Stealth games have come a long in way in the last thirty years. From single maps to huge open world settings. Originality is key to new entries into the genre and that is where Wildfire by Sneaky Bastards comes into play.
Wildfire is a stealth/platforming title, which allows players to use elements to distract foes and save your friends. Wildfire was started as a Kickstarter campaign in August of 2015, Daniel Hinde had asked for $10,000, but ended up raising $20,000. The funds allowed him to add to the project, bringing new enemies, a sound designer, and voice acting. I was given the chance to play an early alpha build of the game, which I am thankful for. Here are my thoughts.
As mentioned earlier, Wildfire is a stealth platforming game where the player can manipulate elements to confuse, distract, and kill your enemies with the main objective being to rescue your friends from the evil duchess. It’s a new take on stealth platforming; it has an original feel to its design. Players will run, jump, climb, and use their magical abilities to solve puzzles and rescue their friends. The first ability the player gains is fire, which can be used for destroying objects and scaring guards, causing them to flee from their posts, and allowing the player to make a quick get away.
Wildfire was a blast to play, feeling like a mixture of Oddworld and Stealth Inc. The puzzles were challenging and at points frustrating, but that is one of the blessings of the games. It makes players strategize and think before they go off and do something crazy. In one play through, I would chuck fireballs at guards hoping to send them ablaze. Well, it didn’t turn out as planned, the fireball had bounced off a wall and landed in a pile of grass next to the hero. The main character ignited and chased the guard, who ended up– impaled on a bed of spikes.
Controlling the elements teaches players about the responsibility of their actions; Every action will create a positive or negative reaction. For example, when you burn the grass you can no longer use it to sneak through, instead, the grass is now ash that will crumble beneath your feet and alert nearby guards. When leading companions to safety it is also a good idea to scout the path ahead; nothing is worse than seeing a friend hacked to pieces because the player failed to check his surroundings. It’s amazing a 2-D sidescroller has the ability to capture elements of a Triple-A stealth title, which makes Wildfire blast to play.
There were a few things that were problematic during the play through. For instance, the controller mapping seems off. It’s easy to forget what buttons control which action. The tutorials on the controls seem to go by fast and not stay on the screen long enough to really learn. Running also feels awkward, which is understandable being a stealth game, the goal is not to run around, lest the player be spotted. However, there will be times running is necessary to escape the clutches of the enemies– it feels awkward and often results in the player being caught.
The over-map seemed to jump around a bit and it’s not clear if these levels were finished or the developers wanted to guide to the end of the Alpha demo. We’ll see how navigation is handled in the full game later on.
Escorting villagers can be a real challenge. Early in the game whistling is used to distract guards, as the game progresses, which can also be used to tell prisoners when to stop and go. Grabbing will also be an important part of navigating the prisoners to safety by throwing them from view of the roaming guards. Really, what makes navigating a challenge is whistling as it never works quite the way I expect it to.
A quick tap of the left button will make the main character whistle; letting villagers know it’s okay to follow. Holding the left button will tell them to stay where they are. This creates a challenge for players. If the villagers are off screen, while the main character is sneaking ahead and planning the next move, and he encounters a guard that is stationary, the only option is to whistle. No problem, right? Wrong. The screams of the villagers will be heard from the distance. It happened on more than one occasion playing through the preview. Guiding the villagers should be a challenge, but not to the point of constantly re-starting a level and adding frustration for the player.
Wildfire is a stepping stone for 2-D stealth games. It shows that the little guys can create an entertaining experience that rivals the bigger stealth franchises. It’s not often the little guy gets ahead of the game or adds something that no one has before, but Wildfire does and it executes it almost flawlessly, with some exceptions. The alpha was a solid hit.
Let’s hope that Wildfire‘s full release will be just as impressive as the preview. Hopefully, more so.
EDIT: PREVIEW WAS BASED ON ALPHA VERSION OF THE GAME