WrestleQuest is a breath of fresh air, packed with all the makings of a phenomenal wrestling game as well as all the wacky hijinks of a fantasy-action RPG.
Developed by Mega Cat Studios, WrestleQuest is a turn-based RPG featuring action figures living in a toy box-esque fantasy world competing in slobber-knocking wrestling matches. The game follows rookie wrestler Randy “Muchacho Man” Santos as he dungeon crawls his way through seedy underground wrestling federations to become a great world champion like his idol and WWE Hall of Famer Macho Man Randy Savage. To get there, Muchacho Man must make a name for himself in the local wrestling scene by defeating champions in the hopes of being called up to the big leagues, where he can take on even tougher and more famous wrestlers.
After playing four hours of a hands-on preview of WrestleQuest, it’s clear the game is not only an approachable and entertaining game for die-hard wrestling fans and newbies alike, but it also seamlessly meshes the larger-than-life personas of pro wrestling with the whimsy of a fantasy RPG.
WrestleQuest plays like “The Strongest” storyline in Square Enix’s Live A Live remake if it beefed up the pro-wrestling aspect of its fighting game-esque tournament. At the start, you choose your flavor of wrestler, whether that be an underdog, showman, or a powerhouse, which each have their pros and cons. For example, I wanted my Muchacho Man to have a technical wrestler style like AEW’s Bryan Danielson. In real life, technical wrestlers are typically great at putting their opponents in submission holds and have exceptional ring awareness, allowing them to think further outside the box than your average wrestler.
A technical wrestling style in WrestleQuest manifests itself by having your character dish out more debuffs to opponents and doing bonus damage with gimmicks (with the caveat that your normal attacks deal less damage). Bouts in WrestleQuest are turn-based one-on-one, tag team, and six-man matches, where you can strike, use special moves (gimmicks), taunt, and use items on your party and your opponents in a quick-time-event fashion. Gimmicks encompass your wrestler’s signature and finishing moves (which drain action points), as well as pinfalls (which don’t drain AP). Pinfalls initiate a mini-game where you must hit a moving rectangle three times in a short period of time.
Much like with real-life wrestling, the pace of a WrestleQuest match is dictated by how much hype you and your opponent are generating. If you miss too many prompts, the hype will sway from you to your opponent, giving them more buffs. However, with the right combination of gimmick attacks, strikes, and well-timed taunts, you can sway the virtual crowd back into your corner of the squared circle and put your opponent down for a three-count. The game even features special match conditions where you get bonus items for taking out opponents in a specific order with certain moves. You can also customize the music and pyrotechnics for your character’s entrances before a big match.
On paper, all of these mechanics may sound as tedious as the WWE 2K series’ wrestling simulator approach. In WWE 2K, matches are riddled with minigames that pull you out of the merriment you’re trying to have, but WrestleQuest’s wrassling-themed features never felt too overwhelming to parse, nor did they become monotonous. That balance is thanks in part to how it packages otherwise dense wrestling terminology in an approachable action-RPG world.
WrestleQuest also recounts its storyline through a wrestling podcast and effortlessly bakes in wrestling terminology, making the spoils of your hard-fought matches feel like the chronicling of a once-in-a-generation talent. Big-money matches kick off with promo segments where you get to decide the witty comebacks Muchacho Man will spit into his microphone, which is not only as fun to pull off as watching real-life wordsmith wrestlers in promos but can also help in matches. These real-world nods were a delight each time. I especially popped off at WrestleQuest’s requirement that I do a table spot to unblock a path to treasure. I never thought that removing an obstacle in an RPG was comparable to how wrestlers attempt to break a sturdy wrestling table before.
Many wrestling games give drama outside the ring short shrift, if there’s any non-in-ring gameplay at all. To my surprise, my enjoyment inside the ropes of WrestleQuest’s many rings was matched by the galavanting I did through the game’s walkable 2D cities and environments filled with colorful characters. The wacky sidequests and characters felt integral to accentuating the tone of the game’s larger world rather than tangential distractions from it. I lit up as I learned I could chat with Gundam-looking characters, a depressed lizard man, and real-world wrestling superstars like Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jeff Jarrett. And the random wrestling encounters in these areas were absolutely hilarious. Seeing a ring pop up out of nowhere for a match as if a Pokémon arena could just appear on the sidewalk as dog walkers crossed paths on the street tickled me each time.
All in all, WrestleQuest’s attention to detail for wrestling terminology, its charming pixel art, and its focus on being a fun-to-play fantasy RPG make it feel special in comparison to other contemporary wrestling games.
WrestleQuest is slated to release on August 8 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, PC, and the Netflix app.