In this age of so many throwback arena shooters coming out of the woodwork that no one really wants them anymore, Wickland stands apart by calling back to Hexen. Or… looking like it. It sets itself apart with unique fantasy-textured maps and an at least thought-provoking central mechanic, but doesn’t do the most important thing it could do to differentiate itself from the flood: it isn’t a very good game. Let’s cut to the chase – Wickland’s gimmick is that each weapon is a separate character model and voice pack, and collecting these “creatures” from around the map puts you in sole control of them. Your selected creature must be killed in order for it to be respawned on the map for collection, at which point you switch to one of your other creatures. The only way to kill someone outright is to kill them in their base human form.
I have to give credit where credit’s due and admit that this is a really neat idea. I’m happy to see someone at least trying to make an interesting arena shooter instead of just cashing in on the craze with nothing but a railgun and projectile weapons. The issue I ran into, however, is feeling like I was doing much of anything while I was playing. I can appreciate an emphasis on map control and the tactics therein, but moment-to-moment instant gratification for my lizard brain is lacking because all I’m really doing to people is whittling down their lives. Combined with the maps usually being littered in health refills, shooting and lasering people feels like shooting into the void much of the time.
Wickland also takes it upon itself to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the multiplayer lobby. When you enter a server, you’re presented with a police lineup of every other player in the server. Above their heads is displayed a win/loss counter, which indicates their performance in 1v1 dueling for that server. Any player can be challenged to a duel on this screen, provided they aren’t playing the oddly titled “Warmup”, which is a typical free-for-all mode. I have to assume that dueling is what Wickland prides itself on given the score display, but most players are usually playing Warmup rather than idling around in the lobby, so the two modes seem weirdly at odds with each other. Playing Wickland, I’m astonished that this thing was actually in Steam’s Early Access program for four months before it came out, yet is missing so many essentials. First things first, the game is missing sensitivity options and FOV settings. Not only has one of these been a fundamental video game option since the beginning of time, but both are fundamental PC options, especially for an arena shooter. I can appreciate an extremely sluggish default sensitivity, but the option to change it is required. And seriously? No FOV settings? That these basic options are missing truly baffles me.
The best thing I can say about Wickland graphically is that it looks fine. The screenshots you see in this review have obviously had to have their graphics settings turned down for me to get it to run, but despite that, I still can’t say Wickland is very jaw-dropping artistically. The fidelity with which it displays its environments is certainly promising, but the environments themselves aren’t really anything spectacular. The game doesn’t have anything interesting to show you, it’s all drab fantasy environments like castles and wood structures. The same can be said of its audio. I didn’t notice any music throughout my time with Wickland. The only sounds I heard were the sounds of the guns, which sound as can be expected, and the sounds of its fantasy creatures grunting and screaming. The voice work is silly sounding, but I can’t really decide if that’s what the game is going for. It sounds like those ridiculous “HUU!” sounds beefy FPS heroes made back in the day, but through a fantasy lizard-person filter. What Wickland really is is yet another sloppily executed arena shooter, with an interesting idea that simply isn’t any fun. It’s one of the most hollow games I’ve played in recent memory, both in terms of content and soul. So much is missing from the experience, and what’s there either is pretty boring or confusing and contradictory. With so many games practically just like it both on the horizon and already floating around, there isn’t much reason to pick this one up. Ethics disclosure: The reviewer was provided a review code from the developer. Wickland is available for purchase on Steam.