If you are interested in playing Wrongworld, then there is a good chance you have already played some of the games that inspired it. Like the brutally unforgiving world of Don’t Starve, Wrongworld is a survival game that involves exploring a procedurally-generated world, gathering resources, crafting tools, and cooking food. It also wears its difficulty on its sleeve and provides one of the hardest experiences that this genre has to offer, which is saying a lot. There is a strong sense of familiarity with this game, which assumes that you have already played at least a few games like it. That doesn’t mean, however, that Wrongworld brings nothing new to the table. It is very limited in its scope, but the game offers an interesting tech tree and its own brand of humor. As the product of a single developer and as a game that is still technically in Early Access on Steam, it has more than its share of issues. However, it is a game that you should experience, even if you feel as if you have already experienced everything that this genre has to offer.
In Wrongworld, you play as a stuffed bear who has crash landed on an alien planet. You are given this background on the game’s initial loading screen as it builds the world. Subsequently, you are dropped into it with virtually no other information, other than a few tooltips that teach you how to use the controls. This jarring beginning will likely disorient a player who hasn’t yet played this type of tough survival game. Wrongworld doesn’t just assume that you have played a perma-death survival game before – it practically requires it.
Naturally, when you start off, you are largely helpless and you don’t have much at your disposal besides your fists and your cranium, which you can use to chop down trees and smash rocks. Food is very scarce and restores tiny amounts of health, which means that any damage that you take will accumulate for hours at a time. Health potions are so hard to craft that even if you play in a world for ten hours, you may never have a full health bar after you have taken your first hit. Monsters aren’t terribly difficult to fight, but there are lots of them and you will need to engage in plenty of combat if you want to collect the resources that you will need to finish the game. They do sometimes ambush you while you are crafting items at your base, which can be a very frustrating experience when you are low on health. With just a few small mistakes, a promising playthrough can come to an end quickly. Wrongworld is very hard, which is precisely what was intended by its developer Sludj Games. The game is advertised as being an unforgiving one, and it delivers on that promise in spades. As a result, Wrongworld is a game that should have strong niche appeal.
Wrongworld is fairly limited in its scope, which can be off-putting to gamers who are used to expansive tech trees that give way to large inventories filled with goodies. The tech tree is in this game is surprisingly small, and so is each world. There are only four biomes (rock, grass, desert, and ice) and they are far too similar to one another to add any depth to the game. To its credit though, the game is a tightly focused one, and it shows signs of thoughtful design and solid play testing. Most the craftable items, for instance, are useful and necessary at some point (with one or two exceptions). Tough challenges almost always have more than one feasible approach. Resources are distributed appropriately and there isn’t any single one that effectively “breaks” the game. Rewards like the rare barrel or box of goodies that you can find are scatted about optimally. It is this type of success in its nuts-and-bolts gameplay that gives Wrongworld solid replayability, even though each playthrough can become tedious at times.
Like many games of this nature, that tedium is front-loaded during each playthrough. Games, where you start off with nothing in your pocket, can be monotonous for the first hour as you collect mundane resources like wood and rocks. Unfortunately, Wrongworld is especially bad in this area. The process of collecting resources is especially sluggish in this game, as it takes lots and lots of repetitive head bashing against trees and rocks before you can build any tools or weapons that are worth a darn. The landscape is fairly barren and worlds are a little too similar to inspire any excitement over what adventures await you in each new world. Another reason for a slow start might be Wrongworld's graphics, which are downright hideous. A new world doesn’t greet you with any sense of beauty and, for the most part, different worlds are visually indistinguishable from one another. Unlike a low polygon beauty like 2015's Grow Home, the color palette in the game is disappointingly limited to a handful of dominant colors like brown, gray, green, and blue. What few polygons exist in the world have little or no detail on the surface, which distinguishes Wrongworld from a game like Minecraft. In recent years, a large number of indie games have succeeded at squeezing lots of visual beauty out of some otherwise limited technology, but Wrongworld enjoys no success in that area. To be fair, Sludj Games is a one-man outfit, so expecting triple-A graphics in this game isn’t reasonable. It is a valid excuse, but that doesn’t make the game an attractive one. And, since, the game carries a $20 price tag, it should be judged against its similarly priced peers.
Games like Wrongworld are as much about strategy as they are about action, so its basic mechanics aren’t the primary attraction for the game. There are, however, a few annoyances that are worthy of mention. The first of them is that the game’s combat is clunky and clumsy. There is little to do during combat other than stand in front of your enemies and stunlock them by bashing them in the face until they die. This process sounds a little easier than it is though. You will frequently find yourself missing with punches or taking little steps forward when you don’t want to do so, forcing you to side step your enemy. You also have no control over what kind of punch that you will throw, whether it be a quick jab or an uppercut with a relatively slow windup that leaves you vulnerable to counterattack. Combat, in general, is not much fun. The game’s inventory is also extremely stingy and there is nothing craftable like a backpack. This decision was likely motivated by a desire to maintain the game’s level of difficulty, but the ten-slot inventory is so tiny that you can hardly explore for five minutes in the game without filling it up. Since every tool and wearable item occupies an inventory slot, you eventually find yourself heading from your base of operation with only four or five open slots. And, since you will need plenty of almost every resource in the game, you will want to pick up almost everything on the ground and then trudge back to your base after only a few minutes of collecting. This game desperately could have used either a few more inventory slots or some sort of craftable upgrade that would let you carry more items. It also could have desperately used a mapping function, something that is sorely missing from this game. Navigation once you get away from your base often gets difficult because of the game's samey scenery and lack of distinct landmarks.
Despite these issues though, Wrongworld frequently hits a groove with long, satisfying and addictive stretches. Games like this one can be both tedious and frustrating for the first half hour or hour of each world. Once you get a good base going and you craft a good weapon or two though, then it rapidly becomes more fun. This type of basic carrot-and-stick approach is a major part of what makes a tough game like Wrongworld fun to play. All of those pesky monsters that take forever to kill with your bare fists suddenly don't seem so tough once you craft a set of brass knuckles. All of that damage that you take suddenly doesn't seem so scary once you can finally brew a healing potion or cook some of the game's more nutritious foods. Satisfaction and excitement build as you progress through the tech tree and watch your base flourish.
The game makes this process even more fun by keeping a lot of secrets close to the vest, never robbing you of the fun of discovery. Wrongworld doesn't tell you at the outset what you are supposed to be doing, but there is always the sense that you are working towards some sort of goal. Despite having so many elements that repeat themselves in the worlds, it takes many hours -- at least 20 or more -- before you have seen everything that the game has to offer. Despite having so many of the trappings that typify this type of game, Wrongworld is still funny and unpredictable. It is loaded with tongue-in-cheek additions to the tech tree and lots of little surprises here and there that are fun to experience for the first time. Those surprises could take the form of a one-hit kill hazard, a peculiar random event, or a cache of valuable supplies. This review would be doing both you and the game a disservice by spoiling what any of them are. Suffice it to say, Wrongworld derives a lot of value from you learning everything about it on your own.
Sometimes that learning can be a very painful experience. This game, as much as any other, loves to bludgeon you over the head for anything that you do wrong. Some mistakes are literal one-hit kills that can erase a full health bar in a few seconds. Like its brethren in this genre, Wrongworld erases your save game and starts you over in a new world the instant that you die, making each mistake an extremely painful one. Some challenges require multiple failures before you finally figure them out and stretch your patience to the breaking point. There is a certain type of gamer that is looking for a tough and unforgiving experience, and Wrongworld effectively scratches that itch
There are more than enough indie games that involve survival and crafting. That Wrongworld can enter into this crowded genre and still provide an experience that is unique enough to be worth playing says a great deal. Despite containing many of the conventional trappings of a survival game and some significant flaws, it still feels fresh for at least a dozen or two hours. It isn't the most ambitious indie title on the market, but it is a tightly focused experience that is intelligently targeted to a specific audience. If you have reached the end of this review, then there is a strong chance that you lie within that audience. If so, then Wrongworld is a fairly easy game to recommend to you.