Wildermyth is a tactics-focused RPG with a procedural narrative, and it’s quietly been taking the world by storm. For me, this game was a slow burn, but when it gets its hooks into you it’s something that burns very bright and hot – in other words, it’s very good.
At the heart of the game is a combination of two types – a deep and rich RPG experience where your choices shape the narrative, combined with a satisfying tactics battle system. This is all wrapped up in a dynamic comic-strip art style, and it’s likely you’ll lose many hours deep in the world of Wildermyth.
During my ill-fated first playthrough, I chose warrior Mithwor, Hunter Logla, and Lonesome, the mystic. You are run through the first hour or so in tutorial mode, teaching you the basics of the tactical combat system, and I had to save my friend Logla. I say friend, but I did have the choice at the start of the battle to run in there and make this a romantic engagement, but I chose friendship to keep things less complicated. Logla is trapped in a burning barn, and there’s fire and wild beasts trying to kill her. We teamed up, put out the fire, and slew the beast, and then it was onto the next step of the adventure.
After the battle we all get some power-ups and trinkets, again you can make the choice as to how to level up your characters. For example, I could extend my range or speed and potency of attacks. Each character gets a level-up choice, plus the enemies drop loot which you can then apply to your character, for example here, I found a Talisman of Cunning which improved my melee accuracy and ranged accuracy.
Once this was done it’s back to the narrative, which is presented in a comic book style. My party was on their way to save the third party member called Lonesome, he was stuck in a Tower surrounded by Wolves. I saved him, then our party was a trio and we moved to the next area. There’s a world map view where new areas you have been to yet are greyed out, and you can send scouting missions to understand the area, or you can comb the area in detail, which usually leads to plenty of resources. Unfortunately, my first playthrough came abruptly to an end, as I faced some very powerful enemies that seemed to tear through my party, leaving them all dead in a very short amount of time.
The complexity of the game and its reactions to the narrative are quite surprising, and often I wonder how they do it with the number of party members and branching narrative choices. For example, my Warrior Mithwor was in a cave and he saw a jewel he liked the look of. I was offered a choice, I could leave it alone, or I could try and pry it out with my sword and sell it. Of course, I tried to pry it out so I could make some quick money, but unfortunately, the jewel became dislodged and stuck in my eye. Yes, my eye. Poor old Mithwor then had a jewel for an eye, until my party was unfortunately killed. This did offer up a unique kill ability though, when Mithwor died I did have to opt for the jewel to explode on death, dealing extra damage to anyone near me. This kind of interaction with the environment and my party of characters was pretty surprising and interesting, and I’d love to see how this plays out in other playthroughs.
It sounds complex, but Wildermyth does a very good job of guiding through this series of choices. The game does a great job of getting you up and running quickly, into battle for a taste of glory, and then clearly explained all the systems. A lot of the complexity is hidden away, and the presentation is wonderfully simple and enjoyable to read along with. I’m not very good at tactics games, I never have been. I’ve tried, but spectacularly failed in many games like this. Wildermyth manages to make things nice and simple and gives you that freedom on the board more than other tactics game, plus eases you into battle in the early rounds, helping to build your confidence when you go into battles. It does take some getting used to, but if you’re a fan of games like Fire Emblem, XCOM, or Wargroove, then I’d recommend Wildermyth.
On the surface, the game may seem complex and impenetrable. However, I wouldn’t worry about that too much, I’d just dive right in and start enjoying myself. The setting is medieval and it’s a classic Dungeons and Dragons style game, where you form a party, make narrative choices and go off on adventures. The narrative is wonderfully deep and rich, combined with the illustrated presentation and the music really makes for an excellent package.
The narrative, choices, and upgrades all lead you towards the battle. Wildermyth’s core is a tactical RPG, which emulates some of the best features of XCOM including the two-turn battle system. This makes things a little more flexible, as you can move and attack or do a double move. I found this system much more approachable than the single-turn tactics games. The two-turn system is all the basics you need to know, each party member takes a turn and then the enemies get to attack. Avoid death and work towards victory, and you’re done, the loot will be yours.
The basics of battle are simple, however, there’s plenty of room for complex and engaging battles. When you start a battle you get dropped onto the board, which varies each time. Characters are represented as 2D paper-thin style characters on a 3D board, which looks very similar to a pop-up book and reminds me of another great tactics game called Pendragon, by Inkle Studios. Enemies aren’t revealed until you discover them, meaning you are going to have to carefully tread your way around the board, being careful not to get too close to the action. There are different weapons, classes, abilities, and magic that can affect the outcome of the battle. Mystic’s abilities to involve the environment can come in handy, for example, you can use fire and rocks and use them as projectiles towards enemies in an effort to give you the upper hand.
Like a good game of chess piece placement is key to victory, and understanding how the pieces move. Attack enemies from the side for greater damage, or combine with your allies to create a stronger defense. There’s plenty of complexity to the battle system that reveals itself over the hours of play, and it’s something that takes practice to get good at. Take on enemies in battle, get more powerful, and quickly you’ll become a party and force to be reckoned with in Wildermyth.
The action is playing out on a combination of 2D and 3D, however, there’s a weight to the combat and a feeling to the game which is much more satisfying than other tactics games I’ve played. You’ll want to get through the battle for the loot, but also the narrative and choices are incentive enough, Wildermyth has figured out a wonderful gameplay loop that will motivate you and keep you coming back for more, even when your party dies and you have to start over.
There’s plenty of loot to act as an incentive including armor, weapons, and support items too. As you win battles you’ll level up your party and each character can spec into a different playstyle, plus complement each other in a variety of combinations. Wolf call is a good example, where after kill allies gain +2 speed for their following turns or Arches, where your mage will bond with the earth and summon trees from the earth that pin enemies to the floor.
Campaigns can vary in length, for example, 3 for a short campaign or 5 for a longer one. You can select premade campaigns with a narrative outline or you can choose different procedural stories, meaning the campaigns are always going to feel different. That’s the beauty of Wildermyth, you can play over and over again and the likelihood of getting the same thing twice is very slim. Selecting party members for the campaigns also feels like a series of important decisions. You have your warriors, mages, and hunters, but also their personality traits are important too. Will you have a Compassionate Greedwagon, a Bookish Snark, or Aloof Intellectual? Playthroughs of campaigns with different personalities all add up to the variety.
Wildermyth is deep and complex, but the narrative output is fantastic and really draws you in to keep playing. At the heart of the game is an RPG tactics game, so if you like this kind of gameplay then I’d recommend diving in. This is one of the 2021s surprises, for me, it came out of nowhere. Thanks to the good folks at Post Horn PR for providing a code for review.
Developer: Worldwalker Games
Publisher: Worldwalker Games & WhisperGames
Platforms: PC via Steam
Release Date: 13th November 2019