Wed. Jun 12th, 2024
Wayward Strand Review Xbox Series X Cover

One of my favourite parts of having my own website is getting to review new games when they come out. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities, and being able to discover so many unique titles. I was enamoured with the trailer for Wayward Strand and immediately applied for a key, and was thrilled when the publisher was kind enough to share one with me. The game looked so wholesome and delightful, right up my alley. It’s a story-driven indie adventure game that puts you on a fascinating floating airship hospital. Playing as a young girl who’s an aspiring journalist, you seek to uncover the mysteries of the ship. Read on to see my Wayward Strand review for Xbox Series X!

A Whimsical Story

Wayward Strand is all about the story, but instead of being fantastical, it’s compelling in a more subtle way. It creates something believable and realistic, rooted in the connections we make with others. Instead of having a linear story, you piece together snippets of information based on your interactions. The interesting thing is that you can’t get all the information in one go. If you want to know the full story, you’ll have to go back and play again, so you can unravel different threads.

Set in 1978, you play as a young girl named Casey who’s helping out her mother at a hospital for the elderly. It’s stationed on a floating airship, a miracle in itself, and one which few people know much about. Casey is intrigued by its history, and sets about discovering more, so that she can write an article on the hospital for her school paper. As you jot things down in your notebook, you can piece more things together, and the story starts to become deeper, whilst still being grounded in reality.

Wayward Strand Review Xbox Series X, Story

As well as learning about the ship and the hospital, Casey wants to know more about the eclectic mix of patients, and asks plenty of questions. In doing so, she uncovers plenty of interesting truths, and the result is a very moving and emotional tale.

Heart-warming and Memorable Characters

The thing which makes Wayward Strand so special is definitely the characters. The story doesn’t involve magical dragons, or age-old clan rivalries, or any of the kind of intense and epic plots found in larger games. But in a way, it captures the intensity of real life. You meet characters who’ve never fought aliens or robots, but are fighting real life struggles, such as battling cancer. The characters really pull at your heart strings, and by the end of the game, you feel as if you really know them.

Meeting the characters

My favourite character is Ida. She’s your typical sweet old grandma, and speaks to you in such a kind and friendly way. You can often find her knitting in her room, and she’s always happy to speak to you about anything and everything. Whenever I see her, I just want to give her a hug. Mr Avery is another character who makes me smile. He’s a famous novelist, and is pompous, but not in a totally arrogant way. He’s proud of his achievements and he does like to brag, but he also humbles himself around you. He doesn’t come across as superior, but instead he seems to want to share his wisdom and help you achieve your own goals.

But not all the characters are as friendly. Dr Bouchard is rude and aloof, and at first I really didn’t like her. But when I discovered the reason for her attitude, I felt a lot more empathetic towards her. Wayward Strand reminds us that there’s a story around everyone, and that as humans, out personalities are a rich tapestry of our experiences.

Wayward Strand Review Xbox Series X, Meeting the characters

Slow-paced Gameplay

The gameplay is super easy, as there’s no combat or anything like that. Instead, you just walk around the hospital, choosing what and who to interact with. The movement controls are smooth and simplistic, as you only really have to move left and right, as it’s played on a 2D plane. The environment is technically 3D, but you yourself always move on a straight line, and then you can interact with doors/ stairs to go into and out of rooms. So as long as you’re able to move the analog stick left and right, and to press A, then you’re good to go. That means Wayward Strand is pretty accessible for disabled players.

The map is pretty small, you’re essentially limited to 3 corridors, which are the 3 levels of the airship. Despite that, you can’t cover the area particularly quickly as you walk SO slowly. Honestly, everything about the gameplay is so painstakingly slow. The walking, the animations, the conversations, all of it. I understand that it was a deliberate choice by the developers to create the calming atmosphere that they were after, but for me as a rather impatient gamer, I was not a fan of this at all. If you enjoy fast-paced gameplay, or at least for something to always be happening, then Wayward Strand probably isn’t for you.

Everything happens very slowly

Life is Full of Choices

The other element of gameplay is making choices. When you’re having conversations, you’ll often be given options for your responses. Sometimes you can use multiple replies in a row, but other times you have to choose just one. They don’t seem to have a massive effect on the story progression, but they still make a slight difference. Depending on which choices you make, you might uncover different parts of the mystery. Especially as it’s not just about what you say, but who you choose to pursue. There are only so many hours in the day, and the game runs on a clock, which you can see at the bottom of the screen. So it’s up to you where you want to be at a particular time, and you might miss a story development happening on the other side of the airship.

By this mechanic, Wayward Strand encourages you to play through multiple runs. The problem with this is that it’s slow enough the first time. I can’t imagine having to repeat it all over again, even if the story would be a little bit different. There just isn’t enough going on for me to be able to commit to that. I think this choice based story progression would’ve worked a lot better if the game was faster paced. I’d be happy to go back and try again if I’d only be sacrificing about half an hour, but each day takes one or two hours, and so playing through the game again means dedicating 4-5 hours just to get the same story from a slightly different perspective. I’m sure other will feel differently, but for me, it’s not worth it.

Wayward Strand Review Xbox Series X, Making choices

Stunning Artwork and Impressive Audio

The artwork is what really captivated me when I initially watched the trailer. It reminded me of the kind of illustrations that you’d see in a children’s story book. The colours are beautiful yet muted, and help contribute to the overall cosy and wholesome vibe of Wayward Strand. I love that it appears almost hand-drawn in nature, it gives the game a personal touch. The loading screens are gorgeous too, using a slightly different, more cinematic art style than the rest of the game.

I like the ambient background music when you play. It’s peaceful and relaxing. Not too exciting so as to distract you, but not so boring as to ruin the experience. It sounds like a gently strummed guitar, and it’s perfectly suited to the atmosphere of the game. There are a few different sound effects too, such as birds chirping, and this lends itself well to the seaside setting.

Gorgeous loading screen

However, the best part of the audio is undoubtedly the narrations. The voice actors do a stellar job of infusing personality into every word. Wayward Strand could’ve easily cut corners by just having the words written rather than spoken, but by having them narrated, it adds so much. I love hearing the different voices of the characters, and it creates deep immersion. It makes the stories feel so much more personal as you get to hear them in the characters’ own words.

Where it Fell Short

  • A lot of the achievements are broken More than half of the achievements don’t work, they just sit there with a player percentage of 0.00%. I’m a bit of a completionist, so this is particularly frustrating for me.
  • It’s hard to know what to do next – The game gives you a notebook which Casey jots information in, but it only really tells you what’s happened so far, not what to do next. It’s also quite slow to navigate the pages, as you can’t skip to most recent information, or anything like that. If you go away from the game and come back, you may find it difficult to find something productive to do.
Wayward Strand Review Xbox Series X, Notebook
  • You can’t save manually – The game only lets you save at the end of the day. Unfortunately, as days take 1-2 hours, this means that you may well end up playing for longer than you want to, just so you can get to a save point.
  • Assets sometimes clip – As I mentioned earlier in the review, the character assets are drawn 2D, but it’s set in a 3D space. This means that often characters will clip through items or other characters, and it breaks the immersion somewhat.
  • You can’t speed it up – I think the game would have been so much more enjoyable if there was a way to skip dialogue, or skip animations, or run. That way the players who enjoy a slower pace could play the game as intended, and the rest of us with less patience could enjoy it at our own speed.
  • It’s too boring – I recognise that this is subjective, but for me, this game just isn’t exciting enough. It’s mainly down to the slow speed, but also the lack of a linear narrative or clear goal isn’t something that I enjoy.

Verdict

Despite the game’s many excellent qualities, there were just too many flaws for me to fully appreciate this game. I found it to be unbearably slow. Perhaps with some tweaking I would have had more fun, but even then, I’m not sure I’m quite the right target audience. I think I’ve been spoiled by all the other games I’ve played over the years. I’m used to such continuous action, this type of slow-burn doesn’t appeal to me as much. I can’t deny how well-written this game is. I didn’t spot any glaring typos or grammar issues. The story is deep and moving, and I can totally understand why some publications have rated this as a 9/10. But I have to be honest about my own experience to make sure that my Wayward Strand review for Xbox Series X is as accurate as possible.

Hopefully you can use my thoughts to form your own opinion about whether or not play it. If you love gaming, join our Facebook community, and discuss your favourite topics with likeminded fans! And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!

Wayward Strand

£14.99
7.6

Verdict

7.6/10

Pros

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Emotional and well-written story
  • Phenomenal voice-over work

Cons

  • Waaaaaaay too slow-paced
  • You can't manually save
  • Difficult to know what to do next

By Screen Hype

Hi! I'm Melika Jeddi, a content writer and aspiring author. I've created Screen Hype to share my unique brand of entertaining articles with the world, and to create a fun space that everyone can feel a part of :)