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Wandersong Review


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On 10/09/2018 at 09:00 AM by Nick DiMola

For once, bards are cool!
RECOMMENDATION:

For everyone who appreciates a heartfelt story and unique gameplay.

At first pass, you may mistake Wandersong for a game about a bard who’s trying to save the world. I wouldn’t blame you, because while that is what it seems on the surface, more importantly Wandersong is a game about emotions and relationships. It’s about conquering your fears and adversity, doing what’s right even when everyone else is telling you it’s wrong. It’s about leaning on your friends when you can’t do something by yourself, and yes, it’s about singing your heart out even when nobody wants to hear you.

Our story’s protagonist, the bard, is quite evidently an outcast. He lives outside of town, early interactions with townsfolk clearly show he’s not taken seriously and quite possibly an annoyance to most. But yet, he’s cheerful and happy regardless, ready to help no matter what. And help he does. Right from the get-go, the bard puts himself in danger to save the town from ghosts with his unique singing abilities.

And with this one gesture of kindness and bravery he earns the respect of the town who discovered something in him that they hadn’t seen before. Wandersong constantly beckons the player to look beyond the facade of any given character and see who they are inside. Throughout the quest of the bard, you’ll meet and help dozens of characters, each of which have their own struggles and adversity that you’ll need to help them overcome so that you can achieve your quest of saving the world.

As it turns out, your singing ability is not just to drive off ghosts, it can be used in a plethora of unique and inventive ways. You command a wheel that’s bound to the right analog stick. Depending on the direction you push, the bard will sing a different note. Most obviously, you’ll have to sing songs at different points in your quest and the wheel acts as the input to a simple rhythm game a la Guitar Hero where you execute the correct notes in the proper timing to sing the song. But that’s just the start.

Early on, singing along with birds will grant you a single-use high jump. In a subsequent chapter you’ll direct a pirate ship around based on the notes you’re singing. Sometimes you’re blocking colored projectiles or enemies that match with a particular note on the wheel. In another section you can use it to direct the wind to allow you to long or high jump. In every single chapter of the game, no matter what you’re doing, your singing is a central mechanic and the means in how it’s used will constantly change. It’s clever, innovative and most importantly, a bunch of fun.

While the cast of characters will change across each chapter, there are a couple constants that provide some of the most impactful and emotional moments of the game. Miriam the witch puts up an excellent tough guy facade; she’s short-tempered, sarcastic, and angry. Though she appears to detest everything about you, she sticks with you through thick and thin and quickly becomes your most important ally. Observing her character arc is one of the most satisfying facets of Wandersong; just like the bard, you grow to really love and care for her.

The other recurring character is The Hero. She’s cocky, manipulative, and will stop at nothing to accomplish her goal of ending the world. Yes, the hero in this one is bent on murder and destruction. While the game never signals any particular “between the lines” read on her actions, I think there’s some fascinating parallels that can be drawn from her behavior, motivations, and intents.

The overarching plot pits the bard and the hero in direct opposition to one another. The bard is trying to learn the Earthsong from the overseers, each of which know a piece of it. Reciting it can save the world, which is all the bard and Miriam want to do. The hero on the other hand has been directed by Eya (essentially god) to kill the overseers as they’ve become corrupt and must be disposed of to make way for a brand new world. This creates the conflict and urgency to help push the bard along his quest and gain access to the spirit world before the hero to preserve the song of the overseers.

Across the game’s seven chapters you start to feel a strong connection to all of the characters in Wandersong and when one pops up from earlier in the game you’re immediately struck with that same feeling you have seeing a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Wandersong does an incredible job of engaging you emotionally, which for me, is especially impressive because very few games manage to hook me that way.

Yes, the puzzle-platforming and the singing mechanics are interesting and fun, but I didn’t hang on in Wandersong to the end to do more of that. I quickly rushed through the last two chapters because I was so vested in the story I needed to know what happened to all of the characters I had grown to know and love. Like the bard, I grew to see the beauty of his world and wanted him to succeed in stopping the hero and preserving both the world and its inhabitants.

If Wandersong can speak to me on such an emotional level, I believe it can reach just about anyone. You’ll also be privy to some really unique gameplay along with some strong story beats and a quirky cast of excellent characters. If that’s not enough to get you to take a look into Wandersong, you might need to hear the bard’s song even more than I did.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Matt Snee Staff Writer

10/09/2018 at 01:47 PM

this looks really cool!

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