Wildmender is a survival game that challenges you to not only survive, but to create a thriving new world.
The world of Wildmender is empty. Civilization is gone, and spirits and ghosts are left to roam the deserts. However, you are lucky enough to stumble upon an oasis in this barren desert. After gaining some water, you meet a creature named Vidyas, who teaches you how to survive and gives you various side quests.
Between exploring the wasteland and creating the perfect oasis, there’s plenty to keep players busy.
- Developer: Muse Games
- Publisher: Kwalee
- Release Date: October 18, 2023
After a quick tutorial from Vidyas, the world will open up for you. However, armed with only a sickle and a shovel, it’s unlikely you’ll get very far without a few improvements. Walking during the day is an easy way to waste all your water due to the scorching desert sun, not to mention roaming enemies and other environmental hazards. Staying in the shade, traveling at night, and conserving water are all important tips to keep in mind, especially early in the game when your options are limited. Your effective range of travel expands as you unlock new movement abilities, improved gear, and enhanced recovery tools.
At first your first spring is just a stream, but with further improvement it can become a network of rivers. Although the mechanics of water sometimes behave in unexpected ways (mostly due to the sometimes strange changes in topography when digging with a shovel), I’ve had a lot of fun digging new canals to irrigate my gardens. You can improve your spring water production and eventually unlock additional springs as you gain new abilities, and that extra space is definitely needed when you fill your garden with new plants and furry friends. Aside from that, it’s just a pleasure to watch a rivulet turn into a bubbling river.
Wildmender is pretty generous in telling you where to go and what to do for the most part, except you need to find the main temples of the Gods (which tend to stand out anyway). You can of course explore the world blindly if you want, but Vidyas and other allies continue to offer tutorials and tips when it comes to new mechanics and uncharted areas.
The basic Wildmender cycle consists of exploring the world, acquiring new resources, and then improving your garden and gear to explore even further. In fact, players can build a base anywhere, as you can equip a shed, workshop, storage facilities, and anything else wherever you want. The only limiting factor is soil and water if you want to be able to establish a farm or sustain yourself in the long run, but temporary outposts still have their merits. Nearby resources are also an important factor, but the ability to move quickly makes this moot once you unlock enough transition gates.
Things get a little more complicated as you explore new biomes, however, as they have different environmental hazards and terrain. Salt plains deplete water much faster and are dotted with narrow crevices, while canyons are filled with deadly poison and winding chasms that block your view. You’ll have to use the plants and raw materials you find in each biome to create protective gear and potions to overcome their inherent dangers, as well as exercise your own common sense to avoid overexerting yourself. Each area becomes less and less dangerous as you also heal the ground, which gave me a great sense of satisfaction after first wading through an area invariably half-dead and then being able to nonchalantly stroll back and appreciate the work I’d done.
I found the world to be the most challenging enemy by far. You can encounter gangs of ghosts in the wilderness, and you’ll occasionally have to fight off waves of them, but fighting is relatively easy as long as you stay mobile. Enemies tend to group up a lot, which is easily punished with a good dousing from a flamethrower. The only times I truly died in combat were when I was already dying of dehydration or starvation mid-fight, so the real lesson is to always be frugal with your resources.
Those who want to save time must earn the favor of the various gods to get their boons as soon as possible. I remember spending about five minutes digging a ditch that an Earthwright chisel could have dug in five seconds. Nevertheless, the Cloak of Winds is by far my favorite gift. Navigating through crevasses and sand dunes with an improved jump and slow fall was a definite improvement over dragging through the desert.
I didn’t really like the art style at first, seeming somewhat simplistic, but the longer I played, the more I found it suited to this game. There are also a lot of great effects that enhance the visuals in each biome, aside from the fact that each biome seems unique in its environment and style. Wildmender really comes alive at night, thanks to the stunning starscape and the breathtaking glow of the spirits of long-dead trees. And with appropriately atmospheric music to top it off, exploring new locations has always been an enjoyable pastime.
Overall, Wildmender is a unique and charming survival game that offers a unique experience in a stodgy genre. The multitude of abilities at your disposal, with which you can modify the landscape, and the sheer scale of rebuilding life in the wilderness all set Wildmender apart from its peers. There are certainly more challenging survival games out there, but there aren’t many that allow you to transform the world the way Wildmender does . Usually a wasteland remains a wasteland, but here you can turn it into a paradise.
- Charming visual style, especially at night time
- Change the landscape
- Pretty nice controls and interactions
- Battles are too easy, and frankly, a bit boring
- Some abilities in the technology tree are useless