Tactical Tuesdays (WILDERMYTH): Hello Muddah... Hello Brada

XCOM ended, the world still turns and so do Tactical Tuesdays. Rob and Austin have started playing WILDERMYTH.

Also here’s the link to the VOD on twitch at the moment:

I have already fallen in love with this game after the first stream. So many ups and downs already. I love Quidbarn’s excessive amount of gear. I hear they call him Quidbarn because if you give him 5 quid, he’ll come back wearing a whole barn.

Episode 1 has already had such heartbreak, and I am looking forward to Brada’s debut as a proper member of the team. Hopefully she has a better track record than her predecessors.

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Shout out to everyone who recommended this game for Tactical Tuesday, it really turned out to be a perfect fit.

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Hi, long time follower of Waypoint, but was compelled to join to say how much I’m enjoying this series.

It was a shame that the difficulty level was hampering the enjoyment for people (both in chat and Austin/Rob). For what it’s worth I don’t think the campaign is as doomed as Austin thinks - the crew have two level four characters - that’s very strong (the level cap is seven, and this is a half-length campaign). I’m glad they were able to turn the difficulty down though, I hope that makes it more enjoyable for them!

For me personally the higher difficulty levels in Wildermyth have offered something that I’ve wanted and haven’t seen in many Tactical RPGs: time pressure on the overworld. Because the game gets harder as you spend more time on the map (both because characters retire and because of calamities) you have to be picky about what activities you take, and it’s often the wrong call to explore too much of the map. I understand why that doesn’t gel for a lot of people though.

One thing to note mechanically is that XP is split between the participants in the battle. Consequently, it is often wise to field fewer than the max party size, because you are dividing the XP between fewer people. Otherwise, you end up with a party of characters half-way towards a level up.

Finally, for anyone playing at home, I highly recommend the “Eluna and the Moth” and “All the Bones of Summer” campaigns. I think the story in those is far stronger than the other three.

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Thanks Rob and Austin for playing and finishing this run of Wildermyth, I was very interested in this game so I was glad to see you play it, I think both of your penchant for leaning into role playing was showing off the game in the most favourable light.

Unfortunately, a lot of what the game is doing didn’t really jive with me. Most of my frustrations come from the tone of the writing. To me, it settles into an unsatisfying compromise between trying to tell a story that feels epic and dramatic, and trying to be self aware and tongue in cheek about that kind of story. I think the latter undermines the former and isn’t strong enough on its own to carry the writing as mainly comedic either. Often, what was probably intended as friendly (or frenemy-ly) banter felt more like the passive-aggressive conversations between coworkers who secretly hate each other but have to keep up friendly appearances to do their jobs.

I think often the impulse was to make someone say something quippy that instead made them feel like a jerk. Especially Quidbarn was a character that was grating to me in the dialogue lines the game decided to give him. In general though this jerky tone seemed to drown out the personalities the characters were actually supposed to have, and it makes me wonder if the voice of the writer is coming through too much.

To people who have played other campaigns/stories, how similar are they in tone? Did they just pick one whose tone wasn’t appealing to me or would I react the same way to the others?

I’d almost say that this game would be better if there were fewer “comic book segments” and they’d just vaguely suggest what is happening, so that the player’s imagination can fill in with details. Emergent storytelling is often better than explicit writing. Like, I love Brada, and everyone else loves Brada, but what made everyone love her was not the character the game created for her or the story vignettes she was given after that, but things that happened on the battlefield when she was just a generic unit piece the game didn’t even consider a “character” yet. I think that reveals something.

The game also has some flaws in the combat encounters in my opinion, where it often just devolves into being swarmed by all units on the map and the tactical problem is just how to efficiently burn down enemy units before they can do damage. Which is alright, but we never had moments like in the XCOM streams where they had to plan for 20 minutes to pull off the right turn that saves everyone, it was mostly very rote damage prioritisation. But I don’t want to be too critical here, considering that it’s an indie game, where a comparison to XCOM would be unfair.

Still, I also wonder if its control system worked against the format here. Generally, I am all in favour for remote co-op mechanics in any game, and was excited to see them when the stream started. But for tactical tuesdays, I think it encouraged Rob and Austin a bit to be alone with their moves and just do them, instead of conferring with each other before they are executed. Maybe that’s also because complex moves weren’t really necessary, but I think it played a role.

The part that I am actually most positive about is the overworld stuff, and I would be very interested to learn how the character pool mechanics work. Can characters from previous campaigns show up as NPCs in your next one? That sort of storytelling opportunity could be really cool.

Anyways, even though I had a mostly negative experience with the game I had a lot of fun during the streams. I watched them together with a friend and we could derive a lot of enjoyment out of talking about the writing, cheering for Brada, hating on Quidbarn (lowkey hoping for him to die…), and of course, awooooing along.

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I can answer some of your questions. I’m obviously enamored with the game, but I hope these answers read as a good faith attempt to answer your questions rather than me going on “defense” for something I like!

RE: Tone, based on the parts you indicated you didn’t like I think there are two answers.
Regarding the banter, this is tied to personality and relationships of the characters. Not only do the events that you see change with the personality stats, but the specific delivery of lines in events changes depending on these statistics. For example, I’ve had that egg event a number of times, and the tone was quite different depending on the personality of the characters. From memory I think the core cast has pretty prickly personality types, but in particular I think most (all?) of the relationships that occurred over the course of the campaign were rivalries (as opposed to friends or lovers). This was visible in the “Oh yeah? Watch this!” mechanic that kept popping up in combat, which is for rivals. Personally, I had a fair few Poets / Romantics in my campaigns, and they sounded much more like Fiondra than Quidbarn.

Regarding the humour undercutting the campaign tone / stakes, there are definitely lots of goofy events. My read is that the intent was to capture the cultural perception of a game of D&D, where the tone can flick around between sessions. If that humour doesn’t work for you then any particular campaign isn’t going to change that, because the goofiness is in the pool of events. The Morthagi and Deepist campaigns are pretty similar to the Gorgon campaign in that the central story is fairly thin, and there is a reliance on the procedural generation to flesh out. The Thrixl and Drauven campaigns, comparatively, start you with characters that have much more defined pre-existing relationships (e.g. siblings, parent + child). Both of those campaigns also seem to invest much more time in the main story, with more developed non-player characters and mission variety. I definitely found those two campaigns to be the strongest, and found that in spite of some humour they both had a fair bit of pathos in them.

Regarding the tactics, there are rarely any defence missions (e.g. saving civilians in XCOM, defending cities in Into The Breach), which I think is what you’re referring to? This definitely is a game about trying to effectively remove pieces from the board whilst accruing as little damage to your team as possible. That said, personally I wouldn’t describe it as swarming or rote damage prioritization. Some of this is tied to higher difficulty levels, but in my playthroughs I could not deal enough damage to avoid every threat. I had to make heavy use of abilities which did little/no damage but would knock enemies away, or would pin them when they walked into a trap, or would make their attacks miss. For what it’s worth I personally enjoyed this game far more on a tactical basis than XCOM because there was no sense that enemy pods were just waiting for me to enter their aggro range; the enemies were always looking for me, so there was always an element of time pressure. All of that said, there are a few missions in each campaign that have interesting variations (e.g. making a tactical retreat, destroying particular scenery items etc.) but none of the procedural missions are like that, so if you don’t like the base tactics then there’s not much here for you.

Regarding the legacy mechanics, characters in the legacy rarely show up in events, but the main use is that they are available for recruitment at a higher legacy point cost. They cost more to recruit depending on what level of legend they are (e.g. Gylken would be level 2 in future campaigns, everyone else would be level 1). Additionally, the Thrixl and Drauven campaigns require you to place legacy characters in story centric roles. I read the legacy mechanics a bit like Cloud Atlas; these were the same people but living different lives.

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Thank you for taking the time to reply, it doesn’t come off as defensive at all. I could tell from the audience reaction that there are a lot of people who love this game so I am interested in their perspective.

Did Rob and Austin really happen to roll/make a bunch of characters that are all slightly jerkish, both in their base personality and their relationships? I understand that Quidbarn was the sort of blunt/inconsiderate type and it’s fine to have that kind of character, but I remember all of them having moments of this. Likewise, I understand that some characters were set up to be rivals, but the vibe that produced was mostly low key hidden disdain, when rivalry can also express itself in other interpersonal ways. Like I said, more like office workers who secretly hate each other but have to cooperate, as opposed to for example the trope of frenemies or rivals with grudging respect etc.

You mention D&D and that’s actually a comparison we had while trying to figure out why we don’t like the writing, and “D&D group where the players aren’t friends” was one of the things that were said.

Now what you mention makes me curious what happens when you create more friendships and romances and how that impacts the tone. Still though, I wouldn’t think that a pool of what, 6-7 characters would be such a thin slice of options that it dominated the tone and couldn’t show off what else the writing could be.

And yeah, I definitely would like to see the game played in one of the campaigns you mentioned as more deeply written. Pre-existing relationships sounds like something that would make it work better.

As with combat, I don’t think I am missing special mission types or objective oriented missions. Like I said before, this is heavily coloured by me comparing it to XCOM, both because of the previous tactical tuesdays campaign and my own recent playthrough of WOTC, which is obviously not a fair comparison to make.

But I think what makes XCOM strong is that it is an encounter based system: you encounter a bunch of enemies, you have to deal with them, and managing the risk the enemies pose is the central point of tension. Not just in the sense that you need to figure out which enemies provide the greatest threat compared to how you can eliminate threat (as in, a kill priority list). But also that for every enemy in play, you have to know some way to deal with them if they even pose any threat at all.

Wildermyth doesn’t really have that, it is more about taking enemies off the board efficiently while sustaining non-fatal amounts of damage. I think part of the problem is the smaller game board, combined with the fact that keeping your units close is rewarded (while XCOM penalises it because of grenades). You can concentrate your strength and usually bring it to bear on whatever enemy you want to prioritise. While in XCOM your team being forced to spread out a bit means that you also have to weigh how different units are able to deal with different enemies to different degrees.

Again, not all of what XCOM is doing is available to a small game with limited resources, but I think some design decisions needlessly pull Wildermyth into the wrong direction.

Of course, you say you prefer Wildermyth’s “can you take on this map of enemies” approach to XCOM’s “can you take on this sequence of isolated encounters” approach, so it’s clearly a matter of taste, and good tactics can come into play for both of them. I just think the encounter based approach has higher tension and higher spikes, and is more suitable to make captivating streaming.

Hm. Now I’m coming away from this wanting to see another Wildermyth Tuesday campaign, just to challenge some of my criticisms a bit more.

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I think it’s worth noting that there are some enemy varieties which penalise grouping more, or that discourage focusing fire on what’s immediately in front of the group. Also that, while it’s not immediately obvious, your team is not healed after an encounter. Any damage you take carries over, and has to heal on the overworld, which makes decisions about who can be sent to what space more tricky. It might be ideal to have one member peel off to work on a bridge while they heal up, but infected spaces carry the risk of ambush and it is tempting to have another source of damage in a fight even if they’re close to being maimed or killed.

It might just not mesh well with you, but I do think it has enough depth to be enjoyable. Especially as you experiment with different builds, which is much broader than something like XCOM offers, I think.

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I’ll try (and likely fail!) to be brief with this one, because I think there’s only a few more details I can add that don’t come down to taste.

I went back and confirmed that Mordelina’s dominant personality was “Greedy Leader”, and Gylken’s was “Poetical Loner”, which both definitely track as prickly (“Leader” tends to make a character quite serious and no-nonsense). Quidbarn was “Romantic Hothead” – that romantic is definitely where the “himbo” vibes were coming from. However, he did lose a stack of charisma when he got his face petrified, which means he built relationships slower. I checked the compatibility chart and from it I would guess that Mordelina and Quidbarn would get on poorly, and Gylken and Quidbarn would get on well (limited by the stone face), which I think is accurate to how it unfolded.

Regarding your curiosity around more empathetic moments, standouts from my campaigns were:

  • Two characters getting married in a quiet ceremony by a river, with their friends coming to support them
  • A character frantically asking a comrade to “come quick”, but it is revealed that they just wanted to show a scenic vista to their friend / lover.
  • A parent talking to their daughter about their concerns for their future and the daughter reassuring them that everything would be fine (this one happened shortly before the parent retired, so it was very sweet)

Regarding the tactics, as @JennySighs says, the different enemy factions have different mechanics. The Gorgons, as the “tutorial” faction, are the simplest, but they do have the “blue goo” mechanic that messed with positioning.

Some examples of others would be that the Thrixl can commonly interfuse in the same way your mystics do, which can be devastating if you are grouped behind cover that they later use for their magic. Additionally, the Thrixl have a lot of devastating backline units that don’t do damage but are threatening enough that it’s often worth trying to sneak through to the back to deal with them (e.g. there is a unit that can mind control friendly units, and one that can double the offensive and defensive stats of the small and weak frontline units so long as it’s alive).

Also, enemies won’t file into your attack range if they have skills that work best from the back, and all units will actively avoid dangerous tiles (like the Guardian “overwatch”) if able, so you often can’t just set up a choke point (like you might in a Fire Emblem game, for example).

Even if it just doesn’t work for you, I hope this has clarified why some people like myself are high on the game!

I bought the game based primarily on the strength of Austin & Rob’s playthrough, and I am really enjoying it, but I do agree with several of Lamora’s critiques. First, the tactical gameplay is certainly not as robust as XCOM-2. As Lamora says, this is understandable given the difference in their background, but it’s a true point. The combat in XCOM is just so much more wide open - there are so many more options for each character and each turn. In XCOM you always feel like the “perfect turn” is always out there, waiting for you to discover it, whereas in Wildermyth, it feels more like choosing the best option out of a limited set.

I also agree that in attempting to build emergent storytelling into the game, Wildermyth sometimes fails by sort of highlighting its own limitations. I feel this most strongly when really touching or funny or meaningful events pop up multiple times over the course of even a few playthroughs, which kind of weakens the impact. That said, I think Wildermyth’s system is great for folks who might not be accustomed to doing their own emergent storytelling. In some ways, the Tactical Tuesday crowd is exactly the wrong audience for this game, since we already do so many things in our own heads that the game attempts to do.

In many ways, Wildermyth reminds me of Chimera Squad - more limited battles, less freedom for your own personal storytelling - but while I dislike CS and have pretty much given up on it, I really am enjoying Wildermyth and expect to play it for a long time.

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