Video games have always been my one true love when it comes to hobbies, but coming in at a close second is professional wrestling. The glorious mix of scripted combat and soap opera-style stories has always appealed to me, and if it wasn’t for video games I’d spend all my free time watching people throw each other around the ring. Despite my love of wrestling though, I’ve never really been a huge fan of wrestling video games. I was really hoping this would change when I heard about the turn-based RPG WrestleQuest, so pull up a steel chair and let’s talk about it.
You don’t actually play as a party of human wrestlers in WrestleQuest, because all the characters in the game are action figures. In The Toybox wrestling is a huge deal, with different areas of this colourful world all running their own wrestling federations complete with champions and superstars that the other toys love to watch. Our story starts with Muchacho Man Randy Santos, an incredibly on-the-nose parody of Randy Savage who wants to be the very best toy wrestler in all the land. To do so he’ll need to travel the world, get in some scraps and maybe even make some friends along the way.
He’s not the only toy with a goal of being the top dog, there’s also Brink Logan. He hails from the snowy north and calls himself the Expert of Execution. Yeah, that’s right grapple fans, he’s basically Bret Hart, and he’s sick of having to lay down for the three count for people who don’t deserve it. Eventually, his professionalism pays off though, and the bigwigs realise someone as loyal as him deserves an opportunity. With the help of his Moose best friend and a cast of other wacky characters, this serious wrestling toy is set to go places.
You switch between these two main characters and their respective parties for a large chunk of the game (often without any warning whatsoever at times you’d rather not) on the road to stardom. This usually means accomplishing some tasks that’ll get you noticed by one of the big wrestling companies of the toybox, then having a few matches. It’s a real box-trotting adventure, albeit one where you are almost always told exactly where you need to go next.
Between you and your goal marker there will probably be a few turn-based battles to compete in, so get ready to lock up with all sorts of aggressive baddies. The combat in WrestleQuest involves selecting one of your moves, then completing a quick time event to ensure you deal the maximum damage or don’t get countered. These timed button presses have a pretty tight window for success, so only those with fast reactions will survive. Unfortunately, these reaction tests get old fast, and pretty much spoiled the combat for me.
It’s not just attacks that require lightning reactions, it’s also anytime you pin someone. When you take certain enemies’ health down to zero they’ll be knocked to the floor, and this is your opportunity to go for the cover. At this point a cursor moves back and forth over a little bar, and you need to line it up with the green section and hit the A button three times for a pin. If you miss the green at any point the enemy will get back up and recover a load of health, which as you can imagine isn’t ideal.
These systems alone probably wouldn’t ruin the combat turn-based RPG for me, but coupled with an overall snail-like pace they do. Every single move you use just takes a little bit long to perform, and even outside of battle, you move much slower than I’d like. After playing such well-paced RPGs recently like Chained Echoes and Octopath Traveller 2, this slower experience really dragged for me.
Some of the decisions the developers made when creating WrestleQuest are just bizarre too. Like the little soundbites that play when talking to characters, which have absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on for example. The very worst of these issues though are the objectives you sometimes get assigned when in important battles, which are often a serious chore to complete.
Now because wrestling is a scripted sport, obviously that means that elements of a match are usually predetermined. WrestleQuest decided to incorporate this into the combat of the game, which seems like a wonderful idea. In practice, however, this means you’ll need to make sure certain things happen in a battle, which is often simple but not always. One particular match required my team to get hit with a certain move by my opponent, and I spent five minutes waiting for these muscled-up idiots to powerbomb my party. On my first attempt in this particular fight the enemy refused to use this move, and after using up all my healing items I lost and had to restart the fight. How this could be considered enjoyable is honestly mind-blowing.
It might feel like I’ve been a little hard on WrestleQuest, but that’s only because the game has so much promise. The colourful cartoony visuals are absolutely gorgeous, and the concept and theme of the game is wonderful. It’s such a shame that so much of the actual gameplay of WrestleQuest isn’t enjoyable because this could’ve been something special.
A wrestling-themed turn-based RPG is a great concept for a video game, but the execution of WrestleQuest leaves a lot to be desired. Constant QTEs, slow-paced gameplay, and some seriously irritating systems make playing WrestleQuest somewhat of a chore. I was so excited to finally get my hands on this game that appealed to all my sensibilities, and the disappointment I felt when I got a chance to play it took me down for the three count.
A fantastic theme for an RPG with plenty of insider references
The QTE filled combat gets old fast
The pacing just isn't good
Certain gameplay elements are frankly baffling
The voice lines are really annoying