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There have been so many RPGs coming out recently that I really feel gratitude towards Steam for its ‘Wishlist’ and ‘Follow’ functions (Epic Launcher can learn a few stuff from these). One of these games I’ve been keeping on my radar for a long time is The Waylanders. The Waylanders is a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age, and all the good Bioware RPGs. Like its inspirations, The Waylanders is a party-based RPG featuring Real-Time with Pause combat (RTwP) and a heavy focus on storytelling.

the waylanders

With some of the top talents in the RPG scene such as Emily Grace Buck, an ex-Telltale employee, my teenage crush Chris Avellone and Bioware veteran Mike Laidlaw lending a hand in its development, everything seemed fine and dandy for The Waylanders.

Then I played the Early Access version

Before I go on my rant spree, let’s get the positives out there first. The game is visually very distinct to most of the fantasy RPGs out there. Vibrant, chunky, low-poly visuals in RPGs always manage to please my inner self ever since KoA: Reckoning. It may not appeal to everyone but I have to give them credit for the art direction.

the waylanders
Kingdoms of Amalur feels

Then there is the universe the game is set in. The Waylanders is part Celtic mythology and part Middle Ages with a heavy coat of fantasy. To effectively convey both of these contrasting time periods, the game takes the help of time-travel. It’s not every day that you see stuff like this in the sea of generic high-fantasy RPGs and it’s well appreciated. The races, the politics, the lore, and everything in between all seem so cool. The catch is that I got most of this from their Kickstarter page because the current build of the game doesn’t do a good job with the world-building.

The wonderful music by Inon Zur and the high-quality voice acting also adds to the atmosphere,

Finally, I liked the Formations system used during combat. Throughout your journey, you can unlock several formations unique to each class. When you activate one, your party members will come together to form a…formation and will get access to several unique and deadly combat skills. It looks cool as hell and is effective for dispatching swarms of foes.

the waylanders
Ok, this is cool

With that out of the way, it’s time for some Real Talk. Over the years, the term Early Access has been subjected to a hefty amount of ridicule and suspicion. It has become a hive of unfinished projects and asset flips. While The Waylanders is not either of those things, it probably magic missile-d itself in the face by going public with this build. To me, Early Access is an opportunity for the devs to present a ‘functional’ slice of their project and to build a supportive community that will play a big hand in the development ahead. With Early Access, the first impression is often the most important phase and could make or break your game.

Frankly, I think Gato Salvaje has a solid vision laid out for the game. On paper and on the Steam page, The Waylanders sounds like a game that every Bioware fan could fall in love with: a unique setting, a story written by industry veterans, music composed by Inon Zur, and party-based tactical combat. Sadly, the Early Access version of the game does a poor job of selling The Waylanders to the public. The Waylanders is currently just an alpha build at this stage. The fact that the developer openly declares it doesn’t make you like the game any better. Transparency is good and all, but it’s not ready for the storefront yet.

“Why are there two of you, Herkulios?”

 I have no trouble looking past the missing cutscenes, assets, sounds, features, bugs, and the lack of polish that’s synonymous with every Early Access game at launch. But even after setting these things aside, The Waylanders is nothing but a set of loosely held together scenarios that are neither very enjoyable nor technically stable.

Bad controls and keymapping, sound bugs, settings not being saved, events not triggering, bloated UI, clunky combat, poor AI, clumsy camera, and inaccurate pathfinding are the least of its problems. For me, the game was near-unplayable mainly due to the terrible performance on my GTX 1070 (the fps dropping to even single digits at times) and its unstable nature. I couldn’t go on 15 minutes without the game treating me with a crash or a freeze. Being the nasty save-scummer that I am, F5 is my favorite key in RPGs. Imagine my surprise when the game would treat me to a crash every time I reflex-press the key.

She’s been diagnosed with a severe case of T-posing

On the Steam store, it says that the Early Access version is 10-12 hours long. I couldn’t get past even 4 due to the game deciding to get stuck on an endless loading screen at one point. I started a whole new playthrough, only to face the same issue once again. I think this game hates my computer.

Trying to beat Google Chrome at its own game, eh?
Trying to beat Google Chrome at its own game, eh?

Am I being too harsh on an Early Access alpha build of a game? Maybe. But it’s because I want the game to do better and because I know it can. There’s so much potential here and I can clearly see the passion of the studio even beneath all this mess. Like many Early Access success stories, The Waylanders too will probably go on to fix itself up during its estimated 1.0 release between late 2020 and early 2021 judging by the developers’ forum activity. But for now, unless you’re a backer, I suggest adding the game to your wishlist, pressing the ‘follow’ button, and wait for that glorious day to come.

the waylanders

2020 has been hard on us all. So, I sincerely hope that The Waylanders, during its course in Early Access, will be able to fill some of the emptiness in the giant hole left behind by Bioware.




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