I often think about how I would fare if I was suddenly thrown into the wild.
The obvious answer is not very well. I can’t build a shelter, I can’t hunt and I don’t know how to make a fire. But most importantly I don’t know how to use plant life as a resource. I probably wouldn’t last a night.
Wildmender from Kwalee is a survival adventure game that might be able to teach me some of those things, along with how to survive an oncoming society breakdown. It’s a game that makes the most of the usual survival tropes, but is also a garden sim and an action-adventure too. Shall we get gardening?
The story goes something like this. There was a golden age in this world, where everything was splendid. But like all good things it went wrong and wraiths destroyed the land, turning it all to sand and dust. But there is a small place with a tree and a slow trickle of water… It’s there where your story begins.
In Wildmender you get to choose your character, readying them to take on this journey. You awake in a desert land, thirsty, hungry and hot as hell. Next to the stream is a spirit guide called Vidyas who acts like a tutorial helper; they instruct you to get some water, plant some seeds for food, craft some tools, and build a shelter. So you do. But there is also an excellent story hidden away in this survival game; one that focuses on you – the hero – restoring the land to its former glory and building altars to the five gods.
As you get stronger and explore more of the land, in Wildmender you find yourself speaking to ghosts and spirits, who give more information on how the world got to this terrible state and what you can do to help it. There is some very nice writing on offer here and an extremely strong sense of world-building and myth.
Gameplay-wise it’s very much like a normal survival game; something you might be getting used to from the last few years. You start, in the third person, collecting wood then stone, building a crafting table, getting tools like a sickle and spade, and then you are on your way to crafting an empire.
There is combat in Wildmender too, which you can turn off for a more relaxing experience. Keep it on and you’ll be found using a magic mirror which can deflect attacks from wraiths, shooting out a bolt of energy to get rid of them. If you get killed you go back to where you started, without everything in your inventory, left to traipse forward to the same place you died to collect your gear. Frankly, I haven’t got on with the combat sections of Wildmender, and really couldn’t wait to get back to the gardening.
You see, planting seeds and growing your world are the best moments of Wildmender. Planting new seeds and growing gardens with the results gives you different rewards and a skill tree you can fill up. And exploring the interesting world of shrines and ruins is wonderful and never gets boring.
Like all great survival games it’s the ability to lose hours in Wildmender, just pottering around, doing the odd job, that makes the experience a successful one.
Wildmender is visually atmospheric too, which is good when deserts are the order of the day. But there is something beautiful about the ruins of this once-golden world. The menus are nice and clear as well, running a good easy-to-use UI that helps a lot. A nice breezy and relaxing soundtrack also helps when you’re grinding away sorting out your gardens.
Wildmender is a delightful, intuitive survival action-adventure. It may drop into a busy market and genre, but it offers something different, what with a beautiful and interesting story and world to explore. I’m not personally a fan of the combat, but thankfully there’s the opportunity to ignore that side of things if you wish, instead focusing on the adventuring. Include the options to play with friends, working together to make a better place and Wildmender comes across as a big success story.