From a two-member studio, Wildermyth is a lot better than it has any right to be. Wildermyth has stood out from the indie SRPG crowd thanks to its overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam during early access. Worldwalker Games have created something genuinely charming and adventurous, an SRPG that truly lives up to the oft-repeated promise of a game that lets you create your own story and characters.
To some extent, Wildermyth is what you make of it. You can play it on the hardest difficulty to experience tough, and occasionally cruel turn-based battles, by the end of which your party will be short a few friends and many limbs. On the other hand, I personally found the most fun mostly breezing through on normal. Leading some battle-hardened wizards and warriors whose personalities, histories and interpersonal relationships I had watched grow over a number of campaigns. Harder difficulties really shine in later playthroughs, when you have experienced most of the available campaigns you can take on non-story campaigns to really focus on the tactical questing gameplay.
Wildermyth is now available out of Early Access on Steam for your regional pricing.
Story – Emergent character stories within a fixed framework
Wildermyth’s various campaigns are largely self-contained. Each featuring a new main enemy to fight with a unique story and roster of villains. Always featuring a plucky band of misfits taking on an ancient evil. You can carry over heroes who survived previous adventures into new ones. However, there is a disappointing lack of consistency when doing so. Your unique characters come from random backgrounds with different motivations, they grow old and even retire in one campaign as they form bonds with allies and therefore develop their unique stories. When they return in their twenties for the next adventure with some things that happened previously being carried over and some not, it’s a little disappointing.
A real selling point is how the dialogue will also differ depending on the personality traits of the characters speaking. Much like in Hades, dialogue responding to what is actually happening in-game really pulls you into the world. However, some campaigns such as ‘Eluna and the Moth’ are a little dialogue-heavy and feel more ‘on rails’. This approach doesn’t quite fit so neatly with the mechanics of the game for me, but others may prefer the more complex story being told.
The Gorgon and Deepist campaigns shine most as they convey an epic feel more quickly and simply without interrupting gameplay too much. They also give a clearer idea of who our heroes are, the Gorgon campaign really focuses on coming from nothing and so is the perfect place to start. When you bring back heroes from your first few campaigns to take on the Deepists the game really makes them feel like old veterans getting the gang back together for one last job.
Gameplay – The perfect amount of strategy
The combat is fairly rudimentary at first. After moving from tile to tile in order to attack, defend or escape a horde of enemies, you enter a grid-based battle system. For the most part, the campaign map serves to lead you between these combat encounters. You make big decisions over how much time and manpower to commit to each fight; therefore, changing a battle’s difficulty. What keeps them from becoming repetitive is the way you gain more abilities and equipment throughout multiple campaigns and more complex options open up. The high damage numbers going both ways mean you usually want to try to clear a room in one swoop to avoid damage by using all your abilities.
Wildermyth has your whole party take their turns at once before the enemies do the same. Personally, I tend to find moving your units individually a little more engaging and tactical. However, Wildermyth’s system has its advantages too. Using all your abilities in tandem to quickly dispatch large numbers of enemies feels great. Enemies acting at once also carries increased risk. Even on full health your heroes usually can’t take a full turn’s damage putting an emphasis on positioning.
The interaction between story, levelling and combat is where the game shines. The stories often take place over decades, meaning you can forge character bonds that affect combat outcomes. Whether showing off to impress a crush, fighting harder to outdo a rival, or defending their friend, seeing the characters’ unique stories play out in combat makes everything fit together so neatly.
The campaign map features a very clear design, with an emphasis on time management and taking calculated risks. Lone adventurers may be ambushed and must flee or withstand waves of enemies with no allies. The robust class system works great here too, so your hunters can pretty reliably escape any ambush by turning invisible making them feel distinct even on the map.
Graphics and Audio – Inventive and customisable charm
The pop-up-book style art style works wonders to create the D&D adventuring feel. Enemy design is characterful and so not the same old derivative orcs and trolls. There are moth creatures, lizardmen, gorgons alongside ancient robo-servants. The greatest strength of the art style is how customisable it is. The game can generate hundreds of unique character combinations which you can customise to create or adjust your characters. Similarly, world events and gear will change characters’ appearances, really marking out your veterans from new recruits.
The game does not allow players to transfer equipment from one character to another therefore I spent very little time in menus agonising over hand-me-downs. The gear or powers displayed on your characters really tell a story. The full release has really put the finishing touches on the menus and level-up screen leaving no weak areas visually.
The music is serviceable but not spectacular. It conveys the tone of the game well and provides a feeling of urgency at the right times. Still, it isn’t an OST I would listen to whilst reading or anything. Meanwhile, the in-game sound is memorable and makes big attacks feel suitably bombastic. Altogether it continues the theme of every part of this game fitting together nicely.
Wildermyth was reviewed on Steam.