Launched back in 2018 on Kickstarter, The Waylanders has finally made its way today to early access. As I am not a big follower of Kickstarter news I had not heard of The Waylanders until recently. Created by Gato Studio, most known for the AR-K series, I was initially intrigued by the game due to the fact that people who worked on Dragon Age: Origins and at Telltale Games are working on it. As I am a pretty big fan of both I was intrigued by what the game had to offer. With a little more research the game’s premise looked interesting as it combined real and mythical elements with an interesting time travel aspect. I was a little leery though as RPGs are not a genre that works the best in early access as they rely on telling a cohesive story and utilizing mechanics that don’t usually work great in a piecemeal fashion. Due to the game’s potential though I wanted to check it out. The Waylanders shows a lot of potential which includes a compelling world to explore and some unique twists on your typical RPG gameplay, but at this stage it is a little rough around the edges.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Gato Studio for the preview copy of The Waylanders used for this preview. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to preview, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this preview. Receiving the preview copy for free had no impact on the content of this preview.
In The Waylanders you play as a warrior that was assigned to join the Celts in their first meeting with their gods, the Tuatha de Danaan. This meeting should have brought prosperity to the land, but things go horribly wrong and the world is plunged into darkness. In the ensuing battle you come close to death which untethers you from time. The once peaceful land is corrupted by various magical creatures as the former kingdom is torn apart by various warring factions. Can you bring peace to the land as you are torn between two places in time (Celtic and Medieval eras)?
According to the developers of The Waylanders the game was inspired by games like Dragon Age: Origins and Baldur’s Gate. In a lot of ways it does remind me of Dragon Age: Origins. The gameplay feels like a combination of real time and turn based RPGs. The combat happens in real time, but you can pause at any time to plan out your strategy. The combat is pretty typical of many RPGs as you control a group of characters of various classes. In the combat you choose which enemy you want to target and what ability you want to use. As you progress you will unlock additional abilities that you can use which have various cooldown periods. Basically if you are familiar with the Dragon Age series or even games like World of Warcraft the basics of combat should be familiar to you as they are basically the same.
The one unique addition to the combat is the idea that the game features a number of different formations. Basically during combat you can select a number of your characters and place them into a formation. When placed in a formation all of the characters will move as one and combine their stats which gives you various benefits. Some of these formations provide defensive bonuses while others give you additional offensive capabilities. Some of these formations are based off of real life battle formations while others are from fiction. You can switch characters in and out of formations as all of your characters don’t have to be placed in the formation.
At this point the combat seems to mostly be in place. The game will add additional abilities and things will be tweaked, but the basic gameplay is fully playable at this point. Much of the gameplay seems similar to what you would typical expect from the genre. The idea of formations is really interesting though, and I am intrigued to see where the game takes it. I can see formations adding another layer of strategy to your typical RPG. For example you could use a defensive formation with some of your units to provide cover for some of your ranged characters that then attack individually. In general I think the combat is in a solid position for its current stage in early access.
The main problem that I had with the combat at this point is that it is not always as responsive as it should be. At this point the game works with controllers and keyboard and mouse setups. I tried both and of the two I thought the keyboard and mouse setup worked quite a bit better and that is coming from someone that generally prefers controllers. The controls are not particularly complicated and shouldn’t really surprise anyone familiar with the genre. The problem is that they don’t always work as well as they should. For example there were times in the game that I would select an enemy for a character to attack. They would move to the enemy and then just sit there. For them to actually attack I had to position them just right or they would just stand there doing nothing. This was frustrating especially since the character was losing health as they just stood there leading to character deaths that could have been avoided.
In addition to the controls not always working as well as they should, the game is lacking a good tutorial at this point. The game only explains a few of the mechanics as it basically just assumes that you can figure out the rest on your own. You can eventually figure out the mechanics especially if you are familiar with the genre. This does make the early game a little confusing though. The formation mechanic in particular was kind of hard to figure out as the game gives you the bare minimum explanation on how it works. The fact that the game doesn’t have much of a tutorial is not all that surprising as early access games rarely have them as the developers are more focused on actually adding in the gameplay. For the final version though it could do a better job explaining some of the mechanics.
As The Waylanders is a RPG the other major element of the game is the story. In addition to the combat the game allows you to explore various locations and talk with your companions and other characters you meet. This is not significantly different than what you would expect from any other RPG as you can ask questions of characters to learn about the world or the character themselves. As you progress through the game you will grow closer with your companions as you can complete specific character quests and pursue romantic relationships. Due to the potential romance options and swearing the story is clearly more mature in nature.
The story is one of the things that concerned me the most about a RPG like The Waylanders entering the early access process. The story was obviously not going to be complete so I was curious how the game was going to work jumping from piece to piece. As far as the story there are things that I liked and things that could use some work.
I want to start with the negatives. It is not surprising that the story is incomplete at this point. Currently the game only features part of the first act of the three acts that will comprise the final game. As the game is in early access this means that the game is missing elements like cutscenes, voice overs, and other elements of the story. This makes the story a little hard to follow at times. The game will head towards a cutscene that is missing and then you will have no idea what happened in the missing cutscene. You will only be able to get pieces here and there based on conversations you have with other characters after the cutscene. At other times the story feels a little clunky as it feels like the connecting elements are missing from the game. This is to be expected from an early access game, but it does take something away from the story
While the story is a little hard to follow at this point, you can already tell that it shows a lot of potential. The overall story feels like a really interesting combination of reality and fantasy. The game’s story takes place in Celtic Brigantia and Middle Ages Spain so it is based somewhat on historical context. In addition though there are a number of mystical types of creatures including some well known and others that seem to be unique to the game. This seems like an interesting blend creating a world that you want to explore. Additionally the character development in the game seems to be coming along well. In the first couple hours of the game you will meet quite a few different characters who will join you on your journey which have their own unique personality. So far the characters seem to be well written. Between the characters and the overall world, The Waylanders presents a world that I want to eventually explore.
One element of the story that I am really intrigued about is the fact that the game will eventually feature time travel. Early on in the content that is currently in the game your life becomes untethered from time. This will eventually allow you to travel between two time periods. Your actions in one era are supposed to affect what happens in the other as you have to swap between the two in order to make progress. In addition you will meet your companions in both time periods which involves some of them being reincarnated into different forms/positions in life. This sounds really interesting as I am a sucker for time travel. Unfortunately none of this is currently in the game so I can’t comment on how it works in action. I am really curious to see how it will turn out though.
As for the overall atmosphere The Waylanders seems to be on the right path at this point. For a game created by a smaller studio I was pretty impressed with the game’s visual style so far. The game has a good mixture between a realistic and more fantastical style. The character designs are quite good and the overall world looks interesting as well. It seems like a lot of work was put into creating a unique world to explore. The cutscenes and character animations that are already in the game are pretty good. The game’s audio shows a lot of potential as well. The background music fits the game well and the voice acting is good. At this point though there are times where the game clearly shows that it is in early access. Cutscenes are missing. Characters are missing animations where they look like still puppets. The dialog also cuts in and out at times as all of the dialog hasn’t been recorded yet. If these missing elements reach the same level of what is already in the game, the final product should really excel in this area. At times it is a little jarring though that some of these elements are missing which takes you out of the experience.
At this point I have mixed feelings towards The Waylanders. The game shows a lot of potential, but it is a little rough around the edges. Much of the gameplay is similar to your typical RPG as you control a group of characters that have access to their own unique abilities. I am really curious how the formation mechanics are going to turn out as they are unique and show a lot of potential. The combat is fun even though the controls don’t always work as they should. The game could also use a better tutorial explaining some of the mechanics. As for the story it is a little clunky at this point. Cutscenes are currently missing which means you are missing important elements in the story that you have to piece together with later dialog. Other than the story only being bits and pieces at this point though, it shows a lot of potential. The game has a unique world to explore with interesting characters. The time traveling aspects that will be added in the future also seems really interesting. In addition the visuals and audio are quite good except for the occasional instances where they haven’t been added in yet.
My recommendation for The Waylanders comes down to a couple factors. If you aren’t a fan of RPGs like Dragon Age: Origins I don’t really see the game being for you. The game shows a lot of potential for fans of this genre though. At this point the game is a little rough around the edges though. The game only has a fraction of the story in place at this point and there are other elements that need to be tweaked before the final release. Basically the game is a work in progress at this point. If you like the game’s potential though and are willing to wait for its issues to be resolved I think you should consider picking up The Waylanders.
Buy The Waylanders online: Steam