The Waylanders is an upcoming fantasy RPG with heavy Dragon Age: Origins and Baldur’s Gate influences with a Celtic flair. The game started out with its Kickstarter back in 2018 and now Gato Studio has released an alpha version on Steam’s Early Access. That being said, the current release is exactly what they said. Rough, unfinished, yet promising early access. Currently hyper-realistic, gritty action games like The Last of Us 2 are all the rage. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the opportunity to play a new fantasy RPG is truly a breath of fresh air.
The game gives plenty of basic feature options in character creator that I hope will be expanded in the final version. The species available are a little different from the standard. No elves or dwarves here, Instead, this world has humans, werewolves, Mourians (Immortal Intellectuals), and Fomorians (Immortal Giants). Similar to Dragon Age: Origins, the player’s choice combination of species and combat class determines the character’s unique backstory. However, unlike previous titles in the genre, The Waylanders excels in its inclusivity. Instead of being locked into a binary, players can choose their body type, name, pronouns, and voice. Gamers of any gender identity can find themselves represented here.
The story starts with the player character on the boat of the Celtic King Ith, accompanied by characters from all walks of life. You and the rest of the crew are heading to negotiate with the god-like Tuatha de Danaan on a remote island. All of the characters have full conversations and most are romanceable, a true RPG staple. Before embarking on, you couldn’t decide what type of custom character you wanted? Odds are your second choice trope is similar to a companion.
Immediately after talking to everyone and heading to the island, something goes horribly wrong. What you ask? I honestly have no clue. The cutscene is still missing. Nonetheless, after a black screen, you find yourself surrounded by enemies who all look the same, classic RPG format. My character, Femi the Egyptian Sorceress, had a little difficulty surviving but once she found her warrior companion she flourished. The pausable, real-time combat was still loads of fun in its early stages. Everyone loves a good party system and The Waylanders adds to it with a unique “formation” feature. Once leveled, players can order their characters to preset configurations. Instead of trying to control 4 characters with terrible AI decision making, the player controls them as one unit. This is extremely helpful in protecting your squishy mage types and adds a layer of immersion. I fully expect this to be the selling point of the game once in its final stages.
Overall, the current alpha of The Waylanders looks like the beginnings of an amazing fantasy RPG. Gato Studio already has a great start with an intriguing story concept and characters I can’t wait to get to know more like Nazhejda. This game will undoubtedly be worth giving a go once launched. The team is full of RPG all-stars with Emily Grace Buck (Telltale Batman) as lead writer and Mike Laidlaw (Dragon Age) as a consultant. Inon Zur (Fallout) will compose the game’s soundtrack. If you don’t mind some skipping frames, missing cut scenes, and some audio balance issues then the game is definitely worth trying out.