Comic and HBO host John Oliver as soon as stated “wrestling is healthier than the belongings you like.” The identical cannot at all times be stated of wrestling video games, however WrestleQuest, a brand new role-playing recreation (RPG) from Mega Cat Studios, had the potential to offer fact to that assertion. Sadly, although, WrestleQuest is marred by a litany of points. Some are instantly tied to its gameplay mechanics, whereas others are associated to its presentation. Collectively they imply that what may’ve been a promising providing for followers of wrestling has its attraction put on off in a brief span of time.
Your journey in WrestleQuest begins with podcast hosts regaling you of an thrilling story, one the place athletes come from humble beginnings, taking over all challenges earlier than reaching the massive leagues. You are launched to one of many predominant characters, the Muchacho Man Randy Santos, an apparent nod to Macho Man Randy Savage. With huge objectives and massive desires, Randy is joined by associates who’re additionally searching for to show themselves within the squared circle.
Quickly thereafter, you meet Brink Logan and his siblings from the chilly north. With out the pink and black motif, you may not discover that Brink is a reference to Bret “The Hitman” Hart, till he begins speaking about being the “excellence of execution,” together with strikes alluding to the Sharpshooter and a getup akin to a mob hitman.
Issues get chaotic from there, as you combat alongside a humanoid stag, presumably alluding to all of the moose in Canada; a toy field mechanic who at all times wears a cap and has the “5 strikes of doom” hinted at; a soldier who’s extra akin to a G.I. Joe character, a fish who’s additionally a high-flyer, dubbed because the “Loachador” for apparent causes, and extra. There’s even a black character, The Brooter, who does a giant boot, and a capability associated to consuming vitamins–which was a bit too on-the-nose given Hulk Hogan’s previous racist tirade.
All in all, WrestleQuest’s characters current a wacky world the place athletes are joined by animal counterparts, motion figures, and Transformers-esque robots. That is additional exemplified by the sport’s use of shiny and colourful visuals, with retro vibes harkening again to the times of basic RPGs. The presentation evokes SNES titles resembling Chrono Set off and Last Fantasy VI, with lone characters shifting throughout the map earlier than getting into dungeons and cities. Battles, in the meantime, are turn-based affairs the place you duke it out with an opposing group. These enemies vary from different toys and animal creatures to weird contraptions.
In-game, wrestling legends aren’t simply celebrated or idolized, they’re worshipped–complete with giant statues telling you of their deeds. You may meet personages such because the aforementioned Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Large, the Street Warriors, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Sgt. Slaughter, and extra. Some would be part of as managers, whereas others may change into summons.
I discovered these sides fairly endearing, not simply as somebody who’s been wanting to strive extra classic-themed wrestling titles, but in addition one who’s been on the lookout for a recreation that showcases what wrestling is: an over-the-top spectacle the place each cartoony and critical ideas co-exist.
Sadly, the attraction and humor quickly put on off as WrestleQuest’s quick-time event-driven fight system reveals an absence of depth and selection. I personally haven’t any points with QTEs in video games; if accomplished accurately, they make for participating and thrilling moments, the place you are not simply watching a scene, however actively taking part in a single. WrestleQuest, nevertheless, forgoes moderation. As an alternative, it depends closely on QTEs, virtually to an egregious and exorbitant degree. Each character’s primary assault requires one or two completely timed button presses. Miss, and your character may both get countered, or their assault will deal much less injury. The identical may be stated for a lot of abilities, which additionally want buttons to be pressed when prompted. Ditto for defending towards sure skills, simply so you possibly can mitigate a few of the hits.
This additional extends to the pin system, which requires you to time your button press simply because the arrow hits the inexperienced marker. For veterans of previous WWE 2K titles, you will bear in mind this as one of the vital hated mechanics throughout a match. On this recreation, nevertheless, a poorly timed click on additionally causes a downed wrestler opponent to get healed partially and get again on their ft. Naturally, you’d get attacked quickly thereafter, inflicting a tiresome forwards and backwards. You are extra prone to allow the auto-pin setting due to this.
There’s additionally an alternative choice that permits you to deal most injury, although this makes the sport too straightforward to a fault. One other lately added possibility slows down QTEs, although that doesn’t change the truth that many fight actions nonetheless require them. Since QTEs are a core gameplay mechanic, it’s as if your solely possibility is to proceed taking part in even when it turns into tedious, or to take away the problem completely, with nothing in between.
Fight additionally contains the hype system, the place sure actions enhance or decrease hype, offering boosts to your three-person celebration relying on the thresholds that you simply attain. There are additionally managers that add passive boons, in addition to tag crew and triple crew maneuvers. Sadly, all of those take a backseat to questionable mechanics that, reasonably than making a deep and dynamic system, turns into an overused and repetitive gimmick as a substitute. Flip-based fight is usually extra participating when it entails deep, tactical choices, versus relying on quite a few timed button presses for a number of actions.
One other one in all WrestleQuest’s flaws is its pacing: it jumps from one crew to the subsequent, virtually with out rhyme or cause. You’ll be able to guess that the presentation could be akin to a film or a present: we see the heroes come from completely different backgrounds; we see how all have separate adventures; and, lastly, the entire gang is united. The idea works on paper, however is deeply flawed when you play for just a few hours.
There have been situations when sure concepts have been launched, resembling fixing automobiles, just for that mechanic to be of no use when it abruptly switches to a celebration that’s in one other space. There have been moments once I was in the course of a quest and I might attain an goal, however then the sport jumps to a different character’s perspective, and that individual is tackling a unique quest. Likewise, there have been elements the place a brand new teammate joins the crew, solely to right away return to the earlier squad’s part, with out a lot as with the ability to see that teammate’s capabilities.
Ordinarily, an RPG provides gamers a quest goal, which they end earlier than shifting to the subsequent one. Alongside the way in which the participant encounters completely different characters, a boss, a brand new biome, or is taken on a story arc that has time to breathe so gamers can immerse themselves.
WrestleQuest upends this format for one thing rather more chaotic and incohesive, as if it is merely making an attempt to tick the packing containers for numerous concepts, tropes, and environments with no rhyme or cause. At one level, you are exploring a sci-fi-themed location, however then one other squad is within the desert, which then shifts to a 3rd group in a graveyard, just for that group’s quest to stay incomplete because you’d return to your squad within the sci-fi space. Lather, rinse, and repeat for over a dozen hours. This type of contrasting shifts could possibly be utilized to fascinating impact if there was some narrative conceit or another gameplay or aesthetic thought inflicting it–Chrono Set off, for instance, takes gamers by way of vastly completely different environments rapidly, however it’s all pushed by a time-traveling and reality-hopping story. WrestleQuest does not have something like that, it simply feels random.
For the sake of transparency, there have been technical points that I skilled in the course of the course of our WrestleQuest overview. There is a risk that you simply will not encounter these at launch, however they’re price noting, nonetheless. The most important was a bug in a location the place my crew needed to break up as much as work together with three gates. Getting found by a highlight prompted a personality to get teleported to the center path, with no method of returning to the opposite areas. For the reason that recreation solely autosaves the most recent save state, that meant loading a guide save as a substitute. And, as you could have guessed, my final guide save was a number of hours prior, which meant I needed to redo total sections.
WrestleQuest has the suitable instruments to make for a memorable wrestling RPG expertise, with its quirky characters, vibrant environment, and numerous references. Sadly, although, its over-reliance on a rote fight system, poorly paced narrative, and points beneath the hood make for a irritating expertise. Removed from being Mr. Excellent, it’s, as a substitute, the Genesis of McGillicutty.