If I had to create a game based on any two genres, there’s a 100% certainty that I would never, ever say, “I’m going to make a turn-based wrestling RPG.” But hypothetical me is often wrong, and it’s been proven wrong once again. WrestleQuest is just that: a turn-based wrestling RPG developed by Mega Cat Studios and published by Skybound Games. And it’s a damn good one at that.
Lemme Talk to Ya!
Upon starting WrestleQuest, you’re immediately greeted by the likes of Jake The Snake Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page, and Jeff Jarrett. It’s clear from the get-go that the developers truly are wrestling fans, as the game takes care to pay homage to the greats, particularly Macho Man Randy Savage. Everything is treated with the level of love and fandom necessary for a game like this to work. I’m not sure if the game would land the same if Mega Cat was unable to get these legends in the game. Seeing Jeff Jarrett and others throughout WrestleQuest making an impact on your story and gameplay lends a great deal to the overall package and makes clear the vision the development team had for the experience.
I went into WrestleQuest mostly blind, having only seen one trailer and knowing I’d eventually play it. What I didn’t notice until playing, however, was that the title is set in a world of toys. It makes all the sense in the world, yet it’s beyond odd in all the best ways. And that oddity works in the game’s favor: It allows for some truly inventive characters in a story with real-life wrestlers who themselves are already prone to inventiveness and eccentricity. With names such as Jacques Azze, it’s hard to not chuckle at the game’s sense of humor. And that’s important because wrestling is a world that takes itself seriously, yet recognizes its inherent ridiculousness. There’s a 141 2/3 joke for all my Steiner Math people out there, and it lands.
I’m Here For A Fight
Battles in WrestleQuest are turn-based with a timing-based button press system for an extra bit of damage or added defense, a la Paper Mario. Each encounter includes a hype meter that can be raised by mixing up attacks and hitting the button prompts as they pop up (think Star Ratings in the WWE 2K games). You can also build hype by taunting, but this will leave you open to taking more damage on your opponent’s next turn. The hype meter gives you more power, but if your opponent gains the advantage there, then they will get the boost instead.
The game also has moves known as “Gimmicks,” which serve as the equivalent of magic abilities and summons in traditional RPGs. Some of these are subject to a quick button timing event, so the game keeps you on your toes and engaged with the action throughout. When your opponent is low on HP and you strike them in the “Fatigue” state, you can pin them by pressing a button inside of a green indicator three times within 10 seconds to signify a referee’s 3-count on the mat. If you fail, your opponent will be kicked out.
The alternative to pinning is to just whittle your enemy’s HP bar down to zero. You can even engage in promos that will build hype or kill it before you so much as step into the ring. You’re given two dialogue options to select from during these promos, one right and one wrong, though the right answer is fairly obvious in some cases.
Navigating the overworld is entertaining as well, and it’s obvious Mega Cat focused on making each area feel different and specific to the particular set of characters that inhabit it. There are places in each area that are blocked by a table. You can find “Spot Tokens,” which allow you to access these places by making The Dudley Boyz proud and throwing someone through the table to clear the path.
Another area of note: WrestleQuest’s sprite-based graphics. Some may scratch their head at it, but I love it. It lends itself well to the toy-based character models and allows for the full range of personality that an adventure like this needs.
The story of WrestleQuest follows Randy Santos, an aspiring pro wrestler who worships Randy Savage and sleeps in the gym where he works. He finds himself staring at an opportunity to make a name for himself and takes on the gimmick of “The Spice Himself, The South of the Border Savage, Muchacho Man.”
In an interesting twist, the game also follows a second character at the same time: Brink Logan, a jobber (i.e., a wrestler who loses… A LOT) whose theme music is somewhat reminiscent of that of Bret Hart (the song is even called “The Expert of Execution”). His story is built around working for his family’s wrestling promotion and eventually wanting more than to end every match on his back. It’s a solid story, and for the two particular genres that WrestleQuest represents, story is huge. And there is a lot of it, make no mistake.
My playthrough clocked in at around 42 hours, accounting for having to repeat some tough battles. Don’t let the aesthetic fool you: This is an old-school turn-based RPG in almost every way. I found myself getting hung up in some dungeon-type areas. There are definitely times when you’ll have to do some laps to level grind before you progress (though nothing too crazy). There are no random encounters, but my biggest criticism overall with the design is that you’re given the perceived option to avoid enemies, but may actually struggle to do so. Enemies walk preset paths that are synced to your own character’s movement, so you may accidentally find yourself in battles you may have been trying to avoid to save HP. It doesn’t hurt the gameplay, but it’s pretty annoying and can extend your time in a place where you might be stuck.
The Main Event
WrestleQuest’s boss matches have a “big fight” feel that’s true to the game’s RPG and wrestling roots. Each fight has a specific set of “dramatic moments,” or a set of tasks to complete as you’re fighting. Some of them are mandatory and others optional, but they always provide a reward that helps your character, so they’re worth attempting.
I enjoyed these fights greatly, but I will admit that the mixture of wrestling and RPG elements does make battles feel weird. You know your objective is to win the fight, but you’re also slightly delaying it to tick off a box for the dramatic moments. Granted, if you’ve watched enough wrestling, you’ve heard the phrase “everything is wrestling,” which is basically the belief that everything is a show to be manipulated to achieve the desired outcome or outcomes. When you’re trying to fit a particular move that you may not want to waste a turn on into your match to check a box, the game does feel like that.
The most interesting thing about WrestleQuest is how much of the wrestling world the game manages to represent. I didn’t think an RPG about aspiring wrestlers set in a toy world would actually pull the curtain back and discuss things like jobbers, how matches are planned out, and small family-owned promotions. Even though the latter is all but dead thanks to the globalization of the sport (yes, it’s a sport), it’s a nice touch that shows the developers really are making this from a place of love.
The Cream of the Crop
WrestleQuest is a love letter to professional wrestling and everything it represents, from the smallest details to the biggest. The respect for the greats of the past and what they mean to the present and future is evident, and the way in which Mega Cat Studios matches that with some excellent RPG gameplay is commendable. This is a fully fleshed-out RPG experience and one I believe needs to be experienced regardless of your affinity for wrestling. It’s just flat-out a great game.
Want more wrestling game coverage? Check out our AEW: Fight Forever Review.