Wayward Souls Review (Android)

     To preface this review, I must say I'm relatively new to the phone gaming scene despite almost 30 years of other gaming experience.  In the last year I haven't found much in the way of games I've actually enjoyed on my phones.  In the last 6 months, however, I did find Wayward Souls.  Since it's release on the Android system it is the only game I continually return to.  Because tomorrow Rocketcat Games is releasing both an update for it, AND releasing its RPG precursor to it Mage Gauntlet I am finishing this review post.

Prologue: Paladin vs a zombie horde.
     Wayward Souls is a rogue-like semi-RPG complete with the much overused permadeath and staggering difficulty.  I haven't ever really been a fan of permadeath as I don't have days of time to waste, but Wayward Souls actually gives a little incentive to repeatedly take on the hordes of enemies.  Each of the 6 characters has their own stories for the game.  All their own dialogues and strange occurrences.  Granted 3 of the classes have to be unlocked by beating levels, but one they are, they get their own plot and it encourages players to continue to unravel the mysteries behind the story as a whole.

A lot of the tale is told through ghosts you stumble across.
     It also helps that even if you do play through, let's say, the first level and beat it with the rogue 3 times in a row you might get 3 different pieces of the rogue's sub-story in addition to the main part of it.  Like I ran into a fellow named Jepp Starcloak a couple times, but only with the rogue.  As the warrior I ran into a lady twice, and after looking up some things, I found she is one of the characters from Mage Gauntlet.  A very intriguing crossover.

Jepp Starcloak is the Zapp Brannigan of Wayward Souls.
     With each death you can level characters up.  None of the single-use forged items are saved.  You cannot keep weapons or armor found.  Only the boosted character traits carry on.  Things such as increased health or stamina regeneration that will stick with the character after you've died a few hundred times are the things that can be held and definitely become necessary in the later levels.  As a small bonus to that is the fact that the pinnacle skill boost on each individual character is a "gift" that boosts to all classes, handy incentive to level up each class.
My favorite character: a Prince of Persia-esque Spellsword.
Specialty dashes are very useful.
     The game has a lot going for it.  It's fun, highly replayable, it's got great visuals, moody music, and awesome sounds.  It is an all-around top-notch game.  There are some flaws though.  The controls can be finicky- sometimes a double tap will register as a power move and leave you vulnerable and may cost you an hours worth of your time.  Sometimes movement just stops and can lead to a quick, unfair death, something that has happened to me on numerous occasions.  As has some instant enemy hits that are completely unavoidable.  It's one thing to give players a chance to hit and run- forcing you you plan wisely, but it's another thing completely to force you to take damage just to slightly damage something.  Taking a single extra hit can cost you a lot in the long run.  This fact is exacerbated due to the difficulty, which can be can be quite divisive among players.

     The first couple levels aren't too bad, but I've been stuck on the catacombs for at least a month.  To the point where I'd like to give up.  The difficulty ramps up to absurd with a bombardment of high speed enemy swarms, lots of projectiles, and nearly invisible traps.  I've gotten 3 separate characters to the level and can barely make it to the 3rd floor.  Honestly, not everyone wants a Dark Souls type of difficulty.  Some players, myself included, would like to play through on a casual setting to enjoy the mood and atmosphere, we'd rather have a fun time finding story hidden story bits through the highly replayable nature of the game without the stressful onslaught.  When it comes down to it, some levels feel specifically designed to thwart attempts to pass by certain classes, while others are fairly well balanced.

Even the humor is well written.
     From the prologue to however far one manages to get in the game, Wayward Souls' dark fantasy is filled with lore and a ingeniously threaded story.  It has the wonderful retro 16 bit style of yesteryear hearkening back to games like The Secret of Mana and is brilliantly handled here.  Even with my qualms about the game, this is a must have, and I sincerely hope Rocketcat Games continues with pushing the bounds of phone games like this- just maybe not with the highest difficulty settings possible.

     [ Wayward Souls on Google Play ]

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