The dragon can strafe and shoot fireballs using twin-stick controls, while Nora gets in close, executes rapid melee combos and uses a neat teleport, targeted with the right stick, to dodge and surprise enemies from behind. It's all about crowd control as the pair battle through mobs of deranged wildlife, and by the end of the third level there's already a fairly long and complex boss battle to deal with that seems to owe as much to MMO design as the retro shmups and beat-'em-ups Ankama is referencing.
With open progression across multiple quests, lots of collection, stunning presentation and beguiling music, Islands of Wakfu has enough charm to carry the apparent simplicity of the action - but knowing Ankama, there could easily be more here than meets the eye. It has no release date, but is apparently complete and merely waiting its turn in Microsoft's release queue.
PC title Slage also strikes out from Ankama's comfort zone, this time into the world of the online action-RPG. As a Diablo-style, randomised dungeon-crawl for four players with massively multiplayer lobby zones, it shares a little more of Dofus' gameplay DNA than Islands.
The big changes here are technological and stylistic: it's Ankama's first game in 3D, and the art is pulling in two different directions, taking the characters even further into the realms of saucer-eyed super-deformation even as it covers the screen with liberal splashes of gore (Ankama calls the look "brutal kawai"). Still, an overhead camera and some light cel-shading ensures the family resemblance.
With a strong focus on co-operative team-play across the Dofus universe's 12 character classes and a required connection to Ankama's servers, Slage isn't really going to be a solo hackandslash. It is pretty streamlined though, players asked to choose a deck of just four skills at a time plus left and right mouse-button attacks. Skills can be swapped around at the 'phoenix zone' checkpoints to answer particular challenges of the dungeon or bring the party into harmony, and use of the powerful Wakfu spells is rationed by a very limited points system.
Epic boss fights, quick reactions, tactical co-operation and spatial crowd management are Slage's touchstones, and the game is all business - although there will be social areas, there will be no crafting or other distractions from looting and murderising in the randomly-generated dungeons. It's designed to run on an average PC - albeit one, for the first time in Ankama's history, with an actual graphics card - but the bright cartoon style will scale well and it's already a solidly pretty game.
Ankama hasn't decided on a business model for Slage yet, although there definitely won't be a subscription to pay. There's no release date.
For all things Ankama, visit the Ankama Games website.