I’ve come to the conclusion that I have about 5% more gray hair after playing Wayward Souls for a weekend. This game is hard, and it’s hard in a way that, in my opinion, is even more frustrating than even Flappy Bird. Fans of SNES-era action games are going to love Wayward Souls, while who enjoy a more relaxing mobile gaming experience will be turned off by it’s twitchy gameplay. While Wayward Sounds is ultimately a satisfying experience, it does require some persistence on the part of the player to overcome the inherent difficulty of the virtual d-pad control scheme.
Wayward sounds harkens back to the action games of the 80s and 90s in more ways than one, but also improves on them. The top-down, gameplay is remnant of old Zelda games, yet the multiple classes and randomly generated levels feels more like Diablo. Also, Wayward Souls is a roguelike, essentially meaning the game’s mechanics center around perma-death. If you die in the game, you must start over from the beginning. For the uninitiated, this can be an immediate turn off, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Wayward Souls takes this concept and makes it somewhat more palatable by allowing the player to upgrade his or her classes with the gold earned in the previous run. Such upgrades include stronger attacks, faster energy regeneration, heath boosts, and more. These upgrades not only make each run a bit easier than the last, but also provides motivation to do “just one more run”.
Each time you embark on a new adventure, you’ll find the layout of the level is completely different than before. Not are the hallways and rooms different, but you encounter different monsters, in different sized groups. You’ll also find randomly placed forges to upgrade your equipment and shrines that offer temporary buffs. The result of this randomness is a game that feels fresh and exciting, giving you a thrilling feeling of exploration and discovery each time you play it.
When you start the game, you have access to three classes: the warrior, the mage, and the rouge. Each of these classes plays as you’d expect. The warrior charges into battle swinging a sword, but has a high amount of health. The mage is a glass cannon; doing massive damage from a distance, but unable to take a punch. The rogue like a combination of the two; fast moving, high damage, yet fragile. Passing milestones in the game unlocks three additional classes: the Adventurer, the Spellsword, and the Cultist. I wish I could tell you all about them, but I suck so bad at this game I haven’t unlocked any of them yet. And that, dear reader, is why I’m likely to continue playing Wayward Souls for quite some time.
The graphics are appropriately 16-bit and quite well done, while the sound effects are somewhat generic, but appropriate. The music is nice, but it doesn’t quite match the medieval theme of the game. It sounds more like new-wave Jazz. While I like it, I’d rather listen to it over drinks with friends than while slaying steampunk robots with a magical sword of smiting. That said, the calming nature of the music does lend a healthy dose of personality to Wayward Souls which somehow makes dying on the same boss for the 27th time a bit more bearable.
The controls are intuitive, but at the same time, infuriating. The left thumb maneuvers your character through the dungeon as you would expect. As mentioned earlier, it’s effectively the tried and true virtual d-pad. the right thumb has three commands. Tap to deliver your default attack, swipe up for a special move and swipe down for a second special move, each of which is defined by what class you’re playing. My frustration with the controls are as old as touch-gaming itself. A flat, smooth surface with no tactile feedback makes twitch gaming difficult. Similarly, I found myself yelling at my iPad when I died because the it registered what I thought was a swipe up as a basic attack. It was likely my fault, as Wayward Souls puts you in so many panic-enducing moments, that you’re often giving broken, frantic commands that don’t translate well between your brain and your device. Understandable, yet frustrating none the less.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many players end up having a love-hate relationship with Wayward Souls. The game is extremely difficult, yet does a great job of encouraging players to keep playing via its many unlockable classes and upgrades. Since it saves your progress, it’s easy to put it away and jump back into the action whenever you want. I find myself most often closing the game because of an overwhelming sensation of defeat, yet the icon on my home screen is constantly calling to me; challenging me to play one more run. For that reason and others I simply can’t deny that Wayward Souls is one of the best games on the App Store.
Wayward Souls Review: Just One More Run
-Very high replay value
-Randomly generated levels make each run feel fresh
-Despite perms-death, there's always a feeling of progression
-Controls make twitchy play difficult