Often the best mobile games are those that lend themselves to brief yet satisfying playthroughs. The game must keep a balance: It should allow you to immerse yourself and allow you to pull away at any time. Some genres lend themselves to this idea better than others and fortunately, Wayward Souls is an example of a game that does it right, delivering a game with all the depth you’d expect from a quality action/adventure game, without having to commit an arm and a leg.
Wayward Souls is a hack-n-slash action/adventure game in the same vein as Diablo and Secret of Mana, with a heavy dose of roguelike thrown in for good measure. You walk around, killing enemies and breaking tables, as you move from one floor to the next. The game boasts randomly generated dungeons so that every playthrough feels different, and in true roguelike fashion when you die — you die. Forever. I stuck with the warrior for most of my playthrough, but there’s also a rogue and a mage, while an adventurer, spellsword and cultist are unlocked by completing each of the games three dungeons. Every character feels unique, and plays differently from one another. The mage attacks with spells and projectiles while the rogue is swift and earns bonus damage for back stabbing, and the warrior is perfect for getting up in enemies’ faces. The unlockable characters play almost like combinations of the default three, mixing both physical and magical attacks.
Each character has their own backstory that is revealed as you advance, and for the most part, these stories are well written and fairly compelling. The warrior is looking for the man who stole his brother’s corpse, the rogue is looking for fame and fortune, and the mage is looking for her lost friend. Littered around the dungeons are bits of exposition that further explain the world and its story. It’s a nice touch and along with the music adds to the title’s fantasy ambience, though at the end of the day the story is mostly your standard evil wizard has taken over the land fare.
Like any bona fide roguelike, Wayward Souls is difficult, but it never feels unfair. Attacks, special moves and the few items you’ll find while dungeoneering are triggered with just a swipe. What’s more, you’ll rarely feel like you’ve been undone by fat fingers or lazily implemented mobile controls as the control scheme here handles with aplomb. You’ll die often, but the game allows you keep any gold you’ve collected, which you can then use to upgrade your character. The upgrade system in Wayward Souls is fairly unique, as it offers temporary upgrades in the form of shrines and cauldrons hidden around the dungeon that give off stat boost and armor upgrades, so you’re not totally powerless when you face the level’s boss, while the permanent upgrades are accessible after death. In doing this, the game keeps the difficulty firmly set at very hard, and the light-RPG elements give players a reason to dive back in.
Noodlecake Studios promises free content updates and balance patches in the future, which is a huge plus in a market that’s flooded with in-app purchases. They even promise more hats (!)
Wayward Souls does a lot of things right, but it’s not without its problems. Despite having random dungeons every time you play, environments are often repeated. This is offset by the decent enemy variety, but there were times where I entered a room that just felt too familiar, and aside from hacking and slashing, there wasn’t much else to do besides collect hats. The game is also reportedly prone to crashing, though in my play time, it only happened to me once (I was playing on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2) so your mileage may vary. None of these elements, however, are a deal-breaker in the slightest. Wayward Souls is a fun and surprisingly engaging action/adventure game with some rich RPG elements that’ll keep all dungeon sloggers coming back for more.
If you’ve been itching to play a retro-styled Dark Souls on your phone, then Wayward Souls is for you. It’s a good looking game that lends itself to short playthroughs, while still maintaining enough depth for an extended play session. It’s not for everyone, and while Wayward Souls doesn’t do anything particularly new for the genre, it brings a level of quality and depth that’s often unseen on the Play Store — and with the promise of free DLC, it’s hard not to recommend.
Wayward Souls is a solid dungeon crawler with a 16-bit coat of paint. It’s easy to pick up and play and can be enjoyed for ten minutes or ten hours.