WARNING: This review is long because we like the game so much!
When Striker first told me that we were going to play Wanderlust I was annoyed. I was annoyed not because I had heard of the game, but because I was not wearing any pants at the time. Refusing to play games in a pantsless state, I suited up and prepared for multiplayer battle. The re-pantsing was well worth it, thankfully, as Wanderlust turned out to be a multiplayer action-rpg gem... And it's a Game Maker game at that!
In Wanderlust up to four players cooperate to defeat enemies, gain experience, and make money. Each player can be either a Fighter, Healer, Alchemist, or Elemental. Each class has its own specialized set of skills; Healers heal (obviously), Fighters have physical attacks, Alchemists blow things up and turn invisible, and Elementals have all sorts of spells.
Combat is mainly controlled through the use of hotkeys. Each direction on the arrow keys (except the right arrow) can be mapped to a different skill. The Right arrow always guards, and also switches to another user-defined set of hotkeys while pressed. Because of this you can cast skills such as heal while taking less damage. All of the game's classes, except for Elementals, use this hotkey system. Elementals use a "Rune" system instead, which is a bit more complex.
When playing as an Elemental, a player does not have access to a hotkey menu. Instead, the player must right click to bring up a circle of runes. To equip different spells you would click and drag between the symbols in a certain order. Spells are cast using the left mouse button and aimed with the mouse. This system feels very innovative for a 2D multiplayer RPG game and is quite enjoyable.
Wanderlust's story mode is quite annoying; Each stage must be completed once without dying (or so we think) in order to continue to the next. This would not be a huge problem if the difficulty didn't drastically change every other battle. The first battle in the story mode is also much too difficult for a single player to play with any class. As the game stands it is very difficult to make it through a stage without dying at least once.
Leveling your character is done in the vein of Diablo. After the end of each story chapter you are awarded a certain number of character points which can be applied towards higher stats and new skills (Elementals upgrade their runes to unlock more spells). Each higher skill level requires more points to achieve. Only a certain number of points can be gathered in a single chapter, however, making improving your skills quite a strategic process. Thankfully, in the game's "Lobby" you can "re-spec" your character, reassigning all the points you've accumulated to different skills. This is very useful as oftentimes you will have no clue as to what you will need in the next level and will utterly screw up.
Your character can also equip weapons and equipment which can be purchased. However, only the basic equipable weapon or item can be purchased. More powerful weapons and equipment must be crafted. To craft an item you must purchase an expensive blueprint, gather the required materials, and purchase two of the basic type of item you wish to craft. These items are worth crafting, though, as they give huge stat bonuses.
Another mode the game includes is "Crawl" mode. In crawl mode your party fights wave after wave of enemy, collecting loot. Character points cannot be acquired in this mode, but loot and gold can be.
Wanderlust has great-looking graphics. Calling them retro would be inaccurate; They look modern but still have the charm of the old 16-bit games of the past. The characters are well-animated, and the environments are visually interesting. The game's sound is pleasing at first, but can get annoying quite quickly. I found myself muting the game after about 10 minutes.
Wanderlust has an intriguing chat system. When a player types a message to his teammates a RPG-esque text-box with a large portrait shows up over the game's play area with the message in it. This lends itself well to the RPG elements of the game. These textboxes are instead shown at the top of the screen (and do not freeze the players in place) during combat situations which is also quite nice. Dying because your teammate said something like "omglol boobz n mun3y" would be frustrating, but fortunately the developers were smart enough to avoid this.
Wanderlust is a great multiplayer action-RPG experience that should be experienced by all good pants-wearing people who have at least one friend and an internet connection.
Striker's Closing Comments:
I'm surprised how good the gameplay and net code is considering it's a Game Maker game. The game even comes with its own MMORPG style updater. At the time of writing, there are only three chapters but they are working on adding more, plus the "crawl" mode adds tremendous replay value. To put things in perspective, SoupHat and I played at least 7 hours straight and finally decided to take a break at 5:00AM.
The one thing I truly love about this game is the sheer amount of teamwork required to survive. It's near impossible to get through a level by yourself without dying, which means leveling up on your own takes a long time since you're awarded based on the amount of points you accumulate at the end of each chapter. However, by simply playing with a single friend you greatly increase your chance of survival. SoupHat and I had to use our microphones to communicate with each other since cooperation is such an important factor.
Other than the fact that Wanderlust has the typical Game Maker loading screen, you really can't tell this game has been made with it due to the professional effort put into it. SoupHat pretty much covered all the aspects of the game so I'm not sure why you're still reading this. Hurry up and download it!