Just before Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem launched out of Early Access last week, its recent ratio of positive reviews on Steam had surged to 91 percent. After four years of troubled development, including a massively downsized list of innovative features, it finally seemed like the French studio behind the Diablo-like action RPG had found a path forward that players liked. But the week following Wolcen’s launch has been nothing short of a disaster: Game-breaking bugs, server issues, a frustrating lack of polish, and an easily exploitable economy are just a few of the reasons Wolcen’s Steam review ratio has fallen to just 56 percent. Of the 19,827 reviews Wolcen has received since launch, 9,782 are negative.
After playing several hours last week I wasn’t all that impressed with the state of Wolcen’s launch either, but things have only gotten worse for many players, . Hotfixes applied on February 14 caused many players to temporarily lose access to their characters or items stored in the in-game stash, forcing the developers to take servers offline. Throughout most of the weekend, Wolcen’s multiplayer servers remained offline, which made it impossible for people like me to play without having to start over since there’s no way to transfer characters between online and offline modes. Once servers were restored on February 16, players still continued to encounter connectivity issues that made playing with friends unreliable.
Game-breaking bugs and infinite gold exploits
That’s just the beginning of Wolcen’s problems, though. One of the most popular threads on the subreddit spells out a game-breaking bug involving some of Wolcen’s city-building endgame. Once you beat the story, players embark on a long journey to rebuild a city, funneling gold and resources into upgrading new facilities that, in turn, unlock tougher game modes and better ways to upgrade your character. But according to hundreds of comments on Reddit, if players try to upgrade items using The Forge or access the Dark Market, it’s possible to trigger a bug that stops Wolcen from properly launching next time you try to play. “This dumpster fire just keeps spreading,” says one angry commenter.
The developers have identified the issue and supposedly have a fix, but they’re unable to patch Wolcen more than once a week now due to a need to “coordinate” with their networking partners to prevent further issues. That’s not encouraging news when Wolcen has as many bugs as it does.
Ironically duplicating an issue seen decades ago in Diablo 2, item and gold duping is one of the most common exploits in Wolcen right now, though the developers have warned players that those caught exploiting the game will be banned. In the short time since Wolcen’s launch, players have discovered ways to earn infinite gold or create infinite stacks of items—both of which undermine Wolcen’s multiplayer economy since players can trade those ill-gotten gains away. Both types of dupes are easily repeatable and only require splitting stacks of items in the inventory menu, which causes different glitches. When splitting a stack of two gems, for example, the second gem will double in value. Players can then recombine the stack and split it again until they have a gem that can be sold for millions of gold.
Likewise, Wolcen’s abilities and Path of Exile-inspired passive skill tree can also be easily manipulated to create character builds with power well beyond what should be obtainable. VG247 introduced me to my personal favorite, called the Bleeding Edge Crit build. With this, your character can instantly melt the absolute toughest enemies in the endgame in just seconds. There’s even a build that makes you straight up invincible.
Of course, being an ARPG, half the fun is trying to break the game with clever character builds, but a lot of players are upset because Wolcen simply feels unbalanced. “I love how this ability is just so broken with everything,” writes one redditor. “Oh talent with a shield that gives me absurd damage? I’ll just use it with Bleeding Edge. I could have all my mage skills up to level 60, swap it out for Bleeding Edge and instantly do more damage.”
In fact, there’s a long list of over 24 abilities and passive skills that players have compiled that simply do not work. Meanwhile, others have compiled a list of bugs that have been in Wolcen since its early alpha over nearly four years ago. Theorycrafters have been especially useful in determining broken logic in Wolcen’s underlying math, which seems to include everything from basic stats to how magic damage is calculated. “Something is very wrong with the stats in this game and I have now lost all patience trying to tinker with stuff that doesn’t work properly,” says redditor worldssmartestpickle.
Though the community does have its share of players who are having a good time, it’s easy to see why so many are growing increasingly frustrated. “Currently a buggy mess,” reads one of the top Steam review. “Played into act 2 and had to restart, where it sent me back to the beginning of the game at level 25. Lost all my waypoints and quests. Wait until they fix this up and lots of people say it’s stable.”
Though bugs can all be fixed in time, action RPGs are games that ask players to dedicate dozens of hours into crafting finely tuned killing machines—but what’s the point when the underlying math behind combat is so unreliable that your efforts are undermined unless you conform to one of the many utterly broken build guides?
“The game is in SHAMBLES,” complains one player. “Even if you completely ignore server stability issues (which we shouldn’t), the game is so riddled with game-breaking bugs, it makes Fallout 76 look like Breath of the Wild.”
That’s hyperbole, but I can sympathize with the sentiment. Given that Wolcen spent four years gathering player feedback in Early Access, it’s baffling that it could launch with so many bugs and broken features. And as that initial wave of positivity continues to evaporate, it’s not exactly clear how the developers are going to fix the game. This week’s patch (which doesn’t have a release date yet) should fix some of the more frustrating issues and dupes, but it’s hard to have any confidence that new exploits and bugs are lurking around the corner just waiting to be discovered. If you haven’t already purchased Wolcen, I’d strongly recommend staying away until it’s received a few updates.