Taking a gap year to explore Thailand in Wanderlust: Travel Stories

In spite of how big the travel industry is, there aren’t a lot of games that are about taking trips across the world. Sure, there are games where you explore cities, countryside, planets but all of that is usually done against the backdrop of something far bigger, and often with more peril involved. A game about just travelling and exploring the sights is rare, but that is what Wanderlust: Travel Stories looks to become. It’s part travelogue and part choose your own adventure, but it’s all about the journey you take.

Wanderlust: Travel Stories is being developed by Different Tales, a studio that has been co-founded by Artur Ganszyniec and Jacek Brzeziński. They can count The Witcher and Hitman franchises amongst their portfolios, so a narrative adventure about traveling is quite a change of pace. Even so, the game’s demo shows some promise.

The story snippet in the demo follows Martine, a German fashion graduate, who has traveled to Thailand on a gap year. It covers her first few days in Bangkok and presents you with a range of options to explore to make her journey memorable, but what she does is up to the player and how she reacts is also dependant on player choice. While Martine may be the storyteller, you are the decision maker. The choices you make will impact the character’s moods and things they’ll discover, so you may miss something if you decide on one outfit over another or choosing one place to stay over another.

There’s no voice acting here, which helps make Wanderlust: Travel Stories feel more like a book you’re reading. That isn’t to say there aren’t gameplay elements because there are, as in the demo you are given the task of resource management as well as keeping an eye on Martine’s mood and fatigue levels. Most of the experiences on the trip will also cost money, and Martine has a limited budget that has to last for the duration. The demo gives a generous amount, but Martine can still comment that she’s spending money too quickly and has to be careful with it.

Engaging in activities will have an impact on character fatigue and when it gets to a certain point you’ll have to find somewhere to rest. The mood of the characters will be dependant on interactions with others as well as things like the food they eat or not doing an activity correctly. This mood will affect how the characters then interact with others and how they feel about the place they’re currently in.

To give a sense of place, Wanderlust’s scenes are comprised of photos and maps of the location the character is in, giving players a chance to let their imaginations take that photo and add the story to it. Music and sound is also a key part of the experience that can add to the atmosphere. In the case of Bangkok, the city’s hustle and bustle is mixed with its traditional roots steeped in religion. There’s also an educational element at play in that Wanderlust teaches you about the areas you’re in, albeit it not in depth from what I saw but a bit like a travel brochure.

Wanderlust: Travel Stories does present something a bit different from your typical gaming fare – you could perhaps compare it to the fantastic 80 Days. Though there are elements of micromanagement it looks like the game itself is shaping up to be a quite relaxing experience, with the core aspect about exploring the various points of our planet. The final release will include locations such as Spain, Argentina and more, with over twelve hours of gameplay. Wanderlust could help scratch an itch if you’re looking to travel, or give ideas on where to go when it releases for PC, Mac and iOS on 28th August.

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From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.