I’ve always been a big fan of Ankama Games. I grew up playing the French game developers’ alternative RPG titles Wakfu and Dofus. They were different as they weren’t like most mainstream tactical games wherein numbers run the results and battles are all about knowing what element an enemy is weak to.
Wakfu and Dofus were straight out of pen and paper strategy games. They were Dungeons and Dragons meets Final Fantasy Tactics, streamlined for the MMORPG scene. The art was iconic and fresh, the system was fun and fair, and the gameplay was simple but deep enough to be enjoyed at all levels of complexity. And good as they are, it’s still a wonder why Ankama games are still just underground cult hits. I guess that’s why they’re making waves again by crossing over their well-known titles into different ports. They did it first for Krosmaster Arena with both live and online map-based collectible miniatures game, and now they’re testing the waters in mobile gaming with Wakfu Raiders.
Wakfu Raiders is a free-to-play hero collection social action-RPG for the mobile. If you’re familiar with game like Dot Arena, then you pretty much already have a good idea how the game is played. The game is based on all the familiar lores of the Wakfu and Dofus universe so fans can easily get into it. All the familiar clans, job classes, monsters, and locations are there ready to rustle up some fandom jimmies to anyone who revisits. If you’re new to the whole thing, don’t worry – it’s not jam-packed with references that will be lost on you if you’re not enough of an Ankama nerd.
Raiders actually eases newbies into the story better than most Ankama games. Unfortunately as a standalone story, it is a bit lacking. I often found myself realizing often that the story was just a diversion to keep me from realizing I was playing another unit-gathering dungeon crawler. Given the rich material the developers have to work with, there’s still so much they can do to enrich the Wakfu Raiders experience story-wise.
Gameplay-wise, it’s not that hard to understand as there have been a lot of similar games that were popular in the mobile market that also uses the same engine. But just in case, the game starts out with a non-skippable comprehensive tutorial intro just to make sure players won’t be flailing about helplessly later in the game.
Not that it’s really that needed in my opinion, but hey, these things got protocol. The game has you build a party lineup to throw into automated battle sort of deal. You have your job classes and your battle positions and even some elemental advantage system. Your units and the enemy enter the map and attack each other simultaneously in one royal rumble. They have cooldowns depending on their attack speed. Each attack nets them some meter, which allows you to unleash their unique skills – even out of turn.
Outside of the battle, you just travel from map to map, gathering either units to increase your collection of materials to upgrade, strengthen, and consequentially, evolve your heroes. This part feels sort of linear as you only follow one path, and it seems that all you’ve been doing is just single-mindedly one-tracked preparing yourself solely for PVP. Don’t worry. It’s not your imagination. So far, the game lacks several modes and additional features to actually set it iconically apart from other games, but you have to understand that it is also early in its development. And you can’t really blame me for defending it because I’m a fan. It’s precisely because I’m a fan that I know than Ankama will not shortlist creative content for a game just because it’s a small part somewhat designed for easy cash.
Wakfu has a really colorful history filled with substantial material and the source games as well as existing ports and spin-offs have always been satisfying in terms of content and gameplay, so I actually don’t mind that much that all we have now is a bare-bones, mildly repetitive dungeon crawling RPG that focuses mainly on gearing up for arena battles. You can actually see its dedication at least in making unit roles more significant than in a typical tactical brawler, and how it puts more emphasis in resource management and patience.
But other than that, it has nothing groundbreaking as of now, and having the option of auto-battle for background grinding makes battle gameplay actually a whole lot less significant to the experience.
But if we’re going to talk about graphics, let me tell you that it is absolutely breathtaking. Of course, you have to expect that the character designs are expertly done and beautifully rendered, but this will be one of the few times you get to actually see Wakfu and Dofus characters in almost full-scale upclose and personal. The animations are also really smooth and well-rendered that the sprites almost look like cel-shaded 3D animation.
And they enjoy a stark but beautiful contrast from the equally detailed 3D environment. Though the overtness in aesthetics might cause some lag in some devices, it’s actually quite a feat to see in its full glory, so viewing it through a high spec console makes Wakfu Raiders notable eye candy.
All in all, the game isn’t that bad. It isn’t as awesome as one would expect it to be, but it doesn’t suck. The game is still rather young, having only about a month of live feedback to its name. So I guess waiting for it to grow and develop might be what some skeptics would do.
But, again, this is Ankama after all. And the mobile port is being developed by Gumi, which is another well-known company – having produced massive mobile gaming hits such as Brave Frontier and Chain Chronicle – so I can only expect Wakfu Raiders’ future to be equally as bright. It’s a shame that it’s not as impressive on its release, and that looking really pretty is its best trait. But we can wait, watch, and see what becomes of it.