NYCC ’11 – Wakfu Preview
During a convention, there is usually one game that will stand out in your mind more than any other. At this year’s New York Comic Con, Wakfu was that game for me. Square Enix is taking what looks to be a very ambitious step into the MMORPG market with Wakfu, touting it as having the “power of an entire world” within your grasp. From what I saw during my guided walk through, they’re definitely trying to make good on that promise.
The entire idea behind Wakfu is that a world has been torn apart by a cataclysm (this is always a Square Enix favorite) and now you must help to rebuild it. What sets Wakfu apart is the myriad roles you can play in trying to re-construct an empire. Choosing from one of fourteen highly customizable classes, you can choose to affect the world as a warrior, an artisan, a local politician, or even a farmer. Players will need to assume all these roles to make their empire work, as resources in each shard are re-useable, but finite. Useful animals can go extinct on servers, ore and trees can be strip mined and turn areas barren unless a plan for renewal is in place, armies will need equipment made for them, and generals and politicians to lead them. It’s all very complex.
One of my first comments on the game during the Wakfu walkthrough was “damn, this looks complicated.” I was assured that while there is a slight learning curve, SE wants it to remain accessible to all players. Combat plays out in a very quick turn-based style, similar to FF Tactics or Tactics Ogre. There are “hot seat” timers that will force players to take their turn and keep the action quick, or at least as quick as a turn-based RPG can be. You and up to five friends can join together in a party to roam the countryside looking for treasure, or going on resource hunting expeditions for your town. If you all become popular enough to get elected by other players, maybe you can even become the mayor, and begin levying taxes on people all SimCity style, or place your buddies in your cabinet seats. Seriously, you can do that. Someone even has to be the empire ecologist, and create a list of endangered species that aren’t supposed to be hunted. It’s all very complex.
I was told the game is operating on a modified “freemium” model, so maybe we’ll see something similar to AOE Online. However, I’ll be highly interested to see how Square Enix can keep a game with such a deep mechanics system balanced on that type of pricing plan. I believe this is the best model for Wakfu, since there are a few reasons why I think players would want to test-drive before they fully commit. One is that the game seems to be an EPIC time sink with a decent learning curve. Two is the cutesy, anime-inspired art style. While the animations are great and fit the game perfectly, it’s definitely for a niche audience who digs that sort of thing. Hopefully the look of the game won’t deter people from giving it a spin.
Out of everything I saw on Saturday, Wakfu has me the most intrigued. It’s breaking some new ground in the MMO space and that is admirable. If it can deliver what it promises in a meaningful way, I think Square Enix could have a serious hit on it’s hands. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the closed beta right here.
I usually stray as far away from JRPG’s as much as possible. They look interesting visually and mechanically, and definitely have many of the features I look for as a self-proclaimed RPG whore. They are also a huge time waster, like most RPG’s are. One thing anyone with a family is always clamoring more for is time, so I am usually at arm’s length when all is said and done.
While Wakfu’s art style is definitely up in the JRPG alley, the three-quarter perspective is what caught my eye originally. Countless hours of playing Final Fantasy Tactics, Super Mario RPG and one of my all-time favorites Landstalker for the SEGA Genesis has me on constant watch for that next great ¾ game. The animal infused characters are not the most interesting to me; the complete opposite in fact. Being amped up for a game that involves cat people licking for an attack/buff only fills my head with videos of Furry’s that Jim sent to me once. But there are some hugely redeeming qualities that kept me watching during the demo.
Players start off in a main hub city area and expand your empire through 6×6 PvP battles for supremacy of land, resources and social influence. The economics, social hierarchy and resource control are the three things that seemed really different and much more complex than you would expect from a game with cutesy graphics when compared to the more hardcore strategy games. Just knowing that specific resources might disappear completely and how that would affect the economics of the entire roughly ten-thousand player server intrigues me a great deal.
This triple platform release (Windows, OSX & Linux) seems to be poised to provide just enough difference and complexity to distract those who are used to a more traditional fantasy setting. There are many details that are yet unknown about Wakfu but I am compelled to keep my eye out for what’s up coming and you should too!
Jim Hunter -
Through the Wakfu demo, I was off to the side, unable to hear anything the producer was saying. I’m really not a fan of the art style or the tactics elements as I’ve never really enjoyed that style of RPG. However, for those who do, it appears that this game has a fairly significant amount of depth. Using a free-to-play, Wakfu is certainly worth a look when it releases for fans of the genre.