UPDATE: Thank you for visiting GamesRadar. Unfortunately,our supply of closed beta keys for WAKFU has run out. We are attempting to acquire more closed beta keys to share with you.
Don’t be fooled by its cute looks. WAKFU is one of the most complex and unique MMOs we’ve played this year. Set in an ethereal world full of floating islands, WAKFU looks gorgeous with silky sprite animations and vibrantly colorful environments. Fans of Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea will feel right at home with WAKFU’s battle system, which plays out like a tactical, turn-based JRPG.
After making your way through the game’s introductory area, you’ll choose a nation to pledge allegiance to. As you begin exploring, you’ll quickly notice that WAKFU doesn’t handle leveling or character progression in the traditional sense. The kill quests and the NPC chores (the bread and butter of MMOs) are absent, for the most part. Sure, you’ll still need to grind on enemies to level-up. But WAKFU leaves it up to you to decide how much time you want to spend battling to raise your character level for the most part.
Above: A trailer for WAKFU. Final Fantasy Tactics meets EVE: Online in this crafty MMO
Instead, the WAKFU puts more of a focus on its giant crafting system as a means to power-up and progress. Crafting is key, as just about every piece of equipment and useful item needs to be created by a player with materials that are also harvested by players. You can learn just about every crafting profession – and there are tons of them. You can be a farmer to grow and harvest grain, a lumberjack to create planks of wood, and a trapper to grab useful materials from fallen beasts, just to name a few. The list goes on and on.
But although harvesting and crafting away may sound dull, it’s not. That’s because of the way combat and crafting tie into WAKFU’s ever evolving ecosystem. Whether you’re killing monsters and harvesting materials from their corpses or planting trees to harvest later, almost everything you do in WAKFU leaves a footprint on the environment. Engage in a lengthy killing spree to level-up and harvest, and it’ll actually be possible to make that type of monster extinct in the game permanently. Since some materials for crafting can only be harvested by certain monsters, and since almost every item of importance is produced through crafting, making any monster type an endangered species will have a huge impact on the world’s economy.
Above: A group of players team up for a boss battle. WAKFU’s sprites are gorgeous and the animation looks great. See more screenshots here
The same goes for the game’s flora. As a lumberjack, you can chop down trees to create wood planks that can be used by other professions. But you can also plant clipping from trees, which will eventually mature into full grown trees. It’s like that old promise Peter Molyneux made about watching an acorn grow over the course of your game in Fable. Only this time, it’s true – and you can see it happening throughout the world as you explore and adventure.
Above: It’s good to be governor. Elected players set taxes, policies with other nations, and give other players tasks. In this screenshot, you can also see how far you can zoom the camera in
Since WAKFU is still in the closed beta phase, we have yet to see the game’s player controlled ecosystem fully blossom. But even with the relatively small population of players taking from and giving back to the land as they play in the closed beta, the developers are already seeing players work the system with surprising consequences on the state of the world.
“One of the cool things that already happened in the closed beta already is that the [Weeping Willow Trees] actually went extinct,” explained Assistant Producer Franko Fonseca. “There were two players that had cuttings and people were only aware of one of them... and that guy actually went on the forums and said, “Hey, unless you pay me a certain amount of in-game currency, I’m going to destroy these cuttings” – and we don’t know what ended up happening with that particular guy, but there was a second person that had the cuttings. I’m not sure if he was actually aware of what was going on in the forums, but he actually went into the game and spent time planting and reintroducing Weeping Willows into the world.”
Holding a tree clipping for ransom? Devoting one’s personal time to make a virtual world a better place for everyone in need of Weeping Willows? It’s the kind of drama we’d expect to read about on an EVE: Online forum – and really speaks to the depth of the game’s economy and crafting system – and the amount of control players have over it.
Above: Every player gets a Haven Bag. Inside the bag, you can grow crops, craft items, and sell or trade items to other players or guild members
WAKFU is expected to launch later this year – and when it does, it’ll be free-to-play. Expect the usual assortment of vanity items for sale through a virtual goods store that won’t give purchasers an unfair edge over others. We still haven’t seen any higher level gameplay features, like grouping up for dungeon runs, fighting big bosses, joining a guild to work the marketplace, or being at war with another nation – but it’s all there, waiting for you to get crafty and level-up.
But enough of our impressions. We are excited to provide you with a closed beta key, so you can try WAKFU for yourself. So scroll down a few pixels for instructions on how to get your key to start playing today!
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