Skip to main content

Could this love letter to collectors be the next big MMO this year? Our Wayfinder preview

Wayfinder has a good heart and a lot of promise, but can it survive in the Live service hell of 2023?

Wayfinder is an interesting game, set to release in an equally as interesting time for the live service games industry. Games are dropping like flies. Not just bad games either — decent games with genuine promise. The challenge of releasing a free-to-play MMO action RPG in 2023 must be daunting, but the team at Airship Syndicate are giving it a go anyway.

So how are they doing? Well, thanks to closed beta access provided by the developers, a live demo, and short Q&A, it’s clear to see the way Joe Madureira and co have found success. Whether or not that way will prove correct, remains gloomy.

Check out the gameplay trailer for Wayfinder here!

So what’s the elevator pitch for Wayfinder? The game is a third person action MMO, set in a fantastical world where rudimentary technology clashes against shields, swords, and flasks. The game is character focused, with each fighter packing their own distinct abilities. Weapons are just as crucial, as are mods, all three of which are upgradable with loot gained from pillaging dungeons and scavenged from the open world.

Even in the closed beta you can quickly see the loop at the heart of Wayfinder, even if it is in a patchwork shape right now. You set yourself a weapon or character you want, and look into what material you need to create them. You get yourself a grocery list, then head out into dungeons or open world PvE content until you get what you need. Once you get ‘em, you pump them up with upgrades until you’re happy, then go off to collect something else.

The more you collect, the more your arsenal grows, providing passive bonuses to your entire cast of characters, increasing your overall player power and helping you access content of a higher difficulty. Rinse and repeat forever; the sort of treadmill collectors love to run endlessly on in video games.

Skylight in Wayfinder
I really like the look of Wayfinder. It's a striking clash of colours.

As one such fiend for ticking off boxes and making numbers go up, the appeal of Wayfinder is immediately obvious. I like the look of that sword, maybe I’ll go and get it. Now I have it, let's pump it up. Now, I’m bored; oh look, another sword. It’s a carrot on a stick that’s tried and true, but it relies heavily on one factor. How fun is it to actually play Wayfinder?

By that, I mean how fun it is to go around and shoot monsters. Between each new weapon are hundreds of bandits, spiders, gloom-empowered beasts and slimes that you have to carve through. One concern I have for Wayfinder is whether or not the actual fighting will remain entertaining. The reason why Warframe and other MMOs can get away with hundreds of hours of relatively basic combat encounters is because the tools given to them are fun and reactive. I can play Mesa Prime in Defence missions for hours, I can do bounties with my Wolf Sledge for days. Wayfinder must capture this level of engagement or else risk becoming more of a job than an adventure.

In the closed beta, I believe they are successful to a point. Senja, an axe-wielding powerhouse, is perfectly executed. Her attacks both light and heavy pack a serious punch, her abilities are explosive. Every minute with her was a joy. Wingrave, on the other hand, was largely a let down. His shield slams and Righteous Strike are hefty, but the rest of his kit felt soft and exhilarating. I could play this game for weeks with Senja, I managed a few hours with Wingrave.

A dark street in Wayfinder
The game is great at making you want to explore, for landmarks and other dangers.

But perhaps that’s the nature of this kind of game. You can’t love each character just as you can’t vibe with every gun in Call of Duty or car in Gran Turismo. I remain hopeful that future character additions in Wayfinder will get this right.

I’d also like to touch on the world! In the live demo and our previous interview with the team emphasised the importance of creating a great social space for players to hang around with. Skylight is that space, and it is this mad dash mix of faded fantastical architecture and dingy, neon light back alleys where craftsmen and traders do their business. It is distinct, if nothing else, and while the majority of unique NPCs are currently represented with a generic model, Wayfinder’s Hub is painted with the promise of improvement and expansion over time. It, like the rest of the game, has plenty of room to grow.

So what are my takeaway thoughts after a few hours with the closed beta and a Wayfinder live demo? I had a good enough time with the game, but I’m also worried for Wayfinder. It’s a game with a solid heart to it, and the potential to really harbour a community who digs the world. These people, if courted, will nibble away at every piece of this fantastical roast from snout to tail. My worries come from outside the game, and that's the environment it’s launching into.

It seems these days live service games are dropping like flies. They're usually decent games with genuine potential. Wayfinder is for those out there who like collecting stuff, as well as small-party PvE experiences. That is a big enough slice of the MMO fanbase to gain a following. But with as many competitors on the market, one big slip up could lead to disaster. Something I’m certain the team is conscious of and working hard to avoid.

Enemy in Wayfinder
While visually striking, can Wayfinder keep people enthralled?

If it can land on its feet and engage players with lots of content off the drop, few technical problems and a collection of exciting characters and weapons, I believe Wayfinder has a shot of sticking around for a while. I hope it does. All in all, Wayfinder tickled that part of my brain that loves MMOs, leaving me eager to see their journey up until launch.

Read this next