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MMO-ish RPG Wayfinder is full of promise, but I just can't get excited about it

In a past life, maybe

An elfin warrior with white hair and a lot of jewelled belts in online RPG Wayfinder
Image credit: Digital Extremes

Wayfinder, an upcoming action RPG with light MMO touches, is being developed by Airship Syndicate, the folks behind Darksiders Genesis and Ruined King: A League Of Legends Story. I've spent some time with the closed beta, poking and prodding at the game's live service cogs to determine whether it's running a smooth operation or a clunky one that may not be worth your time.

And you know what? The game took me by surprise. So far, it's a decent time that's perhaps more along the lines of a Destiny, than say, World Of Warcraft. I genuinely believe it could garner a big community and have a bright future ahead of it - but when it comes to such a saturated space, I worry that Wayfinder may struggle to stand out, and won't attract players who are done with the usual rise 'n grind demands of these sorts of games.

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To be totally honest, I entered Wayfinder's closed beta with trepidation. Aside from covering live service games on Inventory Space, I don't play them all that often anymore. Maybe it's because I'm now old and jaded, but I rarely have the time to fulfil their demanding schedules. Often, it's because they don't cater to players like me that I struggle to stuck in.

It's even a surprise that Wayfinder took me by surprise. It stands out about as much as a green chameleon in a green jungle filled with live service games (also green). But pluck the chameleon from its hiding spot, give it a home in the relative safety and warmth of your PC, and you'll find that it's actually a rather beautiful creature. Airship's ties to League Of Legends are obvious, as the world itself feels like an extension of Riot Games' universe, with impressive scale and genuinely beautiful areas.

A cozy tavern area in Wayfinder bustles with heroes.
There's a story here about the evil Gloom that's consumed the world and you being a fallen hero who's come to fight it. I wasn't drawn in, as is often the case with most loose, live service storylines that can't afford to be anything but malleable.

The game's world is split into zones, a bit like Destiny or Final Fantasy XIV, where transitions involve a clean break via loading screen. Aside from the safety of the hubs, the zones you'll explore feature roaming enemies, chests, and the odd dungeon. They feel like just the right size, at least early on, giving you just enough places to wander without it feeling overblown and empty as a result.

There are four characters to choose from initially: a rogue, a knight, a berserker, and a rifle-slinging fella. Once you've chosen who you'd like to run with, you'll need to unlock the rest of them by doing specific quests that involve gathering unique materials; a first glimpse into the live service void. I played as the rogue and the berserker, both of whom felt distinct from one another in everything from their abilities to the heft of their strikes. As you'd expect, the rogue is lithe and speedy, able to dart between enemies with slices and dices. My fave was the berserker, though, who swings a mean two-handed axe and whose fisticuffs ability lets her dish out repeated punches, accelerating her damage output the more she lands.

The general rhythm of the game is what you'd expect from a game of the live service ilk: get your character strongerer by doing lots of resource gathering. To do so, you've got a main quest, alongside some side quests that'll steer you through various Lost Zones (dungeons) which are filled with beasties. I fought a king slime and a big bug, both of which gave me lots of currencies and lots of things to put in lots of slots. Genshin Impact and my recent experience with Honkai Star Rail came to mind here, as they share similar sensibilities in Wayfinder's method of upgrading your character. There are lots of orbs and points of varying colours to spend, each of which can be used to incrementally boost numbers and words like, "Critical Chance" and "Affinity Bonus". Admittedly it tickled my dopamine recepticles, but it also tired me. I have done this in umpteen games.

A mysterious town in Wayfinder, with many cramped buildings, purple and yellow lights, and ramshackle fantasy-ish roofs
A character from Wayfinder hoists a massive scythe onto their shoulder and stares out at a ruptured gate in the distance.
Three heroes take on a glowing purple warrior golem in Wayfinder.
While each of your characters is stuck with their primary weapon type early on, eventually you can outfit you can swap your berserker's axe with the rogue's dual daggers or vice versa.

The hook of the game lies in doing dungeons, getting ingredients, then either boshing them into your character's power level, or crafting a key to a new, tougher dungeon. The cycle then repeats, from what I gather. While the idea of this exhausts me now, I think the act of doing so isn't all that bad. The dungeons are smartly laid out, with interesting enemies, and combat that sings. The little details are strong, too. Animations are fluid and the menu systems have a pleasant springiness to them. It may be a closed beta with FPS chugs and placeholder art, but it's also mightily polished for such an early effort.

Back in the day, I reckon Wayfinders would've been totally my jam. Beneath its generic surface is a live service game that's plenty rewarding and, crucially, makes the levelling loop fun with weighty combat. The world is genuinely stunning at times. And I do find myself getting pulled into the currency chase. But I'm unsure whether it's a fresh enough take to survive in such a competitive space, what with your Destinys and WoWs and Genshins. If you like any of the games I've just mentioned, I reckon Wayfinder is worth checking out. If you've done your time in the live service mines, then I doubt it will appeal. I suppose only time will tell - and it's definitely worth watching out for in future.

Wayfinders hasn't announced an open beta yet, but it's worth keeping an eye on its Steam page for updates.

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