Tell Your Own RPG
Before playing Wildermyth, the idea of playing a procedurally-generated RPG would have sounded awful. A good RPG relies on the quality of its story like few other genres. How can you do that randomly and still make it captivating? Somehow, Wildermyth pulls this off. With memorable storytelling, a great look, and tons of potential into the future, this is a game well worth your time.
Inspired by tabletop RPGs, you start each campaign in Wildermyth by rolling three characters. You can customize them if you like, or just let the game give you three that look good. Once you’re done getting that set, you’re dropped into a storybook tale revolving around your three heroes.
Variety Is The Spice Of Wildermyth
The details of your quest can vary wildly. Inevitably though, your three characters will stumble onto some sort of danger and survive it. Once they do, they’ll decide the life of an adventurer is what they want, and you’ll end up on an overworld map. From there, you’ll explore the land, recruit new members, get into epic fights, and track down details of whatever your main quest is.
A handful of pre-made quests are a nice place to get started. One had me tracking down an evil gorgon while another had me dealing with a group of ancient machines brought back to life. There are five set quests to start with, each of which does a strong job of laying out the game. Each campaign will have either three or five chapters. Each chapter will have you working toward a goal and trying to complete as many objectives as possible for your crew. Depending on how you do, you’ll earn a period of peace before the next chapter.
Charming Papercraft Style
My favorite part of the game is how charming the storytelling is. Tying into the book theme, which goes great with the lovely papercraft look of the game, each quest feels like a legend. Your team comes together, with each randomized character managing to have a ton of personality. While they start with defined traits, however, you’ll have a big impact on how they mash together. Perhaps a moment will come where one of them can give up their humanity for a big boost of power. Or two characters might fall in love. Your choices matter and they carry across the game.
The further you get into each campaign, the more those choices start to pile up. A character who started a transformation will continue to transform and change. This might provide more power in combat. Others will have children who can join your crew and make you stronger in later chapters. This is important because there are only so many recruitable characters, and inevitably you’re going to lose some.
Combat in Wildermyth is pretty standard tactical RPG stuff. You have three classes of character, with your normal starting group featuring one of each. Warriors are your frontline combat people. Hunters wield bows and other weapons which do damage at a distance. Mystics wield magic which is perhaps the most interesting combat mechanic here. They can latch onto items in the environment and use their unique traits to interact with enemies. Fire can be thrown. Wooden items can explode into splinters. Rocks can be heaved. It works really well and provides a lot of versatility in some environments.
The environments are another high point of the combat. The maps here aren’t all interesting, but there’s a solid variety, and they consistently make sense. Some provide great tactical advantages, giving you chances to make the most of the game’s action system, which lets each character do so many things per turn. You can move further, for example, but won’t be able to attack. Or you can move a shorter distance and do so. You can attack right away if you start next to an enemy, but that might stop you from moving. There’s a lot to consider. There’s nowhere near the depth of many tactical RPGs, but that’s mostly okay. Encounters give you a solid set of options and provide a solid challenge on higher difficulties.
That difficulty will potentially see you losing members of your party as well. There are no reviving characters here. If someone takes lethal damage, you’ll have a choice to make. You can have them retreat, but they’ll have a permanent debuff. That injury never fully goes away. Or you can have them go out in a blaze of glory, doing a ton of damage to an enemy. They’ll be gone for good, though. If your characters survive long enough, they may just retire due to old age. Watching your characters age is moving, though it is nice that even after retirement, they can still impact the story at times.
The storytelling here can be incredibly touching, and regularly puts you in difficult positions, forced to make choices. I reached a spot in one of my campaigns where I had a pair of women who had gotten married, and their two sons were part of my team as well. The women were set to retire after this chapter, so their sons were clearly the future of my party. We reached a point where someone had to sacrifice themselves, or the remainder of the chapter would be much harder.
My choices for who could do it were the two sons, or one of their moms. By sacrificing a son, that would leave me without three of my best characters after that chapter. Yet by sacrificing the mother, I had to watch the other deal with that loss in retirement, and their sons showed the impact of that loss going forward. It was a cruel end for someone I’d gone through so much of the game with, one of my starting characters.
Room To Grow
Where the storytelling will eventually let you down is in variety. There are a lot of different events, but even in my second campaign, I was running across repeated moments. Not significant ones, but small moments I’d already experienced. This only gets more common as you go. While this is inevitable in a procedurally generated game, I wish it took longer before I started seeing the seams. The biggest thing Wildermyth needs is more. More character designs. More events. Even more constructed campaigns. More variety would do a ton for this game.
After completing a campaign, your past characters will become legends which you can promote and turn into even bigger legends. You can also start new campaigns using reset versions of your past characters. That way, your favorites can continue on. This is cool, but loses some of its appeal when all relationships end up reset. I started a new campaign with a pair of parents and their son, for example, and now the mother and son were just friends. When the relationships end up such a huge part of what I love about the characters, this lessens the appeal of returning to them.
While I wish it took longer for content to start repeating, Wildermyth proves that a procedurally generated story can still be deeply moving, with memorable characters and relationships. What’s here is already well worth your time, but if the development team keeps working to provide more content, this could become one for the ages.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Worldwalker Games LLC; Developer: Worldwalker Games LLC; Players: 1 (Up to 5 online); Released: June 15th, 2021; ESRB: Not Yet Rated; MSRP: $24.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Wildermyth.