Title: Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem
Available On: PC
Developer: Wolcen Studio
Genre: Isometric Action RPG
Official Site: www.umbragame.com
Release Date: 24 March 2016
Where to Buy: Steam
I nearly always looks at early access games somewhat askance. While there have been a few pieces here and there that have proven themselves to be worth an investment, often you will find the genre full of shovelware and half-baked, half-completed ideas that will never truly come to fruition. While games like Kerbal Space Program and Project Zomboid set the bar very high for those who want to fund development in this way, you still see a fair number of games that are stepping up to the plate.
And Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem appears to be one of them.
Still very early on in its development, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem has a lot going for it. An isometric RPG in the same vein as Diablo and its contemporaries. Set in a fantasy land of magic and mayhem, this title is still very much in the works but already has a fair few solid mechanics. Combat, dialogue, questing and exploration all feature in the open-world, though there isn’t too much to actively keep dragging you back to the game once you have experienced everything the title has to offer so far. The story, such as it is, is very basic and poorly-written, but is likely to be a placeholder – the game is, after all, still in an early alpha stage. What you do get to experience by buying in at this point, however, is the gameplay, which has some serious potential.
The tutorial, while basic and certainly in need of some polish, takes you through the various mechanics of the game such as learning magic from books, how to use skills and efficiently use the equipment. One of the more interesting things you learn at this point is that there are no classes. Your abilities level up as you use them, and there are no class restrictions on equipment, you just have to have the right stats to use them.
In other words, if you want to be a dual-wielding warrior-wizard, wearing leather armor, you can. This works well with the loot-centric reward system that this and other games of its type have, allowing you to swap out your equipment on the fly or try something entirely new without having to re-roll an entire character. The skills are similar, allowing you to mix and match your abilities as much as you like. It reminds me somewhat of Path of Exile, but to an even greater degree of freedom.
Using these abilities is pretty fun too, with each fulfilling a different gameplay function – single target boss-smashing swipes, crowd control lightning as well as dodges and rolls. Speaking of which, the game also features an active dodge mechanic, giving you the chance to get out of combat and remain agile. It makes the player pay far more attention to their positioning. However, the abilities themselves can sometimes not work as intended and enemies have their own skills that can be infuriating to deal with, such as stun locks which have no place in any PvE game. When the combat does work, on the other hand, it is fluid, visceral, extraordinarily fun and has made me exclaim with glee more than once after sending a group of enemies flying across the screen.
One particularly interesting feature is that of environmental synergy. If you cast lightning in water, it has far more of an effect, while fire spells in a similar environment are quite literally dampened. This makes your environments far more than just scenery. They have a real effect on how well you play the game, as well as the effectiveness of your current character build. The fact that they are absolutely stunning is an added bonus.
Other than the scenery, the graphical offering of Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is pretty solid. Magic effects, in particular, are very pleasant though the accompanying audio is a little lackluster. However, all of the textures, models and audio are placeholders for the time being – in the current build, they serve their purpose well enough, though it is a little jarring at times to have all the enemies look and sound very much the same. As soon as the necromancers and the orcs, for example, start looking significantly different, the game will be on its way to real completion. In the mean time, however, you will find yourself encountering a number of similar-looking enemies that then surprise you with unexpected abilities.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is still in very early stages. It lacks a number of the promised features but never tries to shy away from how young it is. Even NPCs in the game reference how the shop isn’t open yet, or how areas aren’t yet available, and one or two even quip how they all look and sound the same. It’s a nice, honest touch to an early access game, and rather than trying to cover up how lacking in content the title is so far, the developers have embraced it and been as transparent as possible. When we are often inundated with shady early access titles with few if any updates, this honesty is a great change of pace. I look very forward to seeing what happens to this budding game and hope to see more of the advanced features such as player housing and randomly generated dungeons.
- Gameplay: Classic Diablo-esque combat.
- Graphics: Solid textures, great physics, and gorgeous magic effects
- Sound: Still needs some work, full of placeholders
- Presentation: The seed of something really fantastic
- Good magic visuals
- Solid world built already
- Interesting combat
- Lots of potential
- Open and honest devs
- Still buggy
- Not much content
- Some features don't work well yet