[Editor's Note: Adrian reviewed the game using a free account, and therefore missed out on much of the content that is only accessed when you have a subscription. Additionally, while we write about there being a lack of story, this because Adrian did not have access to the Mt. Zitin content. In short, while we stand by the score (which we believe is fair either way), there are details about the game left out due to not having access to the paid content. These are things we'll write about in the future with other features.]
It's always a tricky thing when you need to review a MMORPG. At least that's how I feel. The amount of enjoyment that can be derived from an MMORPG is always dependent on the player's expectations. If you're expecting epic quests, great loot, a compelling storyline and larger than life battles, then maybe Wakfu isn't the game for you. But if you're interested in exploring a drop-dead gorgeous world without getting aggro from every single mob you come across and being able to chat freely without restrictions to all the other players in the game, then you'll probably love this game.
Of course, things are never so simple that they can be summarized into a simple paragraph. Wakfu is a massive game, and how massive it is ultimately depends on how you play. It builds upon Ankama's previous game Dofus (which I have only played briefly) and contains game mechanics that are easily picked up quickly but have great depth in terms of gameplay.
Aesthetics - 9 / 10
Wakfu is drop-dead gorgeous, that much is a fact. The environments are filled to the brim with little details, character animations are smooth and fluid, and everyone (monsters included) has more than one idle animation which triggers randomly. I saw sheep humping each other, NPCs tickling one another and cats chasing butterflies whilst running through the beautiful world of Wakfu, and that's just only in one 'zone'.
For a large part of my gameplay session, I just spent my time exploring and grabbing screenshots of everything I saw. The different monsters, the NPCs, the buildings, the flora, the fauna, all of them were so rich and vibrant. The closest game I can compare Wakfu to, aesthetically, is Bastion. There is just so much to take in and it never feels like the developers got lazy and copy-pasted chunks of the world to save time.
Music in the game is beautifully done, and never distracting. Each 'zone' has a different piece of music that plays and adds a certain mood to the area you're venturing through. Walk through a grassy plain and the background music is soothing and serence, tread through a swamp with level 40 monsters and the music changes appropriately to heighten the sense of danger (which is never there since monsters don't aggro)
For all the beauty in the game, it truly is unfortunate that one of the most important elements, aethetically, is also its weakest. The game's User Interface is for the most part usable, but leaves one wondering why the developers did not take a few cues from other games when designing it. It's very obvious that the game was designed to cater to low-range netbooks as many of the character creation screens occupy only a tiny fraction of the screen in my 1920x1200 resolution monitor. There's a lot of un-used screen real estate and it really makes one wonder whether they are planning to release a version of Wakfu for mobile devices. The icons in the gameplay UI are also tiny. Really tiny. To the point I can't see which numerical digits correspond to the spells I'm planning on using in combat. Only one row (out of 4 rows) of skill icons can be displayed at any time and this gets very frustrating later in the game when you start unlocking more and more spells.
Gameplay - 7 / 10
Gameplay is a tricky subject to tackle for Wakfu. Especially because it's so different from those of popular modern F2P MMORPGs like Runes of Magic and yet is strangely familiar to those who have played Ultima Online.
Yes, I mentioned Ultima Online. The grand-daddy of them all. The one that more or less started the trend by proving that online RPGs were feasible.
Wakfu doesn't have many of the modern conveniences that MMORPGs have today. Map markers need to be placed by yourself, there is no 'run to objective' option when looking for a particular monster to slay and the gameplay tutorials are amazingly brief and concise. A lot of players who've been spoiled by modern MMORPGs will probably be shocked and horrified.
“How am I supposed to play this game?” They will almost certainly ask.
To which I will reply, “The same way I played Ultima Online and Final Fantasy XI: sharing information with other players and consulting online wikis.”
For starters, there are no restrictions in player chat. At least none that I have encountered so far. Unlike many other F2P offerings out there, there is no global chat channel for everyone to talk into. When you say something, only the people next to you see the text in their chat log (and in the speech bubble above your head)
Combat is turn based and takes its cues from console games like Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, etc. Players and monsters will take turns attacking each other until one of them is defeated. Spells can also be leveled up through repeated use to unlock higher level spells. You can even assist players (if they are paying subscribers) or the monsters by joining in the fight.
Aside from combat, there's Harvesting and Crafting. And this is where the division between free-to-play and paying subscribers starts to make itself more apparent.
Players are all able to acquire harvesting skills from the 'clan members' of each of the 4 factions in the starting area of the game, the central continent Astrub. Players are given a taste of the full game experience here, and this is likely where most free-to-play players will remain for the duration of their stay in Wakfu.
Chopping trees, harvesting remains/seeds from monsters, mining ores, fishing are all possible in Astrub. Trees can be chopped down or replanted, and monsters can be slain or re-seeded. Manage to maintain a dicated 'population level' and zone-wide bonuses will be bestowed.
After you've chosen to join one of the 4 factions in the game, you'll be able to venture into the lands owned by the respective faction. And it's there where dissapointment for the F2P players will inevitably set in.
Everything, and I really do mean EVERYTHING, will have a red 'You need to be a subscriber to perform this action' attached to it. It's very blatant and in your face, stating obviously that you need to pay to enjoy everything this game has to offer. Even NPCs, with their bright and cheery faces, will say to you 'I have nothing to say to you. Come back when you are worthy.'
For F2P players wandering through the faction-owned lands, crafting stations are not usable, dungeons are not accessible, certain gates that lead into zones cannot be passed, resources can't be harvested, monsters can't be attacked, etc. A rude shock, to put it lightly.
Innovation - 9 / 10
Well, seeing as I've already mentioned how similar Wakfu is to Ultima Online, it's pretty obvious that the innovation for this game is not going to be particularly high.
There's a lot in Wakfu's game mechanics that's been done before by other games. Harvesting, Crafting, Combat, Pets, Social Interaction, the standard stuff. Stuff you've probably seen everywhere else. There's even a political system where players can be nominated to be the 'ruler' of their faction, but of course that's only reserved for paying subscribers.
What some players might consider innovation is the ability to effect changes to your environment (albeit briefly). Trees will vanish after being chopped, and this is the same for harvested crops. At least until they respawn. Seeds can be planted by players in certain parts of the land to make plants grow, and some may find a sense of joy in being able to modify (ever so slightly) the environment of the game.
Also, it's not very often that you see an entire MMORPG using handdrawn sprites. The game is beautiful and I know I've already mentioned this more than once. It' isn't everyday that a cartoony game makes me feel like I'm in a living breathing world, and for that I am