Wildermyth is a video game in which you take a band of characters and go to explore a larger world that has called you to find out what’s happening. As you play, you not only explore the region around you, but you also find stories in abundance. These stories shape your characters, sometimes literally as they get new hair colors, are imbued with magic that shows through their skin, or get merged with beasts. Battles can take their toll as well, leading to characters with eye patches or other physical impacts that appear going forward.
At its core, Wildermyth is a storytelling system that throws a bunch of mini-tales at you, lets you make choices within them, and then plays out consequences of those choices. Battles are also a major part of the gameplay loop. They play out in grid-based sequences that have you interacting with the environments using your spell-casters and moving your characters around to most effectively impact the battles in your favor. They can be quite challenging, and a few wrong moves could mean you lose a character–sometimes permanently, depending upon the choices you make. The environments are hugely important, as you can start fires, watch them spread, or thwart them in order to push your own ends and bonuses. Pets, spirit creatures, weapon types, preparing ambushes, and more are all elements in the strategy. I’m certain I haven’t even encountered all the ways to fight battles in the game yet. There are so many, and a lot of them are based upon how you level up your characters.
Examples may be the only way to really make clear how epic and beautiful the stories are that you help create. These stories are epic in ways that are small and beautiful. One example is I had a character who contracted an illness. We went seeking a cure for the illness after persuading the sage who was helping treat her to tell us where to find it. We had to persuade the sage because her brother had sought it and never returned, and she didn’t want us to also never come back. She came with us, much older than she’d been then. We found the cure, and I got the choice to either cure my character whom I’d developed across the land or turn the sage’s brother back from stone (we’d found him along the way). It was a brutal decision, and it had long term consequences when I chose to bring the brother back. It made the character who sacrificed some of the years of her life for another’s life into an epic hero. These kinds of small vignettes with heart-rending choices and long term impacts are found throughout the game.
It is true, as some reviews have pointed out, that there is an overall limit on just how many shorter stories exist in the game. This limit seems to be quite massive, though. I’ve only run into one repeat so far at 8 hours in. The repeat didn’t even feel repetitive, though, because of the way the storytelling works. It’s so dynamic that it made sense in-universe for these other characters to encounter a similar circumstance.
Each time I play Wildermyth, it feels in a way like coming home to a lengthy adventure novel that I helped forge by the choices I made. The legacy system means that characters you have fallen in love with in earlier campaigns can make appearances later, possibly as a mythic figure to look up to. It’s amazing how invested the game gets you to become in your characters after a few short hours with each of them. They will fall in love, marry, have children, grow old, watch their children become adventurers alongside them, retire, die. Some will die too young. Some will be forced to retire by disease. Each has the chance to become a legend, and each will likely find their place in your heart.
This game has become for me one of those that I had only dreamed of when I was younger. It’s a game in which it truly feels as though you’re playing a legacy. While it’s not open ended in the sense of “do anything,” the way the stories are presented makes it not matter. You, the player, are guiding the story, dynamically reacting in the moment to how your characters act. Do you want to risk their lives for a potential gain? Are you willing to sacrifice one to save another? How about those lovebirds over there? You didn’t ever think the children of your characters may find their own lives, but they do. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.
The presentation also has its own beauty. The characters are kind of papercraft, and their equipment, battle scars, and sometimes even basic decisions show up on their person. Maybe you chose to touch that well of magic, and something happened to you. Perhaps a beast offered a chance to forge a new path? Did you feed a small creature you found in a cave? You’ve got a pet now. The possibilities and choices are massive, and they show directly upon your characters. The music is on another level, as well. While I’d say the track selection is a bit limited, the score is epic and beautiful, full of stringed instruments that rise and swell at the appropriate times.
I can’t really recommend Wildermyth highly enough. It’s an experience that anyone with a love of stories ought to at least give a try. I adore it. It’s clearly been a labor of love for the developers, and I can tell you it’s worth every penny.
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