The Waylanders – Review
Follow Genre: RPG, RTS
Developer: GATO STUDIO
Publisher: GATO STUDIO
Platforms: PC
Tested on: PC

The Waylanders – Review

Site Score
2.0
Good: Good graphics and sound design
Bad: Everything else
User Score
1.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 1.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Lots of games come out in Early Access after successful Kickstarter campaigns. Doing so allows the developers to give access to their supporters while still having time to further polish their product before the full release. However, it is also rather common for games to still remain half baked after this, be it due to a lack of interest from a developer whose costs have already been covered, ineptitude or other reasons. After a year in Early Access, The Waylanders has finally received its full release, which of the two cases is it?

Story

The game’s story abruptly begins the morning before a diplomatic expedition, where the king of the Celts intends to establish contact with the civilization’s gods. After a brief talk with the king and his companions, a time skip occurs, fast-forwarding to the aftermath of the meeting, where everything has gone wrong and the gods are now massacring the mortals.

Thrust into the battlefield, the player will have to rescue the prince and the king, joining forces with the other members of the entourage to make it out alive. Seemingly managing to kill a god but losing the king in the process, the group tries to escape into the Morian Otherworld. Sadly, they are cut off by the three kings of the gods, who smite general Taliesin and blast the player through the escape portal.

With yet another skip, the player then awakens in the Morian Otherworld, where the seer Nazdheja explains the blast from the gods has cut them off from the timeline. After a quick trip through the Fomorian Underworld, and after a meeting with an incarcerated titan who explains the player has become Mil Espine, a chosen savior, the party finally goes out into the mortal world. For some unknown reason, some characters sometimes get the name wrong, and will refer to you as the ‘Mi Espine’.

However, the player is still not free to choose where to go, being forced to first visit the village the late king inhabited. Here, the group finds out a general has risen through the ranks and seized the power, claiming the land should only be for the Celts, shunning other races and cultures. Not pleased with the multiracial’s group arrival, a quick battle follows until Amergin teleports everyone out, giving the player control over a magical boat and finally the freedom to chose their own quests.

All of this barely covers the first hour and half of the game, where the player constantly ping-pongs from place to place, meeting loads of characters and experiencing awful writing. Most of said characters are unlikeable man-children who constantly bicker and insult each other despite their supposed positions, swearing like sailors and constantly dumping exposition. The further the player progresses through the missions, the more the game shows its lack of focus, as what should’ve been emotional moments fall flat due to lack of character development.

The most egregious example of this could be Amergin’s optional mission, where he is supposed to confront his past demons. However, said demons are presented as fights against glowing animals and 30 seconds of conversation, after which he declares the player to be his best friend. Another such example could be the Celt civil war plotline, which is immediately dropped after an unrelated mission.

In said mission, Amergin’s druid colleagues are all found to be dead, with no reaction on his part. Instead, the focus shifts to a newly introduced character whose only motivation is killing corrupted humans. For good measure, at the end of the quest, the game also introduces a werewolf party member with no dialogue, with the justification that she “just happened to get lost in the labyrinth”. These random events just keep occurring throughout the game. For example, during the halfway mark the player time travels 16 centuries into the future, spends an hour there, goes back to the past for a brief conversation, only to return to the future immediately after. Everything just feels very disjointed.

Graphics

One of the better aspects of the game is the design of its areas and characters. Consisting of somewhat cartoony 3D models, both the areas and characters have wholly unique designs with a wide variety of styles. However, even this part of the game doesn’t get away scot-free, with animation bugs and lip-syncing errors being frequent. It is far too common for the character’s facial textures to bug out and start jittering as their mouths move, turning the already bad dialogues into almost comedic ones.

Sound

Similar to the graphics, the sound design is also rather good, with a well-made soundtrack and decent sound effects. Additionally, almost all of the dialogues in the main and side stories are fully voiced by a competent cast of actors. Unluckily, even the most competent delivery cannot salvage bad writing, coupled with mismatched and off-sync subtitles.

Gameplay

The Waylanders’ gameplay is a combination of the RPG and RTS genres, where the player controls a party of unique characters with the possibility to micromanage their actions. As the player progresses through the game, the party will also level up, increasing their stats and obtaining new abilities.

Said abilities depend on the class chosen for the character, with the player character being the only one who may select any class upon creation. The remaining members of the party are instead limited to two choices befitting their design, with for example Amergin being given Sorcerer and Healer as a choice. Depending on which archetype the character follows (magician, rogue, or warrior) they’ll also have to spend their stat points on whichever two stats the class utilizes and dump the rest. The only exception to this can be the health stat, which, as one may guess, is somewhat universal.

The issue with this system is that it leaves characters as shallow copies of one another, limiting creating unique builds or just experimenting with different builds. The most freedom allowed comes during the ability selection, where players are free to unlock them in any order. However, regardless of said order, all abilities will be unlocked by level 9. Once that happens, the characters will obtain their class advancement, being given a choice of three higher-quality classes with four more abilities each. Should the player choose the wrong class, they’ll also be forced to reload a save or endure it, with the game giving no option to test them out before advancing.

Adding onto the flaws of the class system presented in the game, the balance between said classes is rather poor. Characters with the guardian, ranger, and healer classes will excel over their counterparts, providing much more damage and utility. Curiously enough, the game also features three unique characters with special classes, two of which massively outclass the others in their archetype.

Besides the skills and basic attacks the characters may use, players will also have access to the Formation system. Said system allows characters to group as one, creating a formation with unique abilities and combined health for a short period of time. The formations themselves depend on the class of the initial user, wildly varying in power due to, yet again, poor balance.

Other than these systems, the game has little to offer. Characters can obtain better stats through equipment, but the effectiveness of these is never explained and the stats granted by items are abysmal, usually only around 1%. This even applies to special quest items, which merely grant slightly higher stats than others.

Luckily, or unluckily depending on the point of view, none of this truly matters. Most battles in normal difficulty and lower are easily won by letting the AI control the party. Throughout the game, combat is simply reduced to letting allies and enemies hit each other for a while until either dies. Even manually controlling the full party doesn’t change this, since only a limited number of actions can be slotted and will still be performed at whichever pace the game decides on.

On higher difficulties this doesn’t change either; enemies simply gain more health and damage, becoming damage sponges.  What already were slow battles become even slower and the player will now be forced to actively keep an eye on the party’s health, but the lack of strategy remains the same. Should the player not keep their party’s health in mind, they’ll find themselves restarting saves over and over upon death, or simply lowering the difficulty once tired by the mechanically shallow combat.

Besides the combat and RPG mechanics, The Waylanders also includes optional quests for players to follow. These are intended to flesh out the different characters and invest the player in the game’s world. However, they’re merely reduced to additional experience to level up, with dialogue choices only changing the answers but not the results of conversations.

To top the already unpolished experience, it should be noted that The Waylanders is filled to the brim with bugs. It is surprisingly common for invisible walls to block necessary paths, dialogues to appear for lines that do not play, and enemy AI ignoring the player and attacking the party half a map away. Additionally, the game also happens to have occasional memory leaks, crashing to the desktop, and ultimately losing the player’s progress.

Conclusion

The Waylanders is a game that could be described as unfinished at best, and plain bad at worst. Despite spending a year in Early Access, the game doesn’t seem to have improved in any noticeable way. What’s more, the developers seem to only now have started to do what should have been done before, releasing large patches and a roadmap almost exclusively containing bug fixes and missing content. In its current state and with a price of €34,99/£29.99/$34.99, it is simply impossible to recommend purchasing the game.

Personal Opinion

“Across all the games I’ve played throughout the years, I’ve seen plenty of them with bad writing, bugs, and other issues. However, The Waylanders is probably the most egregious case I’ve encountered to date. Having played the Early Access version last year, I can say the time it has spent in development was completely wasted by making a scatterbrained mess of a game. I cannot fathom how something which has had feedback for over a year has not improved in any noticeable way. The same bugs I dealt with back in 2021 are still there in the fully released version in 2022. It is somewhat sad to see the effort put into the better parts of the game, its graphics and sound design, be squandered like this.”

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 1.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
The Waylanders - Review, 1.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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