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Wakfu Preview

Square Enix has a long history of making addictive Tactical RPGs, and there’s no shortage of gamers who logged endless hours on Final Fantasy Tactics in its various incarnations.  They seem like the right publisher to handle the upcoming North American release of the tactical MMORPG Wakfu, which is developed by French developer Ankama.

Ankama isn’t known in America, but they’ve made several successful European game franchises, including Dofus.  The Wakfu franchise is somewhat of a sequel to Dofus, and is also very popular in the French-speaking world; it even has a cross-media cartoon and trading card game based on it.  Both Wakfu and Dofus are set in the same world, with Wakfu taking place a thousand years later.  Unfortunately English-speaking players will not be familiar with the Dofus world and mythology.

Players can choose from 12 different classes, each of which has a unique selection of abilities.  The classes are mostly typical MMORPG fare, with variations on the Tank, Healers, Archers, and different kinds of summoners.  There are a few unusual ones, like the Fortune Hunter who specializes in getting loot, while the Time Mage serves to work crowd-control. Once players choose their class, they can then select their character’s gender and can customize their clothing and appearance.

Gameplay consists of grid-based movement and combat.  In the overworld map there is an isometric view with real-time movement.  Once combat starts, the game switches to a turn-based system.  Because it’s online, each player has a time limit on how long they can take to make their next move.  Players who’ve tried Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea will be familiar with this sort of Strategy RPG combat; your character’s position relative to your opponent will give you tactical advantages when using your abilities.  Flanking and backstabbing are just as important what loot you equip.

There’s a light-hearted tone to much of the game. The names of the various classes often have clever little puns; the Time Mages are “Rolex” spelled backwards, while the Healers are “Aspirin” backwards, and Treasure Hunters are “Fortune” backwards.  Despite the whimsy, Wakfu should have the complexity to keep it interesting for adults.

There is an ecological feature to the game, both in terms of story and gameplay. Players can deplete all of the resources in a given area, or kill off all of the monsters, leaving it barren until a player “Plants” new resources or creatures.  This will require a sense of teamwork throughout the whole community, and unfortunately might be open to exploitation.  The Wakfu and Dofus games have survived in Europe despite the potential for griefing, it remains to be seen how well the resource-planting system will hold up under the weight of a bunch of Americans.

The payment system for America hasn’t been officially announced, but it will most likely resemble Dofus, which uses a freemium model in which players can play for free, but have limited access to territory, and a stricter level cap.  Paying a 5 Euro monthly fee ($6.50 in American dollars) in Dofus gets you access to the larger world, raises the level cap, and provides more access to Player Vs Player combat. It can be assumed that Wakfu will follow a similar model when it comes to our shores.

At the moment, the American version is in a closed Beta test, but the open beta should arrive soon and you can register for it at www.wakfu.com.  Player affinity will continue to cover its development and release.

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