Pocahontas soundtrack, at least when it isn't mirroring chord progressions from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Quests and regions refer to Left 4 Dead and Firefly, and your level-up notification flashes with comic-book pizzazz. In WildStar, the pop culture references flow freely down a river of science fiction and fantasy themes, each wink and nod leaping from the waters with glee.
This concoction makes for an overwrought aesthetic, and while I am occasionally struck by the gaudiness, I'm more often struck by WildStar's beauty. But even when I venture into villages swamped in kitsch, I know that I am in Nexus. The zombies and the horned snow monsters, the hoverboards and skyboats, the aloof robots and talking vegetables are all wrapped into a world that is very much its own, no matter how easy you might think it is to compare WildStar to World of Warcraft. Such a comparison is a superficial one: where Warcraft aspires to the Warhammer universe's chunky proportions and bulging architecture, WildStar details its landscapes with bright green curlicues and gray-blue bubbles to depict grass and rocks.