Sunday, 03 April 2016 00:00

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Review

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Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem (formally Umbra) from Wolcen Studios (formally Solarfall games) is a hack-and-slash ARPG which runs on the Cry-Engine. Being in early access, Wolcen, has placeholder models, missing audio, and many things that simply do not work. However, not only is this stated when you boot up the game, but in fact the developers have also said that Wolcen will be updated twice a month.

Although it is not polished, it is a strikingly beautiful game.

Lush forests, dark and dank dungeons, and flowing rivers populate the world. The character models are also quite stunning and even though you cannot customize your character past looking like WWF’s Brock Lesner, they look amazing both standing still and in action.

In action, however, is where Wolcen’s current state as an alpha shows and not in a good way. The animations are beautiful, but clunky and half the time my clicks to fight an enemy or pick up a weapon merely had my character wander near where I clicked. For a hack-and-slash, that is inexcusable. Even worse, items and loot, the corner stone for ARPGs, becomes almost invisible if not picked up immediately. Having recently played the latest Diablo 3 season and the fantastic Grim Dawn, it’s hard for me to not compare these two games to Wolcen which, I admit, heavily skews my attitude towards the game itself.

I do not want to harp and make it seem like there’s no saving grace for Wolcen. On the contrary, the magic and spell casting is a blast from the moment you pick up Tome of Unlimited Power which allows you to channel your inner Emperor Palpatine and fire lightning out of your fingertips. The second tome, Frost Nova, allows you to freeze your enemies in a circle. These tomes are very reminiscent of the original Diablo, where any character could pick them up and learn them if they had the necessary attributes.

And this is where Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem becomes very interesting and fascinating.

The potential for immense character customization is vast. In my first play through, my character leaned heavily toward magic and only engaged in melee when it was absolutely necessary. However, after my character lost all of his quest progression (on my second booting up of the game—which was not a great feeling), I started a character which leaned more toward brute strength and found the experience markedly different. Smashing enemies (when my mouse clicks actually worked) is very satisfying and battles with larger enemies like Ogres who like to knockback your character halfway across a room make the fights much more engaging. On top of that, you can use the elements to your advantage. For example, using your lightning fingers against enemies in water does additional damage as does using Frost Nova against hellhounds. In addition, frozen enemies take more damage from piercing weapons. The ability to play around with combinations could make Wolcen a very fun game to play again and again.

However, I mentioned losing my quest progression and that brings up another point. At Wolcen’s present state, the story is minimal. You start out naked in an imperial prison, then quickly escape, and then find Templars who help you, shelter you, and give you quests to go save the good and destroy the bad. Right now the story and especially the cringe worthy dialogue feels like an after-thought.

There are many other issues that make Wolcen not a very fun game to play at the moment. The World Map, where you can teleport instantly from waypoint to waypoint, has absolutely no information on other than you can either click on a waypoint which you visited and hope it’s the one you want or you cannot click on it at all. The storage chest, in the first town you come upon says “Work In Progress” when you open it. The blacksmith says he’s not ready for business yet.


The Verdict

Reviewing a game in its earliest stages is a tough recipe to follow correctly. Much like a recipe, a game in its alpha stage (and currently in early access on Steam) can have amazing ingredients and shiny pictures which promise things if you follow it to fruition. Again, it’s hard to decide what to critique and what to let slide due to Wolcen’s current alpha stage, but at this point, with all of its shortcomings, I am just not very excited for its prospects especially considering its $20 price tag on Steam. But maybe my attitude will change with a few updates. I’ll have to keep coming back to figure that out.

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Christophe Parker

Christophe Blake Parker is a writer, actor, and teacher living in Oakland, CA. His first real gaming experience was with Everquest and Games Workshop tabletop games such as Warhammer and Warhammer 40k. He is thinking of starting a kickstarter campaign to fund his Steam Wishlist.