Article / Highlight · Preview

Wander Stars Demo Impressions: Super Fire Edition!

Wander Stars protagonist transfixed by glowing orb

Martial arts and the power of words combine in interactive anime-styled turn-based RPG Wander Stars! Step into the role of aspiring martial artist Ringo as she reluctantly joins forces with the enigmatic and somewhat shady Wolfe in a star system-spanning adventure to find the pieces of the mythic Wanderstar map. Only time will tell if they’ll succeed, but the Wander Stars demo sets a promising stage, even if it only dives into the beginning of what’s sure to be a grand journey.

Wander Stars‘ central conceit is that words can be powerful weapons. Ringo is a practitioner of Kiai, a martial art that has taken the galaxy by storm. A character chooses descriptive words to showcase the type of move they’ll perform, with” kick” or “punch” being two primary action words available first. You can then amplify your chosen action word if you’ve enough remaining SP with either a modifier like “super” or “extra” or an elemental descriptor such as” fire.”

An elemental word adds a bonus to an attack, causing more damage if an opponent is weak to said element. It might also cause a negative status effect upon contact. For example, fire or flame can inflict burn on a foe, providing additional damage for multiple turns, so using the words “Fire Kick” will do as they imply. Modifying words adds further layers to an attack, either amplifying its strength or providing extra effects. For instance, “Hard” increases an attack’s effectual damage output if an opponent tries to block. A word like “Consecutive” adds additional chances for your attack to land (though each repeat attack does less damage), while “Special” adds more attack power to a combat move. A “Super Punch” is a fairly obvious example of how to combine an attack word and a modifier.

If you’ve collected enough SP, you can combine the three different word types to create powerful combos. “Super Wind Kick” can be brutal, especially against opponents with wind weaknesses, while a “Super Special Wind Kick” does even more damage if you can pull it off. The demo’s beginning stages only let you choose from a limited assortment of words, so your available pool of how many words you can combine is limited. However, as Ringo strengthens, she can chain even more words together.

Aside from stringing attack combos together, Ringo can use words like “Item” to use a helpful restorative or support item from her limited inventory, or “Block” to gain BP that gets whittled down before her health takes damage. “Block” can also be combined with elemental and modifier words for added effects. For example, a “Fire Block” increases resistance to that element and gives you BP.

Opponents have weaknesses and resistance to various words in Ringo’s vocabulary. Hitting their weaknesses not only does add damage to their health, but it also regains your SP for every weak point you hit. This SP replenishment allows you to combine more words before ending your turn. For instance, the demo’s final boss was weak against “Claw,” so I used that attack word in word chains whenever the cooldown was over.

That’s the gist of combat for your run-of-the-mill enemy encounters in Wander Stars. Boss battles have attack stages you must learn to strategize effectively, such as knowing how to prevent or prepare for a boss unleashing a super devastating attack, but overall, they’re similar to regular battles. It is interesting to note that, as Kiai is an honorable martial art, there’s a chance to end fighting on good terms with a “Peace” prompt when you’ve carved many opponents’ health close to zero. This option allows you to become friends with a rival. It gives you access to their “Pep Up” phrase, a specially added modifier for particular words that grants unique bonuses or additional effects once tagged onto them. Collecting Pep Ups and various new words from battle and map travel bolsters Ringo’s arsenal, giving you more word options to equip and carry into battle.

Wander Stars is split into ten episodes, though the demo only covers the first. Because of its shorter duration, you can’t save in the demo, so I’m unsure how that feature will work in the full game. I gather that you will be able to “binge play” the complete game or approach it in smaller, episodic chunks. This first episode has you explore various point-and-click maps with notable spots for fights to occur, treasures to find, or special dialogue events to see. You can explore as much or as little of a map as you wish as you head to your destination. I like how Wander Stars approaches player choice in that regard. In my playthrough, I tried to leave no stone unturned to acquire more words, Pep Ups, items, and money, but I just as easily could’ve chosen not to.

Battles can sometimes take a while, but I had so much fun figuring out effective word combos that I didn’t mind. However, I could see it as an issue in the full game if there’s no real save option during episodes. I love the visual novel approach to most dialogue scenes and the anime-inspired animations for notable cutscenes and battle animations. There’s a lot of colorful attention to detail in the character designs and gorgeously handled inspiration from martial arts/action-oriented anime such as Dragon Ball Z!

Ringo is a fun character, and I love Wolfe’s sarcastic demeanor and how much his cynical outlook contrasts with hers at this juncture in the narrative. Their later reluctant partnership feels dynamic, alive, and believable. I’m intrigued by Ringo’s search for her missing brother and grandmother Anzu’s connections to the Wanderstar map. I’m also curious why Wolfe is looking for the map in the first place, along with his apparent past relationship with the space pirate Ax.

The Wander Stars demo ends with just enough hinting at the giant galactic adventure looming ahead that I want to uncover what happens next! In its beginning stages, Wander Stars is already a fun sci-fi martial arts epic centered around creative wordplay, and I’m eager to play more. The wait for the game’s full release will be impatient for me!

Wander Stars doesn’t yet have a release date, but it is coming to PC via Steam (the demo is still available on Steam!) and Nintendo Switch.

Be part of the conversation and join us on our Discord, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling is a reviewer for RPGFan. She is a lover of RPGs, Visual Novels, and Fighting Games. Once she gets onto a subject she truly feels strongly about, like her favorite games, she can ramble on and on endlessly. Coffee helps keep her world going round.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.