Aaaand she’s back. With thoughts on yet another game where you date 2D characters, of course.
This time, I’m here to offer my humble thoughts on a game called Wilder, created by [sonnet009 games]. The game has five total love interests, all of whom are djinn (the MC, who you get to name, is human), and takes place in a pseudo Middle Eastern setting–the ruler of the country is known as the Shah (a Persian term), the backgrounds suggest they’re in some sort of desert, etc. In this world, the djinn are seen as inferior to humans, being treated as nothing more than slaves, and MC is a girl from a rich, high-class family. You then get to guide her along and help her fall in love with the different djinn she encounters (yay!!!!)
NOTE: This isn’t officially a review; it’s more a way for me to process my thoughts and feelings about the game. So, beware–spoilers await.
This game is an oddball in terms of release in that the creator has decided to release each route one at a time as she finishes them, allowing us to play them sooner, before releasing the entire game with extra content such as epilogues or a CG gallery (I’m hopin’). So far, Ran’s route is the only one that’s been released, and of course impatient me with grabby hands couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I’ve played one of sonnet009’s games in the past, called Aloners, and was blown away by the quality of the writing and depth of its main (and only) love interest, Trash. It’s a really quality game–the writing is tight, the chemistry is sizzling, and you can get it here for free, so what are you waiting for, hypothetical reader? Go and put those grabby hands to use.
Anyway, because of how much I loved Aloners, I was thrilled to discover that sonnet was making a new game, and the demo was engrossing in all the right ways. So I had high expectations going into Ran’s route, especially since I was supposed to be studying at the time…
Like Aloners, Wilder is designed for maximum flexibility in terms of the MC, allowing readers to shape her to fit their roleplaying needs. I appreciated how you were able to build a character and see how the other characters responded based on your decisions without it affecting the ending. In Wilder, there are a few choices during which the screen goes black and you hear a heartbeat thudding, and these are the choices that actually affect the ending you get. All the other choices are entirely for your amusement, which I appreciated. It was especially fun playing snarky with Ran, who can more than handle it.
Story wise, the MC basically escapes with Ran and goes on a series of escapades with him as they fall in love, yada yada yada the usual jazz. There wasn’t anything truly surprising or subversive in this route, but I was fine with that because Ran is well… fine. He and the MC have the potential for some truly great banter if you so choose, and I seem to have a thing for the cool-headed, observant guys (hi Shin). I think out of the five love interests that Wilder has, Ran was by far the one that piqued my interest the most, and I see no reason why that still shouldn’t be true after playing his route.
To be honest, after these sky-high expectations, Ran’s route fell a bit flat. The first time I played this through, which was a few months ago when it was first released, I sat, disappointed on my bed, and wondered if I shouldn’t have impulse bought the game right away. I’d sped through it and was a bit underwhelmed by the ending especially (more on that later). The route felt pretty standard and predictable, because it’s fairly obvious that you and Ran will fall in love with each other on your gallivant through the wild, and that you’ll struggle with you being a human and Ran being a djinn, and the choices to reach the “sweet” end were fairly obvious (you just had to be a decent human being). The route also felt extremely short–I’m a fast reader and I finished the thing in approximately an hour, or maybe even less (tbh I forgot). On top of the fact that I was stressed about avoiding all my responsibilities, I think that the odds were stacked against Wilder. So, biting back disappointment, I remember closing the game and seeking out other distractions.
Cue summer, when I of course haven’t found anything productive to do with my life and find myself pulling up old games to replay and relive. I open up Wilder and sigh because of disappointment. I start clicking through the route again out of sheer boredom.
And for some reason, this time I’m engrossed.
The prose is, for a lack of a better word, excellent. I’ve been playing a lot of Japanese games recently, and while Code:Realize and Amnesia are both pretty engrossing titles in their own rights, I’ve noticed that in contrast English games seem a lot snappier and sharper in terms of dialogue and characterization. I don’t know if this is because of translation issues, or simply because of the different culture, but because of this Wilder felt so natural and real. Ran doesn’t ever go on a long spiel about how much he cares about MC or say things like “You look so good I might not be able to control myself” (looking at you Ikki) or do that thing where they self-diagnose themselves and explain their issues LOL. Don’t get me wrong, Ran does have a tragic backstory that has affected him and he does clearly go doki doki for MC (blushing Ran is adorable), but the sexual tension doesn’t feel forced, and the characters’ interactions feel authentic. It was a treat diving back into excellent writing and dialogue and I hadn’t realized how good Wilder was in that department.
Which leaves me with one main issue: the ending. By the end, you and Ran have experienced a huge range of variance in your relationship. You’ve gone from slave-and-master to friendship to lovers, and you’ve both betrayed each other in significant ways. You’re broken, and that scene on the ship where Ran studies the scars he gave the MC is heartbreaking in all the right ways. As I read, I wondered, how are they going to repair this? How can they possibly repair this? I was excited to see where the novel would take me next.
But it just ends.
MC leaves after Ran tells her to, but suddenly realizes that oh no, she can’t live without Ran because her heart goes doki doki for him. He somehow magically has the same realization and comes running right after her and they kiss in the street (if you choose so! consent!) and all is right with the world…
Here’s the thing, I don’t doubt that Ran and the MC could eventually learn to put aside the ways they’ve hurt each other, but I wanted to actually experience how they as a couple grew to overcome it. The way the narrative set it up, it seemed to be a deeply serious, problematic barrier in their relationship, and in my opinion it was resolved way too easily, especially since Ran’s change of heart happens off-screen. It was the only part of the story that felt unbelievable, because if I were to really believe the narrative, the characters weren’t at that point yet.
Which is a shame, because the route is truly well done. The chemistry between Ran and MC is all I ever wanted, and while it was pretty obvious how things would turn out for them, I’m always a sucker for a well-written story. (I just wish it had been longer.) Apparently the full game comes with an epilogue though, and I really wish I had that, cause then it might satisfy the gaping hole the ending left in me.
I would recommend waiting for the full game to come out, because that will apparently answer a lot more questions (like, who killed the Shah?), and playing the other routes would probably lend a more cohesive view of the game… but if you’re like me and can’t wait, you can get Ran’s Story here for $3.99, practically a steal!
Anyway, those are my thoughts! Sorry, it kinda turned into a reallyyy long ramble, but what else is new. 😉