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First Impressions: Wakfu

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[Update: This article originally listed an April start date for the North American open beta, however we've been informed that this is not the case. The international open beta taking place in April will not be open to North America. The article has been changed to reflect that. North America residents may recieve an open beta of their own at a later date -- we'll keep you informed. - Tim]

Two weeks ago, I went ahead and posted a trailer for the game Wakfu. I hadn't heard about it until I got an e-mail from Square-Enix, who are publishing the game for our (well my, anyway) territory, and I was immediately fascinated by it.

Ankama seems to be a much bigger deal of a company than I knew. Wakfu and Dofus (its preceding MMORPG and story), have everything from trading cards/badges, figures to magazines, and even a TV show. It's a whole big world the French nerddom has been enjoying that I was completely clueless of until recently.

The game is currently in the closed beta phase, and I've been fortunate to get my paws on a beta key to test the waters myself! I've spent a lot of time in the past playing MMORPGs, so trying this one out was right up my alley. Click past the jump to check out how Wakfu is shaping up!

Game Title and Platform(s): Wakfu, for PC, Mac OS and Linux
Developer: Ankama
Publisher: Square-Enix (for North America region)
Release Date: 2011
MSRP: Free to play

Wakfu is a game that gives you a lot of choices. Maybe too many choices, but nonetheless you are bombarded with them from the get-go. In closed beta I was able to choose from just a few classes, but up to now there are 14 classes in the works for the full game.

create character

When you fire up the game for the first time, you get a nice little introduction before the character selection comes on. Once you pick your class, you can make all kinds of adjustments, from hair and skin color to starting outfits after choosing your class gender.

blob gemlin

After that, it's all very simple (supposed to be, anyway). You're dropped off at Incarnum, a newbie zone up in the sky and above the clouds with a denizen called Catskill to send you down to the land of the living when you're ready. You attain a little blob that tails you and acts as a sort of guide throughout your time. To my understanding, the blob has a lot more utility than just being a guide once you get much further into the game. For now though, it's just a blob that follows me around.

In my personal experience while going through the newbie zone, I had no idea at all where I was going and what I was supposed to do. I didn't even find the tutorials until after I'd hung around the "Earth" zones for a while and went back up to Incarnum out of curiosity. I was thrust into this nation, told I needed a passport before I could do anything and didn't receive much help from the NPCs.

tears of rage

While at Incarnum, you're supposed to meet a few other NPCs that show you a thing or two about combat and spell casting in general. In my case, I learned it all first-hand by wandering around before I even found the tutorials. You're supposed to learn the basic mechanics of the game at Incarnum, and you'll also find signs that tell the story of the game's premise. Above is an image of one of such signs. I thought they were beautiful. This one in particular is showing you the Orc's tears that drowned the world (after throwing his ex girlfriend into the pits of hell, which you can see on the left side).

chillin

Speaking of beautiful, this game is just that. For a free-to-play MMORPG, Wakfu is surprisingly gorgeous while remaining clean and smooth. Your character has a surprisingly high range of movement and lots of wonderful gear (I keep on some bunny slippers and a bunny hat, myself) to wear. Emotes and movement are also "dropped" by enemies. Pretty much everything you'd want or need in the game has to be hunted, gathered or crafted.

In the case of gear and tools, there is neither an Auction House in the game at this time, nor are there merchant NPCs. The entire economy is player-based. In order to attain items, you have to make money by either mining the ore and literally, physically making money, or farming other items for crafters that make gear and weapons you want.

reaping

Wakfu gives you the freedom to choose any and all professions you want, but honestly there is no point of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. It's a waste of time, and now I'm getting to the more negative stuff, because it's all a big grind. It is to be expected of most (if not all) MMORPGs, but this game is nothing but grind. This is definitely one of those games that I wouldn't expect anyone to play for five hours a day, six days a week. It is the sort of game I'd expect to be casual fun for anyone who likes the world or is a fan of Ankama.

The world of Wakfu isn't like Final Fantasy XI or World of Warcraft where you literally need to make friends with others and make guilds to beat big baddies for awesome gear. It also isn't one where you need to team up with several people to gain EXP or run through missions and quests. It's a game that you can casually play by yourself if you are so inclined, or team up with friends and be more of an achiever. That isn't to say that you can't play FFXI or WoW casually when you like, but to get through missions or attain the high-end stuff you absolutely do need to group up with other folks.

balance

Either way, Wakfu is what you make of it, and that's its charm. The world is 100 per cent player maintained. Players decide which crops and animals thrive and which die out; they decide if they want to be more on the "creation" end (Wakfu) or "destroying" (Statis) end of things. All actions within the world have consequences.

Whether you like to create or destroy isn't important. Neither is viewed as the more positive choice, although one would initially venture to believe that "creation" or Wakfu is the way to go. While shortage exists, so does overage, so those with Statis are equally valued as keepers of balance. In reality though, what matters is whether or not you act according to the wishes of the major NPCs.

Master Owl

There are major NPCs in the game, called Clan Members (such as Master Owl above), who control their own zones and have a little icon at the top left of your game screen whenever you're in their area. They'll show you what the crop, plant and animal levels are in their area and where they want them to be. If you act against them, you lose Citizen Points. These points are among the more important things to keep track of while playing, because how many points you attain will determine your privileges. On the flip side, losing points might very well lead you to in-game jail.

jail

What's this, a game jail? Yes, one of the other downsides to this game (for me, anyway) is that it really takes the consequence thing seriously. If you aren't aware of the flow of battles and politics within the world, even if you just want to play by yourself, and wander into enemy territory, you can get attacked by other players in PvP, jailed or whatever else falls into the laws of your in-game nation.

You read that right. You have to follow the laws of your in-game nation, or you get into in-game trouble. Sounds a lot like playing a game that is a little too much on the reality side, yes? Not to worry, it isn't easy to get so much on the bad side of your Clan Members that you'll get tossed into jail, but the threat is there.

Honestly, this game reminded me a lot of another game I do play regularly, called Hello Kitty Online. Oh yes, it exists, and it's disgustingly adorable. It's another game that is free-to-play, smooth and feels like it's more for the fans than for the general gaming populace. The games are all grind-based, but HKO differs in that instead of having a political system there are lots of missions and team things to do. You spend more time discovering Sanrio characters and doing "cute" things than being a hunter-gatherer.

scenery

The only complaints I have with the game beyond what I've already mentioned is that it isn't entirely translated. I can't expect it to be perfect, though, and it's in French! It makes a few professions quests a little difficult since you have to read the in-game guides in order to start up a new job. All you need to do to learn a profession is wander around the map and find Clan Members who will teach you. The further you run from town, the higher level everything is, but almost no monsters will actually attack you on sight if you're just hunting down denizens.

Speaking of running away from town, I also found I like the music in the areas that are furthest away/ more high level. The game's soundtrack is overall very fun and pleasant, but it definitely feels like the higher level zones have more intricate themes. Maybe I feel that way because I spend more time in the lower level zones and thus the themes just play out after a while. Over all though, it's great and there is no loading screen between zones to speak of, the only indicator being the music fading from one to the other and a banner coming up on the middle of the screen announcing the new zone (as well as the Clan Member icon popping up and telling you something new).

After all that, I've only breached the tip of the iceberg. This game is so incredibly involved, it's hard to punch out all the details in one article. I gave you the basic mechanics of the game, and what I thought of them, but if you are the least big intrigued you should just find out for yourself if or when North America gets its open beta. We'll post that information if or when it becomes available.

Wakfu is a game I do recommend for anyone that likes games that don't necessarily need to take up too much time, but are pretty to look at and have a lot of history. You'll never run out of things to do, and you can choose to be a loner or be part of a guild, even run for governor of your nation. When I say that the entire world is maintained by players, I do literally mean, Fable style, you can make anything happen. It is the charm of the game that I can see turning a lot of people off, but honestly Wakfu is a breath of fresh air.


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Kristina Pino
Kristina PinoContributor   gamer profile

Kristina is a freelance photographer and writer from Miami now moved to Japan. She's a hardcore nerd culture enthusiast, Disney fan, sunflower admirer, and book slinger. Tweet her @geekerydo. F... more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #Impressions #Square Enix #top stories #Video games

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