I don’t know what I was expecting going into Wolfstride, but it isn’t what I got. I think I was sold on the prospect of turn-based mech combat, but I didn’t realize how little turn-based combat plays a role. Sure, the entire game is centered around it, but it’s also about a team of misfits making their way through a mecha tournament with a hand-me-down mecha.
Wolfstride is a visual novel with turn-based mecha combat and a monochrome art style. In it, you play as Shades, a Spike Spiegel doppelganger, he even had a perpetually lit cigarette and popped collar. He’s also ex-Yakuza that’s trying to hide from his past, and the team’s gopher—the one that runs around and gets what’s needed to make sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly. And that’s exactly how Wolfstride plays—day-to-day. Each day you are given a new series of tasks that you have to run around and complete.
Most of the gameplay consists of running around, performing tasks—mostly fetch quests. The draw of Wolfstride isn’t the tasks themselves, but the often hilarious or otherwise amusing interactions you’ll have during the completion of these tasks. There are also mini-games to play to get extra money and sometimes to progress the story. While these sections played almost like a point and click adventure or visual novel, they were often as tedious as they were amusing. Unfortunately, Wolfstride seems to pad its gameplay out by forcing you to run to each location. In fact, there is a whole lot of running between screens trying to get from point A to point B. I absolutely hated how tedious traveling for the daily tasks were—and this is something you have to do constantly through the 60 days (or so) in which the game takes place. Fortunately, the cast of characters is great, and most of the time travelling is rewarded with amusing interactions.
While I don’t watch much anime, or read manga, I was entertained by Wolfstride. It has a great cast that is fully voiced, and competently so. After my time with Wolfstride I felt like I watched a season or two of a good anime. While there is plenty of humor, it was hit or miss for me. Characters like PeePoo the robot I found to be grating throughout, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t chuckle once or twice. However, Wolfstride isn’t strictly comedy, either, and manages to have some thrilling and poignant moments. There is also a jazzy soundtrack that plays over the entire endeavor, once again invoking serious Cowboy Bebop vibes.
While Wolfstride is mostly a visual novel there is some turn-based mecha fighting buried there. Later in the game it feels like the mecha action and storytelling balance out a little more, but the first few hours consisted of much more visual novel and fetch quests than actual mecha action. But when you get to it, the mecha turn-based combat is done pretty well. Each mecha has a series of abilities you have to learn to counter (or somehow weather through). Your mecha can be equipped with several abilities you can use against your opponent—some of them ranged, others require you to get up close and personal.
While Wolfstride isn’t exactly what I was expecting, I’m glad I played it. It’s one of my favorite visual novels of the year bolstered by good art and memorable characters voiced by a great cast. The mecha action might be a little light, especially in the beginning, but once you and your team start trying for the championship there’s plenty of action to sink your teeth into. I wish there was less useless travelling, but that’s my only key complaint. I definitely recommend Wolfstride for those who are looking for a visual novel, but warn those away looking for more turn-based combat.
Wolfstride is out now on Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.