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Today’s iOS marketplace is filled with free-to-play games that provide a small taste of the game, and then suck your soul dry with micro-transactions that seem to never end. Wayward Souls ($4.99, universal) is nothing like that. Instead, it’s a premium game that comes with a price tag and no hidden surprises. You buy it once, and you get to enjoy all of the content offered in the game for ever.
Video games have used this model since the dawn of the home console, but charging a premium price tag without having the gameplay to back it up means nothing – does Wayward Souls deliver quality Rogue-like gameplay, or is it just an overpriced experience?
Hint: it’s well worth the money.
A major trend we are seeing are in games is a resurgence of roguelikes, and aptly coined “Rogue-lights”. In these games, the player ventures out into some kind procedurally generated level with the goal of surviving as long as possible while collecting some sort of currency. Wayward Souls fits right into that genre, which doesn’t make it stand out by itself, but what does make it something worth taking note of is the fact that it brings a deep version of this gameplay to a mobile device, and it does it in a way that is incredibly fun.
At the start of each run, you are asked to choose one of the available hero types. To start with, you’ll get a warrior, a mage, and a rogue. Each has their own gameplay quirks, and because of the nature of roguelikes, you can switch between them on each run. However, most of the upgrades only apply to one class, so after a period of experimentation, you are going to want to find out which one you like the best and ride it out.
You can unlock these upgrades with the gold you accumulate as make your way through the levels. Such small tweaks incrementally improve your hero’s strength, though the cost also goes up each time.
The main action takes place from a top down view, with the the left side of the screen used for movement and the right side to attack. Tapping and holding the screen charges up a power attack, swiping up performs your heroes ranged attack or special ability, and swiping down performs a defensive move such as pulling out a shield on the warrior.
It’s all very basic as far as the controls go, but that doesn’t mean Wayward Souls doesn’t have depth. It’s also incredibly hard. Each time you die, you are forced to start at the beginning of the furthest stage you’ve reached. This means that if you’re on the fifth floor of the first stage, you will be starting on floor one next time. Health pickups are few and far between, so even the first few enemies you encounter will require precision and careful planning of your attacks.
Essentially, the addictive dungeon-based hack and slash gameplay can be summed up in just one word: fantastic. The gameplay we all love from games like Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, and even Dark Souls to some extent, is here, and it’s available on the go for only $5.
These Dungeons, Are They Pretty?
Wayward Souls looks great, though it can be a little dark in places. Games like Spelunky and Rogue Legacy, which are slathered in hardcore gameplay, are also vibrant and colorful. By contrast the visuals here are very drab, which suits the mood of the game, but sometimes it still feels a little overboard.
That being said, the old-school art style adds a great deal to the game, and it’s perfectly suited to your device’s small screen. The enemies you encounter throughout the game also have a great deal of variety. Some are giant, some small, but they all bring their own sense of style to the game. The same goes for the characters you play; they all look cool, and their appearance suits their play style.
Often neglected – particularly in the old school roguelikes – the background music does a great job of adding to this murky ambience without being annoying.
Is It Worth The Price?
As of this writing, Wayward Souls will set you back $5, but the price will actually go up as time goes on. As new content updates are added to the game, the price will increase by $1. This is a very interesting model, but one that makes sense. As the game gets bigger, the price goes up. The people who got in early will get the original game and new content for the lower price, so it rewards early buyers.
From a pure value perspective, the game is 100 percent worth the cost of admission. I love everything about it. It’s built around gameplay first, and it’s just downright fun. Will it make you want to throw your phone in fits of rage when you die? Most definitely, but that’s exactly what a game like this is meant to do.
If you’re sick of free-to-play nonsense on the App Store and you want a game that just delivers fun gameplay for a fair price, Wayward Souls is the game of your dreams. Buy it, you will not regret it.