Wild: The Neanderthal simulator pokes its head out of the cave - Games Weekly

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Wild: The Neanderthal simulator pokes its head out of the cave

Like a Party-Sized box of chocolates that’s lost its contents insert, Wild is a tantalising yet unknowable mystery. On the outside, it’s all chocolately possibility and delicious caramel swirls. But as everyone who’s ever accidentally wretched up a mouthful of marzipan will attest, appearances can be deceiving. Whether Wild will turn out to be a delicious praline treat or a treacherous toothpaste-and-cat-hair disaster is still far too early to predict (the game doesn’t even have a release date yet), but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in some informed speculation, dusted with an occasional pinch of guesswork.

The reason we have so few hard facts about Wild is that, aside from a two-minute trailer and a lone, measly announcement post on the PlayStation blog, developer Wild Sheep (a new studio headed by Michel Ancel, of Rayman and Beyond Good And Evil fame) have been keeping details of the game under lock and key, and then hidden those locks and keys in a safe somewhere on the surface of the moon. Which is a shame, because what we’ve seen of this PS4 exclusive has our fancies tickled.

First off, it looks mutedly pretty. Not stunning, not suck-the-breath-out-of-your-lungs impressive like Skyrim or Dragon Age, but more like Oblivion’s Cyrodiil on a cloudy day (in a playable area the size of Europe, say the devs). It’s a fantasy game, of sorts there are animals to control and align yourself with, stone god-heads dotted about the rolling landscape, and at least one huge giantess who has made her home inside a tree trunk but the setting predates your run-of-the-mill knights in armour trotting from town to town on horseback flogging unwanted loot. Wild’s humans all dress like cavemen and the only weapons we see are crude swords, spears, a bow, and a wooden whittled stake. No +10 Staffs Of Epic Lightning here although the tribal population do seem to have a sort of religious relationship with a race of skeletons garbed in bone head dresses, one of which we observe apparently holding court around a campfire, and another immortalised as a huge underwater statue sitting on a throne, as a band of comparatively puny humans paddle on past.
What you’ll be using this rather meagre toolkit for is less clear. We’ve seen some combat, with a hairy hunter-gatherer type creeping up on a pack of wolves and pinging arrows at them off-screen, but we also catch a glimpse of a female character clambering up the branches of a tree to pinch some bird eggs from a nest. We’ve not gambled since we lost that intern in a game of high stakes underground poker, but if we were gamblers, we’d suggest that this is more a survival simulator than another quest to single-handedly see off some great and all-powerful evil.

Whatever your motives, the devs stressed in the game’s announcement that they wanted players to have as many choices open to them as possible. “How you approach the game is up to you, what you do, and even what you are it’s all up to you,” says Ancel, a bit nebulously. So, while we know that every creature featured in the game’s trailer will be playable (Ancel was keen to stress that, yes, the game will include a playable trout ), the meat and bones of Wild’s “interactive opportunities that feel endless” (Ancel, again) are yet to be fleshed out.

The evidence, then, leads us Holmes-like to the conclusion that Wild is still quite a way off its release. While the trailer pitches a novel open world experience, it’s also obviously rough around the edges; the animations look clunky, footage of actual gameplay is sparse, and there’s practically no sound beyond the stirring backing music. Wild’ might not even be the game’s final name (which would save us puzzling over the styling of the name, which is downright weird).

So, we are left, as so often is the case with such reveals, with more questions than we had coming in. But under-reported as it is, Wild has piqued our interest. If you’ve had your fill of Dragon Age’s mages and castles and high fantasy whatnot, keep your peepers swivelled on this.

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