Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem debuted in 2020 to a mixed reception. It’s the newest hack & slash we’ve seen, so it’s a shame this action RPG title is not better.
Wolcen Studio’s dungeon-crawler has about 6/10 scores on both Steam and Metacritic. If you ask me, a lonely critic, I’d say it’s worth a try, but not the extra time investment other A-RPG games deserve.
You need some convincing, though. You need to see for yourself whether or not you should play Wolcen: Lords Mayhem.
The last part of our article has a Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem starting guide if you become interested. We’ll cover the first build you can do as well as general advice to get you going.
I hope this is your one-stop Wolce: Lords of Mayhem review and guide.
Wolcen is only for Windows PC. It requires a 6-core processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 2GB dedicated GPU.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Review
In February 2020, Wolcen premiered as a dynamic hack & slash title with the potential for greatness. It takes what it needs from Diablo 3 and Path of Exile at the same time. Thus, it delivers a game that’s easy-to-learn, with just enough complexity to replay it a couple of times.
What it lacks, though, is end-game variety. After the classical main story campaign, you’d expect an ARPG title. Wolcen becomes repetitive quite fast.
Elsewhere, it has all of the elements of the genre. That means loot, gear, gear quality, skills, levels, quests, quest rewards, crafting, and dungeons.
You can play both online or offline. The online mode awards extra loot as you play around with your friends. However, it’s often buggy. The offline mode is the straightforward experience you’d expect. You can’t play your online character offline or vice-versa, though.
Gameplay is fast-paced combat where dodging, dashing, and combos are the core features. On top of this, you need to customize your skills to make your characters powerful.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is a fresh dungeon crawler. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’d be happy to play this title as well.
It offers about 50 solid playthrough hours during its main campaign, which is already close to Cyberpunk 2077. However, ARPG fans want endless end-game content for no extra money, as that’s what other titles have taught us to expect.
For now, you can find Wolcen over at the Steam store. Bear in mind this is not a free game, as the entry ticket is currently about $40. However, the fee gives you access to their online servers as well as constant updates.
Moreover, there’re new “seasons” every year. These are “Chronicles,” constant updates bringing patches, upgrades, new content, and new skills. You’d need a fresh start every time a Chronicle releases, though, much like Path of Exile‘s leagues.
Their first Chronicle, Bloodtrails, debuted in December 2020 as the game’s first expansion.
Every ARPG title must have something that makes it different from the rest. Otherwise, they become just another of the bunch.
For example, Path of Exile shines because of its complexity and open class system. The last Epoch‘s highlight is the time-traveling feature. It’s a core mechanic of both the main arc and the endgame.
Choosing the defining feature of Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is easy. It’s the gameplay. It does feel different, faster, smoother, and great-looking.
There’s another distinctive element here, though, which is how the stats work. You get four stats, each one with particular functionalities that work nothing as you’ve seen on other ARPG titles.
A Flawed Start
Even though it has just enough to stand on its own two legs, defeating its own negative reputation is more of a challenge.
Its negative reception is due to a flawed launch plus immense expectations. Whereas fans were expecting Wolcen to be the “Diablo 4” killer, it turned out to be “just another ARPG game.”
Nevertheless, Wolcen gathered around 5,000 concurrent players on launch. Those were impressive numbers in the first game of an indie studio. Unfortunately, though, the developers couldn’t handle the success.
Hence, serves became unstable, and imperfections became clear. Suddenly, fans realized the title needed more time in development.
Over the next months, developers were able to iron out the issues. However, the negative first impression was already here.
Still, the time developers needed to flesh out their game has passed. As a result, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem feels much better. Nevertheless, the end-game is still underwhelming.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Gameplay
As you start a new game, you go straight to the character creation screen. Here, you’ll create a single character with no class selection.
There’s some customization, though. You can choose either male or female characters and choose some aesthetic presets via the personalization menu.
On top of that, you select your starting weapon. The three options are melee, ranged, and magic weapons. However, it’s not an important choice, as you can change your character’s path at any time.
Then, you start the game, and slide-show cinematic greets you. It doesn’t have the best quality, but remember, Wolcen comes from an indie developer, not a AAA company.
Don’t Skip the Tutorial Section
Finally, the classic ARPG isometric setting is there to greet you. You’ve reached the tutorial section, where you’ll realize characters have four basic movements.
You have your basic attack on the left click, a dodge on your space bar, and a dash attack. A dash attack makes you reach an enemy with your left click automatically by dashing forward.
You’ll see your HP bar on the left and your Willpower/Fury bar on the right on the lower side of the screen. There’s also a dash meter on the left; it resets each time you dash. Lastly, there’s a dodge counter on top of the HP bar.
It’s a simple functionality that evolves as you customize your deadly powers. And, as far as powers go, there’re 21 classes within a rotating Passive Skill Tree. The options range from minions to elemental powers.
A Modern Take on A-RPG Gameplay
After the tutorial section, you’ll get your first skills on the action bar. There’re seven spaces here to place your skills.
By now, you’ll see the game feels and moves differently than other titles of the genre. SKills have more weight, and your weapons are something you use.
Overall, battle animations feel smooth and come with sweat animations, sound FXs, and music. It seems like you see and understand everything you and the enemies do. It works like this because you need to have time to dodge and dash enemies.
Weapon combos, in particular, showcase the refined gameplay Wolcen delivers. Your weapon combo is available in the left click, the attack button. You can’t change it, but these combos are usable even in the end-game.
That means you’ll be actually swinging your weapons all the way through. Notably, different weapon configurations work differently. For example, dual-wielding axes make enemies bleed. Or two-handed hammers have a larger range and the ability to bypass enemy armor.
With the appropriate attributes and passive skills, you’ll enhance the weapon combos.
So, no, Wolcen is not about exploding enemies like Path of Exile. Is more about wielding your weapons to unleash destructive forces in-between dodges and dashes.
These destructive forces will never cover the entire screen, though. Similarly, creatures will never cover the entire screen. Instead, your foes come with different abilities, a smart AI, and strategies that depend on the enemy family they belong to.
You could even be facing packs of two and three highly specialized enemies. You’d need to face encounters with strategy and fast movement if you want to succeed.
Also, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is a challenging game. It’s tough from beginning to end. You’ll never reach a point where it becomes a breeze. Boss battles during the campaign are particularly long and painful. Luckily, other NPCs (Templars like yourself) will often travel with you.
A Story-arc With Clear Inspirations
I haven’t said much about the story; most players are not coming to an ARPG because of the plot. Unless it’s a Diablo title, cinematics and narrative are often not very significant.
In Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem, the plot is somehow interesting. There’re just enough cinematics and dialogues to understand what’s going on. However, you have to see the scenes and hear the dialogues repeatedly if you replay the game.
What I like, though, is how Wolcen takes cues and inspiration from other powerful RPG games. It does so with respect, and it even takes elements from The Lord of The Rings universe.
You play as a former officer of the Human Republic’s army. You’re also an orphan, fleeing from the Human Republic as they hunt you for your hidden magic powers. The mysterious Templar organization comes to your aid and makes you a part of their group.
The Templar organization is similar to what we saw in the Dragon Age franchise. It takes care of controlling and eliminating dangerous magic users and demons.
There’re further similarities with the te lore here. Notably, your character slowly awakens magical powers akin to what the demons wield. The Templar order, fanatics as they are, is not very happy about it. Not even your own system
If you made Hawke a Blood Magician on DAII, you know what I’m talking about.
Either way, it’s a simple setting that won’t bother you, but it won’t excite you either. It has a couple of cool cinematics here and there, though. If you’ve played any Warhammer titles, you’ll notice the similarities here in terms of graphics and tones. The developers are Warhammer fans!
With its nods to other exceptional and classic RPG games, the narrative is something most gamers can easily enjoy. As I said, though, it’s nothing new.
Lastly, the main arc goes along three acts, aside from the prologue. These chapters feature both main and side quests. According to the Wiki, there’re 11 side quests and 15 main missions. The developers intend to expand the main narrative on further expansions.
Following secondary quests is quite easy. You access isolated areas during the main progression through green doors. Blue doors mark the main quests.
Rotating Class System
You’ve already seen the lack of proper classes within Wolcen. Instead, we get a rotating passive tree with the goal of allowing you to tweak your character as much as you like.
In a way, it’s a forgiving system that doesn’t require much investment to understand its mechanics. That means you can get usable builds on your first try without losing hours of your precious time reading Wikis. I see that as a plus.
Overall, the skill system is easy, friendly, and incredibly fun. Moreover, you’ll never need crazy math calculations to create better pathing. Likewise, you don’t need crazy expensive unique items to make it work.
Because of this, I’d say Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is the definitive ARPG for both beginners and casual players. If you’re an adult parent with little time to play like me, you’ll appreciate Wolcen’s approach.
Gates of Destiny Passive Tree
Every time you level, you’ll gain a point to spend on the Gates of Destiny passive tree. It’s a huge passive tree grid that looks like a Path of Exile copy.
However, the first game to create it was Final Fantasy 10. Every character in your party shares the same grid with both passive and active skills. The only difference was the starting point.
The Gates of Destiny starts right in the middle. Each node you pick belongs to a particular class. As you progress to these nodes, you’ll get the passive stats and buffs.
Much like the Attribute points, the idea is to mix abilities from different classes. Focusing on a single path results in characters with clear weaknesses.
Moreover, passive stats are similar across the different classes. Just like the attributes work for either build, most nodes also work for either build.
There’s also a neat feature in the Gates of Destiny, unique to Wolcen. You see, there’re three circles within the grid, and you can rotate these circles at any time to make your pathing easier.
You’ll then work your way from the inner circle to the utmost limits of the grid various times. You’ll never choose a class. You’d only choose nods that belong to any particular class. Moreover, you can reset your skills at any time from your character’s menu.
I have to leave a video below so you can see how it works. Keep reading after you see it!
Each time you level up, you’ll gain 10 attribute points to spend as you wish. Choosing where to spend these points wisely is a challenge. These attributes are:
Ferocity: It affects critical chance, spells critical chance, and health generation.
Toughness: It affects resistance and health.
Agility: It affects spell casting speed, attack speed, and dodge chance
Wisdom: It affects spell status ailment chance, attack status ailment chance, and status ailments resilience.
As you see, every attribute works for either build. Unlike most ARPGs, you’d have to focus on two attributes plus Vitality / Constitution. Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem, though, asks you to be mindful and keep well-rounded characters.
Ailments are negative statuses you inflict on enemies with attacks or spells. Every spell does damage and creates a status ailment. For example, every fire spell creates a damage-over-time (DoT) burning ailment.
You can reset these points anytime for free, so don’t worry about experimenting with your character.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem has an insane level cap. Theoretically, you can reach level 187, which means there’s always something to grind.
However, you’d be crazy to think you can achieve that. You’re more likely to reach around level 75-80 after playing about 100 hours in real life. After that, the experience becomes staggeringly slow.
Also, level progression is quite slow. Even though the campaign extends for many hours, you’ll only be around level 35 once you beat the 3 acts. That’s a far cry from being a powerful end-game character.
As a side note, you can re-spec the skill points at any time. However, you have to pay with Primordial Affinity, a hard-to-find currency.
The higher your character level, the more Primordial Affinity you need to reset your skill points. And while it’s hard to come by, you can buy it from Demetra, an NPC, for gold, the other main currency.
Active Skill System
Lastly, we need to check the active skill system, known as “Enneracts,” within Wolcen.
You first get Eneracts by completing quests during the campaign. You can also find active skills by slaying monsters.
Otherwise, you can buy Enneracts from Demetra in Stormfall, the game’s main hub. She has a selection of Enneracts that refreshes every 15 minutes.
Then, you learn these skills, and they remain forever on your active skills menu. Naturally, you can map these abilities on your action bar. There’re five slots on the action bar, plus a sixth slot you unlock on end-game content.
Also, there’re currently 40 active skills available, and you can learn and use them all if you will. The only limitation is the kind of weapon each skill requires. So, for example, some skills require either bows or pistols; others require a staff.
A neat trick is the ability to use both melee and magical abilities. It requires you to wield a “Catalyst” on your off-hand. Meanwhile, you can still wield a powerful sword as your main weapon.
The most important factor is ability modifiers. You can upgrade the efficiency and power of the skills in a couple of ways.
First, active skills earn levels. As they level, you’ll gain modifier points to upgrade these abilities. There’re 10 available modifier points for each skill. Each skill rises to level 59 and has 19 different modifiers.
Some modifiers cost one point and deliver a small buff. For example, cooldown reduction is the most common upgrade you can choose. Other options cost three points, and they change the mechanics of the skill.
Now, upgrading the skills costs either lots of experience or some amount of Primordial Affinity. You may obtain Primordial Affinity by using the Enneracts you’ve already learned (“Duplicated Enneract”). Alternatively, you can sell Enneracts to Dimetra you’ve already found.
There’re three damage types on Wolcen:
- Material: Physical (stun attack), Rend (bleeding effect), and Toxic (poison effect).
- Elemental: Fire (burning effect), Frost (cold effect), and Lighting (shock effect).
- Occult: Bleeding (weakness effect), Shadow (cursed effect), and Aether (stasis effect).
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem End-game
After you beat Act 3’s final boss, there’s a building mini-game screen. Most players don’t know what to do here, though, and the game doesn’t guide you either.
Enabling new buildings within these icons, you unlock new areas to visit, as well as new map modifiers. In particular, you increase item rarity, item quantity, and crafting improvements.
Constructing takes specific resources like “Productivity.” You gain these resources by running Mandates and Expeditions.
Developing your buildings also makes it easier to get the specific resources the mini-game needs. These upgrades remain for all of the characters you’ve made on the server.
Also, every time you come back from an adventure to the Project screen, the game will reward you with a new “map” or area.
Mandates and Expeditions
Otherwise, you can hang out on Stormfall and interact with the Expeditions map. It allows you to enter the Champion of Stormfall areas.
These are a series of expeditions towards challenging areas. You can progressively beat these areas and go from level 1 difficulty to level 187. Developers say they will push the level further, so players never run out of things to do.
You can slightly modify these areas to improve farming efficiency with gold.
Alternatively, there’s a Mandate board. These are random dungeons with scalable rewards. The game gives you a score each time you complete an area. Try to clear the entire area to get the highest scores; a higher score gives better rewards.
In comparison, completing an expedition requires you to beat a certain number of mobs.
When you complete all of the buildings, you’ll feel there’s nothing else to do. Even worse, all you did was visit randomly generated dungeons to click and loot. That’s why I said Wolcen’s end-game is lacking. It’s also the main reason why the game still hasn’t recovered its reputation.
You’re basically going to do Mandates and Expeditions until you’re tired of playing the game. There’s no extra reward and no more progress to see. It becomes a huge grind with increasingly bigger damage.
Latest Update: Chronicle I: Bloodtrail
Bloodtrail is the first big expansion of the game. It serves as the first league, otherwise known as Chronicle I. The first feature the expansion adds is the ability to start a new character with a fresh economy.
Aside from that, it adds a core mechanic to both the main campaign and the end-game areas. These are “Hunts,” where you choose the modifiers of a Prey before killing it.
There’re also new narrative events within end-game areas. Other changes include new skills, new items, areas, and skill modifiers. They’re also wide balance changes, performance upgrades, and bug fixing.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Review Verdict
I’ll try to summarize our long review in a short couple of sentences. Here’s my take:
Wolcen is a great casual ARPG game. It’s fun and has satisfying action gameplay. Moreover, the narrative is good enough to pay attention to.
With its easy and forgiving progression system, you’ll rarely make a mistake during the campaign. That’s important because you see, you’ll get bored of the end-game content rather quickly.
Most likely, you’d want to play Wolcen’s main story arc and then a couple of hours more. After that, it’s all chores and grinds.
That’s a shame. You’ll finish the campaign as a low-level character. Thus you won’t have a taste of the most powerful modifiers and passives the game has to offer unless you grind for days end.
I guess it’s up to you. But I wouldn’t put Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem next to the Diablo franchise, Path of Exile, or Last Epoch.
Even though it tries to fall right in between Diablo III and PoE, the game is just not there yet.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is a solid ARPG, probably a 7/10.
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem Starter Guide
Wolcen is not a tough game, but progress is slow and boring. Perhaps you don’t want to start over to get it right, so I might know what to do with your first character. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you wasted your precious time.
Most attribute points have diminishing returns the more you point into them, so it’s not a good idea to over-invest into a particular one.
Notably, Agility is the most underwhelming option. It takes too many points to raise attack speed.
In comparison, Ferocity and Wisdom are highly effective, so most builds focus on these options. It goes like this:
Focus on Wisdom and pick Ferocity as your secondary attribute. Focus on one of these stats for several levels (about en levels), and then focus on the other for 3 or 4 levels. Wisdom is you want DoTs, or Ferocity if you prefer Crit chance. Then, add your full 10 points on Toughness every 5 levels or so.
If you’re a ranged-oriented character, you’ll want some points on Agility as well, but not as much. You can trade Wisdom for Agility if your attacks don’t inflict DoTs.
Alternatively, you can trade. Ferocity for Agility. This way, you’ll focus on your main stat (either Ferocity or Wisdom) for several levels and then Agility for 3 or 4 levels. As usual, add some Toughness every 5 or so levels.
Most builds do well with Wisdom and Ferocity. In particular, DoTs are very powerful on Wolcen.
Passive Skill Distribution
There’re tons of builds you can explore, but I won’t be covering any. You can check them out in the official forum, though.
My advice is different. As you can rotate the tree and re-spec the points at any time, Wolcen is quite friendly. However, it’s best if you plan your characters beforehand.
Early on, you have to decide which skills are important to you and then plot your path. Don’t go out of your way to pick a particular passive, though.
The passive tree has various classes on each circle. You have to plan your path and mix similar classes together. You have to progress the tree from the first circle to the outwards limit. Then, as you level up, do it again.
- Soldier: Melee characters with health generation, rage building, and crit chance. Focus on Ferocity and Toughness if there are no DoT abilities!
- Scholar: Magic-users with force shield regeneration lower cost of skills and ailment bonuses. Focus on Willpower.
- Sentinel: Gun and bow users with increased dodge chance, stamina bonuses, and increased movement and attack speed.
Then, you progress towards the second circle. You’ll have to choose a class that has passives your starting class can use.
- Warmonger: These are berserkers. They gravitate towards Ferocity and melee damage.
- Praetorian: The “tank” class, with lots of defensive bonuses and resistances. They can also benefit from Wisdom.
- Cabalist: It’s a magic class that benefits from ailments. It also has some increase in force shield and spells damage. It’s the most attractive choice for beginners.
- Warlock: It’s a pure-mage that increases magic damage and willpower. It’s the easiest choice for beginners.
- Ranger: It’s a class that uses ranged weapons. It creates negative effects on buffs. They also raise evasion and attack speeds. Rangers are often the hardest option to choose, so avoid Ranger if you’re a first-timer.
- Assassin: It has increased dodge chance, crit chance, and crit damage. It’s the kind of character you’d want to pick after you gather some experience. You can create a one-hit-one-kill character.
- Siegebreaker: It’s the natural progression of the Praetorian. It builds up its defensive buffs and adds some damage-dealing passives. A safe bet for all players.
- Child of Fury: It’s the all-out melee character. However, it inflicts status ailments.
- Arms Master: It’s a balanced melee character that inflicts beeling effects.
- Eos: It’s augmented physical attacks with magic.
- Plaguebrinder: It inflicts poison DoTs through magic and summons.
- Abys Shaper: It increases force shield durability. Also, it has powerful Occult magic. Occult three types of damage (Material, Elemental, and Occult).
- Time Weaver: It uses Occult damage as well for time-wrapping effects. It’s a particularly fun class to try.
Oracle of the Trinity: It increases spell casting speed. It adds element buffs for the three elements (frost, fire, and lighting). It’s the straightforward elemental mage, a beginner-friendly choice.
Duskglaive: It manipulates shadows (Occult Magic). Also, it increases attack speed and dodge chance. It’s an odd choice for beginners.
White Arrow: It adds frost damage to projectiles. Also an easy choice for beginners.
Exorcist: It adds a Material damage buff to projectiles.
Alastor: It increases critical damage and attack speed. It also has minor lighting damage.
General Build Advice
Lastly, Wolcen builds are nothing more than mixing these classes together. After you plan your path, you must also choose your attributes and follow your blueprint.
Then, as you find Enneracts, simply use the ones you like the most. Use the proper kind of active skill for your character, though.
Modifiers are even easier: you can make it work with anything you choose. However, do plan ahead.
More importantly, you should focus on a single damage type and then complement it with a secondary one. All of your passives should revolve around the single damage type.
Elemental Mage Example
The classic mage build is the easiest pick on Wolcen. It will allow you to understand the game before going towards more difficult options.
The idea is to use high-damaging magic spells and then use Bulwark for health recovery. Your secondary utility spell is Aether Jump, which allows you to jump away from enemies.
For classes, you will pick Scholar, Warlock, and Oracle of Trinity. You can then pick the Ranger as well if your spells are projectiles.
Overall, you’ll go for elemental damage, force shield, and DoTs.
Pure Melee Example
The pure melee character focuses on the Wings of Ishmir skill for damage and Bleeding Edge. For taunting enemies, you can use Sovereign Shout and Juggernaut.
The Gates of Destiny path goes like this:
- Soldier: The Wild Card
- Warmonger: Feast for the Crows, Gods Amongst Men, and surrounding passives
- Siegebreaker: Salvatory Anchor, Disallowing Vessel, and surrounding perks
- Child of Fury: Furios Appetite
After these picks, you can go towards the Sentinel and then the Praetorian for stamina and defensive bonuses. Lastly, go towards the Arms Maester to choose Virtuous Stance.
As for attributes, you won’t need Wisdom. Instead, aim for 5 Ferocity points for every 1 Toughness point.
Poison Build Example
The Plaguelord build is one of the best builds available. It comes from YouTuber Vulkan.
This build combines Anomaly and Plaguburst skills to create poisonous gases.
The passive tree path looks like this:
- Scholar: Thirst for Knowledge and Attrutrion Strategist
- Warlock: Resilience to Corruption, Duty to Exterminate, and Reining in the Darkness
- Plaguebringer: Toxic Emanation, Undertaker
Then, you’re going towards the Soldier for the Wild Card passive. Then, choose Power of the First Men and Immortal Offering from the Cabalist.