Wakfu review

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Of all the MMOs I have played, Wakfu is an interesting breed – a sandbox MMO that doesn’t hold your hand and doesn’t tell me what to do. Developed by Ankama and published by Square Enix, anime fans and JRPG fans should give this a look.

There are 13 classes to choose from. Each class is distinct from one another, and the character models are detailed. I chose Sram’s Shadow, which is the assassin class of Wakfu. They don a skull mask and wear a black spandex suit with a skeleton painted on it. But even with the unique design, customization is limited to five body types, three head sets and a color palette to change skin, eyes and hair.

After naming my Sram, I step through a portal, entering the realm of Incarnam, which floats in outer space, overseeing the world below. Wakfu is 2D with a top-down, isometric view. The camera cannot be turned, but you can zoom in and out. It’s advisable to keep it as far as you can. If you are zoomed in too much, you won’t see what’s ahead of you, and you won’t be able to appreciate the amazing environment.

I was entranced by the game’s hand-drawn world. From the animated sprites and its vibrant atmosphere, Wakfu is a treat to the eyes. The music complements the world, adding a sense of wonder and calm. Each area has its own theme music, and the battle theme heightens the pace of the game.

At the starting point of Incarnam, a gooey monster, called Gimlin, chitters and chatters in a high-pitched tone, asking for assistance. The Gimlin sits on top of a pillar, trapped by a kitten that paws for it. The Gimlin tells me to attack this cute, black kitten with big, adorable eyes – so I attacked it, despite my apprehension.

Wakfu has a turn-based battle system.  Spells and attacks are located on the hotkey bar below the screen. My Sram has 5 spell types: fire, water, air, support and passive. Earth was not available to my Sram. Other classes have different mixes of spells that exclude one of the four elements. Support spells do not have an innate element in them and they do not cause damage to enemies. For my Sram, the support spell I use were Invisibility and Shadow Trap. Passive spells modify stats; they are innate and do not require activation. So there are 25 spells in total, 5 spells in each type. Individual spells also gain experience points and level up. So the more you use a specific spell, the more efficient it becomes.

After rescuing the Gimlin, he becomes my pet and my guide. We step into the next area plagued with Wodents, rabbit-like creatures with beady-eyes and a giant bucktooth. To progress to the next area, we need to exterminate the Wodents. I attack a Wodent nearby, and my Gimlin buddy explains the placement phase. Before the fight begins, you must pick a blue space in the designated battle area. Picking the right spot dictates how the battle plays out. If you want to end the battle fast, start near your opponent. If you want to prepare yourself by using Support spells or if you have low initiative, begin at the edge of the map, away from your enemy.

After the placement phase, the battle finally begins. On the bottom center of the screen are four gauges: these are health points, movement points, Wakfu points and action points. Players start with three movement points, six action points and six Wakfu points. Movement points show how much space you can move in one turn. Action points are the resource for spells, similar to mana. Wakfu points are additional resources that are used with action points for stronger spells or support.

All the wodents succumbed to my shiv, ridding the area of them. I level-up and was awarded points that are used to increase stats such as health points, critical strike, dodge, strength, etc. I made the mistake of allocating points immediately. Critical strike requires 15 points, and each level-up gives you 5 points, so you would need three more levels to increase your critical strike. And if you want to increase your action points and movement points, you have to wait until you get 100 or 150 points. If you make a mistake in your stats, or you want to change your build, you are out of luck. There is no NPC who can reset your points, so think before you allocate.

The pacing of the battle is slow and could turn players off who expect fast gameplay. To spice up the battle, Wakfu has a speed score mechanic. In every battle a speed score limit is established, and the faster you end your turn, the higher your speed score is. Once you reach the limit, you are given a choice of bonuses on your next turn, either a damage bonus, AP bonus or MP bonus.

After clearing the Wodents, I descended to Wakfu, landing on the island of Astrub. Players can join one of the four nations in Wakfu. I chose Bonta since they sounded peaceful and, supposedly, everyone is in there. As soon as I got my passport, I step into a Zaap and enter the nation of Bonta.

I explore the region and came across Monty Bello, an NPC and the clan member of an area brimming with Gobballs, sheep-like creatures that look like cotton balls with horns. Monty maintains the Gobball population, imposing a limit of 280 to 420 Gobballs. If you’re a miscreant, you can fight and thin out the Gobball population, but risk being penalized of your citizen points. Reaching negative 50 citizen points will mark you as an outlaw. There are other resources available, but Monty doesn’t care for them; extinction of that type of resource would not threaten your citizen points.

To gather resources, you need a permit. There are six gathering professions, and to get their permit, you must travel to the neighboring areas and talk to its clan member. The clan member will give you a book that gives details on the profession. After you’re done reading it, the clan leader will test you with four questions to prove your knowledge and make sure you didn’t toss it aside.

The resources available are crops, fishes, herbs, lumber, ores and meats. Ores and fishes regenerate over time, and everything else needs to be maintained by everyone in the game. To ensure balance, players must pick seeds from crops, herbs, trees, and, yes, the creatures that runs around Wakfu. Once you gather these seeds, you can plant them on designated spaces on the ground. It has been a habit of mine that every time I kill, I make sure to plant a seed… next to their corpses.

After all the gathering and harvesting and collecting and grinding, it’s time for good ol’ crafting. There are 11 crafting professions available, all learnable from various clan members throughout the nation. Recipes are unlocked by leveling up the profession. And to gain experience, you must craft and craft and craft. Starter recipes are easy, only requiring two or three materials. Advanced recipes require over four types of materials, some requiring rare drops.

I made my very first armor in the game. Unfortunately I can’t equip it since it’s five levels high, so I stow it away for later use. As I went out fighting, gathering and exploring, my bag space was running low from all the loot. My first impulse was to find a vendor NPC that I could sell it to.

There weren’t any.

I ran around the Nation of Bonta and found a marketplace. Players crowded in front of a blackboard, which served as the auction house of Wakfu. You can buy anything that is posted, and you can sell anything in your bag and set the price. Pricing is tricky, especially for new players since pricing would require research from the auction house or the haven bags.

Haven bags are a form of player housing and a trading medium when you log-out on a designated space. I enter one of the open haven bags. I was amazed at the amount of stuff it had. There were statues, harvestable gardens, crafting tables and display cases that had items for sale. I step out and check my own bag – it looked like a cheap apartment barely maintained by the landlord. But my haven bag did come with one display case.

Each haven bag has a control room where players can choose to lock their bags from other players or choose who can access the bag. To expand the space, players need to acquire haven gems and install them on a console inside this room. These gems are rare drops from dungeon bosses. A chest is available inside the control room that has five slots for storage and six unlockable tabs.

I deposited some stuff to my chest, but I still had a lot. I’m used to having an empty bag and a pocketful of coins. Not in Wakfu. If you don’t want to trade, there’s another way to make a buck. Kama minting is the first crafting profession already learned at the start of the game. The first level requires 10 iron ores to convert into 1 Kama coin. But this would require a lot of harvesting. If that’s too much of a grind, playing the market is the way to go.

I stepped out of my haven bag and saw two players fighting in the center of the marketplace. Upon interacting with them, there was an option to spectate their battle. Spectating is a lot of fun, more so when players trash-talk or even role play. One of the fighters was an outlaw, marked with a bandit icon above his head. The other one was a soldier. Ganking can happen in Wakfu, and the aggressor is usually penalized of their citizen points. At the end of the fight, the bandit was too strong and powerful for the lowbie soldier.

So I left the market and went out exploring. On my way was another player who wanted to do a dungeon. She asked if I could help her with a dungeon nearby. I said yes since I wanted to check out how dungeons worked in Wakfu. All dungeons require keys to access. Even with a group, each player needs a key to get inside. Keys usually drop from mobs or available for sale in the market, that is if someone is selling it. Dungeons have more mobs than usual, and mobs should be cleared before progressing to the next area. There are about 33 dungeons available in Wakfu, and completing them rewards emotes, loot or, if you’re lucky, haven gems.

VERDICT

Wakfu has an amazing setting, and the living ecosystem is unique in its genre. But everything else feels like a grind. Three battles in a row becomes exhausting. Harvesting and gathering devolves into a chore. And crafting is overwhelming and requires a lot of time or a lot of Kama.

However, Wakfu is a different kind of grind – not the kind where you have to login every day to make sure you get your badges or token for that epic gear you’ve been saving for. Wakfu makes you work for that gear, makes you toil for that coin and makes you strive to become better. It is a sandbox after all, and progress depends on how you interact with the world.

Wakfu is free-to-play, but free players can only access Incarnam and Astrub. They cannot choose a nation, and they cannot trade with other players. Monthly subscription is $6.00 and allows full access to the nations and beyond.

7.5/10

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