After getting a little burnt out by Amazon’s New World, I went on a search for a new game to take my mind out of that 24/7 grind mentality. As I was browsing my steam home page, I saw a listing for Wildermyth, a game that’s been quietly sitting on my wishlist for a few months.
It’s an indie game built by Worldwalker Games, a small studio of six people, who are led by programmer Nate Austin, artist Anne Austin, and writer Doug Austin. I found it to be something of a curiosity, being a blend of tactical combat and procedurally-based storytelling.
I went in with barely any knowledge about how the game’s mechanics, because sometimes it’s just more fun to learn the hard way, and I don’t regret it for a second. In fact, slowly figuring out the systems, especially how decisions you make for your characters can have profound effects on them in future playthroughs, was the highlight of my weekend.
In the overworld map, your adventures are narrated through mini-stories that are presented like comics. Your characters are thrust into events that either require you to make a decision that affects a party member, or directly does something to them without your input. Some of these events deal with the battle you’re about to fight, while some of them thrust your characters into side quests that can net them additional gear or sometimes puts them in entertainingly disastrous situations. Whenever you scout a new area, are about to assault the enemy, or intercept roaming bands of monsters, you’re presented with a mini-story that comes with a number of choices. This gives players the feeling of having a direct hand in how the story of their band of adventurers develops, even without choosing every little detail. It’s a system that allows you to feel like your characters grow organically, and it’s a lot of fun.
This system is ingenious because even though there are a limited number of events (roughly 200 based on the ones listed on their official wiki), outcomes can be different because of the choices you make, your characters’ personalities, and some unlucky dice rolls. It keeps the experience fresh even if you run in new campaigns.
With over 20 hours played, I didn’t run into repeats too often, and you can lower this chance further by downloading additional mods from fellow players that add extra storylines. On top of that, the developers continue to release content patches of their own, including fully written campaigns (of which there are now five) that can be played. Those stories, while having an overarching villain that is specifically written for that campaign, still use procedural generation for events and world generation, again allowing things to play out differently every time.
I’ve played through only one of the story campaigns, and plan to play the rest in the future. What I really got into were the meat of the game: its random campaigns. I found these to be the most fun because the enemies are randomly picked, and narratives are a lot more random because there’s no pre-written “big bad” presence driving the events of the story. In these campaigns, it really becomes more about the journey that your party goes through, their interactions, the relationships that develop, and the gear and transformations that come along the way.
And to be honest, a lot can happen in these journeys. One character could find themselves hearing a call toward a flaming shrine, and should you choose to allow it, they can become one with the fire and gain a flaming arm. When you use these characters in future campaigns, they can continue to transform, eventually developing more flaming appendages that provide their own bonuses and debuffs. If you like what happens to your character in a specific run, you can choose to promote them in the legacy menu, which saves all of the changes that happened to that on that specific playthrough. This gets you attached to certain characters, and got me to stick with a certain group until I had them where I wanted them. It’s quite an interesting system, because you can also choose not to save any character transformations if the outcome of a particular story wasn’t to your liking.
The tactical combat doesn’t feel dry, either. They borrow from XCOM’s one move and one action system, and cover also plays a part in battles. There are three base classes in the game, which are the Warrior, Hunter, and Mystic, or your melee, ranged, and magic classes. The Mystic is my favorite class simply because of how they implemented magic in the game. Instead of always hurling the exact same fireballs and tornadoes like you would in other games, Wildermyth’s magic system requires your mystics to bind themselves to inanimate objects on the combat board. That opens up a lot of different interactions that can get more advanced as your mage grows in power. For example, a low level mage can bind themselves to a tree, and then cause that tree to explode into shards that hurt your enemies. A higher level mage would be able to cast a more powerful salvo, causing more damage and covering a larger area. Mystics can also bind to items that may not necessarily have a huge damage ability, but allow you to shackle enemies or slow their movement. It’s a fun system that adds some extra randomness to battles.
It might not be for everyone, but I like the art style that the game uses in combat. Instead of full 3D models, your characters look more like what you’d see in one of those pop-up storybooks from your childhood. I found it to be a charming style that didn’t distract from the battles, which can get pretty hard in higher difficulties.
However, the true charm of the game lies in the characters that you bring along on your journeys. Because of the choose-your-own-adventure style of storytelling, you get so much mileage out of your favorite characters. This is further enhanced by how your characters can have children during a campaign if they fall in love, because you can then choose to run campaigns with those family members and see interactions between them.
Wildermyth is another shining example of how good indie games are becoming. It doesn’t have fancy graphics, but it has a surprising amount of depth and oozes with charm. The fact that it has great mod support only strengthens how much I love this game. The mods allow you to add plenty of things, including additional equipment, transformations, cosmetics, and fleshed out story events.
I strongly recommend buying Wildermyth. It’s a game create with a lot of attention and love from the developers, and it permeates through the experience. For $22, I felt that I wouldn’t be too annoyed if I got 4-5 hours of gameplay. Instead, I ended up spending most of the weekend playing the damn game, and I’m still playing. At this point, all I can ask myself his how didn’t I pick this up when it finished its early access cycle on June 15, 2021.
Now, since this review is done, I’m going to get back to playing more campaigns try and get my favorite warrior to finish his transformation into a Gorgon.
Here’s a look at their launch trailer from earlier this year for a bit more of an idea about what the game is like.