Review – Wildfire

I always get excited when I hear that Humble Bundle is about to release a brand new game. They have had a track record like few others can boast about in recent years, with hits like Slay the Spire, One Step from Eden and Void Bastards. Their latest release, which is currently a PC exclusive, is the stealth platformer Wildfire. Let’s see if this game will maintain Humble Bundle’s streak of fantastic indie hits.

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Wildfire can look gorgeous at times. Too bad the janky framerate ruined my enjoyment.

Wildfire starts out in very interesting way. After capturing a chicken for your town’s ceremony feast, you end up finding a mysterious meteorite. Considering the fact you’re a dumb human being, you decide to touch before heading back home. The village is then attacked by a group of baddies, who quickly decide to burn you alive at the stake. Pretty uplifting start so far, don’t you think? Due to the previous contact with the meteorite, you don’t end up burning at the stake, instead learning how to control the element of fire and bending it to your will. The narrative then proceeds to your character running away from his village and deciding to rescue his townsfolk who are now scattered throughout a huge map.

What we have here is a mix between a cinematic platformer, with weighty controls and janky jumping mechanics, and a stealth game, all topped with a healthy dose of element bending. You’re a puny weak villager, so you can’t directly fight against the hordes of enemies scattered throughout the levels. Instead, you either need to use stealth mechanics to get to the end of the stage without getting noticed, or use your elemental powers to either scare enemies away or kill them indirectly by blowing up a crate or burning a patch of grass underneath their feet.

The mechanics themselves are fun, but a bit undercooked. It takes a long time for you to acquire any other elemental power besides pyrokinesis, so the beginning of the game quickly became a repetitive slog, as it basically revolved around scaring foes by burning every single bush near them. The game gives you a lot of different objects to interact with, but that just ended up being an illusion of actually incentivising experimentation throughout your runs.

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Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it?

If a foe detects you, you can’t fight back, as they will always block your otherworldly magical abilities with a single swipe meaning that you need to run a few feet away for their dumb AI to stop chasing after you. You will also spend a lot of time hidden inside a bush, waiting for an enemy to show up onscreen for you to either finally get past them without being detected, as bushes basically make you invisible, or attempt to spice things up a bit with some sadistic elemental attacks. Things get a lot better when you unlock more elements to bend, as well as different upgrades for each element, but by the time the game gives you your full arsenal of magical powers to play with, you’re too fed up with Wildfire to keep on playing it.

What bummed me the most with Wildfire wasn’t its poor pacing, but its performance. It’s weird to criticise the performance on a pixel art-based 2D platformer, but my entire playthrough was filled with a neverending barrage of framerate issues and desktop crashes. The framerate would more often than not plummet down to single digits for a long time, and even freeze for a while, for no particular reason. There would be nothing happening onscreen, yet the game would arbitrarily decide to stop running properly. That was the final nail in the coffin that made me lose my interest in what could have otherwise been a surefire indie hit.

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“Always look on the bright side of life…”

There are some great ideas in Wildfire, such as the way you can handle the elements to interact with the environment around you, but what we ended up getting instead was a shallow cinematic platformer with some janky controls, repetitive level design, and lots of framerate issues. There is a foundation for a good game in here, but either the developers need to patch the hell out of this build or just go back to the drawing board and deliver a more polished sequel. As of now, I’d just rather play any other game released by Humble Bundle besides this one.

 

Graphics: 7.5

While the backgrounds look constantly stunning, there are loads of reused assets scattered throughout the entire game, turning Wildfire into a somewhat visually repetitive experience.

Gameplay: 6.5

It’s a 2D stealth game with an emphasis on weighty physics and element-based puzzle solving. It has some great ideas in here, but it suffers from a terrible performance and some really noticeable input lag, as well as underwhelming level design.

Sound: 7.5

The soundtrack is mostly comprised of really good, albeit repetitive, medieval-influenced tunes. There’s not much else besides that, as the game doesn’t feature a lot of sound effects.

Fun Factor: 6.0

A really inconsistent framerate and an irritating amount of trial-and-error hamper what could have otherwise been a really inventive take on the stealth genre.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Wildfire is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Wildfire was provided by the publisher.