Wander Review

By Blair Nokes on June 30, 2015

With independent games being as wildly creative and popular as they are now, indie developers are trying exceptionally hard at finding new ways to innovate and challenge existing genres Wander was set out to be such a game. Made by the Australian team of the same name, Wander is an unorthodox MMO that would rather you focus purely on exploration. It is described as a non-combative, non-competitive, collaborative multiplayer game. The game is said to utilize a unique communication system that has players learning written and verbal forms of a fake language, and boasts an extensive narrative hidden within the world for you to discover. Unfortunately, the myriad of problems that persist in the actual game prevent me from wanting to find out any more than I already have.

You begin the game as an anthropomorphic tree, with little understanding of whom or what you are. This was quite frankly a very intriguing hook that had me genuinely interested in the premise of the game. I soon transformed into a woman, still unsure of what I am. The game expands from there, with no real guidance other than a feint operatic voice singing nearby whenever you're near a transformation stone. That is essentially the gist of Wander. When I had first viewed the announcement trailer, my mind was racing with ideas about how this game would actually play, how large and vast the world was, and how many creatures you could become. The sad reality is that the game, in its current state, is extremely limited. The major flaw I've found with the premise of offering next to nothing in terms of gameplay is that there is fundamentally no drive to actually continue playing the game. Other non-combative multiplayer titles like Journey work so well because the shared experience was coupled with a solid foundation for core game mechanics. Not only is Wander a very lonely walkabout, but the controls are cripplingly limited. X interacts with a limited number of things, and Circle allows you to jump. That's it. Another flaw with this title is that when you transform into a different form, you're stuck with it until you find another one. Sure, transforming into a water lizard seemed like a great idea when I was navigating through a large ocean, but the moment you step onto land, you're stuck fighting the camera to see above all the foliage, and trudge about at a snail's pace until you miraculously find another stone.

The language they advertise is the faux language known as Rozhda. In theory, the game teaches you different swiping strokes on the PS4's touchpad, and they would represent a different glyph with different words and meanings. It was around the introduction of this mechanic where I was introduced to a game-breaking issue. As a tree, you're tasked with swiping to summon fireflies to light your way through a dark cave. The moment I swiped the touchpad, my TV displayed a neon-orange line that outlined the path my finger drew. There is absolutely no way to get rid of this unless you restart the game. It gets especially annoying when you may accidentally brush the pad, resulting in an obnoxious and distracting line that cannot be removed unless you repeatedly break immersion and restart.

Wander was made using the CryEngine, and unfortunately it really doesn't do the engine much justice. I can certainly attest to the fact that world is rather large, and so scale is one thing Wander can claim. However, the world is next to lifeless. I've not once encountered a real person in this supposed "collaborative MMO" nor have I seen much in the way of non-playable wildlife. Players are unfortunately left roaming a barren world, solo, with nothing to do and with no rhyme or reason to actually continue playing. To make matters worse, the game is riddled with performance issues; framerate dips to a staggering level, textures and assets pop in and out of existence, some of which are things that ought to be right in front of you, and dreaded touchpad bug renders the game unplayable after one swipe. In many instances, Wander looks, plays and feels like a game that is in its early alpha stage "“ not a title that has gone gold and is sold for $25.

Final Thoughts

For all the negativity I've experienced with Wander, I can't help but at the very least applaud the team for trying something different. Designing a game where combat is absent, and where players are focused to work alongside one another to merely explore and experience is a concept I can get behind; especially when games like Journey have proven that it can work. Wander just really wasn't ready to be released yet, and that much is abundantly clear given the current state it's in. For a very steep price of $25, I don't think I could ever recommend Wander to anyone unless some drastic changes were made.

Very ambitious premise.
Ability to change forms is a neat feature.
Genuinely interesting concept.
$25 is far too steep a price for such an incomplete game.
The world is lifeless.
Riddled with bugs and performance issues.
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