Wildermyth Review: A Legendary Fable

Wildermyth is available on PC. A copy of the game was provided for Gideon’s Gaming for the purpose of review.

You can find a video version of this review here! Wildermyth Review

Overview

Storytelling is an aspect of games that falls a little low on the list of things that matter to me. While I can enjoy a good story, I’d prefer it in a good book or movie. I like games, to be games first and foremost. Yet, there is one type of storytelling that I can’t resist, the kind that isn’t written yet.

Stories created by my soldiers in X-COM, all of whom I name, my Colonists in Rimworld, and even my many personal journeys through Skyrim. That type of storytelling is unique to video and tabletop games. Wildermyth takes inspiration from it all and leans into every advantage the medium offers to create a toolbox for that type of story-telling. Then it backs it up with solid turn-based tactical gameplay and a great paper art visual style.

The papercraft art style is full of charm

Your heroes in Wildermyth have personalities, they forge relationships, obtain wounds, and grow old. All of this impacts the weaving threads of each campaign’s stories and the game on a mechanical level. Some of them become legends or fables cemented in your world’s legacy only to be recruited again later, growing their myth even further within the multiverse of your very own heroic history. It’s an experience unlike any other.

Spinning the Web of Fate

Wildermyth offers several set campaigns and completely procedural ones. The set campaigns have specific story elements, but even those are altered slightly based on your heroes. Time flows as you play, and the end of every chapter marks a much larger passing of years. Every campaign is an epic that can span literal lifetimes. Old surviving heroes may retire and pass their wisdom on to those who remain, or their children may even take their place.

Every hero has a number of traits from greedy, to hot-tempered, as well as campaign hooks that pop up as personal quests. You influence the story through the choices you make, but many choices are based on the statistics or aspects of your heroes.

Nearly every action in the game leads to a procedural story moment, from scouting new terrain, to entering a battle. Each one has the potential to sway the history of your heroes. They may forge relationships with each other, obtain artifacts or a curse. Later on, as the game shows what they were doing during times of peace, these may come up.

Campaigns span a lifetime.

You may be following the story of an overarching threat to the land, but it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. Wildermyth is the hammer that nails that point home.

By the time any campaign ends, each hero will have gone through a ton of events. Many of them won’t be the same if they survived at all. They might have wounds or missing limbs. They may have given into elemental power or curses, transforming aspects of their body. Each one will have a unique history woven through your actions during gameplay, and not just through event choices.

A character struck down presents you with a choice. Escape with a wound, or go out in a blaze of glory, either doing massive damage on the way out or by aiding the party. If they escape and are struck down again in the same chapter, they simply die with little benefit. That character’s history can affect these moments. A nearby close friend might be able to shove them aside and take the hit themselves. A seemingly minor choice made early in the campaign may appear as a powerful relic that saves them.

For example, in a final boss fight for a campaign, I was in bad shape and I was losing. One of my heroes named Ajak was struck by a deadly blow, and I was given a set of choices. I was attached to that character, he had made it from chapter one and that’s rare. Retirement or death is usually the best early heroes can hope for. But he and his lover had both made it that far.

Lowered abilities is just one risk, escaping death could cost a hero an arm or leg, literally.

He would live on in my legacy as a fabled hero either way, but I could not promote him further if he died…at least in that story. I didn’t want that to be how his story ended. But I was already losing the fight.

So I chose to let him go while dealing a final attack against the boss monster that struck him down, and it was enough to damage to finish it. His sacrifice meant the rest of the party, including his soulmate, would survive.

While no story in any campaign is as detailed as a prewritten one, the stories in Wildermyth are your own, and that makes them special. I remember all of my campaigns fondly, some of which Ajak has reappeared in. The world may different, but he was the same, and he could grow further. Sometimes he survived, sometimes he didn’t. Over time his legacy grew, and since I had locked him and his lover in as soulmates, they were together in any story they found each other in.

In another campaign, one hero left the party to become a seer, thwarting incursions for them from afar. A relationship was ruined as one hero gave herself to the dark side to obtain an edge against the enemy in another story. The list goes on, and on.

Choosing to let go of my best mystic was hard, but she aided the party unseen in other ways.

These moments aren’t found in many other games if any. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a game emulating a tabletop RPG such as Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. You can even play with a friend. Each of you gaining control of different characters and weave a story together.

As you put the hours into Wildermyth, you craft fable after fable that is unique to you. You build up a legacy of heroes that can grow by picking them up in other campaigns. You bond to these characters because they can stay with you forever, even if their stories don’t always have a happy ending. Every path you watch them take feels special, and there’s always a new story to be told.

An Ink Dipped Blade

As fantastic as the emergent storytelling is, it would be for nothing if it wasn’t backed by solid gameplay. Wildermyth not only succeeds in that department but always makes sure that the choices heroes make, also affect the mechanics.

The game takes place in two modes, the overworld, and combat. The overworld is where you send heroes to explore, build up defenses, and secure areas that provide resources. It’s also where you choose when to fight.

There is a delicate balance to be had on the overworld map. Time is a resource, the enemy grows stronger over time, you can spend legacy points to thwart their advancements, which are called calamities. However, legacy points are also spent on other important aspects.

Time is always a factor. Days and years have meaning in Wildermyth.

Scouting, building, securing, and moving around the map all take time. Infestations will also take root. Sending incursions into your territories which will need to be defended or be lost. Each fight causes the faction you fought to adapt to get a free upgrade that you can’t cancel. You have to plan ahead because if the enemy grows in power over your heroes, it could spell disaster in more difficult fights.

The game features five unique enemy factions. Every campaign will have a main faction, but the others can still appear occasionally. Each of them is unique with separate fighting styles, units, and upgrades. Each one has to be approached differently.

Your heroes make up one of three classes, Warrior, Hunter, or Mystic. They gain new abilities as they level. There is a high degree of versatility in how you build them, and can you mix and match. There’s nothing stopping you from having a wizard that also carries a big hammer. You can make a hunter into a crack shot archer, or perhaps a sneaky rogue. These are further augmented by your choice of weapons and the consequences of story events.

Radical changes can be powerful, but also have disadvantages.

One of my hunters turned into a full humanoid raven. He can’t wield a bow any longer, but his claws and beak more than make up for it, especially when combined with his roguish invisibility. One of my warriors has a burning arm to cast fire from afar. Another replaced his lost leg with a mechanical one.

Each weapon has special effects. Axes shred armor while swords provide extra defense, and you can obtain the elemental version of them all by catching elemental spirits in the middle of battle. Any you unlock can be crafted in future campaigns.

Combat is what I would imagine fantasy X-COM to be. It’s every bit as strategic and tactical, and the environment plays a huge part by providing cover and hazards. The Mystic class itself needs the environment to function and is one of the most unique spellcasters I’ve seen in a game.

They don’t cast fireballs or bolts of lightning, they interfuse with the environment and make attacks based on it. For example, a table could be exploded into a blast of splinters, a bowl of water into a scalding rain, or iron into manacles to pin down a foe.

The environment is important, especially for Mystics.

Mystics can specialize, giving them even more options, but the existence of the class means the environment and how you use it matters. Do you need that big rock to cover the archer? Or can you use it to attack?.

Relationships play a part too. Friends standing back to back grant a defense bonus, lovers deal more damage to enemies who attacked their partner. While rivals try to one-up each other through critical hits.

The unique nature of the five factions, versatile classes, and weapons mixed with the variety of abilities you can obtain from story events makes the combat constantly thrilling. Your attachment to your characters adds stakes to every fight, and those who are struck down leave the fight maimed if they choose to survive rather than make a last stand.

Characters within each class are moldable.

The combat, storytelling, and strategy map work together much like a well-written book. The plot, character development, and writing must all be able to stand on their own laurels. But it’s books where all three compliment each other that separates the Sandersons from the Meyers.

Wildermyth is no different, each aspect is good when taken alone. But they work together by complimenting each other to forge a game worthy of the fables it writes. The exact way, a game should be made.

A Ballads Broken Note

Perfection is a thing found only in fantasy, and thus Wildermyth is destined to fall a little short. While the three classes are very moldable, the game’s focus on these characters made me wish for a little bit more variety to make them differ even further. I feel like Wildermyth is one class short of feeling perfect in that regard.

Each campaign is a stand-alone fable, which is to be expected. You can soul lock rivals and lovers to always be destined to be together, but I was sad to find that siblings and parents from one campaign, don’t recognize each other in another.

Events can repeat, but they still weave a unique story when taken with other events.

The events in Wildermyth are detailed, with lots of dialogue that differs depending on the history, personality, and class of each character. The limitations of reality mean you inevitably see repeated events in each campaign. More events would have been welcome, just to make it less frequent. Though I still find events I have never seen before, over 40 hours later.

Verdict

Wildermyth is simply brilliant. The few gripes I have are bug bites compared to the joy I derive from playing the game. The three pillars of Wildermyth, the world map, combat, and storytelling are solid as steel and work together to hold the game up to mythical heights.

Sure, you will relive the same events, yet they always differ in small ways because the heroes living them are different, and each one spins the web of history for that campaign. Two characters becoming imbued with a spirit of fire may sound the same, but it feels different.

Think of it like the difference between Steve Rogers becoming Captain America, or if it was another instead, in another place, or alternate timeline.

Factions increase in power overtime.

Wildermyth is a game that I desperately want DLC for. Not because it feels incomplete, but because it gives me an experience rarely found in gaming, and I simply want more of it. I wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone with even an inkling of interest in the things I spoke of. It deserves enough success to fund as much future content as it wants, and that’s not a sentiment I take lightly. Wildermyth may end up being my game of the year this year.

The wolf of white is tainted by night, and the effect of mass has long since passed. Naughty dogs are feeling blue, since the horizon may crest at twenty-two. Without rags and rocks in a dragon’s age, one may struggle to turn the page. So grab a quill and be extra swift, spin the tale of your own Wildermyth.

You might also enjoy my review of Rimworld.

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Pros

  • Flexible character building.
  • Very tactical turn-based combat
  • Time Management is very well done
  • Brilliant emergent storytelling with unique procedural characters & events
  • Choices matter and are reflected in your story & in-game mechanics
  • Five unique challenging factions
  • Difficulty settings present
  • Co-op is an option
  • Legacy mechanic of building up a growing list of legendary heroes is addictive

Cons

  • Three classes are a bit limited
  • Siblings and Parents can’t be soul linked in separate campaigns
  • Events inevitably repeat and additional variety would be nice