So, hell has semi-officially frozen over. Yes, it’s true. I’m doing an actual review. Kind of. Saying it right now; no, there will be no score at the end. It’s a retarded trend that is plaguing the industry that you can attach a numerical value to how much someone subjectively enjoyed a game. There is no objectivity to it. So don’t go in thinking I’m going to sum this all up with a number, because that’s not how I roll. There will be words though. Lots of words.  Second, this is mostly because Wanderlust happens to be a fairly short, enjoyable game that I’m able to do this. Don’t ask for reviews on other, bigger games unless you want the love-child of insanity and a college thesis. Right, we’re done with that, we can look at the game itself.

Gameplay:

Control is very simple, movement being WASD and then using the arrow keys to use abilities for three of the four playable classes. Each one has a fairly unique play style with a couple of different styles. If you’re sadistic or boring Alchemists and Warriors can just stand behind enemies and spam basic attacks to wrack up massive combos and give the various wildlife some serious lower-back problems. Warriors can spec in to tanking or just bludgeoning things to death. Alchemists can be the back-stabby rogues or use a variety of potions to blow-up and debuff enemies. Clerics have the hilarious ability to heal and damage with basically anything they do. Specializing for one or the other makes it better, of course, but it’s hilarious to see my friend’s Cleric who was built solely to heal our party through missions run around beating everything to death with the power of healing. And no, not just undead things. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen someone heal a bear to death.

I wish I could be that cool.

Special mention goes to the Elementalist, the mage with the most ridiculous gameplay of the four. Unlike the other three, the Elementalist can only ever have 2 spells active (used with Right/Left mouse instead of arrows, you have to aim spells), but every spell is composed of runes that have varying cooldowns and combinations. Fire can inflict Burn, which sets and enemies Frost resist to zero. Boulder is a line-shot that penetrates and hits everything in a line. Every element you can pick from has a summon-able pet once you put in enough points to that skill.

You can pick any class and do fine in single-player (in fact, you can pick to play truly solo or have 3 other npc allies), but the classes really shine in conjunction with each other. Obviously the ‘best’ of any group will be the Holy Trinity of games, Tank-Healer-Damage, you can easily go whatever you want. Four Clerics is able to clear just about everything like a ‘proper’ set up. Life will be easier if someone decides to play healbot, but Warrior and Alchemist both have ways to avoid damage completely, available right from the get go. Proper timing on blocks and dodges mean you can deal with any situation given enough time. Had plenty of moments where everyone screwed up and the Warrior or Alchemist had to fight the rest of the room solo. Takes time, but having a dead party member isn’t a death sentence, which is very nice.

Now, in terms of character balance, there seems to be a serious problem with Elementalists. If you’ve never heard of the trope Linear Warrior – Quadratic Wizard, well, you have now. And for any of you poor saps who actually clicked that link, I’ll see you again in about four months when you get done with the yearly TvTropes archive binge.

Told you I was sadistic.

Back on topic, LW-QW is when face-tankers like Warriors gain power at a fairly steady rate, Wizards tend to start off crap and then begin to grow at an insane level until they just blow up whatever they feel like. By looking at it. Blindfolded. Wanderlust isn’t that bad, but if you want to play an Elementalist then you’d better settle in for the long haul. Outside of abusing things like Burn for more Ice damage, your friends will be doing more damage than you. A lot more, because they can also block, dodge, or heal any mistakes away. Take a couple swings and you’re dead, so you have to constantly run around and rely on stun-locking an enemy, which is, again, going to cut into your damage. Getting the points to do anything can be a hassle as well, with some of the upper tiers of spells costing up to 700 points to unlock. The first level. After that? Up to one-thousand seven hundred for the next level of that spell. Unless you’re power gaming for 100% completion, that is going to be almost all of the points you come across for a while.

Don’t forget HP, mana, regen… eh… should be fine without.

But once you get those points? Holy crap. You can chain stun, burn, and detonate anything you make eye-contact with for as long as your mana pool can hold up. You can easily shred massive packs of enemies with sweeping Area of Effect spells where other classes have limited AoE potential. As an aside though, it can be very frustrating sometimes, as spells do not ignore terrain or walls. So you can’t shoot over a bridge or through a cluster of trees. That wouldn’t be so bad, but spells have a nasty habit of clipping random corners and ceasing to exist without hitting anything else. Often times areas with zigging paths or lots of terrain will involve constantly stepping to the side to try to clear a shot without it vanishing on you.

Away from that, there is a nice variety to enemy types to keep the game fun throughout the play session. Some like bears can ignore block, others can cast, some can go invisible. And then you will have spiders, which be the embodiment of all you fear and hate in the world. You think I’m joking. You won’t after chapter three, when you have to cry yourself to sleep with the threat of Spidergeddon hanging over you like a nightmare shroud. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Bosses are equally varied and fun to fight. I’m not going to go into detail here (to avoid spoilers for later game segments), but each one is fun to face and different from the last with fun mechanics or gimmicks to provide a nice kick.

Except the bug boss. Think Spidergeddon, but compressed into one fight with one boss. Again, you’re welcome for that image.

Like this. Only worse, and more bloody. And with more spiders. Or less, I blocked out those nightmares.

Completionists will probably enjoy playing to 100% on each chapter and difficulty, but gameplay snobs like me will probably become bored after a couple runs of the same level. Unless it’s on different characters, the AI and enemies just aren’t varied enough to provide a challenge. Though it’s very hard for PvE content to stay really fresh and challenging for me, so that’s not a point against it as long as I can enjoy playing with friends.

Story:

Going to try to avoid major spoilers, but there might be a minor thing here or there. Shouldn’t be any worse than revealing Spidergeddon to you earlier, so don’t worry too much.

Did I mention how much I hated those spiders?

Right, right… back to story.

Functionally it holds together well, and there are no major plot holes or whamy bits (aside from this one: SPOILER), and is very comical and enjoyable to play through. To give you an example without spoiling much, the first mission is playing through an arena to compete for a trophy and chance to visit the kingdom, fighting through a few wolves, mercenaries, and finally a big angry bear boss. After a few shenanigans with the representative sent to escort you to the castle, you have to set out alone. So you can your intrepid friends (or not) set out to meet the king and receive your award!

About fifteen more bears, three-hundred and fifty-two wolves, a few pigs and eighteen-billion spiders later, you make it to the castle to receive your award. You know, the award you got for killing one angry bear. Truly the postman of this world must be bloody He-Man to make it around without dying. That or they have a really high turn-over rate. It’s light-hearted and fun to play, it makes sense, and the writing isn’t half bad. Even later on when the game hits a bit of a tone-shift, it still plays well and keeps a good sense of progression without going off the deep end and leaving the player wondering what the hell happened.

I bet Bandit Keith used to be the mail man. Explains those muscles and how he beats you everywhere.

However… I can’t help but feel a little left out. Perhaps some of the greatest Irony ever, Wanderlust is a game I’d like to get immersed in and explore the world at large, but you can’t. Which creates these really jarring moments where you as the player have no idea whats going on, but you as a character do. Multiple times in the campaign, one of the characters will react with familiarity to characters you’ve never met or even heard about anywhere else. The worst case of this comes at the end (Again, spoilers. Read at your own risk), but I’ll give a better, less spoilerific example. That said, this will reveal a bit about late game, so feel free to skip to conclusion if you don’t want to know.

Later on you come across one of a small grouping of Liches. Now, if you have a Cleric in the group, they will be singled out for a bit of dialog, which basically calls them out on interfering with their plans in a major way again.

Again.

Wait, what? This is the first time I’ve ever heard of this guy, and the first time I’ve ever seen it. It’s never mentioned in-game up until now. Why? What did they try to do? When did we stop it? How? Where was all of this going down? Our kingdom? The one next door? What powers did they have then, what could we expect now? Why was this never mentioned before now? These guys are a serious threat, bad enough to have an order of the Holy out to hunt them down and purge them from Unlife. Why was this never mentioned before?

That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. It feels like there is an entire world behind the game, but for that I’m only aloud to look through the window and not roam around to explore for myself. You could say “Well, it’s up for the player to decide that! “, and I could. But the thing is, this is a world were I don’t know the mythos and can’t really make accurate calls to where and how I would have fit into the past. And it’s opportunities like this that could be used to solidify the world, creating a tighter narrative and  giving a little more depth to the world and the characters both within and the ones we’ve possessed and make run into walls like drunken puppets. As much as I like to go out and murder everything living (and sometimes unliving too), I like to also know why it is there. What brought these creatures to this area, how it all fits together, what my interactions now and then mean.

Score:

So, with all that said, I think I would have to give Wanderlust: Rebirth a nice score of aha ha ha. Just kidding.

Score: Conclusion: 

Like I said in my last article and in this behemoth, I enjoy Wanderlust. It isn’t perfect by any stretch, but fun to play through and an absolute blast to play with a few friends. Add in some booze of your choice and you’ll have the perfect set up for some great gaming shenanigans at a budget price. At ten dollars, I think it’s a fantastic price for a short but mostly-sweet experience. Even better if you have some friends who want in, there is a four-pack for thirty bucks, save a bit of money to spend on more booze. You’ll need it to drown out the horrible memories of Spidergeddon.

The game can be punishing if you try and brush off grinding in favor of just goofing of for fun though. I don’t like that it feels as though I’m being punished for playing to have fun and having things like a better decent ending with some closure (good or bad!) or that Elementalists feel like they have an insanely wonky power curve. It’s got a wide world under the cover, but not much depth in lore. Fun characters and a good sense of pacing (when not grinding), so that’s that. If it sounds like you’d like it, take a look. Otherwise, there are other fish in the sea.

However, none of them have a dodge that is this fun to spam.

Yeah, that’s all you get as a review from me. Impressions, complaints, and ideas. I’m not compressing that into some arbitrary number to make buyer’s remorse/confirmation bias easier to do (“I didn’t like that.. it got a low score here, I must be right not liking it!” / “I really want to buy this… oh look, a high score! I’ll get it anyways”). If you like what you hear, you’ll probably like whats in the game. If you want to look into it, there is a free trial here.

Phew. That was one of my rare actual reviews. Of a short indie game. Someone shot me if I ever think about trying to ‘review’ a AAA title, I might explode WordPress.