It has been a few months since I checked out a build of Wayfinder at PAX East and I was eager to try the final beta leading up to the Early Access launch later this summer. It was great to truly enjoy the game in a more natural setting and while it still has some rough edges, there is a ton to enjoy with Wayfinder.
What was great in this playthrough was being able to start from scratch, and I chose the ranged character Silo as my main for this playthrough. Silo is a pretty cool character who starts with a rifle and a few ranged attacks and defensive skills.
Wayfinder is a story-driven experience with deeply realized characters. The Beta only featured three (Wingrave, Niss and Silo), but double that amount when the first season starts. The game focuses on customizing the characters as it progresses, allowing weapons to be switched, fully changing the dynamic of the characters.
Sticking with Silo I jumped into the introductory cinematic, which still needs a fair bit of polishing as there was missing art and stuttering, but the gist came across nicely. Heroes banded together to stop a menace; they all perished in the Gloom and some time later were brought back by the leader, Omen.
It is a neat way to explain why these characters have special skills, and more importantly, can be revived if they fall in battle. The game is one of the few online RPGs to ever bother explaining this miraculous feat.
The game then proceeds into a fairly interesting Tutorial mission and then on to the game proper, where the town of Skylight and the Highlands open up to be explored. I have to say the art style of Wayfinder is something truly special – I had a lot of wow moments as I explored Skylight, an extremely well made town hub which already felt nicely crowded during the beta.
No Love for Goblins
The early game does stumble on some the classic MMO tropes of fetch this and come back, talk to these folks and come back, but I actually enjoyed the task-based actions of meeting the key NPCs. They are all quite interesting characters, especially Venge, who REALLY hates goblins.
Playing the game in the comfort of home on my own schedule let me explore upgrading my weapon and crafting artifacts, accessories and modifiers so I could dig into the game in a number of ways. One of the cool features of Wayfinder is how the Gloom dungeons need attunements to reach key missions or objectives, so overland missions are often carried out to find these attunements.
It is a nice multi-pronged way to get into the action as there are quests to find contacts or items in the Highlands or lower city and then excursions into the Gloom. The missions in the “real” world areas are solo driven (although other players are around also battling enemies) but entering the Gloom missions can be done solo or in a party of three.
I tried both aspects and while I generally dislike trusting random players I much preferred battling through the Gloom in a party, which led to a more rounded experience. I didn’t activate voice chat, but the areas were simple enough to figure out so we were able to get to the objectives quickly.
I did notice some issues in group play around respawning that surprised me. If no one revives you before the timer runs out or if you don’t respawn manually you end up completely gone for the count. All I could do was spectate, and sometime these Gloom sessions are long; I tended to abandon the challenge and start again.
Aside from that small oddity I found the game performed way better than the demo experience I had at PAX East. Camera controls and moving with the controller were loose back then but extremely polished for this playthrough. Graphically the game looks amazing; I had a fair bit of stuttering as I entered new areas or new enemies came in, for a moment, but then things got smooth as silk.
There is a lot to like about Wayfinder and I felt that during the Beta I only scratched the surface. There were only three characters to try out and I did not experience much character customization, which I would have liked to dig into. What I did have was a fast-paced, story-driven RPG experience with enjoyable MMO-light influences, that was a blast to play.
With this being a free-to-play game I was surprised by how many story elements were in place to drive the experience. It was great to meet a lot of the NPCs and tackle a few dozen missions in the time I had during the Beta. The community playing also seemed deeply engaged which is always a good sign for a new game like this.
What gets me excited is how much content there will be at launch, with a ton of characters to check out as well as a number of zones to explore. The game loop was quite enjoyable and I could sense the variety that the dev team is striving for.
There will be an open Early Access release later this summer and as the game features full cross play between PC via Steam and PlayStation 4/5 it promises to be a great time to check out Wayfinder. While I did not play through the whole story experience, I saw enough of the game and its world to be really excited to dig deeper into this experience once the Early Access signups go live.