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Wildermyth (released 2021, Worldwalker games) took the computer gaming scene by storm even after nearly two years in Early Access. It was well-praised by many, and I can personally attest that it was both fun and gripping.
In the game, one takes a series of generated characters through various adventures, facing monsters and challenges. Your party faces enemies tactical battles with enemies, wanders the land scouting and rebuilding towns, and engages in unique story moments. Characters may become legends and be used again in other games – or even reappear randomly – and become more powerful and famous.
It is a game of making legends and remixing them – much as humans do anyway. It also provides many lessons for writers.
Nail The Feel
Wildermyth ensures it feels like a you’re experiencing an epic tale. The game’s graphics look like storybook art – on the battlefield, characters and scenery look like paper cutouts. Appropriate moody music plays throughout your adventures. Character appearances change, sometimes radically, as mythic powers and experiences change mind and body.
Wildermyth communicates with you by having the proper aesthetic. Every part of it says “storybook legend.” Storytellers – whatever their media – need to set the mood as well.
Wrap The Mechanics
As mentioned, in Wildermyth, you save characters after successful adventures and other actions. This lets you reuse them, “remixing” heroes old and new in adventures and even improving them for later games. The game portrays this as a “Legacy” of stories that is remixed – like our own Arthurian legends.
Of course, this is just a classic “Roguelite” mechanic of past adventures paying off for later play. But Wildermyth cleverly wraps the mechanic in a kind of “meta-story” that works with the feel of the game. Sometimes in writing, “recasting” a common idea differently both enhances a tale, but also ties into the aesthetic you’re aiming for.
Wildermyth contains other familiar mechanics as well – grid-based tactical battles, choose-your-own-adventure options, etc. But all of these work in service of the game’s aesthetic and goals.
The Moments Count
As one plays Wildermyth, small “plotlets” emerge – partially randomized, partially due to character traits and situations. A character may find a hidden gem, befriend a forest creature, or have an idea how to ambush an enemy. Choices may make combat easier, change a character, have them fall in love, etc.
All of these “plotlets” add up over a game session, evolving the characters and their stories. Your characters are not just an epic quest; they’re composed of these moments, evolving them into someone else. They may even seem to take on a life of their own as you play.
For writers, this is a reminder that character details matter – characters are composed of them. It’s also a reminder that these details mean characters may surprise you unexpectedly.
Change Is All
Stories are about change of some kind, even if the only change is in the reader. Wildermyth embraces change.
In Wildermyth, every battle, every “plotlet” changes the characters and the world. Enemies get stronger, learning from defeat. Characters grow in experience, fall in love, get married, become werewolves (really), and more. In long games, party members retire and may even die, with their children carrying on their legacy.
This change gives the game both urgency and meaning. There is an urgency to make every moment count, and meaning because every action has repercussions. In short, it makes each game a story.
Wildermyth I is an example of how change both makes and drives a story – because you play through that change and experience it.
Living the Legend
Wildermyth is a game about creating stories. Though there are familiar mechanics, the way they are implemented and combined makes the game, well, legendary. With so much driving your adventure forward, it becomes gripping, personal – and a game writers can learn from.
Lessons for Writers
All works have a feel. Aiming to achieve that is important to deliver your tale.
You can “re-wrap” familiar mechanics and elements in new ways to fit the feel of your story – and get away with standard but expected aspects in new ways.
Characters are composed of details and “plotlets.” Being aware of that brings them to life in ways that can surprise you.
Change is what a story’s about. A good story moves forward (appropriately), and change brings both meaning and grips the audience.