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Is "Wayward" Worth Buying?

Tjoedhilde spends way too much time on "just another turn" in roguelike games.


I bought Wayward in a Christmas Steam sale, lured in by the promise of a survival game in a fantasy setting and with a complex and expansive crafting system.

It didn’t detract from the allure that the game features treasure hunting in almost old-school UO style, but more on that later.

How Do You Play "Wayward"?

Wayward is, in its essence, a survival, sandbox game with rogue-like feature. As with many other games in the survival genre your character starts out with little more than the clothes on their back. From there the goal is to secure your survival and slowly build up a civilized base of operations.

Immediate needs must be addressed first, and you should expect to die a couple of times before you figure out the key to quickly establish basic necessities such as food and clean water. (Hint: Seawater is not going to sustain you!)

Luckily, you can choose whether you want to play with permadeath or with the included respawning mode where the only punishment for dying is that you have to go back to your point of death to pick up the items you were carrying.

Wayward can be played in two modes: turn-based where the monsters are and NPCs will only move when you do or in real-time mode. The latter is the only option if you decide to play with friends in the multiplayer version of the game.

In Wayward, your actions influence your surroundings through your malignity score. The higher your malignity score is, the more monsters are spawned and the more difficult they are. Aggressive actions such as crafting weapons or cutting down trees makes your malignity score higher, while peaceful actions like farming or taming makes it go down.

This is an interesting way to balance the gameplay, so people don’t just powerplay their way to the most efficient base and killing machine outfit. Sometimes a bit of farming will get you closer to winning. At times it does feel a bit restrictive though and can add a level of grind when you are trying to drive down the difficulty by planting 20 grass tiles, but overall it works quite well.


How Does Crafting Work in "Wayward"?

As a crafting game Wayward really shines. There are over 400 craftable items in the game.

New recipes are discovered in two ways.

One way is to have the materials for the item in your bag. I for instance picked up a cobber bar and suddenly found my character able to craft copper armor and tools.

The other way is through the skill system. You level up your skills by using them. The more glassblowing you do, the better you become at it. And as your skill raise you may discover new ways to use the skill in resulting in more complex recipes.

The more complex items require multiple components, some of these can be gathered or harvested, others need to be crafted or collected from disassembling other items.

An example: To create a waterskin you need tanned leather, string and a needle. The tanned leather you gain from combining leather hide and tannin. Leather hide is disassembled from Animal pelt along with Animal fur and tannin comes from grinding bark with a mortar and pestle (which you of course make from…) I haven’t even covered getting the string or needle, but this is a great example of the complexity of Wayward's crafting system. A waterskin is a pretty basic item and it requires a chain of resources and components.

Having crafted an item also doesn’t mean that you are set forever in that area. All items have durability that drops with use. They can be repaired but will lose durability from repairs until they break apart.

The better quality materials you use and the higher your skills the better end product you will create. This usually means higher durability, but the developers are slowly introducing other affixes.


How Does Resource Gathering Work in "Wayward"?

When you start out you will have little more than your hands and a knife to gather resources with. You should be prioritizing getting your tools arsenal fixed quite early in the game. If you don’t you will have to gather using your hands and that quickly leads to bleeding, which will most likely kill you. There are several tools you can craft, from pickaxes to fishing poles and most early tool versions only require wood and stone resources.

Wayward also have a farming system implemented. As you gather plants and trees you will sometimes receive seeds. With a hoe you can till the earth and plant crops. You can make plants grow faster by creating fertile soil, but then you first must sort out compost and bone meal and you are off into another complex crafting chain. It’s awesome!

There’s also a taming system in Wayward. Rather than fight the creatures you encounter you can attempt to tame them. Non-aggressive animals like goats and rabbits are fairly easy to tame using grass seeds or similar. To tame an animal, you stand in front of it and offer it the food you believe it will appreciate. If successful it will start following you around. You will need to feed the animal regularly, otherwise it turns wild.

Goats are a great to tame as they can be milked providing you with a filling drink that can cover your need for both food and drinks for a time.

The implementation of taming unfortunately really shines a light on one of the main problems Wayward suffers from. The interface is incredibly clunky and can be downright frustrating. Everything seems to take a lot more clicks than should be necessary. The would really benefit from the loving hand of a UX designer.

When playing in turn-based mode you sometimes have to spend a lot of time either passing turns or chasing your goat to feed it before it turns wild. The same is true for milking them and don’t get me started on trying to keep them in the enclosure I ended up building to minimize the frustration from the two first tasks.

It’s not the only place the cumbersome UI gets in the way. The game is heavy on inventory management, which isn’t a bad thing, in fact that’s one of the things I like about it. It does however mean that you often have multiple containers open resulting in a lot of open windows covering the game window. When you are done with moving things around it would be neat if you could close all the windows with the escape key. This is however not possible leaving you to close each window individually. It might seem like a petty complaint, but it’s a tedious task and the time consumed quickly adds up over a play session.

How Does Combat Work in Wayward?

Melee combat works by equipping your weapon of choice and then just walking into the enemy. Based on their resistance, your weapon damage and damage type plus your skill level, you will do a certain amount of damage to the opponent.

I have found that using a torch works wonders on a lot of early level monsters like Zombies and Skeletons. To a point where real weapons can feel slightly pointless, but this is due to the vulnerability system, which in general is quite cool. Certain animals and foes are vulnerable (or resistant) to certain weapon types so be sure to choose well before heading off on your adventure.

There are also ranged weapons which will require you to carry projectiles like arrows or bullets with you. In general, I like this, but considering that your inventory is limited by a carry weight that depends on your strength it can at times be a bit hard to be fully equipped and still have room for all the treasures you find.

Unfortunately, this leads to a fair bit of running back and forth. If you do feel like it gets too much though, the developers have revealed how to adjust your carry weight.

The game is fully editable. Loading up the console (by pressing F9, then F10 in-game), and using localPlayer.weightBonus = 50 in console will give you 25 extra weight (25 is the default). Set it higher to give yourself even more, up to whatever you feel comfortable with.

At the beginning combat can be brutal, so make sure you are properly equipped before you venture out and make sure to bring some of the many healing items you can craft like bandages or tourniquets.


How Does Treasure Hunting Work in "Wayward"?

If you like me have missed the feeling of expectantly opening a message in bottle in Ultima Online, hoping for a treasure map, then Wayward will help you out.

Part of the point of dungeon crawling is the hope of stumbling upon a treasure map.

When you find a treasure map you will need to decode it. While your skill is low you will fail a lot and the map will not be fully shown. If you have explored the world properly you will usually be able to pin point the locations any way and off you go to dig up your treasure.

Most caves also contain treasure chests and nothing beats the excitement of opening a treasure chest to find it a stash of exciting items.

Just make sure you bring lock picks. Most treasure chests are locked. Oh and many of them are also guarded by nasty monster. And finally opening chests will impact your malignity negatively so make sure you are ready for tougher survival while dragging home your loot.

Some treasures I have yet to find a good use for, but Unlok recently released a patch that added NPC merchants. This means that previously useless gold rings, now can become valuable bartering items.

That’s pretty cool!

How Many Gameplay Hours Can I Expect from "Wayward"?

On the Steam store page, the developers claim that you have 15+ hours of gaming ahead of you when purchasing Wayward. I actually think that their estimate is heavily underplayed at least when you are starting out with the game. I can easily spend a couple of hours just setting up the basics and then the whole exploration and treasure hunting aspect kicks in.

The devs are also working on a peaceful mode which will further add to the game time you can get out of Wayward.

Wayward is also fully moddable and while there are nowhere near as many mods as you see for games like Minecraft, I expect the modding community to get more active as the game evolves.

Is "Wayward" Worth the Cost?

With the clunky interface in mind and considering that Wayward is still technically an early access game, is it worth buying?

Ask yourself this. Are you looking for a survival game with an in-depth crafting system, that you could even play with your friends? Do you like treasure hunting? If the answer is yes, then Wayward is worth the price and more.

One thing that I really appreciate about the game is that Unlok are very actively developing the game even if it is a hobby project. There are multiple big patches a year and they even share their Trello board so you can check the roadmap for Wayward and get an idea of what to expect from future patches.

They have described Wayward as a slow-cooked game like Dwarven fortress, that will stay in development indefinitely and nothing gets me more excited about a game than devs who are passionate about making it fantastic.

Yes, the interface is unwieldy, but in terms of content I haven’t found any other game that so completely scratches that crafting, survival, farming, treasure hunting itch at the same time.

Buy it, try it and let me know what you think. Just make sure you give it a couple of hours, so you get a feel for the gameplay, rather than how hard the interface is to navigate.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Play "Wayward"

Wayward is complex and the community is still quite small so there’s a lot of questions I haven’t been able to find answers to or where I had to spend a lot of time searching for the answer. I will collect them here so other Wayward players can find gameplay help when they are stuck.

Feel free to add your own questions in the comment section below and I will see if I can help answer.

© 2018 Tjoedhilde