Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5472)
Written on  :  Oct 07, 2004
Rating  :  2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Wayward goes astray

The Good

I'm at the very end of the game—just me and the boss—and I think I'm going to be stuck here a while because every problem the game has just escalated to the highest level. But first, some background...

Hunter: the Reckoning: Wayward has the mixed blessing of being released exclusively for the PS2 but taking place between two installments which were not released on the PS2. Following two years after the events of Hunter: the Reckoning—where players learned that raves shouldn't be held at haunted prisons, four Hunters return to the town of Ashcroft (snicker) when two rogue Hunters (called Waywards) report that evil has returned. The early part of the game focuses on finding the Waywards or, at least, finding clues the Waywards left behind.

In the World of Darkness, White Wolf Publishing's broad umbrella which covers a wide range of Noun: the Noun type games, Hunters are normal people who have become imbued with the supernatural ability to see evil and fight it. Based on their personal philosophy, these Hunters fall under classes called Creeds. Wayward has five playable Characters (four are available from the game's start): Spenser "Deuce" Wyatt the Avenger, Samantha Alexander the Defender, Father Estaban Cortez the Judge, Kassandra Cheyung the Martyr, and a Wayward character.

Each character has a default melee weapon and ranged weapon depending on their function in the game. For example, the Avenger's purpose is to dole out tremendous damage so he has a battle-axe and a shotgun. The Martyr is more fleet footed and carries twin pistols and dual kamas. Each character's Creed also offers Edges (spells). The Edges deplete the character's mana bar equivalent (and the Martyr's life bar), but strengthen the character, their weapons, or weaken the opposition.

During game play—Gauntlet-style, 1-2 player mayhem, Hunters may come across new weapons which are added to the armory, special equipment, or power-ups which appear as fluorescent glyphs on the floor. As characters complete missions and defeat enemies, they level up, strengthening their statistics and improving or adding Edges.

The first mission involves securing the hotel where the final e-mails from the two Wayward Hunters were sent. A series of tutorials explain that movement, basic attacks, combos, and use of the Edges. Once the hotel is secure, it becomes the hub for the first half of the game. In the Hunter's Lair, players can watch cinematics, read info and emails sent to the team, explore the many unlockable extras: character models, music, and more. There is also a map of Ashcroft (snicker) showing available missions. Once selecting a mission, you can pick the Hunter/s you want to use and pick any secondary ranged weapon available.

Most missions involve fighting hordes of monsters (assorted zombies, rats, gargoyles, spectres, etc) as the Hunters try to find hidden items, open new locations, or kill minibosses. Some levels require escorting civilians back to their hideouts or defending them while they build special equipment. Once the primary objectives have been completed, Hunters can replay levels to find more hidden items or just to kill more monsters.

The Bad

Wayward is a Gauntlet wannabe in a Dark Alliance world.

I really disliked the hands-off approach to leveling up. In an RPG, leveling up is the reward. Here, stats improved and new powers were gained, and it all seemed pretty meaningless. My attacks never seemed more powerful, the Edges (which were added or strengthened) never seemed that useful, and I didn't seem to have more hit points or mana to fall back on.

Fundamentally, I never understood the characters: the role of the Hunter in the World of Darkness or what the Creeds really meant. There is no fundamental difference in game play or the approach to completing a level if you choose a Defender character versus an Avenger. The choice, for me at least, came down to favoring the katana-woman instead of the others—at least she had a Heal Edge. I imagine players of the other games might feel more of a connection to the characters, but I could be wrong.

The levels look pretty similar. The first half of the game, I ran through the streets and the second half, I ran through the prison. There were some standout levels, but far too few. As a result, the game has a limited color palette. Are the graphics good? They probably are, but there's nothing eye catching here.

Character interaction only takes place during cutscenes. In one a character opines that the problem really isn't the monsters, it's the Innocents (the few remaining humans). If there weren't Innocents to menace, there wouldn't be monsters around. Which brings me to the save system.

Almost every level has Innocents who are rescued when the Hunters touch them. This is absolutely vital since it is the only way to acquire Continues. While you can save your progress at the end of each mission (and multiple save slots are provided), there is no in-mission saving or checkpoints. If you run out of continues, it's game over. This is annoying. I'm convinced—at some point—it becomes mathematically impossible to complete the game if you don't have enough continues (perhaps where I am now). The other annoying aspect about continues is, if you've preset a specific weapon and Edge, your reborn character returns to the default setting.

Finally, I disliked the controls. The dual analog stick controls work well for ranged weapons, not so well for the melee combat I kept finding myself in. Pressing R1 repeatedly to execute a combo worked well, but I usually became locked into a combo during frantic fighting and couldn't turn around to confront the enemy who had flanked around me. I pressed jump to escape overwhelming hordes, but that never worked well.

The Bottom Line

I don't hate Wayward, but I am indifferent to it. I really didn't care about the characters or their plight, and now, at the end of the game— Shub-Niggurath can eat Ashcroft (snicker) for all I care. There's much better than this available.