With the MMO genre already established and mechanically sound, some developers are attempting to provide fresh experiences that break with the conventions found in the genre. Wander, an indie MMO for the PC and PS4, does this by providing a combat-less adventure that is more about exploring nature and tropical environments in various forms in search for secrets rather than the combat focused, level grinding bent of most MMOs in the market, which is a welcome change. It all sounds like a great idea and a much needed break from the typical MMO experience, if only the game wasn’t so totally broken and almost unplayable.
Developed and published by Wander MMO
Available on the PC and PS4. Reviewed on the PC.
*Review code provided by Wander MMO
It’s a shame really, since Wander did have potential. The game, which is dubbed as a “non-combat, narrative based MMO,” promised players a world full of natural enchantment, various ways to explore the world, the ability to interact with other players, and limitless wonder. It was a tall order for an unproven indie developer, and unfortunately the final product is probably one of the worst experiences in recent times.
Right from the get go, things start out looking bad. The game’s static menu and terrible font clash against the promise of freedom and wonder, and the limited options don’t really help out. Once the game loads up however, the real issues begin, with players loading into the world as a giant tree.
Starting out as a sentient tree is supposed to happen, as players do get access to four different forms as they explore the world – such as a human, griffin or mermaid/lizard thing, but what’s not supposed to occur is that the textures take forever to load, making the game look like a collection of muddy shapes until they do. Once the textures do pop in, players are allowed to move, but then even more problems begin to rear their ugly heads after you take the first step.
First are the horrid walking and leaping animations, which constantly lock up or freeze, causing the avatar to appear like it’s hovering over the ground, or doing the best impression of Trinity from The Matrix. Not only does it look ridiculous, it happens so frequently that you’d swear it was done on purpose. Then the avatar also has a nasty habit of constantly getting stuck on the environment itself or clipping through it, so players have to carefully navigate the potential minefield of a world in order to be able to make their way through unscathed. The pause menu even comes with an option to reload and become unstuck, so I guess the developers knew about it.
If players do manage to avoid phasing through the world or becoming a permanent fixture, aren’t scared off by the shockingly broken animations, and do explore a bit, then they’re quickly greeted with another of the game’s terrible systems: communication. Being an MMO, players are expected to encounter other brave adventurers exploring the alien land. To communicate with one another, the developers implemented a system where players would encounter runes which would teach words or phrases, and then players would have to draw these symbols to have the avatar say it. The problem? Saying them is nearly impossible because the drawing recognition is terrible. Each rune shows how to draw these complex symbols and has players practice beforehand, but getting the game to recognize them is a pain in the butt, and it’s really not worth it at all. I’d rather be the mute loner exploring the broken wilds and struggling to get past rocks and trees rather than draw a stupid symbol hundreds of times to say one word. No thank you.
Other elements combine to make the experience almost unbearable as well. Being an MMO, you’d expect the game world to be populated by others, but as of today, I’ve yet to see anyone else in the world, making the adventure a truly lonely experience. Flying, swimming, and walking around mysterious islands is just not as fun when you’re alone, and while I imagine it wouldn’t get any better with others around, at least you know others are sharing your pain. Finally, the game does feature an overhead map that does allow players get their bearings and make sure they’ve checked everything out, but even that doesn’t work as well as it should.
If you can look past the game’s numerous flaws and horrendously broken state, and manage to persevere long enough to actually transform into other creatures, I would commend you. I hardly ever say this, but as Wander currently stands, I recommend you stay away from it. While the whole concept had tons of potential, it’s a broken mess that in no shape or form should have been able to make it past Alpha and Beta testing stages. Here’s hoping that Wander MMO can fix it in time to actually bring their vision to the masses.
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