Action MMO Wayfinder is entering early access on PlayStation and PC, and it’s an intriguing take on the fantasy post-apocalypse. It does have a typical gameplay loop: Exploring dungeons, slaying foes, finding loot, choosing upgrades, and collecting currencies. Combat is fast, fluid, and dynamic, allowing players to choose different character archetypes and playstyles. The other big draw of Wayfinder is that players have a customizable place to rest after a long day in the murder mines.
“One of the biggest influences was Lord of the Rings Online,” says design director Steve Madueria in a call with Polygon. “We had really fun memories, because they had shared neighborhoods. We went into neighborhoods together, picking up house plots, seeing what changes our friends made — that feeling is something we wanted to capture because it was such a strong social element.”
While the game is just entering early access, its developers at Airship Syndicate are already sketching out plans for the next few years of potential content. For now, players can claim and customize their own humble apartments in the city of Skylight. These apartments can be personalized and furnished to the player’s liking, and they can store powerful artifacts that provide buffs when players are away from home.
“The house being more of a house, being an extension of your character, something you build on and improve your character and friends — that was always part of the design,” adds AJ LaSaracina, marketing director at Airship Syndicate. Wayfinder provides the chill aspect of decorating a house and planning the perfect breakfast nook — plus, those housing benefits pay off in a tangible way through character buffs.
In the early stages of Wayfinder, the housing will be something a player can customize on their own before inviting their pals over to take a gander. As development progresses, Airship Syndicate plans to add neighborhoods and more collaborative features to housing. Some of these features are actively being prototyped and tested behind the scenes.
For now, players just have their rustic apartments, which give them a base to rest and familiarize themselves with the core systems. There are some fun pieces of furniture available that don’t have a function but just look neat to have around — for instance, a ferocious mimic-style chest that snaps its massive jaws, or a mounted bear head that roars at passersby.
“We don’t want to give you so much space early on that you feel like you need so much to make it feel cozy,” says Madueria. “You can decorate with a lesser amount of stuff and make it feel nice and homey, then have the room to expand that.”
The smaller scale of apartments also allows Airship Syndicate to ease players in. Starting out with a mansion and vast gardens would be overwhelming, and it wouldn’t gel with the vibe of the rest of the game — after all, this is a world that barely held off from collapse, and it’s still under assault from the terrible gloom. Since housing also offers gameplay benefits (due to the artifacts that provide buffs to characters), keeping it small to start makes sense; players can take advantage of those benefits without needing to get too deep into home decor.
Artifacts do come with a power cost, and each home has a budget. Players can have a selection of small artifacts with helpful effects, or one big one that gives a powerful buff. Artifacts can be switched on and off, and they’re good for different scenarios. If you’re a solo player, you might want ones that give you – and only you – extra speed or additional gold drops. Playing with friends? It might be worth grabbing an artifact that provides an area-of-effect buff when you double jump.
The game’s developers are also looking to add fishing, cooking, blacksmithing, and other activities that players can do at their homes before heading out into the field. Their goal is to have the world of Wayfinder be a place to hang out with pals, instead of just an avenue to queue up a conga line of killing things.
Wayfinder’s early access launch means the game is still very new, but publisher Digital Extremes’ history with long-running MMO Warframe will be a useful asset when it comes to addressing feedback and adding new features. So far, I’m interested to see where this world goes — and having a little home to call my own is a bonus.