Oddly, the centrepiece of the sprawling, multimedia Wakfu project is Ankama's least casual game to date: an involved, recherché MMO building player politics and a simulated ecology onto Dofus' turn-based tactical foundations. Wakfu is three years into development and over a year into beta, but Ankama isn't letting the runaway success of the related anime rush the release of this ambitious game.
It's billed as the sequel to Dofus, but that's only in terms of the game design and timeline - it's set in the same world, 1000 years later - Ankama being in no hurry to replace its cash-cow. The basics may be the same, but Wakfu has such a different, liberal and novel structure it should happily co-exist with its older brother.
Its landscape is divided into 500-player islands. Each will have a player governor, elected by the local player population every two weeks, who will set the rules that govern the challenges doled out by NPC clan chiefs (we see a fat, buddha-like panda presiding over a dojo of kung fu pandas, or a wizened wolf-god). The players' actions in these quests then affect the balance between man and nature on that island, the governor deciding whether he or she prefers a tendency towards harmony (Wakfu) or imbalance towards plant, monster or man (the confusingly-named Stasis).
This won't move at the glacial pace of many MMO meta-games, however, Ankama saying that a group of 20 well-organised players could change the alignment of a zone in just 20 minutes. There's a strong PVP element too, with neutral territory expected to change hands frequently, although the main player villages will be very difficult (though not impossible) to capture. Governors can spend money to delegate powers to other roles like diplomat, or head of militia. Character development is more free-form than Dofus' epic levelling curve, with spells increasing in power according to how much you use them.
Built on Java, Wakfu has even more detailed and comely art than Dofus, married with a dreamy, surreal atmosphere and some exquisite animation. 2D gaming rarely comes any prettier than this - nor as bold and forward-thinking.
Islands of Wakfu
You might not know it from the familiar look of the screenshots, but the biggest departure in Ankama's line-up is this offline, real-time action-adventure for Xbox 360: a game of light exploration and puzzle-solving blended with frantic 2D combat against multitudes of enemies. Even while it heads in new gameplay directions, Ankama is sticking to digital distribution (via Xbox Live Arcade) and unifying Islands of Wakfu with its other games; link your gamertag to your Ankama account and achievements will unlock rewards in the sister titles.
Ankama's fans will want to play it to be filled in on the prehistory of the company's fantasy universe, the game set 10,000 years before Dofus. Everyone else will be drawn in by the luscious art, two-player local co-op and old-school action. The two leads are a young dragon and his humanoid sister Nora who can be switched between at will by one player or controlled independently by two (sharing the same health and Wakfu resource to ensure balance).