After spending over 150 hours playing Wayfinder I believe it has a lot of potential to find its place even in the crowded live service games market. However, the team at Airship Syndicate has a long battle ahead of them through the gloom of technical issues before it’s in a good spot.
Wayfinder is an action MMORPG and is a blend of Warframe’s character collecting and weapon crafting, and randomly generated dungeons with events and challenges you’d find in some roguelike games like Hades or Risk of Rain 2. These dungeons, called Lost Zones, are where you’ll spend most of your time. These and Hunts, which are boss battles with more challenging mechanics, can be done solo or match-made with up to 3 other players and you can mix and match your favorite Wayfinders to play as with any weapon you’ve crafted in your arsenal. There are plenty of different melee weapons where you’ll dish out combos with swords or two-handed axes, or if you fancy ranged combat, you can choose from either shotguns or rifles hitting those perfect reloads. The dungeons themselves offer a decent amount of variety but you’ll definitely see a lot of the repeated tile sets across the current available zones. I do think they were able to do a decent job of making each environment in a lost zone feel distinct. From the first one being a maze-like castle crypt with traps and hazards everywhere to the later game lost zones that have much more open areas making it feel like you’re actually lost in this creepy snow-swept forest.
There’s a total of six Wayfinders currently available to play and more will be added with each new season. Yes, this will be a seasoned-based live service game with new content being added throughout like new weapons to craft, new dungeons, and bosses to take on. This will be a free-to-play title once it fully releases early next year so the game does take once again from the Warframe playbook letting you skip the grind by purchasing in-game currency to instantly unlock Wayfinders and weapons. During this early access period, you need to purchase one of the founders packs to play the game, ranging from 20 to 150 dollars, getting you various kinds of goodies at each of the several buy-in tiers and all bundles get you access to this game version of a battle pass and tokens that let you instantly unlock any of the characters you choose. While I don’t blame anyone for groaning hearing about another live game with another battle pass I will give Airship some credit here as once you purchase this pass it will not expire once a new season kicks in like how a lot of other live games treat their battle passes. Instead, once you have multiple reward towers you can choose which you want to work on at any given time. Overall, I think the lower buy-in tiers are more worthwhile if you want to play or try the game as of right now cause a lot of the higher-tier rewards are coming later in this early access period. You’ll have the option to upgrade later if you so desire.
During my playtime, I focused on two different characters. Wingrave He is a tank and healer hybrid from the starting roster with abilities that heal himself and a skill that lets him taunt opponents, drawing their attacks and letting allies heal as they land hits on taunted enemies. Venomess, unlocked through the battle pass, is a ranged fighter who benefits from using guns and has skills that apply poison effects to deal a lot of damage and control areas of the arena by putting down poison clouds. I really enjoyed Wingrave’s playstyle but I also tend to lean more towards tank characters in these types of games. I like being able to help my teammates in the thick of it when fights get hairy and he has a really fun set of skills to play in that role. If these character types don’t sound interesting, there are others to choose from like Niss who is a damage dealer with a focus on dual dagger melee combat, and Silo who is another ranged fighter who has debuffing abilities and uses explosives. This is definitely where Wayfinder shines the most with its fun action combat and the mix of different character playstyles you can choose from.
Wayfinder puts the early in early access. A lot of gameplay systems feel either partially done or missing important aspects and need refinement. Things like sorting through menus for accessories you’ll equip to your characters or Echoes – mods you slot into characters to boost stats – can be a pain to navigate right now. They even recently patched the game to put a cap on the max of these items you can hold because hardcore players were already amassing so many of these that the game was kicking them back to the main menu, and even tanking performance for them and other players when in the main hub together. Generally, the game needs polish in the performance department. When running lost zones it runs okay on PlayStation 5, but when in the main hub or larger zones the game’s frame rate takes a hit and has some stuttering in some heavy combat moments. The most prevalent performance hit is when in the main hub. If you go up this large portal, you can use it to matchmake with other players. The game will freeze or lock up for a couple of seconds before you can move again and interact with anything.
Many systems in the game need refining. Echoes drop from enemies at different rarities that you will slot into your characters and weapons but do so completely randomly. While they drop aplenty, there’s no way to target a specific rarity by hunting specific creatures or upping the difficulty to the highest tier on a lost zone. This even applies to things like crafting materials for the characters and weapons themselves. So it makes taking on these higher difficulties feel less rewarding and worthwhile.
The only thing difficulty currently benefits is the overly complicated currency system. There is a currency called spectra in the game and it has a completely unnecessary amount of varieties to the point of making none of them matter. Here’s how it breaks down, let’s say you choose the first codex hall lost zone on a tier 1 difficulty that drops a basic type of spectra called silver spectra. If you up the difficulty tier it then becomes a “shining” or “exalted” variant of that type of spectra each of these only drop from the specific difficulty tier you’ve chosen. To add and extra layer of confusion, when you add a modifier to your dungeon run or boss hunt, you will still get the variant type of spectra from a certain difficulty tier but you also get a type of spectra that drops because of the modifier you put on and these also come in the difficulty tier variants. If that wasn’t enough, what specific lost zone or hunt you’ve chosen also can change which variant of spectra drops making over 60 different variants of this single currency type. This mess is also on top of the unique material drops you’ll need from a specific boss or event in a lost zone that you will need to acquire to craft a specific weapon or character. So while yes, the core of this game is about grinding crafting materials from certain activities, this layer of currency just feels entirely needless because all of these variants, add an extra layer to keep track of that is confusing and does not really add value to the gameplay loop of farming materials.
Leveling multiple characters and weapons is also kind of a slog right now as once you complete the main quests in the game, which grant you huge experience boosts, you’ll lose out on this extra xp on your other characters and weapons; all the characters and weapons have specific materials you need and come from specific bosses. Thus, once you unlock stuff you might want to actually use you’ll have to replay a lot more of the early content over and over to get these things leveled. Leveling the reward tower is also a slog right now because the current content gives very little progress and the game doesn’t have dailies or weeklies. So while I’ve hit around 150 hours in the game and have maxed out two characters and weapons, I still haven’t finished leveling the pass.
They have at least outlined their plans to remedy a few of my complaints with their roadmap for the game during early access, specifically things like better ways to level additional characters and weapons and streamlining spectra. But as it currently stands, I’d recommend Wayfinder only to people who enjoy grinding in looter games and MMOs and not much outside of this audience. If you’re mildly curious I’d just look to keep up with their social channels for updates or play very casually while things are getting updated and refined. But I’d say as for myself who has over 3k hours in a game like Destiny 2, and always wants to find a new game in this genre to sink into, Wayfinder has a ton of potential. It already stands out for me from its contemporaries due to its gorgeous art style and comic book-inspired look. Airship Syndicate has a lot of pedigree in this department having made things like Darksiders and League of Legends spin-offs, and when you look around at the live service genre landscape and see nothing but hyper-realistic sci-fi shooters or gritty post-apocalypse settings, even the most dreary looking areas of Wayfinder stands out to me even if not wholly original.
I once again find myself rooting for another live service game to find success even with the volatile nature of games in this genre. There are a lot of rough edges here but there’s also fun too. The third-person action combat feels good, and the setting and art direction are gorgeous but only time will tell if this game can receive the polish it needs and refinements to its core systems. I think we truly won’t be able to tell if Wayfinder can survive the gloom of early access until larger updates are made when a new season launches later this year probably and beyond that when it has its full launch early next year. Regardless as a live service sicko, I will endure some of the issues to provide feedback cause I really hope this game finds its footing and has years of updates ahead of it.
- This game was played and captured on PS5 and is also currently available on Steam on PC