Despite the monochromatic tone of the game, things in Wolfstride aren't exactly black and white. While it may look like a stylish, hella awesome mech fighting game at first glance, it actually has a lot of layers buried deep into the game as you progress through the chapters, whether you're duking it out in a hunk of metal in the arena or flitting from place to place looking for a wayward cat.
In Wolfstride, you step into the shoes of Dominic Shade, an ex-yakuza who's now managing mech fights with a pilot named Knife Leopard (no, that's not his real name) and a dog-man named Duque. True to his name, Shade has a pretty shady past that the game reveals to you in bits and pieces. You'll uncover more about the horrors from each character's ledger too, as well as the relationships between them that shaped their partnerships today.
As a story-driven gamer, I initially found this convoluted narrative a delightful surprise. Who would've thought that a mech fighting RPG would have such deep character building, right? Of course, much like the game's storyline will show you, it's a cruel world out there, and all good things come to an end. Similarly, the narrative that hooked me so much from the beginning started losing its luster further into the game, mainly because of the overly melodramatic scenes that dragged the game to unholy lengths.
A lot of the unnecessary dialogue stems from every character's need to go monologuing for some reason just to infodump their tortured psyches on you. In particular, Shade does a bang-up job at flaunting his penchant for dramatic banter, which is ironic for someone who's supposedly a mysterious man of few words. The run time honestly could've been cut in half if all the unnecessary lines were left on the cutting room floor, and the game would be all the better for it.
That's not to say that the story itself is terrible - on the contrary, the plot here is so intriguing and the characters so likable (Shade is, sadly, the most unlikable of them all) that it's truly a shame they had to cram a bunch of over-the-top scenes in there. The voice acting is also top-notch, with stellar performances for each of the characters (it's not their fault they were given terrible lines to read). In fact, the incredible voice acting made the whole thing feel extremely cinematic despite the retro pixel art.
And speaking of art, the visuals of Wolfstride, to me, are the game's main selling point. Every piece of artwork from character portraits to actual scenes looks absolutely stunning down to the last detail. The mechs themselves are also jaw-droppingly gorgeous, making each fight in the arena as exhilarating as the last.
This brings us to the combat system of the game. Mech fights - while scattered in between rounds of Shade just running around town doing errands for people - made the game extremely addictive to me. Battles are turn-based, but I found the strategic element of each match very refreshing. Accomplishing tasks for people (and actually working for a living) gives Shade enough cash to buy upgrades to both your team's mech COWBOY and your pilot Knife's moves. What I love about this mechanic is that it's not all about grinding to buy the most expensive upgrades to your mech - you'll have to strategize the best loadout to beat each new opponent, as every foe will have its own strengths and weaknesses you should be wary of.
The game is at its worst when it takes itself too seriously and at its best when it doesn't.
In particular, some foes will have long-range attacks, while some will prioritize defense over offense. Some will move hella fast, while some will keep charging at you at close-range and tear off your arm if you're not careful. You'll have to customize your loadout depending on your enemy, and you'll have to listen carefully to your teammates when they talk about your opponent.
Speaking of listening, there are tons of mini-games and sidequests here to add variety to the game, and some of them require actually talking to people and hearing what they have to say. You can't just skip through everything willy-nilly here (which, by the way, kills one artist each time you skip something - at least, according to the game). Shade will visit different locales around Rain City, and you'll always discover something new as the days go by.
There are a little more than 60 days in total, with some days allotted to daily tasks and some simply for free-roaming. There are different ways to earn money around town too, from giving cats a bath to cooking omelets. Other tasks include exorcising a demon from a sweet little girl, giving away pineapples to increase your bonds with people, and building your very own arcade by redecorating and buying new games (because why not). If you want pure battles without the other fluff, you can participate in virtual battles with others, or take part in Underground matches if you're feeling risky.
Wolfstride | Final Thoughts
Overall, Wolfstride would've actually been a perfect game for me if it weren't for the dragging melodrama. At one point, one of the characters even tells Shade that he's such a drama queen, which is just totally spot on. The melodrama takes away a huge chunk of points from me, sadly - not to mention there's this super annoying little mini-task toward the end of the game that really frustrated the crap out of me.
Still, the game's zany humor does add a splash of color to an otherwise literally colorless world. If it were a tighter, shorter, more polished game dialogue-wise, it would've been the best game ever, as it's at its worst when it takes itself too seriously and at its best when it doesn't. The game is still thoroughly enjoyable, though, so it's still worth picking up if you can handle skipping through everything.
TechRaptor reviewed Wolfstride on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Absolutely Gorgeous Artwork
- Strategic And Engaging Mech Battles
- Quirky Humor and Likeable Characters
- Dragging Monologues
- Takes Itself Too Seriously