The idea that games could be reduced to a series of boss battles has been toyed with for quite some time. Perhaps those who employ this reduction in a game’s scope see the typical structure of a game as boss battles and the filler in between. The most notable of these games is Shadow of The Colossus. Although Colossus did not abandon the explorative elements between boss battles, the majority of one’s experience is facing off against a sequence of massive beasts in arena-based fights. The battles in Colossus were lengthy, and more importantly: interesting. Each boss required finesse in control, mastery of the game’s stamina mechanic, and an understanding of the bosses behavior patterns.
I say all of this about Shadow of the Colossus to tell you what Wanderer: War Song is not. Wanderer further reduces the scope of its gameplay by having the player select the next boss battle from a list. The player is dropped into a large flat arena, and must defeat an enemy AI that will either attack the player, or randomly attack a patch of empty ground. While the player does have some abilities to play with, these perks don’t drastically change the nature of the game. These abilities must be purchased before each battle, too, so it isn’t as if you are developing your character’s magical prowess. You, the player, must stay out of the enemy’s attack range while hammering away at it.
Don’ t think that I am using reductive statements to diminish the value of the game. Monster Hunter, for instance, is ultimately about chasing a big boss monster about the arena and hammering away at its health as the enemy tries to eat you. But that isn’t all you do in Monster Hunter, and experienced players can list all of the nuances of each enemy in painstaking detail. Wanderer: War Song is lacking in this nuance, and it really is as simple as it sounds.
It pains me to say this, but even Monster Hunter on the PSP controls better than Wanderer. Any joy to be had in the simplistic brawler is hampered by poorly implemented touch screen controls. The on-screen joystick simply isn’t adequate for the level of control mastery the game assumes you can attain.
One can tell that the bulk of Wanderer’s budget was put into visual design. The arenas are beautiful geometrically, and rendered well in the Unreal Engine. At first glance, this looks like a game directly aimed at competing with Infinity Blade. Infinity Blade’s crucial advantage is that it understands what platform it is on. While all of the swiping and tapping in Infinity Blade means that it doesn’t play like God of War on an iPad, it does mean that the game is not frustrating to play on a touchscreen.
The developers of Wanderer shouldn’t have expected the virtual joypad to work, and it doesn’t. All of the art and fancy lighting in the game don’t make up for the fact that it is a highly simplistic arena brawler with shoddy controls.
Wanderer War Song is available for a Universal app at $1.99