When I think of unique games from different countries, two countries come to mind. The first one, of course, is Japan. The second is France. You may be thinking “Why France?” Well they did bring us games like Prince of Persia, XIII, Heavy Rain, and now an MMO called Wakfu. Wakfu is not like other MMOs that I’ve played, and it shows through its gameplay and game mechanics. What drew my interest to Wakfu was the fact that aspects of the game are player run and player driven. Players trade among themselves with no shops, rule themselves, and even influence the world around them. But is this enough to get itself noticed in an internet full of games trying to take a piece of that WoW pie?
Everybody is Turn-Based Fighting- Wakfu’s battle system is both familiar and yet strange for an MMO. By that I mean the battle system that the game uses is a tactical turn-based system. This is a departure for the traditional real time systems that most MMOs use. It’s also a bit slow, but I really enjoyed the change of pace. This allows me to plan my next more, think about my spells and find an advantage point on the map without needing to have the dexterity of a pro StarCraft II player. You’re doing more than matching blow for blow when fighting monsters other players, you’re matching your wits against them. Much like a game of chess, one wrong move or wrong read of an enemy’s movement and its all over.
Players Influence the Ecosystem - I’ve played my share of MMOs ranging from World of Warcraft to others like Runescape, but I’ve never encountered a game that lets players influence the ecosystem like Wakfu does. In Wakfu players can take advantage of the plentiful resources that litter the landscape, but unlike most MMOs those resources do not respawn. It’s up to players to reintroduce monsters, plants and other resources back into the ecosystem if they want to keep making items and whatnot. If they choose not to reintroduce new resources, not only will the ecosystem change to reflect players’ choices, but the price of items will fluctuate depending on the amount of resources that are in the ecosystem. For example, if iron ore is scarce or has run out, the price of iron weapons and armor will rise. Another example is if there’s an overabundance of oak wood, then weapons such as staffs, bows, arrows and shields will drop in price. This managing of the ecosystem’s resources allows players to affect commerce, trade and even how the player government is ruled. Think of it as Farmville but more fun.
Players Control Commerce and Trade - As I mentioned before, players have a high amount of freedom in Wakfu. This freedom extends to the commerce and trade in the game, as there are no traditional shops in the game. All items, weapons, armor and such are bought, sold and traded between players. Even the currency, called Karma, has to be made from raw materials that players harvest. This causes all items, materials and even the currency to be based on how the ecosystem is doing at the moment, how much Karma is running through the area and who is the ruling governor of that area.
Political System is Player Run - A lot of the points that I have been talking about are related to how much control that the developers have given Wakfu users. This all leads up to what probably can be considered the biggest freedom of them all: self-rule. While all players do have a deity that their chosen race prays to, the law of the land is up to player appointed governors. Yes, players can elect one of their own to rule the land that they are aligned with for two weeks. The powers of the player governor are as follows: collect and regulate taxes, enforce laws, buy quests for the players that inhabit the land, climate changes and even declaring war on the other lands to take over territory. Now two weeks may sound like a short amount of time, but in internet time it can feel longer.
ANARCHY IN THE 'NET
Possibilities of players abusing the freedoms given - My one big problem with Wakfu is that there exists the possibility of players abusing the freedoms that the developers have given them. Being able to have players actually shape the world in ways that most MMOs don’t allow is an innovative move in my opinion, but this trust/honor system is ripe for abuse. What is stopping high level players (other than the developers themselves) from forming a powerful political force that controls all the resources, commerce and trade in their region? How would that be fair for players who just want to pass through the area at their own pace, having fun? This may sound like I am overreacting, but if people can find ways around the system and cheat in WoW, players will find ways around the system in Wakfu.
The combination of a tactical turn based battle system and the level of player control over the world’s ecosystem, political rule and commerce/trade, make for a unique experience that Wakfu delivers compared to other MMOs. Letting players be involved such that they can literally shape the world around them is a really neat and unexplored concept that should be expanded on even more in possible expansions for the game and in other MMOs as well. But, like all MMOs, there are cheaters who will find ways around the system. And with such a player driven mechanics that Wakfu has, I’m sure that cheats will twist the game in their favor unfairly. So far I have not encountered such actions during my playtime, and it may sound that I’m worrying too much, but that possibility is always hanging around. If you are looking for something a bit on the lite side of the MMO spectrum and want to get involved in a growing community, give Wakfu a shot. Its free to play so you won’t be losing anything and once you learn the basics of how the world works, you’ll be hooked and quite possibly the next governor.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*