Wolfstride begins with you getting beaten up in a bathroom by a dog and a cat. It’s a tale of misfortune in a somewhat-futuristic region, where you’re part of a band of losers trying to make their way through life, by engaging in mecha fights. As the pitiful entrepreneur Shade, you must get to work in different activities and quests that generate money, which you will use in the repairs of your mecha, so your friend Knife Leopard can rank up as a professional pilot. Yes, that’s his name. Knife Leopard.
Of course, at the beginning of the game, you’re a nobody and barely possess any bucks, but after crossing paths with the mysterious Z.Z.Zowie, who has an interest in sponsoring your sparring activities, you gain access to minigames that help you gain some bucks, usually easy to complete and without any kind of time limit. While this may sound a bit too gentle to the player, you will sustain rough injuries in battle, and repairing the mecha will require a constant stream of money (so don’t be cheap and farm as much as you can).
So much to see
The first fight serves as a tutorial and it will end at a set point. However, as you keep progressing and get into more and more fights, you get introduced to turn-based action combat with movement grids, skills that can operate within different levels of distance, and defensive skills that you can take advantage of to protect yourself. You’ll also have to learn to take more prudent actions in your turn, or reload to fire your guns. In all honesty, I haven’t seen a combat system as fun as this one in an RPG in a good while. Not only that, but it also presents a challenge in terms of planning and positioning yourself in the arena while you grow accustomed to it. It’s deep.
Shortly after the game begins, it’s clear what the tone of the story is. With action-driven sequences accompanied by frequent gags and hilarious situations involving Shade, Knife Leopard, or the whiny and grumpy dog-mechanic Duque, the game has a level of cynicism in its narrative that emulates the likes of Cowboy Bebop and the misfortunes of the space-pirate life with the frequency of potty-mouth remarks that would make an episode of South Park blush.
Get in the mech
The dialogue choices are, at the very least, sarcastic in nature or outright aggressive, and while the overuse of insults and overall mean demeanour of the main cast can feel forced in the first scenes, the tone of the game quickly starts developing a personality and charm that you don’t frequently witness in RPG games. The interactions between the characters, accompanied by an impressive voice acting cast, help a lot to bring out the diverse personalities of the characters surrounding you, making them way more tolerable in time, and sometimes even loveable.
All in all, Wolfstride demonstrates how great a game can be when the characters in it are full of personality, and also succeeds in presenting a combat system that’s fun and challenging, without losing simplicity. Its characters are a bunch of lovely, lowly criminals that conduct themselves kind of aimlessly through life, failing upwards more than progressing, and perhaps, under all that rubbish you can find actually nice people with complex minds and even more complicated lives. But of course, Wolfstride is, first and foremost, a game about mechas demolishing each other, and the game never lets you forget it.