Wayward Souls is an unforgiving, retro-looking RPG that challenges you to get as far as possible through dangerous dungeons filled with monsters. But what starts out as a seemingly simple hack-and-slash dungeon crawler becomes much more nuanced and addictive the more you play, as you try to master the strategies for each of the different character classes.
Wayward Souls is the spiritual successor to Mage Gauntlet, a 2011 title from Rocketcat Games that had a very similar play style and the same charming cartoon-like graphics. But in Wayward Souls, you get just one chance at survival because -- unlike Mage Gauntlet -- if you die you stay dead and you'll have to start over from the beginning.
With such steep consequences, Wayward Souls becomes a game that's more about survival, forcing you to figure out how to stay out of harms way while simultaneously battling through hordes of monsters.
Before we go any further, it's important to note that Wayward Souls is a relatively expensive game at $4.99 currently. Rocketcat games has stated they will release several content updates that will raise the price by one dollar. If you pay now, it's about 5 bucks and you'll get all the updates for free. So while it is a bit pricey compared to other games, if you have any interest, it's definitely worth it now.
Starting your journey
When you start Wayward Souls you're treated to a sort of tutorial level that shows you the ropes for the touchscreen controls. You initially play as a Paladin as you learn to touch and swipe the left side of the screen to move, and touch the right side of the screen to attack. In this introductory part of the game you'll get a taste for general gameplay and preview the game's excellent electronic soundtrack. Once you get a feel for the game, you also have the option to switch to an onscreen gamepad-like controller, but I found the default controls to work great.
In addition to moving and attacking, you have two extra skills you can do with a vertical swipe. What skills you get depends on which class you play. As the Warrior, for example, you throw an axe when you swipe upward, or equip a shield with a downward swipe. When I first started playing, I couldn't get the swipe controls to work reliably, but after a few games, it became second nature.
There is one problem with the control system, however. As you play you'll find items that are added to your four-slot inventory. These can include things like attack potions, health potions, and other useful items. But in order to activate an item in your inventory, you have to stop play and select the item on another screen. It's clear Rocketcat Games wanted to go for an all-gesture interface, but I don't think it would hurt to have a couple of onscreen buttons for inventory items.
Classes and strategies
Though you play as the Paladin in the opening tutorial, the Paladin character class is not available when you start playing the game. Instead, you'll have the choice between a Warrior, a Rogue, or a Mage. Three additional classes are greyed out on the character select screen, including the Adventurer, the Spellsword, and the Cultist. Each of these additional classes will unlock as you complete quests and kill bosses. I managed to unlock the Adventurer in my testing, but it was extremely difficult.