Wolcen Studio’s Wolcen Lords of Mayhem is an early access action RPG that will most likely get compared to other games in the genre like Diablo III, Heroes of The Storm and Path of Exile. And this happens rightfully so, because they are the cream of the crop when it comes to Action RPGs. It has a lot of the things you would expect from a modern day action RPG like creating a custom character, tons of loot, dungeons upon dungeons to get through, killing off hordes of enemies with different weapons, spells and abilities and so on and so forth. Is Wolcen Lords of Mayhem able to set itself apart from the slew of games trying to recreate the same experience of the big dogs?
Wolcen Lords of Mayhem Early Access Review
Developed by: WOLCEN Studio
Published by: WOLCEN Studio
Release date: March 24th, 2016
Platforms: PC (Linux upon full release)
Price at Time of Review: 19.99 USD
Wolcen Lords of Mayhem Features
- Dynamic combat system: fast-paced combat system with weapon-based combos and charged attacks. Dodge, Dash, Hack, Slash and unleash devastating spells on your enemies.
- Open World: Discover the world and enjoy it at your own convenience.
- Custom player: choose your gender and customize your player, skin color, hair, beard, eyes etc.
- Tons of Loot: Weapons, Armor, Potions and randomly generated magic effects for more game play diversity.
Story and Setting
Before I get into the story and setting within the game, I’d like to first fill you in about how this game has evolved from a mod designed for Cryengine, to its current state. The game was originally known as Umbra and had humble beginnings in an apartment in 2013 developing into a prototype that was featured at GDC 2015. After getting some buzz, completing a Kickstarter campaign that raised $400,000 and becoming a full fledged indie studio we now have the early access title that is Wolcen Lords of Mayhem.
So now for the game. You play as a former officer of the Army of the Human Republic. After somehow developing magical powers, you are sentenced to death by your own people and decide to flee. After escaping death, you are recruited by a mysterious group know simply as, Templars. This is where your story begins. You play through escaping an initial dungeon where at it’s end you activate a waypoint that is noticed by one of the Templars who brings you to the main town of Amarth where you will be sent on your first quest. The story isn’t anything special but definitely borrows from other games. There was even a soldier in the town who “Can’t fight anymore because I took an arrow to the elbow.” Sound famliar at all?
The map is medium sized and has plenty of areas to explore off the beaten path. The entire map is open and available from the start which is nice for those who want the option of not following a linear story and making their own adventure. If the map were bigger it would certainly be welcome but the size is fine for now. The game has had several patches and changes since it’s start in early access in March of 2016 where the map has changed, enemies have been added and character and skill progression have been wiped clean. Some might find the changes and wipes to be frustrating so be aware that it’s a possibility moving forward but this is pretty par for the course for early access.
I’ll be honest and up front from the beginning here. This game has some bugs. Nothing that is too gamebreaking but annoying nonetheless. They range from bugs with sound to the game straight up crashing. I had the game crash literally the very first time I loaded it up. I chuckled a little bit and took it with a grain of salt. It started to get annoying though when I would be deep in a dungeon and the game would quit out with no warning. The crazy thing is my progression in the dungeon was gone, but items I had found up to that point were still in my inventory. That being said, the game has come a very, very long way from where it was a few months ago. This of course is something people have come to expect with early access games.
Gameplay in Wolcen is going to seem very familiar to players who are fans of action RPG or hack and slash adventure games. Using your keyboard and mouse to click and navigate where you want your character to move to, attack enemies, cast spells and manage your inventory might seem a little intimidating if you’re not familiar with the genre. Most of those hurdles are easily overcome early on as the gameplay mechanics are very simple.
However, there is one mechanic that is rather unique and will definitely change the way you play at times. There is a meter on your screen which is split into 2 halves. The left half is your umbra meter, yes that is the former title of the game, which can be easily compared to mana or magic. The right half is your rage meter. Different attacks, spells and weapons use either umbra or rage. The unique thing about these meters though is that as you use up your umbra, you gain rage. As you use up your rage, you gain umbra. It’s a bit of a balancing act when deciding how you’re going to attack enemies depending on your play style and can trip you up if you’re ill prepared. Things get especially difficult when you’re dealing with a huge horde of enemies or a bigger higher level enemy with a lot of health who is accompanied by a smaller group.
The story of Wolcen itself is pretty linear but you don’t necessarily have to follow it. You can explore the entire world which have various areas of woods, mountains, snow capped cliffs, caves and more. Each different region features different and stronger enemies. Taking the time to explore will also reward you with experience and loot. Currently there is also a daily dungeon which is an arena where you will compete with others on a leaderboard to see who can finish it the fastest. It’s a true challenge that adds a bit of replay value.
As you progress through the story you’ll be rewarded with different items to enhance your character as well as how you dispatch the undead zombies, spiders and demons that inhabit the land. You have tons of options when it comes to gearing up. If you’re into loot, this game has plenty of it. Loot is either obtained from killing enemies, opening chests, or rewards for completing missions. The variety of armor pieces, weapons and spells that you can obtain is extremely vast. Let’s go through these one at a time.
Weapons & Armor
Some of the weapons you’ll find include daggers, swords axes, cross bows and recently added mage staves. Weapons come in 3 different levels of classification. Common which is outlined in white, Magic which is outlined in blue and Rare which is outlined in yellow. The weapons also have different attributes that affect your enemies in different ways. Whether it be causing bleed damage, being stunned or frozen, weapons will come with some combination of a variety of attributes. Common weapons tend to be lower in damage and have lower tier attributes. Magic weapons will use some sort of magic whether it be fire, frost, lightning or umbra and will have 2 sets of higher tier attributes. Rare weapons are the hardest to come by and have 3 sets of the highest attributes.
Weapons also have a classification as far as their speed. The speed of the weapon is largely influenced by the type of weapon it is. Daggers have high speed and you can wield one in each hand. The draw back is that they don’t do a ton of damage. Larger weapons like two handed swords or giant hammers tend to be slower but generally do more damage. My favorite weapon type however were the mage staves. They offer a good balance between close quarters and ranged attacks and to put it simply, they are magic. Who doesn’t like magic?
You also have quite a few options for armor. Everything from boots to gloves, hoods, helms and more comprise the thirteen different pieces you can use to complete a set of armor. You can even mix and match different sets to either suit your play style. Each piece has an armor rating that will determine how much damage is mitigated from enemy attacks. Armor also has different common through rare flavors. Different armor will also give you resistance against enemy attacks or elements. This is one of the areas I felt Wolcen really shines. Having this much customization really allows you to be flexible in the type of player you want to be and makes it a true roleplaying experience.
Lastly we have spells and there are a bunch that you can use to defeat your foes. Spells are learned from Tomes that are books that you loot from enemies, chests and quest rewards. The spells that are either physical attacks or magic attacks. Physical attacks will use rage, while magic ones use umbra. Magic spells use the elements previously mentioned, fire, frost, lightning and umbra. The spells can be upgraded by finding the same tome over and over again. They take the attacks from puny to potent over time and this progression is my favorite part of the game. I just couldn’t wait to improve the spell I was loving, just to see how awesome it became next.
Audio & Visual
Let me say right off the bat that the game looks stunning. The environments are truly gorgeous. Detail has been put in to each area that one might overlook at first, but soon come to appreciate moving around the world map and seeing the different surroundings. Whether it be seeing the grim underbelly of a dungeon and all the monsters that inhabit it, or noticing how the grass around you reacts to you casting a spell nearby, Wolcen definitely has a lot to offer in the eye candy department. Sometimes the smallest things and attention to detail in a game are just as impressive as huge particle effects or photo realism. The game truly looks amazing and is a sight to see.
Sound in Wolcen is a mixed bag. At times the sound effects and music seem to be spot on for the given situation and at other times they seem to come out of left field. And though it can’t necessarily be held against them, the bugs for sound didn’t help much either. There would be times where music from one area would continue playing over the music from a different area. This would stack two or three times in different instances which caused me to turn the music off completely.