Have you ever taken a walk? How about at hike? A venture maybe? Have you’ve ever just felt to put on your shoes and just walk – just wander around aimlessly, enjoying the sights, the sounds, the smells of nature? If so, then you’re just like me and occasionally get the urge to feel the breeze of the wind as it passes through the trees and through your hair. Now, have you ever wished that you could capture that feeling and take it inside away from all of that stuff? If so, then look no further than Wander, an aimless-meandering-based “MMO”.
Developer: Wander MMO
Publisher: Wander MMO
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4
Release: Jun 4, 2015
Wander stylizes itself as a Non-combative, Non-competitive MMO. What this should essentially mean is that Wander is an exploration-based MMO in which you are in a rich, vibrant world with tons of people, places, and things to find and explore. Unfortunately, in the case of Wander, what it really means is that it’s an online game in which you are in a mostly barren, boring island with a few rocks to interact with.
You start the game as a walking tree whose branches take up the majority of your screen, obscuring you view from the forest of other trees surrounding you. You then just…walk around.
Really, that’s it.
Well, almost it, I guess.
Occasionally you’ll find some rocks with a glowing etching on it that’s supposed to teach you a word from the in-game language. You say these words by drawing each word’s corresponding shapes according to a slow-moving prompt. Drawing a word is similar to drawing a character in Chinese or Japanese, but with awkward stroke orders. Honestly, even drawing real-world kanji on the computer can be hard as hell, and Wander’s on-the-fly communication system is no less of a pain. You can simply select the words from the “speaking menu” for lack of a better term, but even then, I have to use “simply” very liberally. As a whole, the language system looked like it came from an interesting idea, but it’s just not worth investing the time or energy it takes to learn – both in the game and out of it. There’s quite literally no one to talk to anyway.
The other thing you can interact with (a phrase I really shouldn’t have to say in reference to a video game) is the system of transformation alters. Each of these alters will transform you into a different animal, and each of these animals specialize in travelling in different environments, such as in the water and in the sky. Since you start as the most aggravating thing to have to walk around as (a tree), you’ll probably want to find something to turn into as soon as possible.
Although this deep-sea-dwelling lizard would be so much better if I could dive more than 8 feet.
Technically, Wander is an MMO, meaning you could run into another player here and there. During my meandering, however, I have failed to meet a single one. It’ll probably be a miracle to find anyone who’ll be willing to play for more than an hour, since there really isn’t anything to do, other than finally get a chance to show off your newly-learned words.
There does not seem to be any story in Wander whatsoever, which it sorely needs.
Giving credit where credit is due, Wander is actually quite a pretty game. The trees look nice. The reefs underwater look nice. The buildings that make up the barren villages look nice. There’s a big rock on a little island that looks interesting. The water effects are terrible, though.
Unfortunately, as a tree, your own branches kind of obscures your view of the otherwise pretty trees in the forest. The tail on the aquatic lizard thing you can turn into has a similar problem.
The scenery looks great, I promise.
The music is also a bit of a high point in Wander. As you get close to one of the few things you can interact with, some beautiful vocals begin singing. The rest of the game is mostly ambient sounds.
There are some rocks strewn about that seem to read you diary entries whenever you interact with them. These diary entries are fully-voiced, and the voice work is actually quite good. I think the same voice reads aloud the words that you can speak, but trying those mostly results in an awkward cough.
Wander comes with an almost insulting $30.00 price tag. A large number of fully-functional MMORPGS come free, and they usually have various, different zones and stuff to do. I’ve played Wander for roughly three hours, and that felt like a chore. I simply cannot recommend purchasing this game under any real circumstance as it is currently.
Put in the simplest terms, Wander sucks. It really pains me to say that, too, because it’s a game that I feel the developers put a good amount of thought, time, and heart into. It feels like Wander and its developers had a vision, and they met that, but they failed to find a way to make that vision accessible and fun. It’s a shame, because this game generated quite a large amount of hype, and I think that’s because people really want a fun and engaging MMO that doesn’t focus on combat or competition. There does appear to be a demand for just that type of game, and I’m honestly on board with that. The problem with Wander is that, while it did take away the combat, it failed to replace that with anything meaningful. This delivers Wander, but players want Explore. As a result, Wander ended up being little more than a boring island or two to walk around on. It’s more akin to a tech demo or an early alpha build than a full-fledged game.
-Character models obscure vision
-Poor camera controls
-Clunky speech system
Score: 1 / 5