Fight or Kite: Hands-on with Waven, Ankama’s new tactical card-driven MMO


I was provided an especially exciting treat this week. Anyone who’s been following the Fight or Kite column this year, even in passing, would have recognized that I’ve been diving into just about every variety, size, and flavor of PvP card game that I can get my hands on. And while I’ve been having a pretty good time learning the ins-and-outs, I still really want to find more MMOs to play too.

That’s where Waven comes in. It’s both an MMO and a card game in that the combat is card-driven, and as you level up, you’ll collect more cards, which can even be leveled up themselves. So for me, Waven’s demo during Steam Next Fest couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m enjoying a lot of what I’ve seen.

Quests, achievements, and deck builds make up the majority of the demo

The demo offers a lot in the way of currently accessible content, although there are many quest givers you can approach who bluntly tell you the quest isn’t turned on right now. Regardless of the kind of activity you like to play in your MMO, you’ve got at least a taste of it enabled now.

Quests are extremely basic. They are simply made up of a few bits of flavor text and a battle. You essentially walk up and click on the quest-giver, then pick either the flavor or the battle button. That way you can even skip the dialogue if you choose (and you will). The quest will pop up with some info about the types of rewards you can earn, and you’ll be able to see if there are higher tiered versions of the quest as well. It doesn’t look like anything changes other than the difficulty and rewards, but it’s still good for a challenge and leveling.

Also, there’s an option to scale the difficulty up to your level. I assume this ensures the rewards you earn are based on your level and not the original quests’ level, which is great – you can still earn solid rewards even if you’ve technically outpaced the quest.

When engaging in one of the battles, you are sent to a private instance with a little battle map for you, so you aren’t fighting around the other players. You can almost think of it like the original Guild Wars’ hub and instance system, except instead of an instanced world map, there are just one-off battle maps that then return you to the hub when you’re done.

In addition to quests, there is some dungeon content as well. For the most part, it plays exactly like the quests, but in more of a linear gauntlet style. Basically, you go through a series of battles one after the other until you get to the boss at the end. It isn’t brutal; you still heal or revive between battles (if you’re playing co-op). I’m not sure what happens if you lose a battle, whether you get to retry that stage of the fight or get booted out of the dungeon.

Whether you’re going through a quest or a dungeon, the battles can pop up a small achievement that you can hover for more info on how to accomplish it. They add a nice bit of challenge to the fights, which have so far in my testing been very easy. It reminds me of some of my favorite aspects of dungeon crawler boardgames like Gloomhaven or Descent. For example, there’s one that tells you to kill a specific monster last and another that needs you to be standing exactly in the middle of the map when you kill a certain one. Nothing outlandish, but just good old challenges. Similarly, the quests have designated achievements as well, like beating the boss without losing any hostages or without springing any traps.

Now, I haven’t even talked about what makes Waven a card game. When starting the game, you get to choose a class and even subclass, which will help dictate your playstyle. Depending on these choices, you’ll also have different cards available for your decks. I primarily played an elemental warrior, so my cards tended to give me auras and melee bonuses. But glancing at the time mage class cards, I saw totally different spells with wholly unique abilities. A deck must have at least nine spells in it, but you can have up to 15.

Combat in Waven is very similar to some games of yore like Final Fantasy Tactics; however, it doesn’t appear that your faced direction matters here, and there’s no elevation that I’ve seen. Actually, the combat reminds me most of FaeriaFaeria was something I found to be very fun despite it not hitting the threshold of “big” enough for me. Just as in Faeria, you have a grid to move your character, and summons around. Also as in Faeria, you need to cast elemental spells to charge up your elemental pool so you can summon your allies.

Fights start with your drawing five random spells, and every round you get to draw one more. As in so many card games, you get some magic/power/generic ability points to spend each round (six here), and you can cast any number of spells within that cost. Some spells will give you bonus power that can carry over until you choose to spend it too, that way some powerful spells that cost a lot of points can be cast only on a turn after you’ve collected enough bonus points from previous turns.

Co-op and PvP gameplay adds the layer of fun that could keep Waven from falling into obscurity

Where Waven branches away from a game like Faeria is in its world building and added gameplay elements.

I really like the co-op mode. It was somewhat surprising at first when I was looking for a party that I couldn’t type into the map chat, though. Instead you’re able to select from a list of text, so I had to spam something along the lines of, “Anyone want to party up?” a few times. I suppose it’s kind of a safety feature, but it does make finding a new party from map chat less convenient. I ended up randomly clicking and requesting players to join me until someone accepted. At that point I could type normally in the party chat. Waven also includes a push-to-talk ability, so when you’ve partied up with someone, you can voice chat right from within the game.

Co-op mode works basically like the solo battles; the primary difference is that you rotate turns with each other. You get a turn, then the baddies go, then your ally is up, then the baddies get another turn, and then it’s you again. It makes sense from a balance point of view, but you do have to sit around a few minutes before you get to play again. The upside is that with another player, you get a huge powerboost because you actually share summons, so you can use them and so can your party members, meaning summons get twice as much action.

The PvP mode is a typical battle in an arena map. You do have to port over there rather than queue from anywhere, so that’s sort of a bummer, but since the game isn’t really an open world and is more a series of hubs, it isn’t too inconvenient.

Waven made the wise and really the only right choice when it comes to PvP: It’s a completely separate build and stats from your PvE deck. You have access to all the spells and summons your class has, and everything is level one. It’s perfect for maintaining a balanced system and enabling players to fight on equal footing. I love it.

Now outside of the arena, it also looks like you can challenge other players to duels, but I didn’t get a chance to pop, so I’m not sure whether you duel with your PvE build or your PvP one.

These different ways of playing and the look and feel of the world all push Waven up a notch for me. Faeria and the like tend to feel smaller, which makes sense because Faeria doesn’t claim to be an MMO. But I think it’s that difference that gives me hope more players will stick around and find a home in Waven. A game like Faeria is fun to play through the campaigns and advance through the challenges while collecting new cards, but once you’ve completed that, there isn’t a huge reason to stick around. Waven gives you a ton of different classes and subclasses to experiment with, PvP that you can join quickly, and just a lot of additional content planned out – like housing.

I’m not familiar with the world of Wakfu or Dofus, but Ankama’s Waven has shown me that there is a certain charm here that I can dig. I’ve even seen the series on Netflix and never committed the time to looking at it very closely. However, I just might now. If you’ve got time, there’s still a few days left for the demo, so hop in and check it out.

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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