Review: Wolcen – Lords of Mayhem

Diablo Meets Dark Souls

Developer: Wolcen Studio

Publisher: Wolcen Studio

Genre: Action RPG, Hack and Slash

Platforms: PC

Price: $39.99

 

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem seemingly exploded on the scene riding a tsunami of hype in a time when Diablo fans are starting to feel forlorn. Featuring visual stylings reminiscent of Warhammer, a fully voiced campaign, and no hard class system, the game’s primary selling point is the ability to forge your character as you see fit. How does the debut game from the studio that shares its name stack up?

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Wolcen is chock full of spiritual imagery. There are demons invading the world. Some characters are seemingly incarnate angels and enemies who’ve been possessed. There are relics full of holy power and a portal to the abyss. The game also strongly features magic spells.

Violence: The gore in Wolcen is pretty intense. There are scenes where characters are grotesquely dismembered and viscera is strewn about slaughtered bodies. Though the game’s played from an isometric view, I’d strongly encourage people sensitive to blood and gore to give sincere consideration before playing through Wolcen.

Sexual Content: There is no sexualized content here to be concerned about.

Drugs and Alcohol: There is no content with narcotics or alcohol to be concerned with.

Language/Crude Humor: There is foul language in Wolcen. Expect the full gamut of modern profanities throughout the campaign.

Positive Themes: The game features the traditional “Good vs. Evil” theme with our hero playing the protagonist. As the warcry of our hero’s squad states, they’ll continue fighting “against all odds!”


Review

Wolcen is, for all intents and purposes, a Diablo-styled loot-driven action-RPG. Just like its spiritual predecessors, you’ll outfit yourself with everything from weapons and armor pieces to necklaces and rings. Wolcen takes the opportunity to improve on the standard, allowing different slots for each glove and each shoulder guard. Dual wielding is not only highly encouraged in Wolcen, it’s essential if you plan to multi-class.

Unlike other action RPGs of its nature, Wolcen throws off the idea of classes and instead opts to give the player free will building a character to their liking. Weapon archetypes are tied to active skills. For example, a combat leap may require a melee weapon, where casting an energy beam requires a totem or relic.

Beyond the gear, Wolcen features a massive web of skills separated by theoretical classes like wizard, assassin, or warmonger. Each level will grant you one point to spend (and there are 20-40 points to spend in each class section), allowing for an impressive amount of personalized customization.

Wolcen’s skill tree is massive.

The gameplay itself is a decent but otherwise unremarkable version of the formula, flooding players with random loot and empowering them to vanquish full squads of foes with a few clicks. On top of that, you can alter your form to an “Aspect of Apocalypse”—a mighty otherworldly being—in dire situations to deal some massive damage.

As much as I enjoyed Wolcen‘s gameplay,  there are some serious issues to consider. First are the game’s servers. While you can create offline characters, online is the default and, at times, server performance was unbearable. A half second of lag can be a major ordeal when you’re surrounded by 25 enemies or in the middle of a boss encounter.

Second are the game’s intensive difficulty spikes when facing a chapter-ending boss. These encounters end up feeling more like Dark Souls than Diablo, requiring specific placement, ample healing, endurance, and yes, dodge rolling. I personally reached a point a little over halfway through the game where I had to lower the difficulty to see the campaign through. Perhaps I was just built improperly, but I’d been relentlessly steamrolling everything in my path and then hit an encounter in which I died probably 50 times before resigning myself to the “story” difficulty.

The game’s story is actually enjoyable. Your “father” is the head inquisitor of the imperial army. When your father’s military, in which you and your siblings are soldiers, encounter dark forces, a power inside of you awakens, granting you the divine strength to save your siblings and repel the enemy forces. This triggers a tale that will have your father, siblings, and the rest of the Inquisition hot on your heels as you’re banished to exile. Unfortunately, something far more sinister is lurking beneath the surface. There are a few interesting twists and turns from start to finish, but the narrative feels like an otherwise standard dark fantasy offering.

Though the isometric presentation largely feels familiar, Wolcen contains a few satisfying aesthetic pieces. Seeing your brother and father in overblown Warhammer-like armor brings a sense of heft and power to the world. As for your own character, every single piece of gear alters how you look, and the appearance can be customized. There are at least a few dozen styles of gear, so things consistently feel visually fresh throughout.

The music is fairly forgettable. I’m impressed with both the quality and quantity of Wolcen‘s completely voiced narrative scenes. The delivery doesn’t feel fake or kitschy, and they maintain the quality through the entire storyline.

Wolcen is a decent debut project from a new studio. While the game has a few problems and the servers seem to creak under the strain of heavy load, the breadth of gameplay customization and satisfying, familiar combat will keep fans exploring new character builds for a while. If it doesn’t get its hooks in you, there are plenty of other games in the genre to enjoy.

The Bottom Line

Wolcen is a decent action RPG with a few issues that hold it back from greatness.

 

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Joe Morgan

Gamer, software developer, dog lover. When he's not writing for GeeksUnderGrace or CrossConsoleGamers, you can find him streaming at Twitch.tv/JoeKnowethGames

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