HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewWolcen: Lords of Mayhem Review

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Review

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It must take a certain kind of self belief, a brass neck almost, to release a Diablo style game just a couple of months before the release of the big beastie, Diablo IV. It is just this that the developers of Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem have done as the aptly named Wolcen Studios have now brought to the Xbox a game they released on Steam way back in 2020.

Now, three years, and hopefully some polishing, later, the question we must attempt to answer is this – Is Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem a competent ARPG, or are we better off waiting a couple of months for the big kahuna to show up? Well, strap on your armour, we’re about to find out. 

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Let’s start with the way the game presents itself, and here the news is pretty good. Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is played from the now standard isometric top-down perspective that all ARPGs seem to have to adopt, from Diablo II via Grim Dawn to now this, and the camera works well. The way that the walls – or whatever it is that is in front of the camera – melt away when you go behind them is pretty cool, and you always have a good view of the action. 

The monsters that we fight are all pretty well designed too, from standard foes like spiders and skeletons up to the big demon bosses, and while there is nothing groundbreaking here, it all seems to chug along nicely. The sound is pretty on point as well, with the voice acting in the conversations being convincing. While the cutscenes aren’t the most detailed I’ve ever seen, graphically, they do reflect whatever you have equipped your character with in-game, and so this is a nice touch. The fact that the beta of Diablo IV beats Wolcen into a cocked hat both graphically and sonically is neither here nor there…

But how about a story, some background, a reason why we are running around causing chaos? Well, you will be pleased to hear that there is one, and a pretty good one at that. 

We are one of the Children of Heimlock, the Grand Inquisitor of the Republic, and as such we are part of the Purifiers; the army of the Republic. We are sent on a mission to wipe out our enemies after a fortress has come under attack from the Brotherhood of Dawn. We are to destroy this Brotherhood, but when we land on the Coast of Wrecks we are ambushed by demons. Fighting for our life, our character manifests a strange power and is transformed into a mighty creature that is able to go toe -to-toe with a demon and survive. Of course, suddenly changing form doesn’t go down too well with the rest of the Purifiers, and from then on we are left to try and stay alive, keep our allies on side and deal with an emerging threat from the underground. Can we keep all sides sweet and come out on top, or will we end up losing everything, including our father figure, Heimlock? Only playing the game will tell you, as I’m not about to spoil things here. 

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There is most certainly a tick in the relevant story box, as well as one for the presentation, and so the only thing left to look at is how the game plays. And here the news is also good. If you have ever played any of the other ARPGs that the market has to offer, then you will be right at home here. 

Starting at the beginning with the character creator and what is cool here is that while there are sets of gear to start out with, there aren’t any fixed roles that you have to play. You can choose to be a melee character, a magic character or a ranged character (I chose the latter, as I love running about with a bow, and Demon Hunter was my class in Diablo III). The starting build merely gives you gear and a start on the massive skill tree, but there is no need to stay in your role. In fact the skill tree is one of the most impressive I’ve seen with multiple paths to choose, and even being able to rotate sections of it to line up other different skill trees you want to explore. Imagine you’ve reached the edge of the first ring of the ranged skill tree – do you keep going down the same route, or maybe start down a melee path to give you more options up close and personal? The choice is yours. This freedom is very refreshing, and makes building the character you want to play as extremely straightforward. 

It is the combat that is the driving force for the skill tree, and while you have to fight to get new gear and gain XP, this is never a chore as it is a lot of fun to do. My character is currently rocking dual pistols, and can also summon clouds of arrows to drop from the sky in an instant. Magic abilities are governed by a rage bar, and when it is full you can pull off the special moves, but the bar has two sections – rage and willpower. Rage is generated when attacking enemies, and as that increases, the willpower decreases, and vice versa – if you stop attacking, your rage will drain away but your willpower will come back. This opposing system is pretty cool to use as well. Add in a dodge move that needs stamina to pull off, and juggling the three resources while trying to avoid being squashed by a big baddie soon becomes engrossing. 

Of course, combat and levelling are nothing without the acquisition of loot, and Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem has you covered there. Enemies drop new gear, it is found in chests and in the shops in town, and there is a constant stream of new clobber to try on and try out. It comes in the standard coloured tiers, from white to blue to orange to red to a kind of purple colour for unique items, but you better believe the grind is real – you’ll be looking at well into double figure hours in order to get the good gear. Luckily, as you level up, the gear levels with you, so you aren’t left undergunned. All in all, this is a very solid ARPG to play through, and I have enjoyed my time with it . 

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There are a couple of issues, however, and the most serious of these is the save system. There is no manual save option in place, and instead you have to rely on the auto save. This wouldn’t be a problem if it worked properly, but sadly it is very hit and miss. I have never managed to save halfway through a level – every time I have tried, I’ve ended up repeating sections of the game again. The best way I have found to make sure that progress isn’t lost is to play until you unlock a new fast travel point – then you can stop, return to town and be secure in the knowledge that when you start again, all you have to do is travel to the point and carry on. It does make it a long old process sometimes, I’m not going to lie. 

The unlocking of achievements is also a bit weird in Wolcen – as an example, I finished Chapter One, got about halfway through Chapter Two, and then when I started the game next time, it suddenly gave me multiple achievements to do with finishing Chapter One. And while there are a few rough edges, my favourite glitch so far has been a bear that I summoned that tried to walk up some stairs with me, got stuck in the floor and was running around attacking foes with just the top of its head visible on the stage. 

Glitches and a dodgy save system aside, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem just about manages to fill a Diablo-shaped hole. It is fast and fun, and if you can work around the rough edges you’ll find a great little game to play. If you can’t wait any more to get your ARPG fix, then I think this should scratch that itch for you. 

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is on the Xbox Store

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Scott
Scott
1 year ago

I have a love/hate relationship with Diablo-esque games. On the one hand, I really like the action and looting… on the other hand, the story always disappoints me and makes me want to quit before long. It’s good to know this is actually good on the story front and I’ll probably keep an eye out for a sale

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It must take a certain kind of self belief, a brass neck almost, to release a Diablo style game just a couple of months before the release of the big beastie, Diablo IV. It is just this that the developers of Wolcen: Lords of...Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Review
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