Title: The Waylanders
Available On: PC
Developer: Gato Studio
Publisher: Gato Studio
Official Site: The Waylanders
Release Date: (Early Access) June 16th, 2020
The Waylanders is a combination of all the best parts from the Dragon Age, Baldur’s Gate, and the Pillars of Eternity series all rolled into one. It’s a thrilling adventure through Celtic history with a fantastic soundtrack, stunning visuals, and an engaging combat system. As an Early Access game on Steam, it needs some fine-tuning but they can be easily glanced over when your exploring the vast open world.
The game was successfully backed on Kickstarter in 2018. It’s still in an alpha build so the negative things mentioned here should all be worked out by the time it releases in 2021.
The story revolves heavily around Celtic lore. It’s refreshing to get to experience a twist on some of the more popular myths in the history. If you’re a fan of the Celts, then you will definitely notice plenty of callbacks to well-known stories and legends of old. It doesn’t take long to get into the action either. Writer Emily Grace Buck does a fantastic job of representing characters, locations, historical figures, and gods.
It’s told through a blend of cinematic cutscenes and conversations as you wander the world. When it comes to the cutscenes, you really get a chance to see just how beautiful everything is up close. Each one plays out like a scene from a movie and lets characters stand out, especially when it comes to the voice acting. It’s wonderful and each actor and actress portrays unique characters each with their own history. However, at times the scenes would get cut short or the camera would focus on something completely different. But again, this is Early Access.
The character creation section stands out from other typical RPGs as well. You won’t find dwarfs or elves among the races as they weren’t really featured in Celtic lore. What you will find are three unique races not found in any other classic RPG. The Mourians are a race of dark-skinned intellectuals. Consider them akin to Duergar or Drow from D&D. While the Fomorians are an immortal race of giants who wield incredible strength and magics. The last interesting race is that of the Werewolf. However, they are unable to transform between whatever they were previously, be it human or other race, but maintain their werewolf form their entire life.
The combat is rather similar to that of Kingdoms of Amalur. As you traverse the many locations around the world, you will come face to face with numerous monsters, creatures, and enemies. You may also get a chance to persuade or intimidate a character into not fighting you if you’re successful. Yet, like a game of Dungeons and Dragons, it’s all up to fate. If you do find yourself in a scrap, and you will, fights are difficult and require thought, skill, and good timing.
The party consists of five characters each with their own personal skills. Whether it’s magic, brute force strength, or fighting from a distance, understanding your party will mean the difference between life and death. When the fighting starts, you will more than likely be outnumbered and the enemies are challenging. Each character is able to choose from a number of skills and attacks to survive the savage world of Brigantia. A warrior wields large heavy weapons, a sorcerer uses magic, a healer does what the name suggests, a guardian fights with a weapon and shield, a ranger relies on bows and arrows, and a rogue hides in the shadows and strikes from behind.
Along with the standard skill tree, the party can use what are all formations to change up their attacks. Formations can drastically shift the outcome of a battle and each character can gain access to one. They range from becoming a rock golem and shielding your entire party in a phalanx formation.
During a fight, you can pause the gameplay and organize your party to your liking. If there are archers firing at your from afar, you can easily select a character and have them rush the archer or use a sorcerer to fire spells at them from a safer distance. It’s reminiscent of Knights of the Old Republic’s combat style and it feels great.
Visually wise, The Waylanders is absolutely stunning. From the sun rays that reflect off the ocean and make cities shine, to the way characters move and interact with the world. It’s like being inside a Victorian painting and I often found myself standing in awe of how breathtaking beautiful everything looked.
However, when it comes to the soundtrack of The Waylanders, it’s sure to go down in history as one of the greatest. The music is composed by Inon Zur (Dragon Age, Fallout) and helps carry and set the story, combat, and overall tone of the game.
Verdict: The Waylanders is a remarkably gorgeous and refreshing take on the RPG genre. The combat is fast-paced and engaging, and the story is fascinatingly interesting. Though it’s in Early Access, the game shows a lot of potential and it could be one of the best party-based RPGs of the next few years. All you have to do is get past some glitches and bugs, but hey, that’s Early Access.