Wakfu is a tactical, turn-based fantasy MMORPG where players fight monsters on a tiled playing field. Actively replenish resources in a player-driven world and participate in a nation's politics to wage war against your neighbors.
|Publisher: Ankama Games, Square Enix
Type: Turn-Based MMORPG
Release Date: February 29, 2012
Pros: +Player-driven resources. +Complex class mechanics. +Nations with player politics.
Cons: -Heavy combat grinding. -Some poor translations. -Poor combat camera.
Wakfu is a turn-based MMORPG and the sequel to Ankama Games’ Dofus. After 1,000 years, players take on the role of the chosen one and must defeat a treacherous ogre named Ogrest. Choose from 16 classes, each with a distinguished tactical approach to battle, and employ 25 abilities to defeat enemies. Combat is turn-based, taking place on a tiled battlefield where players and enemies strategically employ moves to overcome one another. The world of Wakfu is alive thanks to player interactions. Various resources only replenish due to player input, such as planting seeds to harvest thistles. A dynamic weather system must be relied on to grow crops. At level 15, players enter Wakfu’s heated political climate, joining one of four Nations and adhering to its laws handed down by a player-Governor—elections are held every two weeks.
Wakfu Key Features:
- 16 Classes – featuring 25 unique abilities each, and offering unique play styles.
- Resources Replenish From Player Input – players must plant seeds to grow and harvest fauna.
- Self-Aware Humor – jokes are injected in nearly every player/NPC interaction, some more subtle than others.
- Strategic, Tile-Based Combat – fight monsters, players, and beasts in turn-based combat, demanding a tactical approach to every engagement.
- Political System – players join one of four nations ruled by a player Governor and elections are held every two weeks.
Wakfu Featured Video
By Sean Sullivan
Recently, I played Ankama Games’ charming Java-based RPG Dofus. While my patriotism filter made me read the game as “Doofus,” I enjoyed its animated environments and tactical gameplay. Tile-based RPG’s are rarities, like original movie ideas. Having grown up pouring hundreds of hours into Final Fantasy Tactics on PSX and then GBA, I was eager to explore Wakfu’s vibrant world.
Character creation expands upon Dofus. You’ll see the same faces but new character sprites make everyone look taller. I immediately noticed my previous character, the old man I chose to play in Dofus—I had dubbed him “Spinoza.” As in Dofus, every character is colorfully animated and would be appropriately cast in a Saturday morning cartoon lineup (and they do on France 3). I decided not to dwell on my age this time and chose Iop’s Heart, a warrior whose strength has devoured her pupils—seriously, she’s all sclera. I went to dub her “Where Are My Eyes,” but amazingly it was taken. I ultimately settled for “Freud's Banana” and embarked on a new journey, as the only who can save the world—again.
Wakfu’s turned-based combat system is refreshing in a sea of hack and slash games. Rarely do current game developers take a chance with this style, and Ankama Games deserves praise for delivering such an experience. Upon engaging an enemy—likely a cute kitty with mammoth eyes—you’ll be quarantined to an area for the fight. Teal-colored tiles indicate possible starting points. Players and enemies take turns spending points to move, then spending points to perform actions, with 30 seconds to make a choice—so you can’t go AFK and expect to resume combat after flushing. Every class plays differently, motivating a unique approach to combat.
Freud's Banana is an Iop’s Heart, an “excellent damage dealer” that likes to breathe on an enemy as she cuts them in two. Despite this, I initially focused on casting spells and keeping my distance. Every class has three elemental categories of spells, corresponding with that class' playstyle. Again, my own spells were about dishing massive damage up close. Whereas, had I played Cra’s Range (Archer) I would have cast Riddling Arrow from across the battlefield. As you unlock skills, you’ll have to experiment to understand their purpose. Tooltip descriptions can be vague, such as Iop’s Wrath—“it deals colossal damage over a huge area.” But how big is the area? You won’t know until you cast it.
Since the environments remain persistent when you enter battle, it can be difficult to discern movement possibilities. Oftentimes, a pillar will obscure a tile, making a tactically advantageous movement near impossible. In one instance, I had to navigate between behemoth sunflowers, dodging their attacks, but I missed safe path thanks to a grassy pillar. I didn’t recognize it as a movement possibility until stepping on it accidentally. The issue would be solved if static objects were transparent while in battle. My character can see the tile, but the camera angle makes it near impossible for me to see.
Controlling one character can become repetitive and one-dimensional. The big appeal to turn-based tactics games is controlling your small brigand against groups of monsters and enemy legions. But, you do eventually unlock sidekicks—Astrub Knight being the first. It adds a tactical layer to combat and prevents every engagement from becoming your character surrounded by enemies, while you chip away at their health. Partying with other players also keeps things interesting. But partying also requires patience, as every player must take their turn before phases can proceed.
Too Many Skills
Leveling awards 10 stat points to be distributed among your character's talents. Opening the skill sheet for the first time, I was overwhelmed. Is this supposed to be a game for kids, because the number of attribute spheres seems more appropriate in DnD. As I adjusted I realized that each class has five core specialties—divided between Intelligence, Strength, Agility, Chance,and Major—and with each level you can add one point to a stat in those specialties. You also have 10 points to allocate to your class specialties. Those 10 points are misleading, as improving one stat takes 5 points. So, while daunting at first, you quickly realize you’re limited to where you can place skills, narrowing the scope of worry. Relaxing, I tactically chose to throw the majority of my points into Life Steal—one of my favorite skills regardless of the game I’m playing. You can always use more points in Life Steal.
Wakfu isn’t just a series of "go here," "kill this," "collect that," quests. The game periodically imbues missions with puzzles, a welcomed relief from the sometimes time-consuming combat. One puzzle I wanted to highlight mirrors the Mahogany Gym puzzle in Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal. In Wakfu’s rendition of the ice-gym, you use the environment to slide a barrel of weed killer onto flowers. Other puzzles see you navigating through a maze of enemies, avoiding contact to reach the boss. As mentioned, the game's environment makes it difficult to negotiate puzzles, due to static objects obscuring the view of the playing field. Sometimes, puzzles aren't solved through chess-like tactics but brute trial-and-error. Still, adding puzzles is refreshing amidst typical quest objectives.
Sunday Morning Lineup
I immediately fell in love with Wakfu’s graphics. There is nothing better than an isometric art style, especially one that is polished and zany, like Ragnarok Online (all roads lead back to Ragnarok Online). Just don’t zoom in and everything retains ballpoint pen perfection. Zoom in and the game starts to resemble an ophthalmologist exam—details give way to blurred edging and character models become pixelated. The developers should lock the camera so you can’t zoom in and realize that the textures aren’t as high-resolution as they first appear.
Many of the creatures have ridiculous cartoon faces, to the point of being doltish. Cat's heads are the same size as their body while other animals can’t seem to keep their tongues in their mouths. Some players might be put off by the game's silliness but it was charming to me. I can always appreciate when games don’t take themselves too seriously. The mumbled ramblings of the Astrub Knight had me laughing, as he gargled my next task like a deaf-man. Much of the humor does fall flat—the overabundance of Pronoun palindromes—but it's better than the over-the-top seriousness that plagues some RPGs.
While the atmosphere and style captivated me, the user interface tested my eyesight. Perhaps I’m just old, but the default UI is so small my eyes strained to read text—looks like I will be visiting the eye doctor. With so much small text on screen at once, I was quickly overwhelmed trying to navigate it all. Years of tanning in front of a computer monitor have weakened my eyes. You are able to change the font size from the menu, but UI elements are still tucked away in every corner of the screen. I didn’t even notice the game's turn-tracker in the right side of the screen until hours into the game. A cleaner interface doesn’t come without a price, particularly when its swept up by smaller elements.
A Living World
Much of the wild plant life in Wakfu will not grow on its own. Players have to plant seeds they collect to replenish the world's fauna, an interesting concept and one I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’s most apparent for herbalists, players who collect plants and flowers. Running across a Crowned Thistle, I gathered it up, harvesting both the thistle and its seeds. Remembering my grammar school lessons about Johnny Appleseed, I replanted the thistle on a verdant tile. However, that thistle wouldn't grow right away. It has to rain. Tactical herbalists wait for Wakfu’s dynamic weather system to make it pour. Otherwise, planting in dry heat accelerates growing time.
For the impatient, like myself, I abandoned a life as a herbalist for the ice-cubed tin ore scattered throughout the sewers of the starting zone. I grinded that tin like it was 2004. If I collected anymore the tin would have started complaining that it didn’t have a brain. As soon as you run across ore you can start collecting; you don’t need gathering equipment. Your character whips out a sprite of whatever tool is needed. In the case of mining, Freud's Banana pulled out a mining pick from beyond the void. I never like when games make you take up bagspace with gathering equipment; it's a trivial effort that doesn’t add any sense of immersion. As you gather resources, you level up your gathering trait, such as Mining Level 3.
Harvested resources can then be molded through a crafting profession. I did not have a chance to start an apprenticeship, as crafting requires a variety of resources, some more difficult to find than others. You must go and talk to the profession master to learn a craft, and then use the appropriate workshop and recipes to make an item. You can major in every craft without fear of penalty. However, leveling them all up is a painstaking task so your best bet is to start off with a specialty and expand from there.
Back to harvesting thistle, I was attacked by a Major Cat with 10,000 HP. I had no idea what was going on. Luckily that gargantuan HP pool did not come into play. Major Cat offers a distraction from harvesting. Instead of fighting, you must destroy glyphs on the battlefield corresponding with the same glyphs surrounding Major Cat—designated by dotted layouts. If you lose, you receive a one-hour penalty that inhibits your ability to harvest. My first run-in I had no idea what was going on and lost immediately. But upon the second run-in, I wrecked the Cat. It’s a neat distraction that keeps harvesting interesting without being brain-dead monotonous. Defeating the Major Cat awards you with a large number of the resource you’re gathering—in my case I received 40 Thistle Seeds.
Love it or hate it, politics plays a special role in Wakfu’s world. A somewhat strange addition because my first impression is that Wakfu’s primary demographic is children. But, it seems you’re never too young to learn politics in France. At level 15, players choose to become a citizen of one of four nations, with the ability to change your allegiance after 30 days by completing a quest. Some monsters and resources are limited to a nation’s sphere of influence, like Bonta has seas of trees while Bramkar swims in ore. Each nation is ruled by a player-elected Governor, who can enact laws, set taxes, and fill his administration with friends rather than competent leaders. It’s wonderful how closely Wakfu’s system manages to resemble reality. There aren't even PvE servers; just like real-life the world is your battleground. Wakfu’s politics is impressive and goes beyond the scope I’m discussing here. Nations are at constant odds and head to war in trying times.
Funny enough, ecoterrorism is one of the primary ways nations can harass one another—playing a pivotal role for warfare and PvP. Since crops are a vital resource for players, destroying them is a tactical way to ensure your country reigns supreme. Who wants their enemy to have a healthy and balanced ecosystem? It adds an interesting level of depth to PvP. If you see someone trampling on your crops, you ought to contact your nation’s governor and rally the troops. It’s elements like these that force people to interact with one another. You are not just a solo player leveling up until you’re ready to join a guild and raid. You're part of a world that aims to breathe through player interaction. Beyond Eve Online, I haven't seen such reliance on players to shape a game world, especially one starring Saturday morning cartoons.
Wakfu’s cash shop is extensive, offering cosmetic items, sidekicks, housing items, mounts, and pets. You purchase items with the in-game currency, Ogrines. It’s $2.50 for 1,000 Ogrines, which is only enough to buy an additional emote or some bare bones cosmetic items, like a couple of Cra Plants to make your in-game house feng-shui. Sidekicks sit around 5,000 Ogrines, along with anything of any real value. None of the items are overly advantageous to gameplay. Rather, they're like scratch and sniff stickers you slap onto a child’s drawing, spicing up the game with a nice fragrance.
Final Verdict - Great
Wakfu is a game that appeals to a niche audience, one that longs for a tactical turn-based RPG amidst the overwhelming number of action games. Its cartoon visuals are easy on the eyes, but static environments can obscure the field of battle and hinder strategic choices in a fight. The in-depth political system and resource management is unprecedented, particularly for a game designed for children. It may not always work as intended but it's a fascinating concept that deserves to be commended for its implementation. If nothing else, Wakfu is worth playing for the world it strives to deliver.
Operating System: Windows XP SP3 or higher
CPU: Pentium IV 2.8 GHz or equivalent
RAM: 1 GB RAM
Video Card: GeForce 4Ti or equivalent
Hard Disk Space: 1500 MB available space
Operating System: Windows XP SP3 or higher
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent
RAM: 2 GB RAM
Video Card: GeForce 6 series or equivalent
Hard Disk Space: 2 GB available space
Wakfu is Linux and Mac OS X compatible.
Wakfu Additional Information
Developer(s): Ankama Games
Publisher(s): Ankama Games, Square Enix (NA—Until 03/01/13)
Game Designer(s): Azael
Game Engine: JAVA
Other Platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, WIndows
Free-to-Play Date: July 24, 2014
Closed Beta (NA): March 17, 2012
Open Beta (NA): April 01, 2012
Release Date: February 29, 2012
Development History / Background:
Wakfu was developed by French video game development company Ankama Games. It is the sequel to the 2004 MMORPG Dofus. Wakfu was officially released on February 29, 2012. Square Enix acted as North American publisher for Wakfu until March 1, 2013, when Ankama Games assumed full responsibility for publication in North America. Ankama Animation has produced a French-language cartoon based on the video game that began airing on October 30, 2008. New episodes continued to air on France 3 until June 2010. Wakfu changed its business strategy from a subscription-based model to a free-to-play model on July 24, 2014. Ankama Games is currently developing a mobile game based on Wakfu, titled Wakfu Raiders, which will be released for mobile devices and tablets.