Wayward Souls Review

Wayward Souls is the game that Mage Gauntlet was supposed to be, and I mean that quite literally. When Rocketcat Games was making Mage Gauntlet, they wanted to have all of the things that Wayward Souls eventually ended up having, like randomized levels and multiple character classes. Eventually they realized that they were never going to be able to get that game done in time, and so Mage Gauntlet was born. 

Honestly, I’m kind of glad that’s how things worked out, because if the release dates were reversed and Wayward Souls was the precursor to Mage Gauntlet, then I think I would have approached Mage Gauntlet with a fair amount of trepidation.

waywardsouls3

Wayward Souls is a rougelike action-RPG game steeped in old-school Nintendo nostalgia. A roguelike game, for those who don’t know, is typically a dungeon-crawler RPG where you only get one life, dying forces you to start all over again, and the difficulty is something that only the most stalwart (masochistic?) of gamers would be willing to put themselves through.

As a result, Wayward Souls is a mashup of the gameplay and level progression of Mage Gauntlet and the general sense of eventual death that comes with playing a roguelike game. You play. You die. You play again. Repeat as necessary.

After a brief intro/tutorial level, you start Wayward Souls as one of three initial classes the game offers: the powerful yet slow fighter, the meek mage with a powerful range attack, and the rogue (my favorite character so far) who specializes in misdirection. You can unlock three other characters, but that requires you to beat certain areas in the game, which can be very difficult.

waywardsouls4

Each character has their own backstory and reasons for wanting to go through this ordeal. As the story unfolds and you travel deeper into the levels, you’ll learn more about each character’s motives. Each character’s story is interesting and involving, and you’ll find yourself wanting to keep playing just to see where the story goes. Most roguelike games have thin stories that don’t evolve and serve as nothing more than a backdrop to the action.

What holds Wayward Souls back is the absurd level of difficulty you’re going to encounter. You’re going to die repeatedly. Most enemies are fast– even faster than the rogue. They have an obnoxious tendency to swarm your character and do prodigious amounts of damage, and enemies with ranged attacks can hit you from clear across the screen.

Wayward Souls seems to be designed to make you fail. Your characters, even the “fast” ones, have a slight pause after their attacks which makes them vulnerable to enemy attacks. In this game, even a millisecond of hesitation can be the difference between life and death.

waywardsouls1

There are health potions you can pick up throughout the game, but they drop at such an low rate that you could be forgiven for thinking that they don’t exist at all. The fighter actually has an upgradeable special ability that can give you more health from the potions you pick up, but this ability almost feels like a cruel joke. You can literally play for hours without finding one, and I never once found one with my mage. The mage has low health to begin with, and just a couple of attacks can knock her down.

Adding to the difficulty are the controls. In any other game, they would be fine, but in Wayward Souls they don’t seem adequate. Moving your characters is responsive, but the main problem has to do with your attacks. They’re controlled by a series of swipes and taps on the right side of the screen, and this just doesn’t work well enough. I often found myself trying to do one thing and instead doing another.

Lots of time I would just end up not doing anything at all, or moving instead of pulling off my ability. It actually got to a point where I stopped trying to activate certain abilities. Adding some buttons for the special abilities would be an enormous help, since the swiping functions are just too finicky to be completely reliable.

waywardsouls2

It may sound like I’m being awfully negative with the game, but personally enjoyed the challenge, even if it is a bit unbalanced. It’s a tough game for sure, and for a lot of people this kind of challenge can be a lot of fun. But for more casual gamers and fans of Mage Gauntlet, Wayward Souls’ level of challenge might be too daunting.

Be warned: This game is not Mage Gauntlet, and that game will not prepare you for what Wayward Souls has to offer. Wayward Souls does have some great level design that will change with almost every playthrough, although if you play through certain levels enough you will occasionally recognize patterns and maps. There are lots of different enemies to fight, each with their own ways of brutalizing you, and no matter which character you choose there is no singular strategy that will work. This game will make your brain hurt as much as your fingers.

Wayward Souls is designed to put you through the grinder again and again. Everyone loves a good challenge, but for some players, Wayward Souls may be too much. Even for the most hardened of players, this game presents a true test of skill and requires quite a bit of luck as well. It could use some tweaks to the enemies, the rate of spells, and health drops. Still, for those of us that enjoy a challenge, Wayward Souls will provide lots and lots of hours of pain– I mean, fun.

  • ion677

    This game got perfect reviews from virtually EVERYONE ELSE. You gave it a 3 because….it’s too hard? That’s what people want – games that you can’t beat in a single sitting. Never visiting this site again.

    • Lucio Barbarino

      Damn, easy there, they’re called “opinions”.

      • ETC37

        Thank you.

    • Lucio Barbarino

      Not to mention it’s a 4-point scale.

    • ETC37

      I know this is going to be shocking to people, but I don’t base my reviews on other peoples reviews or the hype surrounding a game. There isn’t a lot of leeway with a 4-point scale, and it’s still a positive review for a game I like a lot, that I feel has some problems. It’s not a perfect game at all.

      If you’ve already made up your mind about a game then a review isn’t going to make a lick of difference anyway. And I do point out that if this is your type of game than you should absolutely buy it.

      • geg

        I read your review looking for real criticism but it looks like the game was just too hard for you.

        Also… hype?

    • Lonely Salad

      Someone’s butthurt. But I agree, the game is supposed to be punishing.

  • Tikicobra

    The difficulty in this game, to me, feels cheap.

  • Patrick Tanswell

    Have to disagree with this review aswell, the 4 point scale means that at max a 3 can be an approval rating of 75%. The games difficulty is a means of making you play better, as with the namesake of this particular game, the “Souls” series. The controls aren’t spot on that’s agreed, but controls on iOS devices always are, and they’re not bad enough to affect play after the first hour or so. And as for grinding? I was getting minimum 100 coins per play through for my first few runs, enough for the basic character upgrades, and then about 300 per play once I started to get the hang of it. I think you’ve mistaken this game for a hard out RPG, where it’s more along the lines of a game that you have to be genuinely skilled at to make progress, like Spelunky or FTL. The inexperience of the reviewer is definitely showing here, especially from his response to the fact that all other review outlets have given the game a very high score,

    • ETC37

      I find people’s comments about my “experience” amusing, because you all just know me so well. FYI…I’ve been gaming for over 20 twenty years.

      • Patrick Tanswell

        Good gamers aren’t necessarily good reviewers

  • scs

    A tougher game should not equal a lower score. I feel the difficulty not only adds to the replay-ability, but is far more rewarding than the hand holding of 90% of anything else on the App store. I see no issue with the controls, and wish more devs would follow this style rather than shoving virtual controls onto an already small play area.

  • dan

    It’s pretty clear that Erik should not have reviewed this game; if you don’t like the roguelikes genre (see “masochism” comment), why did you review one of the most anticipated roguelikes of the year?

    The game is not just “old school nostalgia,” the game’s difficulty is also in the spirit of those retro SNES games. Nothing was said about the unique pricing model, the pixel-physics engine, the destructible environment. No real understanding of how a release like this positively impacts the iOS gaming scene…

    By the way, the dev is not abandoning Mage Gauntlet. They confirmed on Touch Arcade it’s probably getting widescreen support, sometime after the launch of Wayward Souls.

    The reviewer has guts for going against the tide but this review really misses the mark.

    • ETC37

      What tide did I go against, exactly? I gave the game a positive review just not a perfect review. Is that what you’re upset about? That I didn’t give the game a perfect score? A positive review isn’t good enough for you?

      • JackMule

        I think he was just pointing out that you had guts for not giving this game a high score (I get that there’s little room for a high score in a 4 point grading system,) when this was deservingly one of the most hyped up games this month. It seems he was more upset about the “review [missing] the mark,” which is what bothered me as well, rather than the actual score.

        Your main point on why this game didn’t receive a 4/4 was the difficulty, which overlooks a lot and overstates a little. If the game had been on the verge of near impossible, you might have a reason to overlook the diverse gameplay, engaging story-lines, the eye-popping dungeons, the fitting soundtrack, and all the charming character spread throughout, but this is definitely doable with practice. The hardest part is getting to understand how each character plays. That can only be done with time, which it appears you haven’t put much in based on no mention of the bosses (I’m not accusing, just saying what people might perceive from the review.)

        The controls may be finicky at times when you first start playing, but like learning each character, they just takes some time to master. It’s not the end of the world, rather, a mere blemish.

        The last con stated that Wayward Souls requires “enormous amounts of grinding” just to get anywhere, however, upgrades don’t help all that much. You can walk into any dungeon with every ability maxed and still die just as quickly as if you had none if you’re not careful. The upgrades help a little, but grinding to get them isn’t going to suddenly make the game a walk in the park. The ability to learn from your mistakes is the only skill that will truly help you progress through the game.

        At the end of this all, it appears not enough time was spent on actually understanding all the gameplay mechanics, which in turn lead to a focus on the difficulty being the primary fault of the game. Instead of focusing on all the merits this roguelike has to offer, you dwell on the difficult (but fair) challenge Wayward Souls presents and treat it as the sole reason as to why you gave it a 3/4. That might be why people are reacting negatively (that, and the fact that people tend to overreact towards game reviews.)

        Also – just pointing this out – the text in the conclusion saying “You probably haven’t played anything on iOS to prepare you for Wayward Souls, even its spiritual successor,” seems incorrect. Shouldn’t it be its spiritual predecessor?

  • theTaupe

    What’s with you people? I’ve been playing this constantly since it came out but it’s definitely not a perfect game. 3 out of 4 is a fair score. Btw does anyone knows why Mage Gauntlet gave us three choice; D-Pad, Analog Stick and Pro Swipe and Wayward gives us only the Analog and Pro ?

  • http://www.kkship4biz.com lalapite

    The new 2014
    SHOES,CLOTHING,HANDBAG,WALLET,SUNGLASSES,Brand Adjustable Hats,Brand Wool
    Cap,BELT,are all in http://www.kkship4biz.com。

    SHOES➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/SHOES-c1_p1.html

    CLOTHING➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/CLOTHING-c6_p1.html
    ddd
    HANDBAG➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/HANDBAG-c5_p1.html

    WALLET➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/WALLET-c20_p1.html

    SUNGLASSES➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/SUNGLASSES-c9_p1.html

    BrandAdjustableHats➨
    http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/Brand-Adjustable-Hats-c21_p1.html

    MLB
    Jerseys➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/MLB-Jerseys-c25_p1.html

    Brand Wool Cap➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/Brand-Wool-Cap-c23_p1.html

    BELT➨http://www.kkship4biz.com/products/BELT-c11_p1.html

  • Federico Meiners

    Guys, stop the hate. It’s good to have a variety of critics with different opinions, moreover the review is very far from being “bad”. The game is really good, but I feel that there could be a little less of grind… And this is the only review that expose this.

  • grwetwe
  • DarkDuck

    Thanks Erik I think this is a very fair review.
    We count on reviewers to give us their un-biased opinions -kudos to you and Slide to Play!

    I would have given it a 2 on your scale and I absolutely love rogue-like games.

    The thing is, imo, Wayward Souls is not a rogue-like game.
    It’s an arcade/action, procedurally generated dungeon crawl with perm-death.

    Its more like pac-man on your last quarter.

    Wayward Souls has perm-death and “8-bit” graphics and procedurally generated dungeons granted, but other than that its missing the most important rogue-like feature: progressive customization. Each play though in a true rogue-like is fun because we customize our character as we go, creating a “different experience” with each play thru. That’s why true rogue-like can get away with the harshness of perm-death.

    Wayward Souls is totally lacking in the progressive customization department and so each play-thru feels more like a “repetitive button-mashing frustration” rather than a “really challenging rogue-like”