Gather around the table to enjoy the epic tale of our favourite RPG of the year. For more end-of-year awards, head to our GOTY 2021 hub. We’ll be updating it throughout the rest of the month.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I don’t think any videogame has ever more successfully evoked the feel of a tabletop RPG. A few hours in Wildermyth is like a supercut of a fantastic year-long Dungeons & Dragons campaign. With the procedural systems as your dungeon master, you follow the lives and adventures of entire parties of heroes, each organically growing and developing in all sorts of unexpected directions. And they really are unexpected—while it’s perfectly possible for a warrior to just find a magic sword and kill a dragon with it, it’s equally likely they’ll be cursed to slowly transform into living crystal, or make a pact with an ancient tree, or upset a witch who turns their head into a raven’s.
They even age, fall in love, and have children; eventually they’ll retire, if they survive the adventurer’s life. They’re never really gone, though—your favourites become legacy heroes who can return rejuvenated in subsequent campaigns, like pulling out your favourite old, dog-eared character sheet for yet another dungeon run.
Combine all this with really interesting, tactical combat and a great meta layer that sees you adventuring across the land while trying to keep it free of invasion and corruption, and you’ve got a recipe for some of the most memorable nonlinear stories I’ve ever experienced. This is the emotional investment of XCOM times 100, and it’s wonderful seeing a videogame draw on the actual feel of tabletop RPGs instead of just their mechanics or settings.
Just make sure you crank up the difficulty—your heroes’ journeys and the tactical challenges of combat are both more compelling when the threat of death hides around every corner. Campaigns become tales of desperate resistance in the face of overwhelming odds, and that’s just tasty drama.
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: I wasn’t sure about Wildermyth at first. I liked the magic (you “interfuse” with objects for varying effects) and the papercraft monsters hopping around like invisible hands are picking them up—though the adventurers do resemble smug protagonists of early 2000s webcomics. They shouldn’t be fighting mythic beasts; they should be arguing about Xbox games on a couch.
But I kept playing, and I’m glad I did. In a great campaign called Eluna and the Moth, I brought back old characters alongside fresh ones, and though reset to first level, they progressed in other ways. One’s flame-arm spread to cover other limbs, and another went from having wings to just straight-up being a crow. Their relationships deepened as well, developing romances and rivalries that played into how they fought together. As Robin says, it’s like a tabletop campaign that runs for ages, with players coming and going and all the stories getting tangled up together.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: In my first Wildermyth campaign, my party included a wee ginger magic lad with a boring backstory and a crap beard. By the end of the campaign, he’d sprouted crow’s wings—a gift from a witch—become a mystical fire guardian, and grown a fox tail. He went through some shit. In the final battle, he sacrificed himself to save his friends, becoming a spirit. He lived on, not just because you can start new campaigns with existing characters, but because he had a daughter. She could never escape her father’s shadow when they adventured together, but when another band of heroes in another campaign discovered a magic portal to another world, out she popped. She embraced the fire even more thoroughly than her old man, until the flames swallowed up all her limbs. She led her new friends to victory, made a name for herself, and started a family of her own.
Building these legacies and families is really what Wildermyth is all about, taking the tabletop RPG joy of inhabiting a character and nurturing them, and then extending it to multiple parties and generations. Now I’ve got enough stories to fill a library. The warrior slowly becoming a tree who fell in love with a fire mage. The charming rogue who received the gift of immortality, only to watch his friends retire and die while he continued adventuring with their kids. The hunter who gave up a lifesaving cure for her illness so a stranger could live, eventually becoming a hero himself. Writing about it, I feel the itch to start yet another story.