In the upcoming MMORPG, Wakfu, you won’t battle massive dragons, nor will you quest through dungeons to destroy an ancient evil. Your character won’t become near god-like as they level up, and you probably won’t see your avatar rain down death on monsters. And yet, there is still a very good chance that you will sacrifice several hours on the altar of Wakfu, as you become immersed in the world that you yourself help to build.
Developed by Ankama Studio, Wakfu is a sequel of sorts to the flash-based game Dofus, and it is also an animated series in France that began airing in 2008. Now, while all of those facts when spoken quickly give the impression of a robust and fully realized world the spreads through multiple media sources—which Wakfu is—it is one that most Americans are not familiar with. That may soon change.
With the support of Square Enix, the world that began with Dofus is about to expand, and in a big way. Wakfu itself will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Nintendo DS, plus a spin-off game titled Islands of Wakfu is due to be released on Xbox Live on March 30. The exposure for the game can’t help but be a boon, but it is the game itself, which features an intricate and immersive world, that will likely win over even the most battle-hardened MMORPG-er entertained.
The game takes place roughly 1000 years after the events of Dofus, but a familiarity with the history of the world isn’t necessary. The plot of Wakfu is to defeat the ogre Ogrest, but that isn’t necessary either, and the true enjoyment of the game will be found in what you put into it.
Wakfu is an online only game that can host several thousand players per server. Each character will chose their class from 14 options, and each class has a unique fighting style. Each of those classes offers 25 spells, and elemental magic will play a big role. Of the four elements—earth, wind, water and fire—each player can chose three, and each type has five spells, plus ten non-elemental support spells. All the spells will be available almost immediately, but they can also be powered up through time and experience.
The combat is turn based in a traditional tactics style, and the fighting will play a big part to the game, but that is just one minor part of it. Wakfu is a living breathing digital world that continues to grow and expand, and your interactions will have consequences to both the environment and the citizens around you.
At GDC, one of the game’s assistant producers, Franko Fonseca, told a story about a type of willow tree that was featured in the closed beta. This particular tree was used by gamers to create items that could only be made with the wood of that particular tree type, and through a lack of replanting, the tree became nearly extinct in the world. Once it was gone, the tree would not return, and the items that needed willow to create them would be lost forever.
The trees were eventually wiped out, and as the game was in a closed beta with limited users, the seeds for the tree were not widespread to begin with. But there was one person who had managed to hold on to a few, and he decided to make the most of it. On the forums, this user demanded a ransom for the last remaining seeds. If he was not paid an incredible sum, he would delete them, which would mean the end of that tree and its resources forever. The community was forced to negotiate with the guy, and it looked like the blackmailer would have his demands met. Then one player that had remained quiet through the ordeal found that he had several of the willow seeds left, and instead of demanding payment, he quietly went through the world and replanted the tree wherever he could.
When the game goes public, the odds are that it would be much more difficult for a single person to influence the game like the guy holding the last willow seeds did, but it is possible, and that is the brilliance of Wakfu. The game is going to be defined by the players and will only be limited by their imaginations.
If a group decides to make a concerted effort to corner the market on one resource, it won’t be easy, but it could be done. The environment is reactive to the players, and if it is mistreated, or deliberately attacked, that resource may disappear and will not return unless an effort is made to reintroduce it. Wakfu features a meticulously programmed ecosystem that requires care. There will be consequences for your actions, both good and bad, and over time the world will likely look totally different from how it looked when the game first opens its digital doors to all.
Each server will contain three nations, each with their own unique traits, resources and landscapes. When you first begin, you choose to ally yourself with one of the three, and the relationship between those nations is determined by each nations’ governor.
The role of the governor is one of the more interesting inclusions in the game, and as with everything else in Wakfu, how it evolves will be a matter of how the people playing want it to evolve. The governor is an actual player that is voted into office by his gaming peers. To be nominated, you must do enough good for the eco-system that you earn points. Once you have accumulated enough points, you can nominate yourself for the job. Then the fun begins.
The position of governor lasts two weeks, and you will need the support of the community who will actually vote on the candidates. To win, you may need to approach guilds and groups then make them promises. One of the powers the governor controls is the weather, so certain groups might want more rain for their crops, while others might demand sunlight. You will have to play the politician and find a way to appease everyone if you want to gain office. Once you do, you can either honor your word or break it and become corrupt, but you risk being ousted from office the next election.
One of the other interesting features of the governor is that they can set the relationship with the other nations. If they choose peace, then citizens can freely travel between nations to trade and interact, or they can choose neutrality, which is a more limited form of interaction. If they choose war, a battle for resources begins which could leave both nations devastated, or leave one nation subjugated.
Again, the choices are yours. So if you begin as a member of one nation but find yourself drawn to another, you can become a spy and work against your “birth” nation in the name of a foreign power. There really are no limits.
Players are also allowed to choose their own occupation and skills. To gain full support in that career you will need to pass the guild tests for that profession, but you aren’t limited to just one and as long as you can pass the guild tests, you can acquire more skills. the possibilities are staggering.
As for the look of the game, it has a very anime style that meshes well with the humor inherent in the title. The story of Ogrest is always present, but odds are most will find themselves far too busy in their own worlds to feel pressured to follow the actual storyline. You could actually play the game from its first days until the servers are shut down years from now, and never bother with the main plot.
Wakfu is an MMORPG that poses as a game, but is closer to a fantasy simulator. The world that unfolds will be determined by the players, and while the developers provide the groundwork, it is the fans that will determine what the game becomes. Closed beta for the game is currently underway, and an open beta will begin announced soon. Keep an eye out for the full game later this year.