The Waylanders made ripples across the gaming industry when its early access came out back in June 2020. Now, with the release date coming upon us so quickly, you might be wondering if the game is worth getting. What’s the preview like and what can you expect from The Waylanders’ official release? Let’s find out.
What Is The Waylanders?
History and mythology have been popular sources of inspiration for a lot of art forms across the ages. We’ve seen tons of games and movies inspired by various periods, eras, and mythos from different cultures. However, most of these historical games and movies take inspiration from the ever-popular Greek and Roman cultures. While those games may still be fun to play, they can get a little boring after dozens of similar iterations.
Enter The Waylanders, produced by Gato Studio, and you’re greeted by something refreshingly new. That’s because The Waylanders takes inspiration from mythos and periods that often goes unnoticed: the Celtic and Medieval era. Yes, you read that right. The Waylanders game is inspired by two eras instead of one and takes place in both through a neat mechanic.
Through the game, you get to experience both cultures and societies wrought by either magic or religion. Of course, there are plenty of enemies and obstacles to get through to complete your objective and progress the story. However, what makes The Waylanders interesting is how the consequences of your actions unfold as you travel through eras. Moreover, there are even multiple endings depending on the choices you make.
On the other hand, the game certainly doesn’t present anything completely new. It’s still a party-based role-playing game (RPG) and will incorporate many elements you’re used to. Nonetheless, its unique concept and mechanic makes it worth checking out, especially after its initial Kickstarter success.
What Kind of Game Is The Waylanders?
Apart from its unique setting, what is The Waylanders game like and how does it play? For the gamers out there, you might understand the description when we say it’s a single-player party-based fantasy RPG.
However, if that description isn’t immediately clear, we’ll break it down for you. Firstly, what this means is that The Waylanders takes place in a fantasy world. This often includes magic, mythical creatures, monsters, and other staples of the genre you’d find in other fantasy games.
Moreover, with the game being a party-based RPG, you travel as a group of adventurers with varying strengths and abilities. This means that you’ll have to strategize, depending on the situation, about which character to take with you in battle. However, whose abilities are more important and integral to your progress is entirely your prerogative.
You can take a defensive or offensive approach, or mix in a bit of both depending on your playstyle. Together, you and your party overcome obstacles and defeat the foes you encounter as the game progresses.
Lastly, The Waylanders also incorporates a bit of tactical pause along with real-time strategy (RTS) in its combat system. This means thinking on the fly and careful planning will both play roles in the gameplay (more on that later).
When Is the Release Date?
Gato Studio has come a long way since the early days of The Waylanders Kickstarter and its funding program. Its success was somewhat surprising (and inspiring) as the indie studio reached its $150,000 goal before the due date. Unfortunately, however, that didn’t immediately spell the end of its development — nor did it prompt an official launch.
The Spanish studio still had a lot of work to do and more ambitions left to satisfy. A while after they met their goal, Gato Studio added new tiers and rewards to make the game even better. Then, they even launched a rough version of The Waylanders through Steam early access on June 16, 2020.
That was well over a year ago and the game has seen a lot of development since then. Updates, bug fixes, and tons more came out as Gato Studio lovingly refined the game and made it evolve. In 2021, The Waylanders developers finally seem to be ready as the game is set to release on November 16.
Compatible Consoles and Computers
On which platforms will The Waylanders be available? Unfortunately, The Waylanders appears to only be releasing on PC as of October 2021. There’s currently no news from the developers about The Waylanders on PS4, Xbox, or the Nintendo Switch.
The Waylanders Preview
With all that said, what is the Celtic RPG The Waylanders like to play right before the release? Let’s dive into all the details we know so far about The Waylanders and what you can expect.
The story of The Waylanders takes place when the Celts first encounter their gods, the Tuatha de Danaan. You, playing as King Ith’s guard, journey with him to Inisfáil to meet the Celtic gods. Along the way, you’re introduced to various other mortal and immortal allies who will become party members later on.
From that point, all seems to be going well until suddenly, the game introduces the main conflict. The encounter was supposedly a time for celebration and enlightenment, but when negotiations go catastrophically wrong, a battle ensues. This meeting between the Celts fails and the army has to retreat. King Ith is badly injured, despite being treated by magicians Nazhedja and Amergin.
Following that, your company decides to sail away — only to face off against Lug, one of the gods. This results in King Ith’s (and Lug’s) death, and the crown prince is now left to command the army’s retreat. To aid the prince, you, King Ith’s cousin, and a few magicians stay behind to distract the enemies. Of course, things go wrong even more as the king’s cousin is killed and your escape portals are destroyed.
Right after this, the game initiates a time skip and you suddenly find yourself in the Morian Otherworld. Nazhedja, one of the magicians, tells you about your new condition: you’re disconnected from the timeline. Soon after this revelation, you meet Amergin, who gives you yet another bit of news. It’s that the living creatures have now been corrupted — and it’s probably because of the failed encounter. Now, it’s up to you (and characters from various factions) to save the world from the Tuatha.
After facing death and being untethered from time, you begin your journey with an interesting premise. However, regardless of how intriguing a game’s story and setting might be, the overall experience still depends on the gameplay. So, how does this party-based RPG fare in terms of how it works and plays in early access? Let’s break things down and see what you can expect from the controls, combat, progression, and character classes.
The Waylanders interestingly blends tactical and RTS gameplay mechanics in its combat throughout the game. These battles are divided into different segments, often transitioned through cutscenes and story progression. Furthermore, these segments are housed under even larger divisions based on the missions you undertake.
Like any other party-based RPG, The Waylanders offers two kinds of missions: main quests and side quests. The main quests offer general progression and further the main plot. However, you can undertake side quests that are usually related to party members. These side quests are useful for boosting stats, increasing experience (EXP), or gaining items.
Regardless of the mission you take, you’ll have to select party members to take along with you for the ride. Each member will belong to a class, each offering varying skill sets and abilities. Currently, there are six major character classes, namely: mage, druid, rogue, thief, tank, and warrior.
Warriors and Tanks generally excel in melee combat and are ideal for taking tons of damage. On the other hand, Thieves and Rogues offer various status effects that can play strategic roles in combat. Finally, Mages and Druids are more magic-heavy and provide abilities related to magical elements.
Of course, these character classes are general categories that a character can fall under. In addition to these, 30 advanced classes split these divisions into even more specific specializations. Moreover, some characters have extra unique classes with one-of-a-kind skills that you might find useful in certain situations.
With all that said, it’s important to carefully consider which Waylander to bring to your party. Of course, the decisions you make in this department will depend on the upcoming mission and your specific playstyle. Once you’ve selected your party members, it’s time to proceed to the combat section within the mission.
Combat & Controls
Oftentimes, you’ll encounter missions that require you to kill enemies and engage in combat. This is where the heart of the game truly lies as it determines your success, progression, and overall gameplay experience.
Unfortunately, the combat within The Waylanders RPG isn’t exactly as polished as we would like it to be. Like other party-based RPGs, you can only control one party member and leave the rest to artificial intelligence (AI). However, this doesn’t mean you relinquish all control and leave everything to the computer to figure out. You can control the other members by either clicking on their avatars or icons.
Once you do, you can command the various characters as you please to initiate your battle strategies. You can conveniently do so through the game’s “tactical time” where you can command each character as time is frozen. Afterward, the battle resumes in real-time and you can watch as the characters execute your plan.
Unfortunately, while this type of gameplay usually works well, it’s bogged down by the less-than-ideal AI. In early access, The Waylanders AI often leaves your characters stuck in certain places. Moreover, sometimes they just don’t move, making the experience incredibly frustrating.
Of course, you could control the characters manually to mitigate this problem. However, even this solution has its issues because of long waiting times and wonky controls. Additionally, you can’t attack while running, aggravating the frustrations even more. There are also delays in character animation when casting spells, wasting valuable time as your enemies devour you.
The only thing good about the combat in The Waylanders right now is the “formation” mechanic. This is where all your party members join hands, allowing you to move as one and use powerful abilities.
Despite The Waylanders’ dark inspiration, the art style of the game is a bit more stylized and vibrant. Of course, that isn’t to say that the graphics and art are bad. Even in the early days of its early access, the game’s environments were already gorgeous. Whether it’s the vegetation within the forest or the underground city’s market, the visuals were nothing short of astonishing.
In addition, the characters seem to complement the style of the game’s world pretty well. The soft and rounded models make them feel like comic characters instead of realistic renders. Apart from this, the quality of the graphics is fairly decent. Both the 3D modeling and animations seem to have good quality.
However, there were a few things that felt a little disappointing graphics-wise. For example, despite the level of detail within the environments, the pathways feel somewhat linear overall. Moreover, some areas on-screen look a bit blurry even if you max out your graphical settings. These are just a few gripes and minor complaints, of course. Overall, the game’s visually and graphically decent enough to immerse you in the world and gameplay.
Music and sound might not always be at the forefront when it comes to video game reviews. However, they certainly play a part in terms of immersion and overall experience. Thankfully, The Waylanders offers beautiful music and well-made sound effects that are enough to keep you engaged. Moreover, the game even incorporates voice acting for dialogues and cutscenes, making the world feel more alive.
Unfortunately, however, The Waylanders isn’t exactly perfect when it comes to their voice acting’s execution. That’s because the volume changes with each scene, making it a jarring experience to go through.
In addition, there are enough errors in the subtitles that go along with the cutscenes to sour the experience. Hopefully, the official release of The Waylanders fixes all these bugs and issues. However, if it remains like this, then these blunders easily ruin the immersion created by other game elements.
The Waylanders Compared to Similar Games
Oftentimes, games and movies take inspiration from many different sources. These can include books, historical events, mythology, and even other games or movies. That’s certainly the case for The Waylanders as it borrows heavily from Celtic mythology and medieval history. However, while these may have been foundational to the plot, the developers found different sources of inspiration for the gameplay.
The Waylanders developers are frank about their gameplay inspirations. We see these influences as it takes party-based RPG elements from Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights, and Baldur’s Gate. The core elements are all there, including party-based strategy, multiple character classes, and the fantasy world they live in.
However, unlike those games, The Waylanders adds to the gameplay and creates innovations through an unconventional combat system. Take, for example, the unique battle formations that players can utilize to enhance their strategy. Most other games simply let you command different party members, but not many provide the ability to act as one.
In addition, The Waylanders offers a tactical pause feature that’s somewhat reminiscent of other tactical games. However, it doesn’t provide a turn-based system like most other tactical games. Instead, it “pauses” the real-time action to allow you to queue member actions that they execute upon resuming.
Will The Waylanders Be Worth Getting?
Other game studios don’t have a registered trademark on the party-based fantasy RPG genre — that much is true. However, that certainly doesn’t mean carbon copies of previous games are acceptable in the industry. This begs the question: is The Waylanders a unique enough experience to warrant your time and attention? Moreover, is it good enough for us to recommend to party-based RPG fans?
Well, that depends. The Waylanders certainly feels unique and provides a new concept compared to its inspirations. Moreover, the combat system is fun and satisfying enough to keep you engaged. However, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations when it comes to the overall experience.
That’s because the game still feels unpolished even as we’re approaching the due date. The beginning storyline feels disjointed, making it feel confusing to play at first. Moreover, there are still animation and control-related bugs that negatively impact the gameplay. Of course, we do acknowledge that the game has grown since June 2020. Nonetheless, we wish the latest version of the game would play a bit better.
On the other hand, these bugs also don’t mean that The Waylanders doesn’t deserve a chance. After all, bugs and issues like these are rampant in early access games. All things considered, The Waylanders has tons of potential, especially because of its unique plot and premise. If the developers can hammer out the issues by November, then it’s certainly worth trying.