While RPGs have always borrowed from their tabletop counterpart, few have ever truly evoked the actual experience of playing a tabletop roleplaying game with friends. Curiously the ones that get the closest tend to be roleplaying classics, hailed for their expertise and narrative by those interested in TTRPGs and those just interested in roleplaying games alike.
Wildermyth minces no word and wastes no time with pretenses on what the game aims to be. This is a roleplaying game thoughtfully and meticulously crafted to evoke the gameplay, whimsy, and adventure-driven narrative of a tabletop party from their first adventure to their last (and onward). This is, of course, a very bold and intriguing goal. So after playing Wildermyth for two days straight, I think I can say with very few reservations that Worldwalker games have undoubtedly created something unique and engaging. However, it is not simply a tactical RPG and hardly just a character-driven visual novel. So let’s talk about Wildermyth not just in concept but in play.
The Humble Beginnings of Adventurers
The character creation consists of a great deal of creative freedom, not just visually, but there’s really room to adjust the personality and traits of your starting adventurers. The simplicity of the paper-art style allows quite a bit of freedom to make each character unique. There is, of course, the ability to random roll, but messing around and tweaking the more minor details of your starting party is rewarding if not outright advantageous.
Wildermyth started as a conversation that went something like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a game that had combat like X-Com, but also really extensive character development and a whimsical fantasy setting?” And over the next few years, it would morph from a blue-sky side project into a full-time indie game endeavor.Worldwalker Games
Wildermyth is a story told in stories and chapters. And while these narratives are somewhat the same from game to game, it’s the variation in the smaller stories, character relationships, and little narrative choices that genuinely set your story apart. In addition, I was deeply impressed by the difference in character interaction from one party member to the next; Wildermyth does a fantastic job of not just making each character have their own personality but of tracking the relationships between these characters. This leads to an incredibly robust and dynamic narrative system that makes each story come alive in a different way depending on the characters that take part in it.
A ROGUELIKE OR A TACTICAL RPG?
Onto the actual gameplay of Wildermyth- as mentioned before, the story is told in chapters that chronicle multiple adventures, and these chapters have various layers of gameplay. The game’s core revolves around traversing a boardgame like map and encountering smaller adventures in the story. These are generally self-contained and end in a battle. The smaller adventures are what make up the real meat of character development and where you get to see some of the nuances in the character interaction system.
The actual combat itself shares similarities with X-Com, and given that that’s where the inspiration comes from, it makes sense. The combat is rather simple, with three distinct classes and evolving subclasses and perks granted from character leveling. However, the simplicity is balanced by a wealth of character progression, which in turn allows for more of the development that makes Wildermyth so good. You genuinely feel like you’re characters are growing from battle to battle. There are also roguelike elements baked nicely into Wildermyth.
While the death of one of the characters can be jarring, it always serves the narrative well. Their final move can be a blaze of glory that turns the tide of an otherwise unlikely victory, leaving behind a legacy for future adventurers and characters to recall. Death isn’t always the answer with other stakes and outcomes. Characters may survive with an injury, scar, or a penalty that lingers and again becomes part of their legacy. The longer you spend with Wildermyth, the more the story zooms out. It isn’t just a game about your starting three characters. It’s about their legacy and the generations that follow in their mold. The scope of this game is impressive for a reason, and the line walked between it being a tactical RPG, and a storytelling device is one walked well.
Having spent a great deal of time with Wildermyth and still not unearthing all of the gameplay and story capabilities, I am deeply impressed with the game. There’s so much room for varied storytelling, and the evolution of the characters does evoke the long-term tabletop campaign that Worldwalker Games was going for. Wildermyth is an impressive contender for emergent storytelling and has set a new bar for what is possible in like-minded RPGs. If the idea of seeing and shaping a story that spans generations interests you, I highly recommend Wildermyth because it does it very well.