The Waylanders is a real-time-with-pause RPG by Gato Studio. It’s an ambitious game, with an impressive volume of companions, quests, and story. Unfortunately, ambition does not correlate with quality.
The game takes place on an alternate Earth where magic is real and the gods live in Ireland. The story begins with your player-created character on a boat to meet the gods for the first time in human history, which sounds exciting, but then the game skips the actual meeting in favor of just fighting evil creatures.
The characters are irritating and shallow, speaking poorly written dialogue with poorly directed voice acting. In general, each character has a single character trait and acts exactly how you would expect, leaving almost no interest in talking to them. Theoretically, you have dialogue choices, but they rarely matter and it feels like the developers knew you were supposed to have dialogue choices but didn’t have the budget to do them properly. Ultimately, every part of the story is delivered in the least interesting way imaginable, so slow-paced and undramatic that it reduces the game to its gameplay alone.
Real-time-with-pause gameplay is hard to do right, and the developers have made no attempt to avoid common pitfalls. It’s almost exactly like in every other game in the genre, except with no cooldown abilities that lead to strategic decisions, which will only excite the most dedicated of real-time fans.
The one difference is the formation system, which allows two or more of your characters to form a new unit with unique abilities and its own health bar. It’s powerful and worth using every fight, but ultimately it’s just another way to play the same mediocre gameplay. Oh, and using formations also crashed the game frequently during my playthrough.
On the developers’ preferred difficulty setting, after each fight, your mana is refilled infinitely. Your health is not. Since you have healing spells, the best course of action is to spend 30 seconds to two minutes repeatedly healing your party until everyone is at full health so you don’t immediately die in the next fight. This is an enormous waste of time, and I can’t believe this is in a modern game. Easier difficulty settings claim to offer health regeneration, but it was bugged and didn’t work, and no difficulty option makes the game more interesting.
The quest structure of the game is awful, with a load of quests of trivial importance dumped on you at the start. On top of this, bugs were extreme. Bugs like quest markers breaking, invisible walls halting progress, characters freezing, and the game outright softlocking will often force you to redo a quest. In fact, I ran into multiple completion-halting bugs in the pre-launch build of the game I reviewed, some of which I only found after previous bugs were fixed. And unfortunately, the game wiped my saves upon release, so I can’t check if any of the bugs that stopped me from completing the game were fixed. Overall, I played 30-ish hours of the game.
The cutscene character animation is terribly overacted and makes every character even thinner, whereas the environmental art is fine but doesn’t escape the generic fantasy feeling. The music isn’t awful, but it is forgettable, and overall the presentation doesn’t elevate the game in any way.
The ideas behind The Waylanders are intriguing, and the passion is easy to feel, which makes its failure even more disappointing. I couldn’t complete the game due to the severity of bugs, nor did I want to once the game so thoroughly sucked me of motivation that even opening the game filled me with dread. The bugs will be fixed with time, but the story is stuck as an uncompelling part of the game.
If you really like real-time-with-pause gameplay, The Waylanders is an unremarkable, buggy, and unpolished entry into the genre, but it’s essentially playable. However, the story provides little interest, so if you play RPGs for the story, I’d stick to replaying Dragon Age.
The Waylanders is out now on Steam for $39.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for The Waylanders.