Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
There are some formulas that just go together like peanut butter and jam or pineapples on pizza. They just work. Wildermyth by Worldwalker Games is one such title that just works so well as it blends turn-based tactics and procedural storytelling in a vibrant visual 2D pop up style presentation.
Starting things off like any good roleplaying adventure, you get to create a character. Choosing what they look like, what they sound like and what you want then to be addressed as (he / his, her / hers, they / them), you then move onto the next one. Starting off with three, you’ll very soon get to see how they relate to one another and from even this early on, control of how they relate to one another is entirely up to you. The stage is set, you just need to act.
This is perhaps Wildermyth’s biggest draw, its storytelling. Starting off at the beginning before things start to go to hell and mysterious monsters or otherworldly beings start to rain on your parades, your would-be adventurers have a lot to learn if they are going to survive. Do they get along? Do they fall in love? Do they sacrifice limbs to restore robots or turn into werewolves? Do they perform the ultimate sacrifice so that their friends can live another day to protect the people that they swore to? Or finally, do they fall before the adventure even begins as all three have to escape a cave with an unseeingly ending number of monsters that stand between them and the exit.
Each one of these choices helps to shape your overall adventures or end it before it even begins. While luck has a little bit to do with it, Wildermyth is just as much about skills and planning out what you’re going to hopefully do as turn-based tactics never go according to plan. Doubly so when you can’t see half the map at times because of lines of sights and fogs of war. This is the other major draw of the adventure, the thrill of testing your might with the would be mortal heroes against the hordes of enemies that would wipe them from history.
Starting off at a beginning, each adventure will have its own way to transition you into the story whether or not there is a main antagonist to go up against. Taking the the very first campaign titled the Age of Ulstryx which is designed to teach you the ropes, most of the following is based off of that experience even if I had plenty of fun trying out the others.
Spread out in a series of territories, the overall “world map” sets the main stage which can be moved around through yet another fog of war that has to be scouted out in order to know what’s there. Once that’s done you can choose to either clear out any enemies that reside there, build a resource outpost, build a bridge to more quickly travel to another territory or fortify it with defenses and trained militia. None of these are bad choices and if there’s one thing that I was taught over the course of my first failed adventure falling in the very last battle as I failed to deal the final blow as my last remaining adventure’s arrow clinked off the big bad’s armor, it’s that sacrifices are going to have to be made at all levels. Wildermyth plays for keeps and doesn’t allow for many mistakes to be made. Heroes can fall once per chapter which is known as being maimed and once that’s happened, any subsequent fall will be fatal. This isn’t anything new per say, *glares at The Stranger of Sword City*, but it does come with some interesting elements to spice up the mix.
Any lost or modified limbs which can happen over the course of your adventures are replaced so that adventures will always have two arms and two legs, but it could affect how they use weapons. My main archer for example, after she became a werewolf, at first it was just the head and the fur, the rest was still human. Over time your character can morph those parts if you want which will affect your stats and when I refused the leg because it would reduce their evasion, I said yes to the arm. That upgrade removed their ability to use bows, but at least there are crossbows and I have her a pretty nifty power story based spear to make up for it. Other adventurers could lose an arm and get a hook in its place adding yet another potential attack, but also removes the ability for two-handed weapons.
To get to these points however, you’re going to have to plan for battle. Are you attacking a point to free it from those that currently roam around it? Or are you running to the aid of the territory that is currently under attack? In either case, you’ll have a choice to make before the battle even starts as your group approaches the situation. Charge right in, wait until the last minute, try something crazy like going in with only two or three troops or wait until nightfall. Succeed and your group of adventures will receive bonuses or the enemies will lose theirs. Fail? And you’ll be fighting off at a disadvantage.
Once you’re in battle everything becomes up to what your team of up to five can do versus the hordes that you’ll often be fighting against. Based on a Dungeons & Dragons like rule set, every character as a base has two actions. You can move and attack, you can move twice, attack twice if you’re not moving, you can use free actions, or you can wait and do nothing depending on the situation. Obviously with leveling up and gaining perks these can be modified as standard actions can become free and you can definitely learn to really make use of attacks of opportunity and level those up, but you’ll still want to be careful as who you have is generally all you have.
Otherwise though, combat is really fun as you move your adventurers through similar enough maps depending on the terrain with plenty of environmental “props” to help you out. Giant rocks can be hidden behind, mystics (the wizards) can use the terrain to sling spells around such as sucking fire from a source and putting it in as an obstacle, and if things are in your way? Simply destroy them to more easily get to your enemy that can do the same things that you can. As a final note, if your character falls in battle, the first or the second time, there are options depending on what the situation is. Do they use the last of their strength to stick it to the enemy? Or do they take the time in order to temporarily or permanently buff one of their allies, family, friends or lovers, before they die?
All of these have to be decided on the fly and to raise the stakes one more time, for every enemy that you fight, they’ll get a permanent upgrade for the rest of the campaign. So the stronger your adventurers get, the stronger the enemy gets. Adding to that stress, there are two other timers to worry about. The first is when the next rampage will kick off making you either need to get defenses in place or move to where they are rampaging as soon as possible. The second is more of an evolution counter. Once this counter hits zero, there are four “cards” that are drawn either making your enemies stronger or adding in new enemies to the mix. This can be countered with Legacy Points (LP) that can be acquired through various means, but sometimes it’s better to allow a few of these so that you can use your LP when it counts.
If there was one potential complaint, it would be that your characters can die easily enough even if they’ve been upgraded due to the unnatural amount of enemies thrown at you at times. Like the first of my final fights mentioned above, every turn there were more and more enemies and I couldn’t even properly get to the boss that could slither away easily enough and then pound my adventures from a distance. You learn to live and learn but always having to start back at basically “zero” makes it tough especially when you’re a good way through the story as without a full team? You’re generally not going to make it with how much the numbers are stacked against you.
But it works.
It works very well and the dialog between all of these characters, family, friends, rivals, people that just live to annoy you, all of them bring something to the table making you want more. It makes you want to keep these people alive until they are old enough to retire and die in their beds instead of sacrificing it all on one last gamble far from home making them wonder if you raise a monument to them there, or if you bring them home and hurry them with their family.