by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Good for them
The Gamescom invite read “Come get an early look at Gato Salvaje’s upcoming and unannounced RPG featuring the talents of the one and only Mike Laidlaw”. A new game from one of the lead designers of Dragon Age? A chance perhaps to get back to the core values of Dragon Age: Origins? Show me this game! Fast forward to day one of Gamescom, for the official announcement. The game would be named The Waylanders and I was destined to give it a spin myself the next day. As it turns out, Mike Laidlaw is a consultant for the studio, not necessarily the man behind it, but fortunately there’s a whole team of creative talent to make The Waylanders come to fruition.
I sat down in a huge white chair in front of an even larger screen and took a moment to take in what I was seeing. The game world looked a bit more... organic than we’d expect from a Bioware game and the aesthetics a bit more playful. A clean, stylized interface greeted my mouse clicks and my camera moved as free as it could be. If it weren’t for the fact that my party members had green rings around them, and the enemy red, I’d not have seen any kinship between The Waylanders and its inspiration, Dragon Age. The studio is going its own way. Good for them.
As I traversed one of the game’s beautiful forests, I was glad that Sergio Prieto, Gato Salvaje’s CEO, was there to explain to me what makes their game so different. Had he not been there, I would have missed what is likely to be The Waylanders’ defining feature: formations. And no, I’m not talking about the ability to put your tanks in front of your mages and ranged fighters. I’m talking about proper formations that have a profound impact in battle. The first one Sergio had me try was an arrow shape. I selected one of my party members, a half-giant warrior, added three other characters to the formation and saw the arrow shape come to life. Next, Sergio told me to charge a group of enemies, which tumbled over as I ran through their ranks. This is cool!
Next, he had me try a turtle formation, but for that I needed to start my selection with a different character. Every class has access to different formations and the first character you pick for the formation determines which ones are available. Once formed, the semi-sphere turtle proved to be an excellent deterrent to all sorts of melee-based foes. A pack of raged wolves even killed itself on the spikes jutting out of the sphere, all I had to do was sit and wait. “You won’t be able to do that with ranged enemies” Sergio said, “They’ll pick you off one by one from a distance”. Not every formation is available right away. You will have to learn new ones as you progress through the game.
Some formations also “play nice” with character abilities. One ability adds a team of three spearman to your party. This team can be directed separately and Sergio had me set up a pinch attack on a group of enemies with the spearmen coming from one side, and my arrow formation from the other. It was quite effective. Formations can also help out in other situations. Imagine standing in front of a large door, with no key. A formation consisting of your strongest warriors might just make it budge.
A few skirmishes and a bested magical barrier later, a short cutscene introduced me to a sleeping fomorian. He had been guarding what looked to be a bunch of magic-infused pillars. “They give him strength, use your druid to neutralize the pillars or you won’t be able to beat the Fomorian”. It would be the first battle that I’d be actively pausing in, as well as have my party run around the map avoiding the Fomorians’ punishing strikes.
As the giant monster fell to its knees, I looked at the clock and realized we needed to head off to our next meeting. If our schedule had not been so jam packed, I could easily have sat there and played the game for the remainder of the day. Real time pausable combat. A deep storyline, a cool formation mechanic - what’s not to like!
One to watch.