Do you ever see a game on the Steam store and the “Mixed” reviews keep you at bay? You know you want to try the game but the price tag along with the grab bag of reviews makes you hesitant. Well, that was me with Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem. I watched a few trailers and scrolled through the Steam reviews to try and justify the purchase to myself. After 10 hours into it, I can confidently say that it was a great decision. Wolcen has a lot of good things going for it. Let’s dive in.
Little disclaimer: When Wolcen first launched back in February it was filled with bugs and technical issues. Since release it seems the devs have squashed most of the bigger game breaking bugs. I am playing the game in September, and I have run into very few technical issues. You can find all patch notes here.
The story, does it exist? Is it any good? In Wolcen there is a narrative to follow and to be honest it’s fine. It can be a little all over the place but for the most part, it keeps me entertained. You are a child of Heimlock, drafted into the military academy by the grand inquisitor himself. You, along with your childhood friends Valeria and Edrich, are instruments of war tasked with aiding the Purifiers in their fight against the supernatural. The best thing about the story is the voice acting. It actually sounds as though the people behind the voices really put effort into portraying their characters and it shows. Each character is very distinct in their presentation and overall tone. Another great part tied to the story is the cut scenes. Sometimes the story breaks off into little mini-narratives and it can get a little confusing but the little cut scenes can be really cool to watch and adds that extra layer of immersion that keeps you grounded in the story. For example, along the road of slayin baddies the bond between you and your siblings is constantly put to the test. In some cases you may have to go up against your own, or maybe your sibling, in my case my sister Val, disagrees with the current objective. The cut scenes do a nice job at bringing these moments and struggles closer to home rather than just listening or reading dialogue.
Now on to the perhaps one of the biggest elements of the game, the combat. Overall it is excellent. Currently, I am running a tankier build with a huge two-handed axe. So I do less moving around and more pounding the poop out of enemies. The fun part about it is that I can still dodge roll out of the way so it lets me get out of sticky situations or lets me set up more powerful moves when I am surrounded by tons of enemies. The interesting part about the combat is that you are not tied down to just one play style. You unlock new abilities as you play but you do not just unlock abilities for your specific class. You can be running a rogue build but obtain abilities for a sorcerer. So there is always the option to change your play style mid-game or mid-fight. I have not taken full advantage of this yet, but occasionally I will throw in a one-handed melee weapon and a shield just to mix it up.
The gameplay itself feels very nice and responsive. All the animations during combat are crisp and really nice to watch. One of my abilities currently lets me summon a huge hammer to bring down upon unfortunate bad guys. The animation for it is awesome and I never get tired of using it. The one negative thing I’ll say about the combat is the basic attack left click not registering. I can not tell you how many times the command did not register and my character just flat out does not attack the enemy a lot of the time. It may be a small thing but I experience it all the time. The boss fights in Wolcen are pretty solid for the most part. Some are straightforward in terms of how you approach the encounter and can be pretty easy. However some go through progressing stages of difficulty and make you change your strategy a little bit in the middle of the fight. One boss fight in particular (I’ll leave the name out to avoid any spoilers) drastically changed what abilities the enemy boss would throw at you. The speed of the fight, at the final stage, got cranked up to eleven making me really think quickly about my next move. It was very unexpected but was a super fun fight.
The final thing I’ll talk about is the systems in Wolcen. The inventory takes from Path of Exile where items and gear take up an amount of space relative to their actual size. So a two-handed battle axe will take up more space in your inventory than say a potion. It’s a fine system, although I do find myself going back to town to sell off the junk I do not want to make space for the next round of gear. It can be kind of a nuisance to repeatedly go back and forth constantly making room in your inventory. The other system that needs attention is the passive skill tree called the Gates of Fate. This thing is pretty big and can be a little overwhelming at first. But once you get into it, you realize you can literally build however you want. With my tank build, I am striving for a lot of health and toughness. However, I would also like to make sure I can move when I need to, so I have already added to my stamina bar, allowing for more dodge rolls. At the end of the day, you will eventually get to a specific build but you can also rotate the skill tree to instantly land on another build. It is a pretty innovative way to allow for more free-range play styles and the ability to switch up how you play.
So far, Wolcen has been great. Technically I have only experienced a handful of little bugs here and there. The worst not being able to leave an area so I had to relaunch the game and It put me back at the start of the area. Not a huge deal. I think the biggest disappointment to me is that not a lot of players are playing this game, so I have not been able to party up with anyone online. Playing with friends, or even randoms could make the experience that much more fun. But as it stands, Wolcen is definitely a game I recommend if you are looking for your next ARPG.