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The Wayfinder Niss jumping outside Lower Skylight
Screenshot by Dot Esports

I played 20 hours of Wayfinder so you don’t have to

Wayfinder is initially engaging and breathtakingly gorgeous, but there's nothing beneath the surface.

Something compelled me to try Wayfinder the other day.

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I didn’t dare touch it during its disaster of a launch; back in August, prospective players faced four-hour queues, progress-halting glitches, and devastating crashes that sent users back to the start of the login queue. It was shambolic all around, and now Wayfinder’s reputation is irredeemably (and deservedly) tarnished in the eyes of many.

At present, Wayfinder has a meager smattering of around 500 players on Steam, a far cry from the tens of thousands of active users enjoyed by similar RPGs like Warframe. Early access to Wayfinder costs $20 for the base package, and to put it bluntly, you’re paying to be a beta tester. It’s a worryingly prominent trend in gaming nowadays, and still, somehow, I was suckered in.

I’m not sure if it was the gorgeous graphics, charming art style, eclectic characters, or the promise of an “MMO lite” at a time when the genre is more stagnant than ever, but they got me, and and they got me good. I played just over 20 hours of Wayfinder and was astounded by how much I enjoyed the game, but at the same time, kept finding myself frustrated by the myriad issues that easily explain its dwindling playerbase.

What is Wayfinder?

Wayfinder launched into early access on Aug. 17, 2023. It bills itself as an “MMO lite” and has a persistent world where you’ll encounter other players, as well as a communal hub area, three-player PvE dungeons, and outdoor explorable zones à la Destiny and Warframe.

Just like Warframe, Wayfinder is all about its characters: You’ll need to craft (or buy) characters rather than creating your own, and there are six available to begin with, one of whom is locked behind the battle pass. Each character has four unique abilities—there’s a rogue who can shadowstep, a tanky paladin with a healing spell, and so on.

Every Wayfinder can use every weapon, and weapons all come with a unique ability, so you can mix and match to make a somewhat distinct character. Other than this, though, there’s very little in the way of customization, and the biggest changes come when you unlock a new hero. This underpins Wayfinder’s entire gameplay loop, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

For most of your time in Wayfinder, you’ll be grinding dungeons for XP to level up your current Wayfinder and to acquire the materials you need to craft a new one. There are a few quests, but they all involve running dungeons, killing enemies, or collecting items (usually in some combination).

Wayfinder is all about gradually working toward your next goal, but everything is available in the cash shop if you’d rather pay to skip the grind.

The Good: Stunning visuals and satisfying combat

The player character Niss in Wayfinder's magic-punk city of Skylight
Every inch of Wayfinder’s (admittedly very limited) playable world is visually stunning and oozes charm.
Screenshot by Dot Esports

Wayfinder is an absolute treat for the eyes, and that’s likely the reason most players gave it a try. The whole game is striking and colorful, not quite as cartoony as Fortnite but far more upbeat and stylized than most RPGs in 2023.

The explorable world of Wayfinder is dazzling and bursting with character from the get-go. It’s reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank and especially Wildstar, a vibrant MMORPG once considered a WoW-killer, now switched off and lost to time. The hub area, Skylight, gorgeously blends fantasy and magi-punk elements, with neon signs and arcane mechanisms adorning ornate brick townhouses and cobbled streets. There’s a giant stone portal at one end and a great lift at the other, with winding alleys and bustling markets in between. Everything fits together perfectly, and I love it.

At the time of writing, there’s one zone to explore, the Highlands, as well as nine procedurally generated dungeons, all of which are similarly stylized and aesthetically well-composed. The open world has stunning vistas in every direction, and the dungeons are just about interesting and varied enough that they’d be satisfying were it not for Wayfinder’s repetitive gameplay (more on that later).

Wayfinder’s playable characters—the Wayfinders themselves—take center stage. There are only six, but they’re all charming, eccentric, and colorful, with distinct personalities and clear silhouettes that are easy to distinguish from a distance. Think Overwatch but with a far more limited selection.

Each character offers a different gameplay style with themed abilities that (usually) cleverly synergize with each other. Combat, while basic, is enjoyable enough to serve as a solid foundation for Wayfinder’s gameplay loop. Hacking, slashing, and blasting your way through dungeons and open world content is fun and satisfying, if a bit mindless, and it’s a decent way to unwind after a long day in the same way you’d sit back on the couch to grind a few hours of Diablo or Path of Exile.

The Bad: Repetitive, grindy, and stretched too thin

I hope you enjoy Wayfinder’s scant selection of dungeons, as you’ll be running them ad nauseum.
Video by Dot Esports

Speaking of grinding, you’ll be doing a lot of it in Wayfinder, and that’s where my criticism begins. Like butter scraped over too much bread, Wayfinder spreads its content far too thin, and despite its initial luster and charm, the game feels sparse from the very beginning.

You’ll be slowly drip-fed new dungeons to explore over dozens of hours of gameplay, and after unlocking one, you’ll be running it time and time again with different affixes. The dungeons themselves do contain a few clever puzzles and events, but every quest sends you to find pointless MacGuffins that aren’t guaranteed to show up each run, and you’ll be repeating these dungeons so much that you’ll be beyond sick of them before you’re even halfway through your quest log.

It’s not just the dungeons that are tedious: Wayfinder’s open world quests send you back and forth between the Highlands and Skylight so many times it’s agonizing, especially when the game frequently takes over a minute to load and sometimes gets stuck on loading screens. Every time you load, it’s a gamble whether you’ll need to force quit and relaunch, which only makes tedious back-and-forth fetch quests take even longer.

The whole game is deliberately padded out like this because beneath the surface, there just isn’t much there. It hurts even more that these issues are only the icing on the cake.

The Ugly: Queues, loading screens, and glitches galore

A black loading screen in Wayfinder
You better get used to seeing this screen a lot… unless you buy a new loading screen from the battle pass (yes, that’s a thing).
Screenshot by Dot Esports

I played on PS5 and needed to quit and relaunch Wayfinder no less than 10 times in 20 hours. Often, you’ll wait two or three minutes for the game to load the next area, only to realize that the game has crashed and you’ll either need to relaunch or sit there forever. Relaunching isn’t fast, either, as you’ll usually be waiting in a queue before you can play.

Yes, you read that correctly, Wayfinder still has login queues. Granted, there were always less than five players in the queue, at least when I played, that speaks volumes about the issues with the way Wayfinder handles its online servers. These server issues are likely responsible for the long load times, too, and players on Reddit aren’t short of complaints.

byu/4K2160GameR from discussion
In response to a post asking “How are the servers now?,” this Reddit user gave an insightful reply.

Despite Wayfinder’s issues, the developers continue to add new weapons and cosmetics that players can purchase for real money. The game launched with so little to offer that I find it truly egregious for the developers’ efforts to focus on purchasable items above fixes and new content, but I guess that’s 2023 for you.

Is Wayfinder any good?

With all that said and done, I could get past the glitches, long load times, and unfriendly monetization if there was some substance—some meat in the sandwich—but there just isn’t. Wayfinder is a thin game through and through, and until the developers make some meaningful updates with new content, particularly new open world areas, dungeons, and quests, the game is impossible to recommend in its current form.

Still, I might play it again this evening.

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Tom Foley
Tom is the UK Associate Editor for Dot Esports. He's the former TCG Editor for CBR and has a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Edinburgh. Tom spent six years as a Science Editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, and AstraZeneca before leaving science to pursue his dream career in gaming at the start of 2023. He loves MMOs, RPGs, TCGs, and pretty much every game by FromSoftware—especially Dark Souls.