Afrofantasy Wagadu Chronicles Offers an Innovative Take on the Roleplaying Experience

The kickstarter-backed MMORPG hopes to introduce a more player-driven experience to the genre in 2023

Twin Drums has entered the closed alpha test phase for their ambitious MMORPG Wagadu Chronicles. Wagadu differentiates itself from other games in the genre by using a setting inspired by African traditions, and by placing an emphasis on roleplaying, rather than strictly conforming to pre-established combat-oriented design philosophies. The inspiration behind the game was the proliferation of classic tabletop RPGs in the past few years, and the project was further shown to justify itself with the difficulties people had trying to get a party together during the pandemic.

Freedom

Wagadu‘s main selling point is that every player can add to the lore-rich world. Every character can be one of seven lineages based on African peoples and mythology from all over the continent, and they are free to choose whatever profession or culture they want. Through each player’s investment in the game, they develop the world. You need not be a warrior or sorcerer. You can be a herder, a fisher, a sailor, or an alchemist, among other things. Each job is equipped to contribute to the world of the game in some way, whether it be economically, socially, or even spiritually.

Rather than being relegated to an adventurer, who reacts to the world around them, you are seizing roles usually delegated to NPCs. This can allow for much more organic storytelling than would be possible otherwise. You can throw parties for other players at your upgraded house, sell ingredients you’ve farmed, create a village from scratch, or be a pirate and steal stuff. You can even dedicate yourself to religion and bind lovers through the sacred institution of marriage, it’s all good! Stats permitting, you can do all of these things at once with the same character. You strengthen yourself by getting favour from the spirits, which you do by giving them offerings you acquire from being an active member of society.

Lineages have a storied history. Players can build on this with their interactions with each other

The alpha footage isn’t representative, but the drip is

It’s definitely a pan-African game, with a strong focus on sub-saharan Africa and significant influences from diasporas. Our thought process was similar to Tolkien when he created Middle Earth: we delved deep into many, many cultures around the continent and blended it with fairy-tale & fantasy elements.

Allan Cudicio, Twin Drums founder, Lead Designer

The most striking thing about the game is probably its Afrocentric setting. With the combination of the growing visibility of Black issues in the public consciousness and the increasing fidelity of graphics in the industry, Black representation in video games has become a more prominent concern than ever. The afro hair rendered in NBA 2K22 and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales has set standards that even other AAA games like Elden Ring and Final Fantasy VII Remake have completely failed to reach. Even Horizon’s Forbidden West efforts have fallen short, with otherwise excellent textures being haphazardly applied so that many Black characters will have an unlikely mishmash of hair types (does Varl put relaxer on his beard and sides?) that don’t conform to reality at all. It’s got to the point that Black artists have created and are contributing to the Open Source Afro Hair Library so that by 2023 developers will have free resources to remedy the situation.

https://twitter.com/Latinatwerkvids/status/1497710735522250753?s=20&t=Qhqjvlmx-gp2gq-qsEk2mQ

It might seem like a superficial complaint, but video games are active media. That is to say, it’s one of the only artforms where somebody besides the artist can participate in it beyond an emotional or critical level. For art to invite you to create your own avatar with the promise that it can provide a look that may reflect or parallel that of yourself or your cultural identity, only to be presented with 3 options in a sea of traditionally white or Asian haircuts, just seems lazy. Depending on how uncharitable you’re feeling, it could be considered outright exclusionary. One may find themselves asking the question “to what degree did the developers want or expect ethnic minorities to participate in their art?”

Wild that this alpha footage Ikaki fish-lady’s tentacle locks are in the top percentile of best Afro hair representation

With that in mind, it’s refreshing to see a game where all the characters are POC. While Wagadu Chronicles doesn’t boast AAA graphics its design incorporates styles from all over the continent. That same freedom of player expression informs the rest of the game’s design philosophy. You can battle creatures if you want to, but there’s so much more to the game than slaying monsters, it almost seems like a waste to not apply your agency and do something more banal, weird, or wholesome with your time.

If you’re not a POC, don’t be afraid of playing. It’s all about role play and putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes (or lack thereof), it’s what POCs have been doing for years.

Just don’t say the n-word, yeah?

If you’re interested in Wagadu Chronicles, you can check out the discord server here. Consider also checking out Coyote and Crow, the science-fantasy tabletop RPG set in alternate America that was never colonised.

He/Him

A flamboyant ultra nerd, Dave participates in the Underlevelled Tournament both for the thrill of the fight, and to avenge the orphans lost in the climax of the previous tournament.

Born: London

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Hobbies: street dance, collecting manga volumes, reading, editing

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Dislikes: insincere media, his own uncanny resemblance to Richard Ayoade, mayonnaise

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