The land of Evenor needs your help. This fantasy world, created by Airship Syndicate and published by Digital Extremes, bears many of the fantastical hallmarks of its creative lead’s work on Darksiders and Battle Chasers, but after an overwhelming amount of interest in the game’s launch into early access, Evenor has been under an attack of a different sort: the sheer number of players logging in. Speaking about the server difficulties, AJ LaSaracina, Marketing Director for Airship tells us, “It’s a good problem, but not one we wanted to have.” It’s fair to say though that this is an attack that will only make the game better for players, and they should stick with it, because Wayfinder is worth the wait.
Tackling that particular double-edged sword, AJ told us, “We were frustrated. We’re players ourselves. We made this game as a love letter to MMOs and online games with friends, and what’s more frustrating than not being able to log in and play the game? It’s been a journey!” He explained, “We’re currently working around the clock, and the good thing is that when people get into the game they love it, but we need to get more people into the game.” Over a week on from that difficult early access launch, the queuing is now more or less gone, and you can finally get into the game to experience its vibrant visuals straight away alongside your friends.
Wayfinder is a character-based MMO. Right now in Early Access there are seven characters, seventeen weapons and six locations to play through and discover. AJ tells us, “We’re focussing on making sure that the loops are good, that combat feels good and that it’s rewarding. There’s no point having a ton of content if no one wants to play it.” It feels as though that balance is already in place in Wayfinder. Combat feels powerful, if a bit hectic at times, and progression feels meaningful, something that isn’t always in the case in an MMO.
I asked what it was that helped Wayfinder had captured player’s imaginations. “I think it’s the idea that MMO players are one that want to recapture the nostalgia – those 8AM raids in World of Warcraft. We’re capturing the ideas and the imaginations of players as these characters and worlds haven’t really been seen before. No one else has really done this idea of a character-based MMO, and we like that because it plays into the strengths of our studio, of telling strong character stories that are fully voice-acted, and I think that’s unique. Our story allows us to have multiple versions of the same character in the world – the Gloom came, created this multiverse – so your character might have the same back story as mine but it looks different and plays different.”
Those characters are clearly what’s at the heart of Wayfinder’s early draw. AJ tells us, “Within a week we had a Discord full of fan art, characters had their own nicknames, they started making up their own fan fiction. Ruined King, Battle Chasers and even Darksiders [All from the same studio, or members of the Airship team] those characters are beloved, have their own personalities, and you associate them with a particular place and time. We wanted the same thing.”
It seems that they’ve got it. Alongside the in-game animated sections, they’re wanting to go even further with building out this world and the characters within – “We’d love to do more, there’s nothing to announce yet, but stay tuned around Comicon time.” Given Joe Madureira’s position as creative director and studio founder here, it seems likely we’re going to get a Wayfinder comic book as well. I can’t wait.
Wayfinder is definitely something new, but it plays really well into the nostalgia that players will likely feel for old-school World of Warcraft and the Darksiders’ styled art and characters. Combine that with combat that sits somewhere between Monster Hunter, God of War and even a splash of Fortnite, and you’re putting something into the MMO genre that feels rather distinctive.
Party sizes are limited to three players, which may seem restrictive compared to the traditional five, but Airship Syndicate found that it was the sweet spot for the action combat that lies at the heart of the game. “We are so art-focussed that it was important for us to retain that identity, You can have that trinity of DPS, healer, and support which all of our characters can do because you can mix and match abilities; it just made sense. Three was just right for readability and gameplay.” From a personal point of view it’s also much easier to get a group of three friends together to play than it is with any more than that.
So why is it an MMO rather than a multiplayer title? “At our hearts we’re social gamers, we want you to play with friends. We’ve also made systems like housing. We’re making systems like neighbourhoods so you can play with friends and have that social aspect. It’s not just a ‘kill 5 things and be done with it’ kind of thing. We like the softer side of it as well.” Getting your own home feels like a great way to ground yourself in this world, and much like Elder Scrolls Online you can collect, craft or buy items of furniture to decorate your room with.
You can feel the love and commitment that the team have for what they’ve created in Wayfinder. That’s immediately shown by the fact that only one of the team has headed over to Gamescom while the rest remain at work trying to get the best experience for their players, but it spills out into every word and every element of the game.
While Early Access is paid entry, Wayfinder will ultimately be a free-to-play title when it reaches its full launch. Whether you hop in now, your simple presence helping the team to craft this unique MMO, or you wait for 1.0, Wayfinder is an incredible-looking, characterful multiplayer title, and one that feels as though it’s already stamped its own mark on the MMO genre.