Choose My Adventure: The Wagadu Chronicles’ worldbuilding is epic, but the gameplay…


The Wagadu Chronicles has kind of made me sad. I wasn’t really expecting this game to be some arbiter of a new age for early access MMORPGs, but I was expecting so much more.

Once again, I repeat that the intent of this column isn’t to pass final judgment on a game or give a final score – we don’t do numbered scoring anyway – but the level of incompleteness that this game feels just cannot be ignored by me anymore. But I’m also not really ready to consign this game to the mental or literal trash bin yet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, allow me to recount my journey this time around, brief as it may have been.

When I say that this run through for this week was brief, I really do mean it, mostly because I was bedridden with some seriously powerful head cold over the past week, but also because I didn’t really get to make too much forward progress.

I thought I had a breakthrough when I did follow the instructions of last week’s player poll and moved myself to a different island. There was only one other choice for me, so I was a bit worried that I was just wasting my time, but as it turns out this particular landing seemed to have more of a populace. Or at least the remnants of one.

No, I didn’t run into any other players in my sojourn to this new island, but I did find what looked like a village that had a whole lot more resources poured into it than the one I had been using previously. There were multiple farmsteads, several different types of crafting station, livestock pens, a fishing pond, and even a shrine that would let my character fully heal up. I had hit the motherlode, even if there was nobody else to share the bounty with.

Still, as fortunate as this landing ended up being, I was worried that it would all be for naught unless I found the very specific plant that would drop the very specific material I needed in order to make the offering item I was being instructed to. I was beginning to worry that this mystical basic material didn’t exist… until I found it.

A naboom tree.

At long last, the naboom fragment would be mine. I would be done with this quest step.

I hurried back to the crafting stations of the village and… was confused. I was pretty sure one of these craft stations had the recipe I could access to make this offering item, but the first building I touched didn’t have it. I kind of panicked for a half moment. Was I misreading something? Was I seeing things? Had the DayQuil affected my reading comprehension to such a degree that I was hallucinating a very specific recipe in Wagadu?

No, as it turns out, the different crafting huts make different types of items; they just weren’t labeled by any tooltips to indicate what sort of items they made. I found what I needed through process of elimination and educated visual guesses.

At last! I had the offering! I could provide it to the ancestor spirit and move on with the rest of my ti–oh, no, I have to make a weapon now. A weapon that I already have equipped and know how to use. Yes, despite the fact that I was using a handmade weapon that wasn’t a training weapon for the hours I’d been playing previously, the quest step wanted me to make a new one.

All right, fine. It’s not like the materials for doing this were hard to come by, and even though my inventory was beginning to get bloated, I figured that perhaps this quest step not recognizing the item I already made was a fluke. No big deal. A few moments of gathering materials and refining them, and I made a second longbow. The quest was completed. I now had two longbows in my inventory for no reason.

…and then the ancestor spirit asked me to get into combat. “But I already did combat. Multiple times. Even in the tutorial island,” I thought to myself. Too bad. I had to pick another fight. Luckily this went by quickly too, mostly because the combat experience I had gained prior to this point made it easier for me to deal with fighting with a bow; I’ve since figured out that five hexes away from my target is optimal range. Probably.

After winning a fight I was instructed to… make another item I already had in my inventory. Again. That was the point when I decided that this game just needs to be put on the shelf.

Once again, the setting of Wagadu is the absolute sauce here. This is a realm and a world and a game aesthetic I really want to explore and experience. There is nothing wrong with what Twin Drums has built from a worldbuilding level. What sucks right now, though, is the actual moment to moment gameplay stuff where it feels less like a sandbox adventure and more like every other bog standard survivalbox out there right now.

I’m not necessarily complaining that this has tutorials; I’m complaining that this game doesn’t really use its setting to its best advantage. You can give me a questgiver that’s an ancestor spirit and weave the instructions around a backstory that my character is revived but lost their memories, but all I’m doing is the usual survival sandbox honey-do list stuff. It’s not making me experience the world. It’s not telling me a story. It’s not… interesting. In fact, it’s making what should be interesting about the game and ignoring it almost wholesale.

But even though I feel this way, I’m not going to brush Wagadu aside. It’s very clear that Twin Drums has had a rough go of it thanks to whatever unspoken things have happened between it and Riot Games. And it’s clear that the devs love the setting and want to spread it across the gaming world, both in tabletop form and MMORPG form.

So I’m going to wait. Patiently. I’m not keeping the game on my hard drive, but I’m going to circle back around to this one after it’s had some more time in the oven. This is the perfect case for following up on early access titles on a semi-regular basis. So I’ll be doing that for the time being: putting this one aside and hoping for the best. Because the world of Wagadu has so much more intrigue to it than… whatever this game is right now. At least I hope it does.

So clearly we’re moving along from this one and into another (and more literal) survival sandbox title: Nightingale. I’ve been playing this one quite a bit but have stopped myself for a moment just to see how the voting would shake down. Now that I know that’s the focus you want to see for the next month, that means it’s time for the first poll of the game:

Should I start fresh in Nightingale or continue on with my existing file?

  • Start Fresh. Begin from square one. (59%, 39 Votes)
  • Continue. You're probably not that far along anyway. (41%, 27 Votes)

Total Voters: 66

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Polling will close at the usual 1:00 p.m. EST time slot on Friday, March 1st. For now, I’m taking Wagadu off of my disk drive with the fervent hope that it coalesces into something much more fun to play. I wasn’t expecting this one to save early access sandboxes, but I was hoping for so much more, too.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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