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Wavetale (XSX) Review

A third-person adventure outfitted with creative cel-shaded visuals, Wavetale is a heartfelt adventure that sort of mixes the exploration of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker but with the deeper emotional narrative of RiME into something uniquely its own. Although the flaws are obvious, the story and water surfing mask almost all the imperfections.

You play as Sigrid, the teenage granddaughter of an outspoken and tough-as-nails Grandma. The narrative immediately jumps into the drama of the environment. The world has been flooded and gloom, this inky black cloudy goop, threatens the remaining survivors. To keep the gloom away, lighthouses might be activated after collecting sparks, these floating puff things that acts as batteries. It is an easy-to-understand story, one that spoils its ending through easy-to-read foreshadowing, but it’s the narrative that connects the gameplay and gives players a reason to kept playing. 

Armed with an electrified net and a nimble moveset, getting from place to place is actually one of the most entertaining aspects of this narrative forced adventure. Shortly into the Sigrid’s quest, she gains the ability to skate on the surface of the flooded land thanks to a shadow. It is this speedy water surfing that makes this game so memorable. Thanks to the great sense of speed and high reaching double jumps, the skipping from island to island is way more fun than it has any right to be. A large emphasis was placed on this form of movement and the experience is all the better for it. Scattered in-between islands are also white hoops in which Sigrid can use her grapple hoop like a Spider-Man webslinging slingshot and parts of raised track that transform into fast moving water-coasters.  At a couple points in the game, Grandma hopes in a boat and basically says “follow me to this next island” but doesn’t even wait for Sigrid. The player could simply hitch a ride on this automatically piloted boat, but instead leaves the player intentionally behind to enjoy the barefoot water skating traversal.

The movement system is outstanding but the same cannot be said about the combat system. There are only a few enemy takes in the game and most of them fall with a mindless 2-hit combo (the others take about 5-6 hits). With combat as bare bones as it is, I wonder if the game even needed it at all. I never came close to dying and only took damage a couple times throughout the whole campaign. There are no RPG leveling mechanics, which works totally fine in this game, so it forces combat into taking a backseat. The play can collect optional currency scattered throughout each island but they only unlock cosmetic changes to the main character.

Even though it only takes a few hours to complete the campaign, some areas can feel big at times. I mention this because the radar/map system doesn’t pin point some objectives in detail. When saving a citizen from the gloom, they often will give the player an optional side mission that involves collecting an item but the radar doesn’t indicate where it might be.  With a larger open world, finding these things can feel like a needle in a haystack and found myself ignoring most of these requests.  Also, many of the small islands in the archipelago are composed of the exact same island shape. While it is understandable to reuse assets, it mildly ruins what otherwise would be a one of a kind experience.

The cel-shading visuals create a wonderful first impression and remain endearing throughout the campaign. However, the music is the glue that holds everything together. Composed of sweeping loops and haunting melodies, the dynamic themes in Wavetale is nothing short of extraordinary. Surf skating on the surface of the water just wouldn’t be as memorable without the accompanying soundtrack.  The voice acting, especially from the no-nonsense grandma, also fits the look and feel of each character. Even the water effects, and how it flows and sweeps as you graze the surface, looks wonderful on an XSX. 

If you enjoyed games like RiME, Journey, Ico, and the Last Guardian, then you will love Wavetale. There are some obvious blemishes but the heart felt narrative, sweeping score, and always fun water skating traversal system overlooks the flaws. The end result is a good old fashioned emotional game that is all about the experience and memories – a type of game that is a diamond in the rough of the modern era of roguelikes and first-person shooters. 

Also Play: RiME

Don’t Forget About: Ico

Wait For It: a Zelda: Wind Waker port on Switch

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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