Wanderjahr Review

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Wanderjhar is an arcade type fighting game, with some loose story plots hidden away in the gallery section which unlock as you progress through the game. The high concept is that in this world, the Universal Source Code was discovered 101 years before the events taking place now. It is the building blocks of everything, and after much research it will be utilized to end all evil in the world merely two weeks from now. Unfortunately monsters are suddenly rampaging, researchers are going missing, and you’ve conveniently started work at the World Organization of Peace and Order today.

Wanderjhar adopts a cute style of visuals  in a style which seems like a cross between a modern version of old NES games like Megaman, and Maple Story. It has some uplifting and energetic soundtracks, which randomly loop throughout the battles to help break up monotony of constant listening. (You’ll appreciate this after a half an hour fight of watching a screen).

Wanderjhar’s gameplay is very simple. The battles progress automatically, you have no fine controls over what the characters do. You have 4 active party member slots which you fill with an acquired character by clicking on their avatar at the bottom of the screen and then clicking on a slot.

Each character has their own class which dictates the skills that they have and can acquire as they level up. These also differ between characters of the same class, for example one buff class will raise your attack whilst you’ll need another to raise your defense. The characters attack or use their skills constantly as long as they are in the active party, all moves have a cool down period which is marked by a grayed out panel overlaying the characters avatar on the active menu which depletes down until they’re ready again.

An interesting concept which I haven’t seen elsewhere which Wanderjhar introduces is the status effects, and health damage is applied to the party slot instead of the character. So even if you switch them out the character which has occupied the slot has it instead. If a character is knocked out, you can’t replace them as that slot is effectively locked out until the character occupying it is revived.

You have characters which can attack, cast magic, buff, and inflict ailments. When a buff or ailment effect is afflicted on any character, friendly and enemy, an icon appears over that character to symbolize it (as well as on the side screen for party members). When the status is about to expire the icon begins to flash, giving you warning and tactical advantage to know when to switch in party members efficiently.

The character icons have colour backgrounds which represent their classes, aiding in quicker identification in battle.

  • Red is physical damage class
  • Yellow is defender class
  • Violet is magic damage class
  • Green are healer class
  • Pink are buff class
  • Grey are ailment inflicting class

The only influence you have on the characters is leveling them up through the use of acquired experience points, and artifacts which affect the stats of the whole group. Your main task throughout the game is to observe the situation and enemies on the field and switch the party members out accordingly. You can also select which enemy the party focuses on.

The game is split into levels and sub0-stages, with the end of the level featuring a boss you must defeat to move on. After the first boss fight the game gradually adds new mechanics, starting with the addition of fundamentally an extra health bar. To be able to deal any reasonable damage to some enemies you must first deplete this second bar, magic damages it, whilst physical damage stalls its recovery momentarily.

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The battles are split into waves, and later in the game this is interrupted with the addition of inter-wave reinforcements, which adds to some variety in game play for a short time.

As you progress through the game you acquire new members, some of which are stronger versions of earlier acquired characters with similar but variant abilities. You also unlock new items, and areas of the menu screen and gallery.

A lot of the game depends on memorization due to a lack of information in places, or putting that information in odd places. For example to see what effects your items or artifacts have you need to go to the shop, rather than it also detailing the effects on the item and artifact screens respectively.

On this tangent, it also seems unnecessary the way the game has split the shops and artifact sections into two, where there seems to be a lot of white space, it would probably have been more efficient and easier for the player to navigate around had they been condensed into one, with the ability to toggle through types either by menu button or hardware button such as the shoulder triggers.

Later in the game the R and L buttons are allocated in battle to switch between rows of party members, as well as an easily overlooked icon on screen under the party rota; as only 9 fit on screen at once. This is another area where the games overall disorganization with information causes confusion. Initially I had thought you could only take 9 characters into battle, led by there being no introduction to this new button, and the interface which only displays 9 characters on the battle screen, and the menu to organize your characters which splits them into two rows.

Additionally later the triangle button is allocated to checking enemy stats including exp drops, ailments afflicted currently, and weaknesses and immunities.

There are some balancing issues throughout the game, for instance, the difficulty balancing on the first boss is slightly too high. Either this should have been lowered, or the first and second bosses should have been switched around. In terms of games overall it’s not the most difficult fights, but relative to the rest of the game, it seems to be a discrepancy. Of course, if the designers were aiming for higher difficulty then the rest of the game would need to be ramped up to match it.

Most of the rest of the game isn’t very difficult at all, it relies more on sheer patience as it is simply a case of whittling down enemies health and switching out characters. The lack of necessary interaction for a majority portion of the game is a little bit wearying. I had to stop my PS Vita from entering sleep mode from inactivity more times than I’m comfortable with whilst actively playing a game.

A good feature of the game, especially with some of the errant balance spikes throughout the game is that any exp and money earnt during battles are kept even if you die or quit early. You also keep your items that you take into the battle should you lose in a boss fight. With the exception of the first boss fight where you’ll likely come away with less due to a boss effect which reduced the quantities of all your items to 1. Again, this is either not mentioned or done so in a way to be overlooked, and I initially thought it was a glitch.

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There’s no check against using a recovery item and if the character has full health, so it is possible to waste items by using them on the wrong characters in the heat of the moment. You need to be wary that you’re pressing the right character/area.

Much of the game to begin with relies on trial and error and learning patterns. Sadly past the point where new patterns and mechanics are introduced it becomes quite dull, especially as the crux of the game is patience instead of skill or tactics.

Given this, I find it odd that the designers omit the possibility of a fast-forward function, to speed up fights where there is very little going on. Many you’ll find yourself in a situation where you know you’re at no risk of dying with your party setup, but it takes half an hour to whittle the enemy down. The ability to speed this up would alleviate a lot of boredom and prevent many players from quitting the game because of it. In one stage, a new ability given to the enemy is to put characters to sleep, which has an unpleasantly high success rate and lasts for a couple of minutes, with the enemy recasting it so you don’t recover. This battle lasted around 40 minutes and was excruciating to wait to play out. The main problem being that it was introduced before the item to cure the status had been introduced. One of those two problems needs to be resolved.

Some items are restricted in certain areas, again information is lacking, and it becomes apparent from observation that it makes sense in context, but information prior to entering the stage would likely be a beneficial addition in a future update. Things like air drop aid, and missile drops don’t work in stage areas that are in enclosed areas. However, the only clue to the stage you will be entering is in a small screenshot which is easily overlooked, and not something I noticed myself until I questioned why the items were unusable.

A strange design choice is the level cap placed on all characters, this is raised by a set amount upon the completion of a level. Of course, this ensures designer intended difficulty in one sense, but I can’t see the benefit in enforcing such a limitation for this sort of game, especially one which moves so slowly, and the choice for the player to spend the time grinding to level up and make some fights quicker would have been beneficial. The length of play would stay roughly the same but the player then has control over the feel of progression, which would help in enjoying the game more.

On the subject of grinding, it is possible, but once again sub-par communication doesn’t aid to the players knowledge in this. It is possible to return to prior stages and levels by function of the gallery -> world map, where you can then select the stage to repeat. This isn’t communicated with the player. Also the amount of experience you gain from battles changes upon repeating them but with no explanation or calculation as to the reason and amount of drop, and this is something I have not been able to work out. There are also bonus experience and money gains on some battles, which I initially believed to be earnt upon completing a stage quicker than the guided time, but I’ve yet to repeat gaining a bonus despite exceeding it and so I am not sure what acceptable criteria for getting it is.

Overall the game is let down by odd design choices, lack of or misplaced information and painfully slow gameplay. At one point it advises you to use two artifact slots but you only have one available. I honestly can’t find any merit to the choice of platform in publishing it to the PS Vita. It feels as if it would much better function as a mobile/tablet game to be played in short intervals. Even a trivial function, such as the addition of PS Network trophies would have helped to weight the publishing decision, but there is no platform advantage at all.  The game is playable, but unfortunately not something I would occupy memory space with over other games, and likely to be forgotten after the initial completion.

I was torn between a score of 3 or 4 for quite a while, but in the end the communication problems made it seem necessary to drop it to the three. I think with some work it could become an adequate game. Possibly the designers should take some influence from Brave Frontier, and then combine their interesting features. It is really a shame, as there are some interesting features and mechanics in Wanderjhar, and I hope their is an update sometime in the future which tackles the problems, and I’ll happily give it some more time.

In terms of replayability, it comes back to publishing choice, and I think on the mobile market, with periodic updates to character rosters and items/enemies would add some replayability to it, as it is there isn’t much at all.

Bonus Stage Rating - Poor 3/10

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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