I've wandered through dozens of fantasy worlds in my massively multiplayer online gaming career, but Wakfu is the first one I've played where my wanderings were tied to a grid.
Released in North America by Square Enix, Wakfu is one of a trio of online games by French developer Ankama Games (Dofus and Dofus Arena being the other two), each part of a larger transmedia property that encompasses comics, television shows, figures, and more. It's a property defined by its distinctive visual style and whimsical character. Indeed, my first exposure to the property happened at Leipzig in 2008, when the artwork on display at the tiny Ankama booth caught my eye.
When I discovered Ankama was there hawking a massively multiplayer online turn-based tactics game I was intrigued and confused. With only a few hours of Wakfu under my belt, I'm still a intrigued and confused.
The core mechanics are simple enough. Once you're through the fairly-limited character creator you're thrust into the tutorial world, learning the basics of turn-based tactical combat in an open world. Choosing to attack an enemy transforms whatever patch of land you're on to a playfield, graying out adjacent squares. Other players wander about in the periphery, able to hop into your fight to spectate or (if you tick the right option) hopping into your battle to lend their aid. Once the battle ends the player earns experience and items, spells and skills advance in level, and the world returns to normal.
For someone used to wandering freely about open worlds the difference is quite jarring. With a more traditional MMO I know where I stand. In Wakfu I feel (for the first time in years) like a complete newbie. I have no idea how crafting works. I know I can gather resources, but I'm still learning what I'm supposed to do with them. Upon completing my initial training I'm asked to choose one of four factions to join. I made my choice and was beamed to my faction's starting area, promptly getting lost.
So there's obviously going to be a period of adjustment for me. If I can get past that hump and overcome my natural tendency to consume real-time tactics titles in bite-sized pieces, perhaps I'll find something special here. I'll keep you folks posted.
Wakfu is available to play for free in North America, with a modest monthly subscription required to access premium content. Hit up the link below to get all cute and tactical.
Wakfu [Official Website]