Just want to jump to the end and see our final word and star rating for Wildermyth? Click here to skip to the end of the review. According to the game’s developer Worldwalker Games, a small independent game studio based in Austin, Texas, “Wildermyth is a character-driven, procedurally-generated tactical RPG for the PC”. According to my friend Shannon who recommended I […]
- Just want to jump to the end and see our final word and star rating for Wildermyth? Click here to skip to the end of the review.
According to my friend Shannon who recommended I try Wildermyth, when it’s 1.0 release launched on June 16, 2021 on Steam: “You’ve got to try this, it’s amazing!”.
From the moment you open the game, you know this is going to be something different.
Table of Contents
(Click the links below to skip further into the review, to the selected section)
- First Impressions
- Game Options
- Campaign Options
- Choose Your Own Adventure
- The Overworld
- Character Sheets & Customisation
- Life, Death & Rebirth
- TL;DR – The Final Word
The first screen that greets me and asks for my name is standard fare. The music that swells in the background, on the other hand, is anything but. I’m immediately struck by the haunting medieval soundtrack (“sounds like Game of Thrones” according to my girlfriend). The resonance of the viola and the gentle thrumming of war drums evokes the same sense of awe you sometimes feel in the cinema, sitting in the dark, watching as the opening scene of an epic adventure movie play out in front of you.
Once you’ve provided your name you arrive at the main menu. The art style is a mix of abstract environmental features with characterful illustrated figures. Just visible to the right of the menu bar, on the edge of the screen, is a tentacle-faced Orwellian nightmare, hinting at the darkness to come.
The game can be easily switched between windowed and full screen mode with an alt + enter keyboard shortcut, and in windowed mode, the display is responsive, meaning you can drag the edges of the window to make it whatever size you wish, rather than having to pick a specific resolution from the options menu. The game is very light on system resources and can easily be run in windowed mode while having several other programs running, without taxing even a basic PC setup.
Speaking of the options menu, I was delighted to find a comprehensive range of options to choose from, including a vast array of hot key customisations for keyboard and mouse play and a thorough set of controller tweaks available, including joystick deadzone customisation.
As well as the options, tools and mods menu, there’s a comprehensive help guide in the “How to play” section. There are also links out to the Wildermyth Wiki and a combat basics video which I’ll include an embed of below:
While it may seem strange that I’ve spent so long already in this review discussing the UI and the menu music, the quality of life already evident in the game’s UI as well as the calibre of the soundtrack are significant. They put me in a very positive state of mind for the game because the overall effect of my experience in the first moments of launching Wildermyth, is of a game that the devs have clearly put a lot of thoughtful care and attention into. As a gamer with a huge list of “need to get around to that game sometime” games on my list, that care and attention is greatly appreciated.
After clicking the play button, and then choosing New Campaign (intrigued by the option on that second screen to play Multiplayer, which I didn’t realise was an option with this game), I end up at a campaign options screen where I can customize the game’s difficulty, choose the primary enemy (although this section is greyed out for this level), pick mods, see and edit the map seed (very cool!) and even turn on a ‘Carved in Stone’ setting, which straight away appeals to the permadeath, rogue-like fanboy in me. For now though, I choose the default options and continue on.
Next up is the Party Select screen where I can reroll my three starting characters, and choose to start with more calamities. I’m not sure how the calamity mechanic is going to work, but I’m assuming it will make things harder. The drop down options for starting calamities goes as high as 100. For now I continue on with the vanilla experience by choosing the recommended number of 0 calamities.
It’s clear straight away that narrative is going to be an important aspect of this game. The first level opens with a graphic novel of sorts, illustrated. Broken up into individual panels that I can flick back and forward through at will.
After reading through a few panels of the first story, I’m met with a choice. There are flames coming from far-off rooftops. The rooftops in question are in the town I’m heading towards, where my close childhood friend, and potential love interest lives. What am I going to do?
The protagonist in this opening story is Gayle Fennelcoe, one of the starting three characters (that I had the choice to randomise if I had so wanted). Her motivation in going to the town is to visit Kest Oddgram, another character I could have swapped the appearance, backstory, skills and name of.
The card illustrations are all the more impressive for their dual achievement of being generated based on my team composition choices, yet at the same time appearing very much a bespoke creation. I would never have guessed that this narrative and the options available were flexible enough to include a range of characters that I could generate.
In the next panel I’m standing in the burning house of my friend, calling out her name. I press the right arrow to read the next panel, and something magical happens.
As if reading a story book coming to life, the two-dimensional panel gives way to a paper-doll like three dimensional world. I’m no longer reading a book. I’m inside it, and in this new world, I’m playing a turn-based tactical role playing game.
My first battle, fighting a “Roe” (a frenzied deer-like beast) serves as a tutorial of sorts, stepping me through basic melee and ranged combat. At the end of the battle both Kent and Gayle level up and I get to choose a perk for each of them.
I choose my new perks and am then presented with the spoils of my victory, the loot. In this case, that loot comes in the form of an item which I can choose to permanently give to one of my heroes. The ‘Pauldron of Grace’ gives a +5 bonus to dodge. Seeing as how my melee character is going to be getting more up close and personal with enemies than my bow-wielding hunter (hopefully), I give the shoulder piece to my warrior Kent. I’m pleased to see that the item is actually shown on the character.
After levelling up and equipping my shiny new equipment, the story continues, and the minds of Gayle and Kent turn to Mack, the third member of my trio. Apparently he is a wizard living in a tower and they haven’t seen him in a little while. They decide to go to his place to tell him about the recent attack on the town.
Travelling to Mack’s tower introduces the first taste of the overworld map. This tabletop-like view of the game world, ‘The Yondering Lands’, with tokens that look like they’ve come straight from Catan, is giving me nostalgic flashbacks to board games and tabletop RPGs. The overworld map later becomes a key component of the game as you spend the days and years of your characters life traversing the land, scouting out new areas, clearing away unique enemies and world building through crafting and strategic fortification of your resources.
I won’t continue stepping through the my first playthrough in this much detail, so as not to give away an spoilers. Instead I want to highlight some of the key aspects of the game. But in a way, apart from the mechanics themselves, it would be almost impossible to spoiler this game.
The reason being that outside of battle and in the thick of combat, you are constantly faced with choices that make a real impact on the outcome of your game. And this means that no one game is ever going to be the same as another.
Before moving on from the combat section of this review, there’s one specific combat mechanic that definitely deserves a special mention, and that’s Interfusion. While melee combat and archery are well implemented in Wildermyth, they’re nothing particularly groundbreaking as far as their premise goes. We’ve all stabbed or shot something in a game before. What most of us have likely not experienced is the mystical art of interfusing.
In Wildermyth, the wizard class are called Mystics. Instead of the standard magic fare: casting spells with your hands, a wand or a staff – mystics in Wildermyth use said instruments to interfuse themselves with objects in their surroundings. Once this magical connection is made, said mystics can then connect remotely to these objects and command them to react in a delightfully deadly manner. What makes this mechanic so interesting and fun to play is the variety of ways in which interfusion can be used based on the objects you interfuse with.
Want to set someone on fire? Interfuse with a lamp. Want to set off an explosion of wood splinters to shred through your foes? Try interfusing with something made of wood. Need to hit more than one foe in the same action? Why not interfuse with that rock pile and send a discuss of stone ricocheting between both enemies. The possibilities are endless.
Choose Your Own Adventure
During one fight that went awry, I choose to have Jonari – a new recruit to my company – jump in front of Gayle to protect her from a deadly blow. In doing so, he was critically maimed, and lost one of his legs (“Life’s about more than just having legs” he cheerily tells me). Later when I visited the crafting menu in a town and looked at his screen, sure enough there he stood on a peg leg.
A few game-years later, Jonari finds himself assisting a local goatherd who’s attempting to evoke a god of lightning and thunder in a Stormwell – a kind of hollowed out rock monument. When the magic ritual is successfully completed, I can choose to have Jonari put his head, arms or legs in the magical field. I choose his legs, and to my delight, both his legs (human and peg) are replaced with a new set of fire and lightning imbued storm legs that granted him extra abilities in combat. In honour of this development, I edited Jonari’s randomly generated last name to instead be ‘Stormlegs’.
This is just one small example of the constant surprising twists and turns that emerge out of the story as it unfolds based on the choices you make. Your experience of the game will be shaped by who you recruit, how you use them in battle, what you do in the face of mortal danger. The omnipresence of fickle fate brings chance encounters that cause calamities, romances, feuds and other life changing events into the lives of your expanding party (who by the way, I named “the frog friends”, which was one of the options offered to me).
In the overworld map view, your “currency”, so to speak, is time. You can choose to move your band of merry men/women/non-binary folk across the land as a group (good for attacking enemies together), or you can split them up and have one stay behind in a township building defences, one training a new recruit while another travels on ahead to scout out a new territory (good for making efficient use of time).
Whatever actions you take, time is going to progress. Ever present at the top of your screen is a countdown showing the number of days before a new calamity unfolds, and before a new incursion of enemies sweeps across your land. How you spend that time therefore becomes key to your strategy.
Your characters are constantly developing relationships with each other, deepening their connection on three spectrums: romance, friendship and rivalry. Each of these relationship types offer different bonuses in-game, for example Mack’s “Lover” relationship with Emli gives him a “Passion” effect. Passion gives Mack +4 damage against enemies who attack Emli until the end of the current mission. On the other hand, Emli’s “Frenemy” relationship with Jonari Stormlegs gives her a “Watch This” effect. Watch This means that whenever Jonari stunts (stunt is the Wildermyth word for crit), Emli gets a 45% boost to stunt chance until she successfully pulls one off.
The relationships that you develop also allow you to access random side missions, like the time that Emli became concerned about Mack’s drinking and so took him to a retreat in the forest with a group of spiritual knights. Characters can also have children, and you can switch on or off in the character sheet whether each character is able to have children or have random romances or rivalries (ones that arise without you choosing a romantic or hostile action).
Character Sheets & Customisation
Character sheets in Wildermyth are comprehensive and will delight fans of Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs. You can alter the appearance, name and history of your characters at any time. You can choose their genders, sounds, physiques and sexual attraction and can inspect all the aspects that make up who they are, as well as their stats, gear and combat modifiers.
Life, Death & Rebirth
When a character dies in Wildermyth, they’re gone forever… kind of. While there is permadeath in place for your characters, after they’ve gone, your remaining grieving company can choose to erect a monument in their honour. This monument allows them to be remembered in your legacy. When playing future games you can choose to bring these legacy characters back into the fray. There’s even a special campaign made entirely for a company of your legacy characters.
TL;DR – The Final Word
- Storytelling that is both compelling and emotionally engaging, yet at the same time procedurally generated and responsive to your choices.
- Beautiful art style and a haunting soundtrack.
- Thrilling turn-based combat and strategic world building.
- A deep RPG system with relationships and character development that meaningfully impacts combat and the meta game.
- Incredibly good value for money with hundreds of hours of potential gameplay, including multiplayer, and the ability to create your own content.
- The only thing I can think of that could possibly be seen as a negative is the breadth of customisation options available to you, and how these may be overwhelming to some people. But honestly the game does such a good job of stepping you through all its mechanics that this isn’t even a fair criticism.
If you love roleplay, creative strategy/RPG hybrids, or just exceptionally well-crafted narrative games, this incredible love-child of Dungeons & Dragons and XCOM is a masterpiece that you’ll almost definitely enjoy.
The incredible magic trick that Wildermyth manages to pull off is to create a story using your custom chosen ingredients, that doesn’t feel like procedurally generated randomness, but rather a handcrafted, emotionally gripping epic that you can lose yourself in. This is truly a revolution in storytelling.