Wander Review

By Rebecca Smith,
When you say MMO, several things usually spring to mind. One of those may be the formation of clans that battle for supremacy, be it through combat, economic affluence, or politics. Another may be extensive character customisation, levelling up or acquiring the perfect outfit or equipment. Virtually all MMOs involve grinding to achieve different objectives. Wander (EU) doesn't want to be any of these things. Wander wants to be a game where players casually explore a fantasy world, led on only by the player's curiosity and their sense of adventure. Is this title the tranquil experience that it intends to be?

Logo

When you arrive in the world of Wander, it is in the form of an Oren, a walking, talking tree. You're in the middle of a mysterious island rainforest, but you don't know who you are or where you are. After a few slow steps, a pace that isn't surprising bearing in mind that you're a tree, you then hear operatic singing. To stave away your confusion, the game tells you that you may want to locate the source of the singing. It is at this point, bare moments into the game, that the problems start.

The aim of the game is exploration at your own pace. There are no visual HUD elements or waypoints to tell players what to do or where to go. Your only guide is the operatic singing that lures you towards points of interest. The thing is, though, the singing at the start of the game has stopped. All that can be heard is birdsong and the occasional movement of vegetation as another player passes by -- there is no clue as to which direction you should be heading and there is a choice of two paths ahead of you. Confusion sets in quickly.

It is entirely possible that our expression looked like this at the start.It is entirely possible that our expression looked like this at the start.

If you are lucky, you will pick the correct path and head slowly towards a transformation stone. These stones enable players to transform into one of four possible forms - Oren (tree), Hira (human), Griffin and Azertash (amphibian) - each with their own characteristics that help players to explore. The problem is that these characteristics barely seem to make a difference; for example, the Azertash, which is meant to swim quickly, swims at the same pace as the Hira. The only really unique and useful characteristic is the Griffin's ability to fly, which enables players to get to places that other forms cannot reach. The ability to fly is based on paragliding principles, meaning that thermals must be found if you wish to gain height and successful flight takes a lot of practice.

To find these transformation stones and unlock all four forms, players must explore. Most of your time is spent on land and every single form walks around the island at the pace of a snail. Clicking cn_LS allows players to sprint until they run out of stamina, which is a matter of around 15-20 seconds. When your stamina is depleted, you must wait until the hidden stamina gauge refills, so players are forced back to wandering around at a snail's pace. This pace is incredibly frustrating and you urge the stamina gauge to refill quicker just so that you can get to your intended destination at some point this week.

Without sprint, it will take around 15 seconds to reach that tree at the edge of the clearing.Without sprint, it will take around 15 seconds to reach that tree at the edge of the clearing.

The slow pace wouldn't seem so bad if the world that you were exploring was full of life. Even though you can hear birds singing or insects chirruping, there are none to be seen. The ambient sounds are only for show as the only other living creatures that you may possibly encounter will be other players. This is when the sound works properly, of course. As mentioned earlier, singing cues can cut out, as can the sound of the ocean depending on which way you are facing. The sound isn't the only thing to cut out either.

As you progress down a path, it isn't uncommon for plants and trees to pop into shot. It would be a reasonable assumption to blame this on slow loading from a server if it wasn't for the fact that these objects can then pop back out again. Then back in. Then back out. Repeatedly. One tree on the coastline took on the appearance of a rapidly blinking belisha beacon that eventually decided to completely disappear as its location was neared, allowing players to walk straight through it. This isn't the only object to have collision issues. Players will frequently clip through rocks and plants, as will the game's camera. Ascending and descending steps makes the player take on the appearance of moonwalking as they fail to detect where each step starts and finishes. In other places your progress will be blocked by invisible walls. The good news is that an option in the game's pause menu easily allows you to reset your position if you get stuck and are unable to move. It isn't an encouraging sign.

The lair of the Azertash tribe, one of the more diverse locations.The lair of the Azertash tribe, one of the more diverse locations.

Sound, pop up and collision issues aside, the world of Wander is actually quite pretty and shows a lot of potential. Once you get there, the islands' locations are diverse. The former lair of the Azertash tribe, the hidden temples in the forest, remote caves and the treetop hideout of the Griffin make exploring all the worthwhile. In between these locations, players can find lore stones, which provide some back-story to the game, and communication glyphs (more on these later). Pressing cn_T allows players to open the Lore Cave, a map where you would hope to find some indication of your progress. Unfortunately, the map's features "are disabled and are being worked on", meaning that it is shrouded in darkness. While getting lost is incredibly easy, the lack of a map really doesn't help. Players can still place a limited number of markers - there are four types to which players can attribute their own meaning - but it is virtually impossible to remove them because that functionality rarely works.

More diverse environments are promised by the other islands that players can explore, including the floating islands in the sky. While we would love to tell you what these other islands add to the game, we've been prevented from getting there by the game's biggest bugs yet. The game crashes roughly every 15-20 minutes, dumping players back to the Playstation 4 dashboard. Upon reloading the game, if you are still on the first island then you will find yourself in exactly the same spot that you were in when the game crashed. This in itself is frustrating enough but if you were located anywhere outside the island, be it in the surrounding waters or on another island altogether, your progress will have been reset. You will be returned to the starting point in the form of an Oren to begin you explorations all over again. Once could be a nasty coincidence. Twice is a game-breaking bug and it is a common bug at that.

I wouldn't try visiting any of those islands anytime soon.I wouldn't try visiting any of those islands anytime soon.

The impact of bugs like this on the game's player population is evident. In an MMO, you envision large groups of people working together towards a common objective, one that could never be achieved on your own. The problem is that the game's population is rapidly dwindling. When you are eventually able to locate another player, communication is virtually impossible. The aforementioned communication glyphs are the in-game language, called Rozhda, for players to describe their discoveries. With players using the same language, the intention is to remove any language barriers that would be created by players using their native tongue. While a novel idea, there are two issues that have been created. The first is that players are unwilling to learn a new language. The second is that, like the rest of the game, it doesn't work properly.

Each glyph is a symbol that represents a word or phrase in Rozhda. Players create the symbols by drawing the correct shape on the touchpad. Draw it too quickly and you'll fail. Draw it too slowly and you get the same result. Draw it correctly and it is hit or miss as to whether the game recognises it. The irony was not lost when being unable to get the glyph to work for "I don't speak Rozhda". The result is that players are either trying to communicate by jumping up and down, or just ignoring each other.

What is supposed to happen if you could communicate with each other.What is supposed to happen if you could communicate with each other.

Most players would naturally come up with the solution of using Party Chat. The catch is that there is no way of identifying the player that is in front of you to be able to invite them to chat. Pressing cn_down is supposed to display the player name but, you guessed it, it doesn't work. If you try to play the game with friends, you have no way of locating each other in-game unless you use other means, like Party Chat, to meet up. For a game that is supposed to be a "collaborative multiplayer game", they're not making it easy.

At this point, we would usually comment on the game's trophies. While we would love to do so, we haven't been able to sufficiently test the game to comment on the ease of completion or the chance of unobtainables. What we will say is that all actions that we have been able to complete have resulted in the trophies unlocking correctly.

Summary

If ever a game would have benefitted from a public alpha or beta test, it is this one. The environment seems to be interesting and enticing, but the number of game-breaking bugs at even the most fundamental of levels means that the game is borderline unplayable. It is an MMO that makes communication with other players nigh on impossible. Even if it is possible to take part in the game without the input of other players, exploration is completed at a very slow speed and the constant crashes make players run the risk of resetting their progress. The developer is adamant that they will be patching the game and it definitely needs it. In the state that it is in, I can't recommend that anybody purchases this title.
1 / 5
Wander (EU)
Positives
  • Diverse environments
Negatives
  • Game breaking crashes and progress resets
  • Lack of ability to identify other players
  • Clunky player communication
  • Slow-paced exploration
  • Sound, graphical pop up and collision issues
Ethics
The reviewer spent 6 hours wandering around the game's first island unlocking all four forms before her progress was wiped and she had to start from the beginning again. Despite the fact that she has given up on the title to wait for a patch, she managed to earn 7 of the game's 31 trophies in that short space of time. Once the game has been patched, she hopes to be able return to the island to earn the rest of the trophies. A Playstation 4 copy of the game was provided courtesy of the developer for the purpose of this review.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.