Developer: Team Wanderlust
Genre: Action RPG
Available On: PC
Co-Op Mode: Online (4 players)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes
There are days when I wish I still had my old SNES and could come home, plop down on the couch, and play one of my favorite action RPGs of all time – the Secret of Mana. One of the main reasons I enjoyed the game as much as I did was that it allowed a friend to join me in my quest to save the world. Other action RPGs have come and gone over the years, but very few of them have done the co-op as well as it did – assuming they had co-op at all. While my search for the next Secret of Mana continues, I have found a rather interesting blend of console action RPG and MMO in Wanderlust: Rebirth.
The main premise behind Wanderlust: Rebirth is to traipse about the countryside killing foes and going on whatever fool’s errand the local villagers decide to send you on. Rather than an open world to roam about, though, Wanderlust is split into 10 distinct chapters, and then divided further within that into set levels/sections. There is an overarching quest/mission that links everything together, but you’ll also come across the occasional side quest. Your rewards for slaying foes and completing quests are ether items that can be used to craft better equipment, blueprints that specify what items and how many you need to make said equipment, or just some equipment directly. Many of the more powerful pieces of armor/weapons come from those blueprints, so you will find yourself slaying foes repeatedly for their items (this would be the MMO aspect of the game). Taking a page from the better co-op games, each player gets his own set of loot so there’s no squabbling over things, or one player stealing everything.
Gathering all these items and blueprints can be a bit of a grind, but it is greatly alleviated by the inclusion of a “Crawl” or mode - essentially, a “Horde” mode with the key distinction of rewarding you something other than achievement points. Killing enemies during the waves can net you items the same as in the campaign, but at the end of each stage (set of waves) a chest provides even more loot opportunities. After stage five, the chest becomes a slot machine that can dispense a great deal more loot, or possibly a boss fight (and then some loot). It’s a great addition and helps to break up the usual monotony in which you’d otherwise find yourself faced with replaying chapters for loot.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t mean much if the game didn’t have a strong co-op element, which it does… for the most part. As a PC game without the support of a distribution service like Steam, Wanderlust relies on a little more of the older school of PC gaming. Players that are hosting a game will need to do some port-forwarding on their router, and all players will have to turn off any anti-virus software (and potentially firewalls) they have in order to just start up the game. Once that’s taken care of, though, starting and joining games is a straightforward affair. You’ll choose from one of four different classes – Fighter, Alchemist (melee DPS class), Cleric, and Elementalist – and then be placed into a kind of lobby area where you can store or remove items from a stash, host or join a game, and start up the campaign or Crawl modes.
The four character classes work well together and their various abilities make for good synergy, particularly in the later chapters when enemies become resistant/vulnerable to different types of damage. While the first few chapters can be beaten the first time around without much trouble, later chapters do introduce more of a strategic element to all that hacking and slashing. Some of the bosses require a careful management of attacking and defending, and a few interesting twists, such as escaping from a collapsing cave while one party member holds a magical chalice, find their way into the mix. The lobby area is a good place to strategize and plan out what your next move will be.
As a single player game, Wanderlust: Rebirth is fun, but quickly forgettable. As a co-op game, however, Wanderlust really starts to shine. There’s enough variety between the different chapters, co-op modes, loot items, and character classes to keep things interesting. Playing with a few friends or even a couple of strangers becomes a blast because everyone’s out to do the same thing: work together to beat the next big boss or clear as many waves as possible. It’s not perfect, but its 16-bit retro vibe, loot-tastic rewards, and solid co-op gameplay make it a game well worth the price of admission.
The Co-Op Experience: Beautiful and deadly worlds await you and three other friends as you battle hordes of monsters in Wanderlust: Rebirth! This team-oriented online action RPG features fast and fun gameplay, combo attacks, unlockable achievements, and much more!
Wanderlust: Rebirth is For: Fans of action RPG and MMO-lite gameplay