The Waylanders, which was funded for $168,999 by over 3,000 Kickstarter pledges, just recently launched into Early Access on Steam. Since it is an Early Access title, there are plenty of bugs and glitches for the developers to work out, which is understandable, but that’s the least of the games problems. The Waylanders does show some promise, evoking memories of Dragon Age & Baldur’s Gate with its storytelling and gameplay, but that kind of money for a “potentially” good game down the road is a huge risk you shouldn’t take.
Not yet anyways.
Your first task when you begin The Waylanders is to customize your character. There are a wide-range of options to choose from. You can choose your sex (male or female), race (Human, Werewolf, Mourian or Semi Fomorian), class (Warrior, Guardian, Rogue, Ranger, Sorcerer or Healer), and finally, your background (only Celtic Soldier & Dogs of Ares Mercenary are available to choose from right now). It’s all pretty self explanatory, if you’re familiar with character creation. You can also customize your hair style, hair colour, eye colour etc. I created a Human Rogue with a Celtic Soldier background and eagerly started my adventure.
The Waylanders starts off strong with its presentation. We’re introduced to King Ith and Amergin the sage as they have a very human conversation about their imminent meeting with the gods. The dialogue is lighthearted, well-written, and there’s some great voice acting here. During conversations with your character, you can choose different things to ask or talk about. This lighthearted dialogue, while refreshing at first, carries over into the rest of the game, which felt strange to me. The Waylanders is constantly trying to be funny. Even when a main character is dying, he’ll still make jokes. It’s hard to take the game seriously, if that’s what the developers even intended. The characters in The Waylanders also have no problem with excessive swearing. I myself have no problem with swearing in any medium. Game of Thrones introduced me to a fantasy world where the word ‘fuck’ is commonplace. In The Waylanders, it just feels overdone. There’s a character you meet early on named Delba who keeps talking about how angry her dad is and she uses the word ‘shit’ in literally every sentence. It was humorous the first couple of times, but after that it was just borderline juvenile and undermines the otherwise great writing here.
While the dialogue may seem a bit off, the world of The Waylanders is gorgeous to look at. Whether you’re on a boat at sea or exploring open fields with blades of grass that sway in the wind, it all looks fantastic. It’s just a shame the world feels so empty right now. I was able to shop for armor, weapons, & healing supplies in town areas, but I wasn’t able to talk to any of the NPCs in any of these areas I visited. The only characters I could talk to were integral to the story. I know that NPCs usually have nothing important to say, but I am that guy that talks to a lot of the NPCs in my RPGs. Here, you’re just walking around an area until you find that one person you need to talk to or that next battle you need to partake in. It just feels empty and you can’t really get a grasp on the type of people that inhabit these areas. This could all just be minor nitpicks and concerns that will be implemented in later updates.
Despite these issues, The Waylanders combat system was the highlight for me and reminded me of the classic turn-based RPGs that the game is trying to resemble. There is the typical leveling system, with stat points to allocate and regular and passive abilities to unlock for each character. Abilities can be assigned to a hot bar, and pressing the space bar will freeze combat, allowing you to put in preset commands before the battle has even begun and plan out your strategy. It sounds like your run-of-the-mill RPG, but the new feature here called Formation changes things up. You highlight which party members (you can have up to 5 in your party at a time) you want to form up with and create a wall to protect your healers or spell-casters. There are different formations you can use, and using these formations will earn you Formation points that can be put into formation upgrades. It feels like you’re a Spartan from 300 protecting your teammates, and it’s a welcome addition to the genre.
Even if The Waylanders is in Early Access, I can say with confidence that you should not pay for it right now. I’m all for testing games early, but there should be a certain level of polish already there, especially if the testing is going to cost you as much as this one does. Sure, there is plenty of promise on display here, with some great character animations, voice acting, and combat. Those positives are overshadowed though by a world that feels empty to explore, and so many bugs and glitches right now during cutscenes and gameplay (to the point where entire story scenes are missing and you just end up somewhere new with no idea how you got there) that it distracts from the whole experience. If you’re on the fence, just let this one sit and cook for a couple of months and we’ll check back in to see how much it has improved. It has the potential to be something truly great, but at the steep price of $35.99 CAD, there’s really no reason you should pay for The Waylanders in its current state. – NVJ
The Waylanders is now available on Steam Early Access
Steam Early Access code provided by Evolve PR