7 Things About Wakfu

By Alec Meer on March 4th, 2012 at 3:03 pm.

What big eyes you have, Wolfma

The unfortunately-named Dofus is the biggest MMO you’ve (probably) never heard of, and Wakfu is the highly-anticipated sequel you’ve (probably) never heard of. Why haven’t you heard of it? Because it exists in a meta-universe made of pure psychic energy that only the next evolution of humankind can even sense the existence of. Also, because it’s French. Wakfu’s English version also launched a few days ago – I know that because I’ve just been playing it for a few hours. Here’s what I discovered.

POINT THE FIRST: It’s a real-time overworld with turn-based fights, in the Final Fantasy Tactics vein. It’s not exactly X-COM (the battles I’ve been in so far have been non-taxing, bloodless affairs) but there is a degree of tactical thinking, in terms of combining abilities and planning for what you can actually achieve in a given turn, as opposed to the traditional MMO button-spamming. My character, who looks like a cute version of Swamp Thing, can summon plant-based Dolls to fight for him, and has the option to spend his points on attacking enemies directly or growing different types of seeds. It’s thoughtful rather than manic, though, that said, even though I already have more abilities than can fit onto a single toolbar, it already feels highly repetitive.

POINT THE SECOND: It looks lovely. Really lovely. Between this and Rayman: Origins, France seems to be the go-to place for mad 2D art in games at the moment. It inclines towards the cheesy-kiddy-cute end of the spectrum and that is a turn off at times, but it’s certainly not languishing in the blandly toonish styles of, say, Free Realms. It’s got a look of its own, vaguely anime esque but with a distinctly Gallic oddness mixed in. When it’s showing a custom scene, as opposed to the standard ‘lots of people and respawning mini-monsters running around’, it’s almost indistinguishable from a cartoon. See:

Once you’re out of the tutorial zone, you even get to pick what world you want to continue your adventures in. There’s gloomy underground, coastal, medieval and rural to choose from, and while those are relatively tropetastic that choice is a neat way to further tailor your experience to your own preferences.

POINT THE THIRD: It’s surprisingly elaborate for a game that seems, from afar, to be aimed at nippers. Biffing monsters (well, I say monsters, but so far it’s mostly been cats, sheep and rabbits. I feel a bit guilty about that) is just a part of it. There’s also an Ecology system whereby you, in certain areas, need to refill areas you’ve coldly murdered the entire animal population of with new life for someone else to come along and coldly murder. Given this is a game that steers as well-clear as it possibly can of any adult content, there’s no sheep-fluffing or enforced cat-breeding involved. Instead, every species can be harvested for ‘seed.’ Yes. They picked that word for it. Then you scatter your seed onto the ground and… Well, that particular and perhaps ill-considered metaphor tells itself.

Point is there are zone-wide bonuses for all players to be had from replenishing the ever-diminished mobs, which means there is scope to pursue a more pacifistic career (albeit alongside the beast-slaying necessary to level up) and to affect something larger than your own avatar-sized corner of the world. There’s also a raft of crafting in there, though I haven’t look at that side of things yet, and everyone gets a transparent goo-pet which follow them around, and whose appearance can be tailored as you pick up various items for it. Mine has three eyes, just like my cat. Point being, while the combat is what I would describe as ‘tactical grind’ and does get a bit tiresome, there seems to be plenty to see and do as a break from it.

POINT THE FOURTH: Spells level up as you use them, like in Dungeon Siege, and unlock more powerful spells as they do. So, to some extent, you build your own skillset, though ultimately you will be aiming to unlock everything. Especially as an elemental combat system (i.e. fire is good against water creatures, water is lousy against water creatures) means you’d probably be an idiothole to entirely ignore certain spell-trees.

POINT THE FIFTH: It’s [edit – semi-]free to play, and without microtransactions [edit – in what I’d seen so far; apparently they do show up later]. What witchcraft is this? What it does is provide you with the basic structure of the game, but lock off certain stuff such as item trading and grouping [edit – and higher level content] until you subscribe. It seems perfectly plausible to experience much of the game without doing this, though I got the impression I’d hit a brick wall in terms of picking up new and better gear before too long. The pestering so far is minimal, only arising when you try to do something that’s ringfenced into the pay version.

POINT THE SIXTH: It’s intermittently funny, in a semi-lost in translation sort of way. It’s not taking things seriously, despite a faintly bewildering backstory built up across years of Dofus and its spin-off cartoons and comics, and emits a palpable cheeriness.

POINT THE SEVENTH: I’m not sure I’d go back to it, primarily due to the grindy combat, but based on what I’ve experienced so far I’d rather play this than SWTOR. It’s a happy, surprising place to wander around.

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59 Comments »

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  1. pakoito says:

    I do have heard about Wakfu. It’s been in beta for a lifetime now.

    • Ringwraith says:

      It mostly kept going in and out of beta, as they’ve probably built about at least three different games by this point.

    • Maldomel says:

      This is no beta anymore. But yeah, it’s been in beta for a lot of years.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      It started in closed beta around 2008, and has flipped between open and closed beta since then. I think there was roughly 2 weeks in which it was actually unavailable for any players… but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t about 1 years worth of “inactivity” where you could play, but there were no patches while they worked on the new redo.

      v2 redid all the art assets, along with the rest of the game.
      v3 kept the art assets, but redid everything else again.
      They have re-re-released the classes about 4 times now, and there have been many added-then-dumped systems within each of the versions.

      Even in the few weeks before release they added completely untested systems (including a couple of the classes).

    • Metonymy says:

      The cartoon is 10x better than the game. (Brotherhood of Tofu, torrent links near the top.)

      The tactical elements are actually pretty interesting at first, but since most classes need to manage a pet, the fun disappears almost instantly. There’s just not enough variety to the abilities, and the turn based aspect has to be even less fun when you’re waiting for other people to move.

    • mpashsua says:

      You buy the Apple phone to spend much money!
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    • absolofdoom says:

      That explains a lot. I kept hearing it was released and my only reaction was “Wasn’t that released years ago?!” I thought my sanity was going.

  2. Robin says:

    (Sorry for being offtopic but I have a question.

    I thought there was going to be a XCOM:EU article, judging about what I read in the Jagged Alliance: BiA WIT last paragraphs.. did I got it wrong?

    Thanks).

    • Robin says:

      (I don’t mean I thought it was due to now, I’d just want to know if there is at all or I read it wrongly/you were referring to the “old” interview.)

    • Alec Meer says:

      Tomorrow!

    • Robin says:

      Yay!

      (Thanks for the answer. And sorry again for the mini hijacking).

    • Davee says:

      While we’re hijacking comment threads; I heard a rumor you may be sitting on some Guild Wars 2 coverage from the last press Beta… Confirm/Deny? I’d very much like to hear your thought(s?) on it!

  3. Tacroy says:

    You know, that wolfy dude in the first screenshot really looks like something out of Magic Cards with Googly Eyes.

  4. Ringwraith says:

    Nice to see Wakfu getting some coverage in places, as Dofus certainly never really did.
    It can feel a bit grindy from what I’ve played, but Dofus did seem to have some things patched in to counteract that, like random ‘challenges’ that would appear in every battle and would range from never taking damage to killing enemies in a certain order, and would provide increased experience and drop rates if completed. Certainly broke up the normal combat a bit, although I did find some high-level enemies could just wreck your day if you weren’t careful anyway. There definitely is emphasis on the tactical side of things.

  5. Neurotic says:

    I played the Beta for donkeys’ years; in the MMOG community, WAKFU is very far from being small beans.One thing I should point out thought, is that it’s not (as far as I know, please correct me if I’m wrong) totally F2P in the same way as, say, DDO or LoTRO. You get full access to a limited portion of the game, and must then pay to escape this ‘trial zone’.

    I can’t confirm this for myself because I haven’t reinstalled the live client, but there’s a fair bit of ruckus about it over on the official forums.

    • BadgerAttackSquad says:

      I’m pretty sure this is true. I was interested in playing it, but the free version is really more of a free trial. I’d hardly call it free to play given how much content seems to be limited to the paid version.

    • Maldomel says:

      Exactly, the game is free to play only if you mind not going into the wild world and having access to everything. It’s the same in dofus.

    • Valkesh says:

      Some clarifications.

      The game isn’t exactly F2P. If you’re going to play the game for any prolonged period of time, you’re going to end up subscribing. The F2P portion of the game is limited to the tutorial area and Astrub (as well as the first part of Mt Zinit) which is a fair amount to do, but will only get you to about lvl20, and while you can play with the harvesting skills, the resources of Astrub are more or less useless.

      That said, though the game has a cash shop, the double dipping can be a bit forgiven in that they are not (at least yet) planning to provide any “enhancing” items via the shop, and the subscription price is lower than your typical MMO, floating at around $7 a month.

      Some of the more interesting bits take place in relation to the nations which you can’t join unless you’re a subscriber. Each one has their own themed area as described in the article, and there are interesting systems at play such as territory control, government (you can elect players to govern the nation which control various aspects of it such as which laws are enforced and alliances with other nations), and the ecosystems.

      As far as the combat getting repetitive, I can definitely see that. That seems to be the case with most tactics games from my experience. You actually get all your abilities more or less upfront (there is a very brief period where they are being unlocked but it’s a token effort) and there are only about 20 in total for each class. Much of the game is how you invest your points in the utility abilities, which ones you decide to level up, and how you use them. There is some more variability in dungeons and the like where there are objects like exploding barrels and other field things to spice up the strategy a little bit. At higher levels enemies start to use more interesting attacks and different strategies come into play as far as what to use and movement around the field, but ultimately it sticks with a small skill set which is easier to balance out. No idea if they plan on expanding this, though it would be nice.

      But yeah, Wakfu is a pretty unique experience and if nothing else walking around in the charming art filled world they put together is pretty enjoyable. Everything is very animated and lively. It manages to be kid friendly but it really isn’t just a kids game, as there’s plenty of depth there for adult players, and the lore and aesthetic are geared for both audiences. All in all I highly recommend it, even if you just want to hang out in the trial until GW2 or something else comes along. It’s not perfect, and the launch has definitely been a bit rocky (performance has been fine but there have been account issues with subscribing and people getting rewards from beta) but hopefully they continue to expand on the game and keep improving it, as they have something really interesting here even if it does stay tucked away in its own corner of the MMO space.

  6. Blame says:

    Actually, if you like that sort of combat, artstyle etc, but hate the lack of difficulty and the excess of grind you’re looking at the wrong ankama game.

    Besides the MMO’s dofus and wakfu, those French guys also made a game called Dofus Arena, which is probably the best tactical PvP-only game you never heard of. The reason you never heard of is that although it has been released for a while, the website isn’t translated (the game is mostly translated, but you have to speak french to find the download button). It’s also completely free and I honestly have no clue how they monetise it (maybe they sell in game cosmetics? Maybe it’s just to promote their other games?).

    Dofus Arena has 4 major differences with Wakfu/dofus:
    – The original mode (called “elite”) has the nice and uncommon property that you start with all the options and equipment. It’s impossible to have a improve your team through grind alone. Apparantly the French love reptition though so there’s another mode (just as free), that is basically the same except you now have to unlock everything.
    – You control multiple fighters at once (combat is very similar to final fantasy tactics really) instead of one.
    – Except for tutorails and some random “challenges”, it’s PvP only.
    – Ankama games doesn’t care about it, hence the untranslated website.

    edit: download link: http://www.dofus-arena.com/fr/mmorpg-tactique-gratuit/telecharger

    • DM says:

      They are also preparing a turn based Volleyball game Bloodbowl simili (currently in beta IIRC).

      You wonder how they make their money ? Easy: Ankama is a game develloper (they released a game on Xbox360 called Island of Wakfu), a manga/comics publisher, a press publisher ( there is an entire mag dedicated to Wakfu/Dofus ), a com’ agency, (soon) a music label and they go an animation studio.

      Don’t worry about the money, they have it just with the shiton of by-products. And they still have plenty of stuffs they have yet to have shown.

    • Maldomel says:

      Yes! Dofus Arena is probably the best tactical I ever played, in term of…tactics. I love it, specially the elite mode, it’s too rare to get everything unlocke to toy with for free in games.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      @DM: If you mean Boufbowl/Gobbowl, it emerged from Beta quite a few months ago. From what I’ve heard from players, it is not that interesting.

  7. Magnetude says:

    Age Of Onan?

  8. Soulstrider says:

    Not a big fan of the mmo, a bit repetitive and hate this kind of free to play mmo where you have to pay to unlock most of it.

    That said I found myself an huge fan of the TV cartoon which become my biggest guilty pleasure despite the sometimes childish antics.

    Quite Sad it’s about to end
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVHmIPCqSaE

    Still beats watching My Little Poney I guess.

    • Soulstrider says:

      Oh just read the article a bit better, although no microtransactions I believe there is a monthly fee option that unlocks a great deal of the game.

      Also I to think there is a political system for towns ala EVE , where players can become the rulers of towns and pass laws,

    • Dhatz says:

      Just about the opposite. I didnt find any reason to watch wakfu, it’s hte middle level of childish not too good or too bad and doesnt press realism either. However I cannot find any reason not to watch MLP FIM. Cruicial part of why I dont watch wakfu beyond like vampyro is the bad availability, plus lack of time.

  9. Shooop says:

    That wolf thing is just what I didn’t need to wake up and see this morning. It’s practically made of abject terror.

  10. Nick says:

    Steven!

  11. Lobotomist says:

    @Alec

    Please do not spread misinformation – THE GAME IS NOT FREE TO PLAY –

    Its traditional subscription (albeit just 6$)
    For free you get Newbie area & two starter islands. Enough to level up to 20.
    Everything else is limited. Including ability to group , sell items, craft or trade in any way.

    So SUBSCRIPTION GAME – P2P , with free trial (just like wow, rift, war … etc)

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      And they do actually have an item shop. Much to the outrage of the very easily-enraged community. They sell vanity items with stats that “level” as you play. Ankama made the mistake of posting the stats that can possibly be achieved with these items in the item descriptions, leading to players yelling “OMG PLAY 2 WIN U SUXX”, despite it needing about 100 levels of play to get those stats.

      Anyhoo, them youths always be raging.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Yep, the basic F2P area is very small, with many limits on even partying with subscribers, or picking up loot… most people call it a “trial” for better accuracy.

      Subscription will get you the full game, but there is also a cash-shop on top. Some of the buyable items are cosmetic. Equipment does have stats though, and there is no “cosmetic slot” so they will occupy the same slots as your normal loot.

      There are a lot of accusations that the shop-items are pay-2-win, and looking at the comparisons with non-shop items this does look pretty true (as in , the lvl100 shop vs a lvl100 drop/craft item).

    • Alec Meer says:

      I worry there’s a bit of a semantic argument going on here, especially from Captain Capitals up-top, but I’ve put in some edits to clarify things.

    • Lobotomist says:

      @Alec

      Sorry mate. Capitals because I think its important for people to know its not F2P, before they spend many hours grinding.

      Except of that, top notch reporting as usual ;)

  12. rustybroomhandle says:

    Just one correction, as someone who has been in the beta for ages. The sheep actually do shag. Watch them long enough and you will eventually see them do a small courtship ritual, followed by the male bouncing up and down on the female, who presented herself for this, followed by the male falling over on his back looking very pleased with himself.

    And considering the “harvesting seed” form of breeding, it would appear they do this just for their own amusement, and ours.

    What would Attenborough say?

    EDIT: Also just recalled something from Dofus. The archery trainer offers you a “bow job” if you bring her a stiff piece of wood. Whaddya expect, it’s French.

    • Maldomel says:

      Dofus is full of sexual references (among the tons of playwords and jokes it contains). Pretty surprising for a game aimed at a young audience, but still very funny for more mature people (like me).

  13. Veedash says:

    No words on the politics in the game?

    (registered to write that…)

  14. ShrikeMalakim says:

    “Then you scatter your seed onto the ground and… Well, that particular and perhaps ill-considered metaphor tells itself. ”

    Perhaps is the wrong word to use there.

    http://dofuswiki.wikia.com/wiki/Charm_tree

    Ankama very definitely considered the implication and innuendo, and means every bit of it.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, the French have managed an almost perfect zen balance in their cartoons, where they can get away with endless filthy humor while simultaneously never making it unsuitable for the kiddies.

  15. sjheiss says:

    You should probably play more than a few hours before you review an MMO. For example, the game is pay to play, not free, it does have microtransactions, even though you stated it doesn’t, and the French and English versions launched on the same day, not French before English as you stated. :)

  16. Bhazor says:

    In picture 1 is that the Flying Guillotine?

  17. Hoaxfish says:

    I’ve participated in the beta, since it started in 2008, so I think I can probably give a bit of insight:

    1. The SRPG combat is probably the only noticeable unique part of this game, but it is shallow. There is no real use of elevation, there is very little room to maneuver, most battles take place on a very flat area with little obstructions to hide behind or shoot past. You will end up spamming the same spells for every fight because the AI has very limited intelligence.

    2. art is nice.

    3. They have attempted to make a “sandbox” game, unfortunately a lot of this simply involves removing automation which exists in theme-park MMOs and makes the player do it instead. So, you have to respawn monsters/resources manually… which means often another player will come along, and kill all your “work”, etc. The systems simply don’t balance the two functions well.

    The gemlin customisation was removed at release, in favour of a basic “pet” system familiar to those who play Dofus.

    4. The spell learn-by-doing system forces you to a very small build in terms of flexibility. Simply put, you will use a handful of spells (roughly 3~5) for the 200 levels of the game. At higher levels, your other spells will simply be so underlevelled as to be ineffective, while attempting to level the others will start to weaken the progression of your “main” spells until they are also underlevelled.

    5. F2P for a small area, with multiple limits on your interaction with the world itself (including the paying players). P2P subscription opens up the rest of the game (though many P2P players have complained about the same limits that prevent F2P players interacting with them). On top of this, there is a non-cosmetic cash-shop.

    6. Very little of the world gets across in the game. Unfortunately it’s too common that people simply feel lost once they’ve exited the starting area. They simply have no idea “what to do”. There isn’t really anything in terms of concrete goals, but rather random “achievements” to tick off.

    7. I’m not sure a good comparison with SWTOR is exactly a selling point, since many people don’t exactly feel that SWTOR is anything to aspire to.

    Couple of things not mentioned:

    8. The politics system. This is basically another part of the “sandbox manual-automation”… essentially, a player gets voted into government, and then must use “taxes” (collected from market sales between players) to buy “challenges” (daily quests). If there’re not enough taxes to purchase these, then nobody can play those challenges. The government can also set laws, the only noticable effect of this is when one government decides to troll a whole nation and make everything illegal. There are 4 nations/governments… this is fixed in the game, you cannot make your own nation, you have to join one of the pre-existing ones.

    9. Criminal system. Breaking “Laws” (anything from killing another player, to picking flowers) gives you a decrease in “citizen points”. Get enough of these and you become a criminal… the only effect of which is that you can end up sitting in jail. This is supposed to limit “bad behaviour” by griefers, etc… but the penalty is so laughable that it has no effect.

    10. PvP is basically open for all, meaning a lvl200 character can stand around the newbie areas and stomp everyone that walks past. There are no actual rewards for PvP, so it’s really only fun for griefing. The classes are also wildly unbalanced in 1v1, so actual “competitive PvP” is limited to team-play, not that anyone bothers with that (no rewards again).

  18. Maldomel says:

    I’m delighted and surprised to see a post about Wakfu here. I think it’s a really good game, and I don’t mind the youngster audience. It’s really pretty too. The animations, the art style. I rarely saw games with such a lovely look. But yep, it’s grindy as it gets to be.

    You have to level your spells by casting them, and you level up on monsters most of the time. I was glad to see that quests give you xp scrolls has a reward. Like 10,000 xp per scroll. Neat.

    Also the whole ecological system looks really promising, you really feel like you are doing something in the world.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Unfortunately the XP scrolls unbalance your character.

      Spell xp (per spell) and character XP is gained from combat… the theory is that as you fight, your spell progression balances nicely with your character level.

      By using XP scrolls, you gain just character XP, but not spell XP (since there is no way to assign XP to a spell, since you used none). The end result is that your character level increases, meaning you must fight stronger monsters to gain XP… but your spell XP is not, leaving you with spells which are too weak to fight those “stronger monsters”.

  19. DK says:

    This is region locked by the way, so everyone who has friends overseas is fucked.

    • Ringwraith says:

      It’s only region between North America and the rest of the world.
      No, I don’t really understand either.
      They are pretty thorough with their redirects though, I can say that, so whatever it is it’s a pretty important reason.

  20. DrSlek says:

    I played the open beta for a few hours last year, but couldn’t get into it.

    However, I’ve become a huge fan of the animated series based on the MMO. There’s no english dub and the available english subs are all fan made. But despite this, it’s one of the best cartoons I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Funny, engaging, and gloriously animated. Amazingly almost the entire thing is animated in Flash, and somehow hoesn’t look like complete arse!

  21. vivlo says:

    Hey Mr Meer, you DO know that the 5 french words next to “RPS feature” don’t mean anything in that particular order, don’t you ?

  22. rustybroomhandle says:

    The region locking likely has to do with it being published separately in North America by Square Enix.

  23. smeaa mario says:

    gave it a try and loved it but the game kept throwing ‘subcribe to do x’s at me and that is where I decided to uninstall the hell out of it. well, I guess one should not expect to get everything for free even if it says ‘free’ nowadays.

  24. UnknownAX says:

    I haven’t played it in a while, but it was fun while I played it. However, it got grindy as all hell, and thus, I got bored.