Wayward Strand PC Review

Wayward Strand investigates gripping past events during a mundane present.

By Fragnarok, Posted 22 Sep 2022

Wayward Strand is a real-time adventure game developed and published by Ghost Pattern. In the early 1970s, an old derelict German airship floats towards the coast of Australia. With the original owners absent, the locals convert the airship into a flying hospital. During a long summer holiday, head nurse Ruth Beaumaris bringers her eighth-grade daughter Casey onboard to assist in the geriatric ward. While she is simply meant to keep the patients company, the inquisitive Casey plans to write a school article about the hospital.

Wayward Strand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

Upon arriving, Casey is quickly informed about at least four juicy leads for her story. The airship itself, the Grafin Isabella, is shrouded in the mystery of its past origins and arrival. One of the nurses, Joni, had suddenly quit without explanation. World War II veteran Mr. Falk passed away that morning, and his death has affected multiple people. Finally, an Australian federal agent will inspect the facility on Sunday; many are on edge to fix up the place. Players are free to investigate any of these, talk about other interests, or ignore everything.

Among the elderly patients include the knitter Ida Vaughn, self-help author Neil Avery, astrology fanatic Esther Fitzgerald, former Isabella passenger Heinrich Pruess, the mute gardener Tomi Hummel, and Dr. Margot Bouchard, who disapproves of the new hospital’s gaudy direction. Besides Ruth, other hospital staff members are nurses Joe and Lilly, doctors Shen and Alavi, director Pettigrew, and technician Ted. All are fully voiced with unique personalities and habits.   

Wayward Strand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

When in the company of someone, players can ask them questions from a simple dialogue wheel - which typically displays up to four choices at a time. When first getting to know someone, the questions are generic, like asking where they are from or how their day is going. However, finding out various topics can allow Casey to ask what someone knows about it - like their relationship with the late Falk. Casey can also use her documented knowledge to correct people, such as disproving Fitzgerald with statements made by Pruess.  

Wayward Strand is divided into three days, Friday through Sunday of January 1978. Players can explore the airship Isabella from 9:00 AM until the end of the work day at 6:00 PM sharp; the game will always conclude on Sunday. During this time, Casey can roam around the three floors of the geriatric ward, talking to patients, interacting with objects, or simply choosing to hang around.

Wayward Strand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

The various patients and staff have set routines and will rarely deviate from them unless someone like Casey is physically blocking the way. Typically, the nurses will have a quick meeting in the morning while patients get up from bed. Some freely walk the halls, while others stay in their rooms either due to poor health or personal work. Most congregate at 12:00 PM in the cafeteria for lunch, though constant use of the elevator and dumbwaiter can delay some patrons. Many of the patients are also friendly with each other and may be found in each other’s rooms having unique conversations.

Very often, many rooms are locked, and Casey will need at least one adult present to enter. Typically this is the owner themselves, like only being able to go into Pettigrew’s office while he’s there. However, players can sometimes directly follow patients headed for private locations, like Hummel leaving Falk’s door completely open. Even if a place is closed, Casey may have the option to listen in by putting her ear to the door. In other instances, players can fully barge in. Depending on the character, their dispositions and dialogue may change now that there is a teen witness.

Wayward Strand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

What becomes clear is that player actions rarely have consequences or matter. The hospital is an active machine overseen by adults, and a single young outsider won’t make a difference. Instead, with the simultaneous ongoing nature, it is up to players to decide where to be and when. To get someone’s complete history, players will often have to be at the right place and right time, typically at the cost of fleshing someone else out. This is also how most of the Steam achievements are unlocked, possibly requiring several playthroughs to gain them all.

This approach also winds up making Casey herself a rather weak main character. She hardly has any agency of her own and instead acts as a conduit for the rest of the cast to work out their more dramatic problems; she is a passive listener and much more of a cameraman than a protagonist. The game does try to add some tension between Ruth and Casey but is almost always scripted and doesn’t account for what really happened - in one instance, Ruth claimed that Casey was late despite being early.

Wayward Strand, PC, Review, The Hospital, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

Wayward Strand has very detailed and smooth character animation, making every character move and pose differently. However, objects in the environment don’t care much; items will often teleport, go missing, or completely float around characters in mid-air. There is also little regard for realistic collisions, with characters often walking through walls, clipping into each other, or eating without food reaching their mouths.

One of the biggest oversites is Wayward Strand’s save system. There are no manual saves and only a single autosave at the end of a work day. This means players must commit between two to three hours of playtime for their progress to record. While direct game crashing didn’t happen, outside operating system or power issues could make Wayward Strand more frustrating to play. Ghost Pattern has already acknowledged that they will look into a solution, but until a patch comes, the lack of saves may be very off-putting.

Wayward Strand is great for players who love talking with NPCs and hearing their thoughts and opinions. However, this is very much in the form of a journalistic interview; Casey lacks the charisma or drives to shape the outlooks of seasoned adults. Still, it can be great fun to unravel the mysteries and stories by just happenstance.

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Ghost Pattern
Developer(s): Ghost Pattern
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Narrative Adventure, Exploration, Time Limit, Medical, Alternate History
Release Date: 2022-09-17

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