Wayward Strand Review

When you think of a retirement home, you don’t usually think of a bunch of lonely and grumpy elderlies, sitting by themselves knitting whilst waiting for a sporadic visit from a nurse, do you? You’d more easily envision jolly games of Scrabble, organized games of You Sunk My Battleship, gentle naps, and a generally easy-going life, surely?

Now, aboard an airship these lonesome old folks can’t escape from, they’re subjects in a 14- year-old girl’s quest for a tasty news story to include in her school newspaper. This means spraying a bombardment of nosey questions about what these time-weathered dwellers get up to, but for this girl, her ambition to uncover the secrets of the airship, whilst gathering as much information as she can to assemble a cohesive picture of the history of this floating retirement home, is what makes Wayward Strand an inviting and gentle tale that will mire you in curiosity.

The girl at the centre of the story is Casey, a plucky, cheery and inquisitive teenaged girl, with a manner not too dissimilar from Lisa Simpson’s albeit far less annoyingly intrusive. Casey arrives on the airship with her mother, is given three days to acquaint herself with the residents, all while attempting whip up a good story for her school paper. You will rub elbows with old ladies, old men, friendly nursing staff, a 15 year-old boy who is creating his own comic book, and other interesting figures during your stay.

Your main task in Wayward Strand is to interact with the airship’s aging inhabitants, so you can fill out an ever-expanding diary of information, which will be used to write the article for Casey’s school newspaper. Visiting rooms, chatting to people, and asking questions are the game’s main priorities, but the way in which the stories pan out can birth the potential to spirit you down unexpected rabbit holes.

Impressively, Wayward Strand features thousands of line of dialogue, much of which compels repeat playthroughs to see how each person reacts to different verbal options Casey has at her disposal.

The more digging you do by asking the right questions and responding appropriately, the greater the chance an unexpected occurrence will transpire. For example, one of the old women has an ability to contact the dead, using Casey as an unwilling participant in her rituals. Not all the oldies are similarly-mannered, some are pleasant, some are rude, others are miserable-exactly the kinds of diversity you can expect in a real retirement home.

Wayward Strand’s ability to make stories go to unexpected place is what makes it a worthwhile ride, even when the cycle of meeting folks and asking questions isn’t particularly exciting. What starts out as dry routine, elevates into a moreish pursuit for answers because the revelations you excavate make you want to keep questioning to find all the intrigue lying beneath the surface. 

Eavesdropping provides tasty insights about the characters and their relationships with each other. Of course listening in on conversations that are none of your business goes against journalistic integrity, but sneaky tactics like these allows you to peel away at their true intentions and secrets. You won’t be able to forego unethical practice to obtain juicy morsels of information.

Disappointingly, Wayward Stand becomes victimised by rigid design, often bowled down by its rote habits. Find a patient to talk to, talk to them, use your journalistic forceps to extract words from their mouths (not literally!), then walk out and find another patient to pester or stalk. It gets banal, yet the personalities are enough to keep you invested.

Another bugbear is how Wayward Strand looks and performs. The art style is minimalistic and bland with characters lacking facial expressions and the environments do little to leave an impression on you. Seeing character walk into each other and the environment will make you think the airship has turned the elderly into ghosts. Thankfully, the voice acting and the humour you will encounter from conversations and musings make up for the lack of audio/visual punch.

The save system also induces pains in the posterior because only three are provided throughout the adventure. You won’t be afforded the luxury of saving and exiting when you’ve had enough for the time being, forcing you to stick through its chapters of moderate-length. Furthermore you can’t skip ahead, so unless you’ve got iron-clad patience, you will likely drop off well before considering multiple playthroughs.

Conclusion

Don’t be put off from the talky interview-centric tenets of Wayward Strand and you will be nicely pampered by a gentle pleasant game of discovery. Speaking to elderlies and hearing them wax lyrical about their relationships with each other does induce some mild entertainment, and the pace is equally as leisurely. There are a few ailments that hold Wayward Strand back from sound bed rest, such as an unnecessarily strict save system, overly-simplistic visuals and its rote minimalistic nature. Yet, Wayward Strand is still a nice and lightly-paced adventure worth undertaking.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • A pleasant interrogative-centred adventure
  • The elderly characters provide some good drama and entertainment
  • Thousands of lines of dialogue encourages multiple jaunts
Bad
  • All you do is talk to people and grab juicy information from them
  • Saving is sparse and no skippable dialogue
  • Visually divisive and arguably too minimalistic
6.8
Okay
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

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