Wickland is a multiplayer focused arena shooter that came out late last year. Typically, I wouldn't bother writing about games that are more than a few months old but given the fact that the game is currently -90% off on Steam, I thought I would give it a go! To my surprise, it's an immediately fun and capable first-person shooter but its overall lack of originality and content keeps it from being a must play. It's well worth a dollar, but it's probably not worth much more than that!
In many ways, Wickland is a shameless copy of Quake III: Arena. You wouldn't really think this at a glance because of the game's art style, which is a wacky take on Greek Mythology, similar to 2013's God Mode. But once you get into the game, there is no denying that this is basically Quake III. The speed, the movement and weapons are practically identical, to the point where I ask myself, "Why am I playing this instead of Quake III or its free-to-play counterpart Quake Live?" Wickland is a good facsimile but that's all it is, and I am not sure if successfully mimicking a 15 year old game is really anything to proud of.
The only thing that Wickland does that feels unique is the fact that all of weapons actually change your character. When you respawn, you are a knight with a crappy crossbow that functions like a machine gun. When you pick up and equip other weapons scattered around the map, your character changes too. So instead of just picking up a grenade launcher, you will pick up the ability to transform into a wolf man who throws grenades. At first, I thought this was just a neat visual trick but it actually plays a role within the game as your character actually has health independent of your overall health. When I was just getting into Wickland, I was frustrated when it felt like the game was taking away my weapons for no reason but then I realised that I had actually lost all of the health for that specific character. Sounds like an interesting system, but in reality it highlights the biggest flaw with the gameplay which is that everyone has far too much health, making all of the weapons feel underpowered. It is appreciated the developers have tried something new here with their weapon/character change mechanic, it really doesn't work very well.
When I say that Wickland is a multplayer focused game, I mean it! There is a practice mode where you can shoot bots but aside from that, there is no other single-player content to speak of. In fact, there isn't much content at all in Wickland. There is only one mode, good ol' deathmatch (The developers try to claim that the game has two modes but come on, Duel is just a deathmatch with two people!) and as of this writing there are 8 maps, some of which have been added over the past few months. That's a solid number of maps but having only one mode is a bit of a shame and you will probably burn out on Wickland's extremely fast gameplay within a few hours.
Graphically, Wickland uses the Unreal Engine 3 and compared to modern games, it looks pretty dated but when you compare it to other independent first-person shooters out there, it actually looks fairly decent. The game has a good amount of detail and is well optimised, so it's hard to complain too much. The only technical thing that got on my nerves was the fact you had to quit out to the main menu in order to change any options. The sound effects also get the job done nicely, but the complete lack of music is a bit strange and the game would benefit from some pumping tunes.
On it's own merits, Wickland is a good game. It is a chaotic yet fun first-person shooter that is well put together by a development team who have so far, done a good job at adding post-release content and providing bug fixes. At the current sale price on Steam, it's a no brainer! However at full price, Wickland does not stand up to best games in this specific sub-genre. The lack of game modes is going to hurt this game's long term appeal, which is crucial for a game that's practically multiplayer only. It's also too similar to Quake III: Arena. I know that's a great game but I have had that game for ages, I don't mind trying something new! Nevertheless, Wickland is a decent first attempt and I look forward to seeing what Mad Ram Software do next.
THREE OUT OF FIVE
(A balanced game that has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, meaning that it alternates between being good and bad in mostly equal measure.)