Monday, February 19

Review: WanderjahR [Nintendo Switch eShop]

On a system already crowded with quite a number of quality titles it has already proven difficult to differentiate yourself on the Switch. There are certainly some genres with less representation than others but sometimes to stand out the answer is to do things a bit differently. Falling into that space the game with a mouthful of a name, WanderjahR, has come to the system with a mix of real-time strategy and RPG mechanics, though the result probably won’t suit everyone.

As you move through the levels in the game, fighting all manner of strange enemies and bosses, you’ll be working to manage your growing roster of characters. Each has its own class and since you can only have 4 active in battle at one time you’ll need to learn to quickly adapt to any situation you face, being sure to have out your best units to counter and survive against distinct foes. Whether that means going attack-heavy, defensive, or even buff-heavy you’ll need to learn each unit’s benefits, each enemy’s weaknesses, and then keep an eye on your lineup as the situation evolves to keep your best team in play. The ability to specify which enemy should be focused on is also essential as not all enemies are created equal and as you remove certain types from the field you can and should then typically adjust your lineup accordingly.

The other crucial component to your success will come with preparation between rounds, whether upgrading your units with acquired experience, restocking on supplies to ensure you can provide aid in a pinch, or doing things like managing your team’s active buff. As play wore on I tended to lock into a more core group I was likely to use and then more peripheral characters who could be useful but I generally didn’t bother with. Switching out units works well enough but at the same time it is a tad cumbersome, shortcuts to switch between favorite line-ups or something else expedited would have been nice as combat continues to occur as you’re managing things. I have no doubt this is intention but in particular in the boss fights I found it to be a bit annoying.

Aside from my qualms with the interface I’d say the primary concern I have is that in some ways it isn’t very engaging. You will undoubtedly have to stay on top of what’s happening on-screen to survive, whether changing out heroes, using items, or collecting jewels, but having no more direct ability to engage in the action can feel limiting. To some degree the lack of an ability to act more directly makes it all feel more turn-based in practice and what’s on screen is just more elaborate and continuous animation. Throw in the fact that as you gain access to more characters the interface becomes more burdened and cumbersome as you try to manage your live roster and some occasional difficulty spikes and while I see an audience for this style of play it can also be a bit tough to love.

Appreciating the fact that variety is the spice of life WanderjahR has a place on the system and may even find an audience with its novelty. That said, after a while the repetition of it all can begin to set in and your limits of control can become aggravating. If you’re eager to find a new take on strategy RPG gaming it may well be worth a shot, but for most gamers I’d anticipate this will be a pass.

Score: 6

  • A style of play unique on the Switch
  • What eventually becomes a significant number of hero classes you will need to manage and combine to deal with a variety of circumstances

  • Unit management, especially as your roster grows, can be cumbersome
  • A lack of active control can make the gameplay harder to be engaged in
  • Gameplay can feel repetitive 

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