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When Worldwalker Games' party-based RPG Wildermyth launched into early access back in 2019, it intrigued me. A unique art style, tactical turn-based battles, tabletop inspirations and the promise of truly procedural storytelling - it all seemed almost too good to be true.
But with the game getting almost universal praise initially, and following its full release in 2021, my curiosity got the better of me. How can a game with a randomized story be coherent, let alone good? I had to see it for myself. And now you can find my thoughts on it below.
Roguelike? How about Bardlike instead?
Wildermyth offers a total of six standalone story-driven campaigns (you'll have to unlock some of them by playing the previous ones) and some fully-procedural options without a big overarching story, just a series of randomized quests spread across three to five chapters.
All these campaigns are presented as fairy tales from a faraway land. Stories of unlikely heroes fighting monsters, protecting their homes, and passing down their legacies.
You start by rolling a party of three characters - a Warrior, a Hunter, and a Mystic. Later on, you can recruit additional heroes. Your combat party fits in up to five characters, but your overall group can have more members, allowing you to have multiple parties roaming the world and performing various tasks.
When creating your party, apart from customizing how your characters look, you'll also be able to pick a number of "hooks" along the lines of proud, greedy, or lucky. These will determine how your characters react to various happenings, the personal quests they get, and certain options during encounters.
And this is where the game's procedurally-generated nature gets to shine. While the big story moments are predetermined, each time you do something in the game, like visit a town, explore some ruin or attack an enemy stronghold, you get an event presented as a comic strip.
The event you get is drawn from a very large pool to the point where you'll probably complete several of the game's campaigns before you start seeing repeats. The only unifying quality of these events is their general air of whimsy. But other than that, everything goes there. Dealing with marauding bandits, following a mossy giant through the woods, falling through the ground to discover an ancient shrine, or getting fused with a bear spirit. You never know what the game has in store for you next.
And then, your characters and their associated hooks will adjust the specifics of how those events unfold. For example, during one of the repeat events I got, I found an idol with a huge gem embedded into it. The first time around, I had a choice to leave it alone or steal the gem. But then in another campaign, I also got an option to psychically communicate with the idol.
The game also has a relationship system where your characters can become friends, rivals, or romantic partners. And not only does this provide combat bonuses, like when a character deals bonus damage to an enemy that damaged their lover, but these relationships are also reflected in the comics.
It's impressive how many variables each event takes into consideration to then craft a story for you on the fly about maybe a family of adventurers that travel and fight together. As the campaign progresses, and chapters have decade-long breaks between them, you watch your characters grow older as their kids join the group and go from fresh recruits to hardened veterans themselves. And then, some of your characters die, others retire, and their kids and friends get to carry the torch.
I'm honestly amazed by how well this all works and how all the standalone events come together to create a solid narrative.