I’m a huge fan of Wakfu. I was excited for its release, played in its beta and have continued to play it over the years. After becoming employed by another MMO this last year, I have been pulled away from playing MMOs like I used to but still managed to get into some of my favorites. Wakfu was always on my favorites list, but the last time I played I realized just how stuck my character had become. I considered making a new character but didn’t look forward to making my way through the confusing newbie levels.
Wakfu wasn’t a bad game before, really, but it was a standard sandbox in a lot of ways. One of the worst things that many sandboxes do is confuse “realistic challenge” with “just make the game confusing and perhaps a bit boring.” Yes, it can be argued that a sandbox needs to be somewhat more confusing or “hard” than a standard themepark MMO, but I disagree completely. First of all, the “challenge” of a sandbox — or any other game — should come from its intense gameplay or in-depth systems, not from the fact that its systems are just too wacky to figure out without looking up a guide.
Wakfu was just… odd. I like odd, more than most people, but not when it’s at the expense of fun or, well, clarity. Yes, I enjoyed the in-game biomes and weather systems and the way the players could actually destroy the environment, and I enjoyed the unusual lore and combat systems but in the end it just wasn’t much fun.
When doing quests, for example, a player might be given a hint at the beginning of the quest (“the dungeon is over there”) but after that the hint or directions often disappear. Going back to the NPC would fix nothing, and hints were rare. Isn’t it “realistic” to have the ability to ask an NPC “Hey, I have been gone for a week and forgot so can you tell me where that monster was again?” The developers had confused confusion with challenge, using confusion as a tool to create a feeling of being challenged.
So, are the new improvements in Wakfu helping it be more fun? Yes, I would have to say so. As I mentioned before, I do not have as much time as I would like to play MMOs like I used to, but in the short time I have spent in Wakfu on my new character I have enjoyed it a lot more. The new tutorial is long, funny and introduces players into the world of Wakfu without first inundating them with too many bland details. A class isn’t even picked until later in the tutorial, giving players a chance to feel out the rhythm of the turn-based combat without having to pick the class they will play forever. It’s a great move and makes those first levels much more interesting.
The ploy seems to have worked, as there are a ton of players in game. Sure, it’s possible they are just congealing around the new newbie area, but it’s nice to see. The cash-shop has introduced helpful NPC groupmates that can be bought or even “tried out” for a limited time, and the game even features mounts now! WEE! No, seriously… WWWEEEE!!
It’s good to see Ankama taking the newbie stages seriously. I imagine that the game previously lost a lot of players in those precious new stages, simply because the game was more confusing than it was fun. Now the entire newbie process seems to be smoothed out, having something to do with its recent Steam promotion (I’ll bet!) Either way, the game is finally shining as it always should have.
Now, what will it be like in higher levels? I’ll do a write-up once this character gets up there. I’m enjoying it so much that I will probably just keep playing this one.