Wrestling and turn-based battles make for a surprisingly good combination
The world of wrestling is filled with starry ideals and crushing defeats. The in-ring athletics and backstage politics form a theater that’s all its own, wrapped up in layers upon layers of performance and genuine moments. With WrestleQuest, Mega Cat Studios wraps all of that up and puts it into an RPG.
I got some hands-on time with WrestleQuest at PAX East 2022, where I got to see how this combination plays out. The story follows several wrestlers, with two in particular taking the lead. They live in the toybox world where everyone is into wrestling in some fashion. The idealistic Randy “Muchacho Man” Santos believes in the ring, working to achieve his goals with his own two hands. Meanwhile, Brink Logan is a jobber; he takes the fall for other wrestlers, buying into the world in hopes that his dedication will pay off.
Through these two lenses, I got to see the world Mega Cat is creating for WrestleQuest. And so far, I’m very intrigued.
To be clear up-front, I’m not an avid wrestling fan. I’ve watched a few of the big shows, and it’s really hard to exist in this industry without knowing at least a bit about wrestling. I’ve even played a pretty decent number of wrestling games, though those have struggled to give me what I want out of a virtual wrestling experience.
WrestleQuest feels like the answer. It’s about the world of wrestling, in RPG form. Turn-based battles act out the matches, as your party of wrestlers can choose between basic strikes or a variety of moves, ranging from simple grapples to high-flying stunts or more.
The battle system itself feels very similar to Mario RPGs, like Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, or even more recently Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Pick an action from a menu and act it out, and hit the quick-time button prompt for a follow-up. Sometimes enemies will get sent to the ropes, allowing a chance for a follow-up. You can also get blasted back, and hit the button prompt for a recovery.
Wrestling mechanics still seep into the battle system in the form of pins. While knocking a character out is an option, so is a pin. Once an enemy has taken enough damage, they drop to the ground, allowing the player to attempt to pin them. It’s the classic chase bar, where the pinner has to try and stop a moving arrow on the fleeing bar representing the pinned. Nail it three times, and they’re out; mess it up, and they pop back up with some extra health.
What gets really cool is how actual wrestling story plays into these matches. In one tag-team rumble, my manager wanted me to lose, and wanted it to look heroic for the other guys. So I had to complete a certain set of objectives, like pinning someone and failing to secure it, to “win.”
A wider world
It’s ideas like this that really jumped out at me. WrestleQuest seems set to grapple with the realities of wrestling, and not just the exciting acrobatics and feats of strength. One of the developers described a later quest to me where a wrestler is found all busted-up.
After finding his tag-team partner for help, the player finds out the partner wants the injured wrestler to use glue—the toybox equivalent of steroids. And in this moment, you’ll be able to decide whether to endorse this or say it’s better to succeed without it. Not only does this count towards your status as a “face” (hero) or “heel” (villain), it also provides some interesting insight into what Mega Cat is grappling with for story.
WrestleQuest can actually deal with discussions of staged matches and “kayfabe.” It can have a character who is wide-eyed and believes in real victories, while another is a jaded brawler who’s constantly used as a stepping stone for others. It can dig into complex topics because it doesn’t necessarily have to be the front-facing game for a wrestling program.
Bringing the action to action figures
It helps, with darker material, that the world itself is all action figures. And lighthearted contrast isn’t the only way WrestleQuest uses the setting. It also really chases the idea of playing with wrestling figures, the same way one might have when they were younger.
A kid might not have had a full lineup of every WWE wrestler. So maybe instead of two wrestlers rumbling, maybe it’s Macho Man versus a Gundam in a business suit. Or a giant lizard. It’s a world made up of toys, not just toy wrestlers.
Speaking of, plenty of big names are signed onto the project. Jake the Snake Roberts, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Andre the Giant are all set to appear. Jeff Jarrett has been consulting on the game, even.
For those who want something a bit different out of their virtual wrestling, WrestleQuest genuinely seems like the answer. Even those who haven’t been interested in the idea before, might get interested now. It reminded me of how Golf Story got so many folks into the sport, even though they’d never go near a PGA Tour.
You can wishlist WrestleQuest on Steam here. No release date’s been set just yet.