by Joel France
previewed on PC
The Same, But Better
Unfortunately time limitations meant that we weren’t able to get a hands-on demo of The Waylanders at Gamescom this year, but we were shown a selection of gameplay slices that provided an insight to the current state of the game. Developers Gato Studio have been hard at work refining the experience since last year, particularly in regards to visual effects and UI elements, making the casting of spells and managing your party much more enjoyable. The polish is not yet complete - in the build we saw, facial animations were all but absent - though Gato Studio are committed to implementing full motion capture for a much more expressive interactions in the final product. There are plans for your non-player party members to have their own AI, if needed, allowing for extra accessibility to those players who might be on console, using a controller, or just wanting a bit of extra support.
Avid followers of The Waylanders will already be familiar with the variety of options available to your party in combat. From basic melee and ranged attacks and spells, to the more complex ‘formations’, which allow you to combine certain party members to create a unit that excels in specific encounters. Since your adversaries also have access to these formations, this adds another ‘rock-paper-scissors’ layer of depth to what looks to already be a fairly robust combat system. With so much to keep track of, it’s a good thing you have the ability to pause combat to issue commands. The Waylanders’ landscape is heavily inspired by the Galicia region in Spain, even going as far as to include a reimagined version of the real-world Tower of Hercules. This environment can be interacted with in a number of ways, knocking down rocks to provide cover in combat and open new areas to explore. This will come in handy in the boss fights peppered throughout the game, as there are often multiple tactics that can be used to best even the most formidable of opponents.
Time Will Tell
There’s a strong emphasis, in terms of the marketing and conversation around this game, that the key feature of time-travel between Celtic & Medieval periods will have a far-reaching impact on both narrative progression and gameplay. Whilst I appreciate it’s difficult to convey a sense of a story with the limited time we had to explore it, it would have been interesting to see more of what sets this apart from a more typical fantasy narrative. We know that a choice made in the past will have consequences in the future, but how much this will actually affect the moment-to-moment gameplay remains to be seen. If the core loop of tactical and considered combat piques your interest, then there’s plenty here to keep you occupied, but I’ll be tempering my expectations until I see more of what the narrative has to offer.