Rare is the day I am impressed by the visuals of a 2D game. Rarer still is when it is a 2D MMO. I had played an early beta build of Wakfu about 9 months ago, its intricate hand drawn graphics were fairly impressive albeit incomplete. So I came into the newest French open beta version expecting more of the same just with slightly more polish. Instead what I found was almost a completely different looking game entirely. Character sprites have been totally redone in a taller more detailed. and less “chibi” style then before. The completely hand drawn backgrounds have been bumped up to a higher resolution. Many spells now have 3D effects. The game now uses dynamic environmental shadows, and light bloom effects so it no longer looks like you are simply walking across a static picture, rather an animated living world. As an added bonus, you can now zoom the camera in, with just a roll of the mouse wheel and catch all the wonderful little details up close. Wakfu is not just a pretty piece of technical art however, beyond all the pretty, is a substantial tactical MMO with some very lofty goals.
Combat in Wakfu plays out using a modified version of the tactical turn based system that was used in Ankama’s previous game, Dofus, which is similar to the gameplay found in offline games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Fallout, and Disgaea. This is however, one of the only returning bits of familiarity. The world of Dofus was flooded, and destroyed a militia ago, and most of the familiar locations are now below sea level. Starting in the tutorial you take the roll of one of the unfortunate multitudes that was killed in the floods, and have been standing in a line in the afterlife for nearly one thousand years waiting your turn to go wherever it is the dead ultimately go, however with the help of the spirit king you cut out of line. After being handed a few challenges, which teach the basics of the game, you regain your body, and are sent back to the world of the living to help rebuild this new wrecked watery world.
Rather then going with the tried and true method of questing for NPCs most modern MMO’s follow, Wakfu goes in the opposite direction, by having almost no NPC’s in the game world at all. Ankama the developers of the game hope to make Wakfu a completely player run experience. The player objective in Wakfu is not just to simply grind to the highest level. Instead it is to join a player run nation, and help it build its territory, expand, and make it prosper, while dealing with other nations; diplomatically, or otherwise. The game world is constantly changing, ecosystems shift based on player interaction with them. Over farming, hunting, and use of machines can have lasting negative impact on the surrounding environment, while inversely, left alone too long without suitable predictors, creatures, or plants may over populate an area and throw an ecosystem out of balance that way. It is up to the players to decide how they want to shape (or destroy) the world.
Being a game highly dependent on social interaction, my lack of skills in the French language limited me to what I was able to do alone. It is also yet to be seen what will happen to a world the players themselves have total control over, during an extended period of time. What would happen to new players if all the low level creatures were killed off? Regardless, this is a rare, and striking beauty of a 2D MMO worth investigating once the English version is released, or you can play it right now if you happen to speak French.