Wander: Possibly The Worst Game On PS4

Wander lands on PlayStation 4 today but, and I don’t say this lightly, you shouldn’t touch it with a very long barge pole. The game is described as a “collaborative, non-combat MMO where you explore a lush, wild rainforest filled with hidden secrets to discover.” This is almost accurate, but the execution of the game has left myself and others wondering how the developers thought it was ready for release.

You begin the game as a tree which, as you would expect, walks at the pace of a tree. It’s never a good sign when the game lumbers (aha!) you with an ungainly character to begin with, but after what appears to be an eternity of slowly climbing up a jungle path you encounter a stone for ‘Fireflies’. The game tells you to summon and control the fireflies using the touch pad. It doesn’t work.

Pushing forward along the path, I began to hear singing and the obvious thing to do is to head towards whoever is chirruping away. Here is the next problem – using sound to locate something when you only have left and right speakers just doesn’t work. There are multiple pathways and I ended up taking the wrong one twice as the singing was actually coming from higher above me, which left and right speakers simply can’t indicate.

Eventually I managed to find the ruined temple and walked forward straight into an invisible wall. There was clearly nothing blocking my path, but the game gods had decreed that I had to walk around the sides of the temple, and whilst doing so, through a number of large stone archways. By through I mean by clipping right through the bricks, not through the archway itself which was too small for a tree-beast to walk through, and since every player has to pass through that archway, why was it not simply made bigger?

Reaching the source of the singing transforms you from a walking tree into a humanoid woman who’s DNA also seems to include a little bit fish – she has fins on her calves – and a smidgen of tree squirrel as she can glide. Sometimes. Not all the time. It just seems to be random, but even on foot she is a much more useful character to explore the forest that the game proudly trumpets was “Achieved in CryEngine”. It’s terrible.

It is, as I like to put it, a ‘Foliage Disco’. Imagine if you will a large nightclub packed full of lasers and lights which flash on and off, but now replace those flashing lasers and lights with trees, plants and shadows that flash on and off. That’s Wander. Check out this video of my character running along the beach and watch the trees and plants pop in and out like organic strobe lights.

The game is meant to be tranquil and relaxing, but your eyes are constantly flicking across the screen as plants, shadows and objects vanish and reappear. The world occasionally goes darker, perhaps as an invisible cloud in the totally clear blue sky passes overheat, and the sound of the ocean can be mysteriously missing.

Back to my journey and the glitchy forest is alive with the sounds of insects and birds, except there are none. Aside from the vegetation, it is totally lifeless and through my entire playtime I have seen just one other character, a tree that walked right past me. There is no way to talk, no indication who the player is so you can find them on the PSN, nothing. How you are meant to “collaborate” with them, I have no idea, and even though I was playing before release, the complete lack of other players – reviewers, developers or anyone at all – makes it difficult to justify the game’s description as an MMO.

The play area is massive, with great distances between the various points of interest, but getting to them is a chore when, after much running around, my character starts to pant and stops running. Fair enough, let’s have a little rest and we can run some more, but her stamina lasts all of two steps before she stops running. Worse, this isn’t even consitent, as restarting the game can potentially cure her breathlessness indefinitely, or see her out of puff in a matter of seconds. Jim – who we shall hear from later – also had this problem.

After running – but mostly walking – around the forest for what seemed an eternity and trying to locate some more of the singing rocks, I stumbled across a stone with a symbol glowing from its sides. Clicking X on the stone and more instructions pop up on screen. “Draw” it told me, showing a + shape, so I guess I draw on the touch-pad. This is followed by “Speak” popping up on screen with a picture of the touch pad, but how do you speak using a touchpad?

waterfall

I actually shouted the words at the touchpad a couple of times thinking it may be voice controlled, before remembering the PS4 controller doesn’t have a microphone. I have tried every button press and touchpad swipe I can think of but nothing seems to work, and while I think the game is trying to teach me a language, it’s completely unclear as to how I can do so.

Continuing to explore the huge map, I found a large and very empty house on beach, and then a second, identical house. Then about ten of them, all identical. There are also stones scattered around the map which play a recording of a young woman who talks about sniffing flowers, transforming into fish and the people who lived in the houses. It’s about as dull as it sounds.

So I decided to swim off to the island to explore a large shimmering purple structure. This is an imposing landmark, you can see it in the distance in the previous video, surely the developers made sure this was well tested? Well, watch the video below and find out.

A starter of clipping, a main course of glitches and then a delightful pudding of falling through the map and swimming about under the land and not being able to get back to the play area. When I went back to the game – which weirdly did not seem to make a save file on the PlayStation – it respawned me back under the map.

If you have watched the pre-release trailer you would have seen that you can play as fish, birds and other creatures, after many hours of play neither myself nor Jim have found one of the singing stones and managed to be a new character. His thoughts on the game are similarly unflattering.

A second opinion

As much as I want to like Wander, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s perhaps the worst game to ever launch on PlayStation 4. A harsh opening criticism, I know, yet one that’s upsettingly valid. Prior to launch, I have to admit, I was pretty pumped for Wander; here was an ambitious game looking to break the ageing MMO template with its focus on exploration and player collaboration.

The (un)finished product, however, is far from what was promised. Laughably unpolished and plagued by some horrendous design choices, ten minutes with the game left me wondering (haha) if its Aussie developers are currently sitting on a miraculous day one patch we’ve yet to catch wind of. We sincerely hope they are as, right now, their ambitious debut is borderline unplayable.

Jagged character animations, broken mechanics, and a complete lack of guidance have conspired together to make Wander one of the most miserable milestones in my journey as a gamer. In trying to play the minimalist card, its developers have somehow glossed over the fundamentals, focusing more on an aloof narrative vision than making their game fun(ctional). I’ll stop with the bracket-based banter now, promise!

Jim H

The worst thing is I was really looking forward to the game. Zooming around a tropical landscape as an eagle, exploring and discovering hidden alcoves sounds like a great way to unwind, especially if you can have some friends to help, but at the moment, Wander seems to be a half finished alpha with many months of work still to go. We’ve tried to contact the developers, but they are yet to reply, though their twitter account at least acknowledges that they need to squash bugs. It’s just that there are so many.

This was meant to be a review, but it’s difficult to score a game that is so clearly broken – apparently I’m not allowed to score it 0/10 either. Perhaps if we could have found the way to transform into a bird then they game would have been more enjoyable as we could explore more, but we couldn’t and this wouldn’t have stopped the myriad of technical problems spoiling the game.

All that’s left to say is that you should not buy this game in its current state, and I leave you with some more footage of vanishing pony tails, glitching vegetation, air walking and continually running out breath.

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27 Comments

  1. Hahaha! Outstanding! 0/10!

  2. I was mildly intrigued by this as well. Then I watched someone playing it yesterday and decided it looked like it might be horribly broken. Walking through solid objects and inside walls, swimming that doesn’t seem to care if you’re actually in water or not, and a character model that seems to be drawn somewhere in the vicinity of the ground while walking without caring too much if it’s a bit above or below.

    Glad you’ve confirmed what I suspected by watching someone else for just 5 minutes.

  3. “Lumbers”, nice!

  4. I was looking forward to this until i watched some gameplay (or maybe it was a trailer) on youtube. It looked poor. I rarely criticise Sony but its poor form that they allow crap like this on their console. I was really looking forward to Basement Crawl also! Never believe the hype, particularly when its from the devs! Another trusted TSA review. If only i didnt ignore the Toren review i’d have seven quid more in my psn account!

  5. Do you guys really have to point out all your puns?

    • I think the staff have a weekly “get the most puns into an article” competition. I think TC usually wins.

  6. Worse than basement crawler? Wow now I want to play it just to see how awful it is

  7. Ouch. That must make Ether One the second worst game on PS4.

    • Oh I actually quite enjoyed Ether One, didn’t realise it was thought of so poorly. Don’t get me wrong, some odd design choices and not the prettiest but fun, none the less.

      • As soon as I hit post, I remembered reading that people were having major issues with glitches meaning projectors were reset etc. I actually had an issue where I got the trophy for 5 projectors after only finding 2. Not a bad glitch. Other than that, the platinum popped fine for me.

      • Nah it’s not that bad to be fair. I’m just feeling sorry for myself because my current game save and manual saves corrupted last night as I was close to finishing the damn thing. Now I can’t load any of my save files as the menu freezes the second you select one.

        I even held off playing until the big patch was released but the big patch disabled text input so I couldn’t progress. Waited for them to patch the big patch yesterday and text input was working fine last night. Then this happened.

        It’s not an awful game but I really don’t want to spend another 3-4 hours replaying it. I’m not even sure it will let me – I haven’t tried to start a new game but it wouldn’t let me do anything else on the menu. Plus, there’s a chance it might break again even if I do restart. Maybe they’ll release a patch for the patch for the patch lol

    • I enjoyed Ether One but it was a battle to get past some of the glitches. The devs have been good about responding to people – I emailed them and they were very helpful. Check out this link (there is an email address in there somewhere too)

      https://www.reddit.com/r/PS4/comments/352q69/anyone_having_crash_problems_with_ether_one/

  8. Oh dear, the animation in the recent trailer had me a bit concerned about the quality of this one but i didn’t realise the half of it. Hopefully they can salvage something from it’s current state.

  9. I read this whole thing, thinking you were talking about The Witness. Couldn’t believe the devs had dropped the ball so badly on it when there was so much promise for the once tipped, launch date game.

    Relief knowing that The Witness could still turn out to be good.

  10. As others have pointed out, it’s actually pretty worrying that Sony even allows games as poor as this to be released on PlayStation. There is inarguably a far greater and more diverse selection of downloadable titles on PS4 than Xbox One (which is something I greatly appreciate), but decisions like this just make it seem like Sony is going for quantity over quality.

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