The Waylanders — First Impressions
While Tokyo Games Show was a cool venue and a great experience, I didn't really get much hands on time with any of the games there. Out of the handful of games I was able to get my hands on, the one that truly grabbed my interest was The Waylanders.
To be honest, I walked up to the booth not out of curiosity, but simply because the booth had hardly anyone waiting to play it. This turned out to be a happy accident, as my itch to get my hands on something led me straight to a game that perfectly suited my taste. This genre of game does not receive the same amount of love here in Japan as it does in the West which is unfortunate, as The Waylanders became my second favorite thing about the whole event (the Street Fighter e-Sports event being #1). The game, as described to me by Mr. PR Man whose name I may or may not have forgotten (sorry), is a Real-Time Tactical RPG developed by Gato Studio that takes inspiration from games such as Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age; it shows.
Its story — although not particularly present during the play-test — was described to me as some sort of time-travelling scenario where the main character had the ability to travel back and forth between two different time periods (something similar to The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time). Each time period would contain its own world, characters, and quests. As the hero of our story, you get to solve everyone's problems (yay!). The pre-alpha gameplay featured five different playable characters; all of which were one of your standard RPG classes. It had both a third-person and top-down view, very similar to what you would see in Dragon Age: Origins. You had your standard pause button, select spell, cast spell, after which you would watch your oh-so-very squishy spellcasters die miserably to a swarm of melee (you need to think tactically). The game also had the early makings of a more advanced class system. You could specialize the class of your party members the stronger they got. I wasn't able to delve deeper into the more intricate mechanics of the game but hey, its nice to see that it's there. I would not say that I was particularly impressed by the gameplay, but it didn’t have to be anything amazing at this stage. It fit well into what I am expecting of this kind of game, and I did enjoy what I got to experience. In addition, I am a bit apprehensive on having two separate, but connected storylines to wrap my head around. If executed well however, it could be something special.
What was really being emphasized to me by our friendly neighborhood PR man was the formation system. The formation system would group up your weak, individual party members into a unified Megazord of spear-stabbing destruction. Their skills are replaced by formation specific skills, and your party essentially becomes one single playable character. Even better, is where you could split your party and have only a portion of the team enter the formation while the other members maintained their original skill sets. As the formation I mainly played with was a shield wall, this could lead to some pretty cool tactical play where your shield wall covers your spellcasters, while they dish out some major damage. For the playtest however, I found it more efficient to put them all in the formation together. I was only able to test out one of the twelve formations that I was told were planned, but I did enjoy what it brought to the table. My main concern was that the formation I did use was unbelievably over-powered, and incredibly simple to use. The formation itself had no special abilities that I can recall other than drafting my party into the spartan auxiliary, which now that I think about it, it is a bit odd to have my wizard and druid upfront with a spear and shield…