This is a game that is most definitely in Early Access and it certainly shows. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it leaves lots of room for additions and improvement, but it does make for a somewhat disjointed story. With Developers from previously successful classic RPG games working on this, The Waylanders is a game to watch grow.
Genre: Action, Adventure,
Developer: GATO STUDIO
Publisher: GATO STUDIO
Release date: 16 Jun, 2020
The Waylanders is a Classically styled Action Adventure Role Playing Game where you get to create your own character based on a few assorted race and profession options. You can also spend some points to adjust your starting statistics as well to help shape your character the way you want them to be. In terms of your character’s overall looks, it is a bit minimalist in terms of fine refinement that some other games offer but that is just inconsequential cosmetic stuff and may even be added later. I did dabble with each of the classes to feel the differences, however, due to other people joining your party later on there are really no wrong choices you can make there. Still though, each of the classes does play a bit differently so you may want to try them all to find the one you want to stick with for the duration. The game really shines in terms of formation abilities and other unique features.
Right now the game is showing the telltale signs of Early Access. From the odd bugs cropping up out of nowhere, to the broken and disjointed story, the game is a bit difficult to follow right now. From what I can tell so far, the story should prove to be interesting once it is more fleshed out. It feels like they are currently just linking together the interesting action bits first then will eventually add the details in later. That’s fine, one doesn’t expect a complete game experience when playing an Early Access title, but it is something to keep in mind if you do opt to give it a try right now. The story is mostly voiced however there are the odd dialogue sections sprinkled in where you have to just read what is on the screen. It’s likely where they have made additions to a scene but have not had a chance to have the voices recorded for those additions. The voice acting is remarkably well done though with the personality really being reflected through their speech patterns. From the smug and uppity lady with her air of superiority as she talks to the all brawn and no brains, mighty muscle bound champions, each one is enjoyable to talk to. Even the music and sound effects are well done even at this point in its development.
The gameplay is pretty standard for the genre. You move around in battle in real time, however, you do have the ability to pause time and queue up some moves in advance for your character to play out once time is restored. You will find better gear laying around although it may not be gear suitable for your current class. There is plenty of loot to be had though so odds are you will eventually find yourself something better if you just keep a keen eye out for the hidden chests. I ended up playing the Ranged class for the bulk of this preview simply because I always like having a companion to help tackle enemies since their distraction helps me stay out of melee range. The AI for companions works well for this stage in development. I never really found them doing anything overly odd and they were useful in combat.
Combat is actually already showing signs of being well done and properly implemented. As mentioned, there is an AI to control the characters you are not currently ordering around, however, you have full control over how the AI treats those characters. If you want to be the shot caller, you can pretty much put them into manual mode, or if you want them to be self-sufficient, you can give the AI full control over them. It is a system that is already working quite well. The formation mechanics is another place where the game shines. It’s entirely possible to set up your characters to move in formations that allow for some pretty interesting effects depending on the classes of characters you have in your party. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to the refinement of combat that goes well beyond this preview’s scope but I can tell you that the one thing I was impressed with in this game was the wide range of actions you can do in even simple battles. From making a turtle like shield dome, to turning a mage into kind of a living tower, to combining into a golem like creature, there is just too much to talk about. Once this game reaches the end of Early Access and has all the polish added to it, I can see experimenting with the makeup of your party just to see the various activities they can get up to when they work together. It allows for quite immersive tactics that goes well beyond the standard click to attack option found in these sorts of games.
With the story being so cobbled together it would be hard to spoil what is going in the game because even I am not entirely sure at this point. The Prince doesn’t seemed to be suited to take over for his father the King but that’s okay, the King is fine and is going to go visit the Gods simply because he can and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then somehow we ended up getting in trouble because of mysterious reasons, and then to escape the danger we entered a cave, then somehow almost everyone died mysteriously except you ended up being fine after waking from the death induced coma. I won’t say more than that because I don’t like spoiling the story of the game, but I wanted to give you a taste of what awaits you at this stage in the development. I’m sure once it is fleshed out it will all make sense but being so disjointed was really disorienting and detracted a bit form the gameplay. Ignoring the story, that feels a bit like the janitor accidentally dropped the unnumbered script pages on the floor while he cleaned the room then quickly picked up the scattered pages and stacked them back in random order on the desk hoping no one would notice, the gameplay is fine and is something that is fairly easy to enjoy.
The game does have some interesting elements in it though which are quite promising. There are two major time periods that the game takes place in and your choices in the past should impact the future. Currently it’s more hypothetical as the game currently focuses on the earlier time period right now, but the Developer has stated the plans for how the story will unfold revolving around the player’s choices. That is an ambitious idea with a lot of potential that hopefully will be implemented properly down the road. Currently though it’s just mainly on paper. You barely get to experience the future as the game stands right now.
The game does look good and that is without it being a polished final gem of a game. I’m sure once the game releases the final version it will look even better. The characters have sufficient features to keep them interesting and the clothing changes as you don different gear. That level of detail is always something that I enjoy seeing in games. It is less interesting but so much easier for the Developer to just have a character with their outfit glued to their body for the entire game. When a Developer takes the time to make the clothes update depending on what you are wearing is a sign that a lot of attention to detail is going to be put into the game. Sure, as mentioned, you can’t refine the looks of your character and have to choose from the very limited options which consist of basically hair style and overall character colours but that is enough for now. The NPCs even have a lot of care and attention given to crafting their looks.
You can tell just by looking at the colourful world with all the ambient details that the Developer is spending a lot of time trying to make this game look fantastic and I can honestly say they are succeeding. Exploring a new area is never boring, from lush forests to magically charged areas everything is delightful to behold. Even the camera is well done allowing you to change your point of view and doing it in such a way that works well. Camera is often an issue with these sorts of games and I can’t recall a single time when the camera got in the way of anything.
As mentioned, the voice acting in this game is top notch already. You can really feel the characters come alive as they talk with the great work the voice actors have done so far. Even the music accompanying the game is surprisingly well made considering just how Early Access the game is right now. If this is just a sample of what the future holds for The Waylanders than I am sure we are in for a soundtrack that may even be worth listening to independently.
Controls and User Interface
Currently the controls and user interface work quite well. I did get tripped up a little with the default options but that was nothing really worth complaining about. For some reason I keep pressing space bar thinking my character will jump (although I really have no reason to jump) but I trigger the combat pause instead. Don’t get me wrong, it is handy having that bound to space bar as you can quickly hit it if the tides of combat are starting to turn against you and you need a moment to think and plan out your next move. The complexity of the user interface comes when dealing with formations and tasking units to work with each other. It can be a bit overwhelming at first but eventually you will come to understand how the system works and it will become simple.
The story does allow you to choose what your character says or does during the conversation, and that was suggested to have impacts in the future story later on so there is that to look forward to. It’s a pretty simple choice option where you listen or read the conversation and then are given a prompt to choose how to proceed. The NPC you were talking to then reacts to your answer in a suitable way. It’s a simple user interface but one that works very well for this sort of game.
So, should you pick up The Waylanders? This is one of those hard calls. Right now the story is a disjointed mess, but the game has a lot of potential. I can see the Developer running with this game and turning it into something great much further down the road as it already has a pretty strong foundation. If you don’t mind the disjointed story and the incomplete nature of the game then sure you could give it a try right now. The extra money in the Developer’s pocket will go a long way in helping make the game better. If you want to experience the whole game in its entirety with little to no flaws or glitches, then now is not the best time to pick it up. The beauty and looks of the game are marred by the fact it is far from complete. The unique and complex combat options are fun even to experience in its current state though so you may want to check them out anyway. The characters you interact with are a treat and you can tell their complex personalities are something the Developer worked hard on perfecting. All in all, it’s currently more of a proof of concept of the game rather than the game itself at this point. The Developer is still actively working on it though and it had three content patches in the two weeks I had to review this game. Considering the names behind the game, I don’t think there is much risk at this point of the game not being finished eventually. I believe given time, The Waylanders is going to potentially be a good one.