Wolfstride Review – Noir Mecha Goodness

    Title: Wolfstride
    Developer: OTA IMON Studios
    Release Date: December 7, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Raw Fury
    Genre: RPG, Adventure

Ever since Wolfstride‘s announcement, I’ve been looking forward to it. Not only did it promise an interesting RPG focused on mech battles, but the experience also seemed to be backed with incredible aesthetics. Now, having played through it, I have to say it managed to stick the landing in representing its classic anime inspiration while also having its own identity.

Wolfstride tells the story of a trio of misfit men who got together thanks to an old friend, GW, who has passed away. Though he was their leader of sorts, the group sticks together to realize a dream in Rain City. Using a giant robot of unknown origins called Cowboy, they fight for the top spot in a mecha competition called UGG, the Ultimate Golden God tournament.

The narrative follows the perspective of Dominique Shade, an ex-yakuza who runs errands around town to get enough money to finance their participation in the tournament. By helping various people, he also ends up getting some people to aid the team. However, no matter how much he tries to avoid it, his troublesome past haunts him.

Wolfstride 1

The team’s pilot is Knife Leopard, humorously called Pineapples because of his hair. He’s an otaku dork from Brazil with a carefree mentality. On a completely different spectrum of personality is the dogman, Duque. He works as the team mechanic and acts like a grumpy older man despite his comparatively younger age.

As the story progresses, the team will also include Peepoo, an annoying robot with censored speech, and Nebraska, a young girl who left her home. Still, many other characters in Rain Town are essential for Cowboy to fight through the competition. One of those is Z.Z., a “witch” who sells parts and provides a few upgrades free of charge.

Wolfstride 2

Getting better parts is one of the most critical aspects of the game, as it affects your performance tremendously. To have enough money for them, you can play minigames such as bathing cats, digging for treasure, catching falling debris, and running with a bicycle. A good portion of the experience revolves around doing these minor tasks.

It’s only at specific dates that players have a match scheduled, though it’s also possible to do virtual battles. Those digital fights allow players to test their builds without worrying about fixing the robot. Victory means getting points towards the next step in a fictional battle pass that rewards the team with money and items. The late-game also offers an underground arena as a way to test your mettle.

Wolfstride 3

Regarding battles, Wolfstride focuses entirely on your build. Firstly, you need to update Cowboy whenever you have the opportunity to get your hands on better parts with higher expense equating to higher quality. The mech has four areas (head, left arm, right arm, and chest).

Each has its separate HP and functionalities. The head allows the mech to pick a target from the enemies’ parts, each arm has different assigned skills, and the chest is the most vital, as it holds the cockpit. If the chest HP becomes 0, the player will lose. However, losing other parts is notably disastrous. The same is true for the enemies, allowing for multiple strategies.

Wolfstride 4

In actuality, it isn’t challenging to achieve swift victory by primarily aiming toward the opponents’ chests. Shields and taunts are the main obstacles that make that strategy too one-note though. For shields, it’s necessary to have a shield-breaking attack, while taunts are usually a meager delay.

They’re often combined, but even then, they’re trivial. The other side of build customization is picking Knife’s skills. There are three formats for them: attacks, defense abilities, and those which demand nano fluid. When picking attack skills, it’s essential to consider several factors, including range, ammo usage, which part it’ll be assigned to, cooldown time, and how much AP (action points) they cost. Defense is mostly the same, but there’s no range to factor in.

Wolfstride 5

However, the skills related to nano fluid usage are a bit different. Unlike the other skill variants, they don’t cost AP and can only be used when the nano gauge is full. They are mostly related to recovery, including parts revival. Lastly, players can also choose between different stances, impacting the Cowboy’s morale depending on the actions done.

I chose the Masochist stance, which allowed Knife to get bonuses from being hit or pushed in the arena. Other stances can be obtained from videotapes via optional content. There’s also movement to keep in mind, restricted by MP (movement points). These points also depend on the parts chosen, and if an enemy is occupying a spot, it’ll cost 2 MP to push them. Additionally, players use attacks that knock them back a few tiles.

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As interesting of a concept as the battle system is, its balancing is inept as a generic top-price build was enough to make me go through more than half the game without any more intricate customization. It’s fun, but it could have spiced things up more. While the combat may have stuck with a restricted and easy-to-cheese approach, I have absolutely no complaints about the story and atmosphere. Wolfstride successfully evokes the feeling of classic anime series like Cowboy Bebop. It understands what makes that story magical, instilling it with appropriate doses of comedy and drama.

I laughed, cried, and ultimately had an exceptional time with the cast. They’re relatable, endearing and in the end, they all feel like a big family. Picking the grayscale coloration makes it feel like a noir adventure, enhancing the ambiance given off by the title’s grey morality. Each character is flawed and full of regrets, of which the player will be made painfully aware over time. The tunes and sound effects are also a perfect complement to the action, exploration, comedy, and profound moments.

Wolfstride

Wolfstride is a stylish RPG for people who love the atmosphere from old-school anime such as Cowboy Bebop, Ashita no Joe, and its recent-ish spin-off Megalobox. Its story goes from unabashedly comedic to dramatic in a heartbeat and manages to remain consistently compelling. While the gameplay could have offered further variety, this is one title where the story and atmosphere are enough to make it resonate with practically any audience.

Score:
9/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.