What if life had a reset button? WILL: A Wonderful World takes this simple concept and runs with it, casting you in the role as an omnipresent deity who receives letters from mortals. Through these prayers, you learn about the lives of a colorful cast of characters who suffer everything from heartache to victory. The outcome of their stories rests in your heavenly hands, whether you choose to lead them to a “happy” ending or see their ultimate demise.
The beings in charge of answering these letters is Myth, a young pigtailed girl suffering from amnesia, and a faithful canine named – you guessed it – Will. Myth has no memory of who she, but thankfully Will is more than happy to lend an assist. As a goddess Myth has the ability to change the events of a story by using a magic pen that allows her to pick up segments of a letter and switch them around, creating new narrative branches for those affected. She can also combine storylines to help people change their fates, for better or worse. It’s a tall order for any deity to fill out, and suffice to say this young goddess has a full plate to work with.
WILL is a text-heavy game, but I wouldn’t call it a “visual novel”, as there’s very few visuals guiding your experience. Get ready for lots and lots of reading. Myth oversees an entire cast of characters, from a stray alley cat named Scottie to a rookie police officer wishing to prove himself to his lieutenant. There’s also a student and teacher romance that made me uncomfortable at first, but over time ended up being one of the game’s most heartfelt stories. There are hiccups along the way that took me out of my suspension of disbelief, but these weren’t enough to keep me away from seeing what happened next.
Every time Myth makes a change to a storyline, far reaching consequences can be seen. One example is when Spottie is a three-month old kitten walking across the street with an older cat named Daddie. Daddie is hit by a car during the crossing and dies, with Scottie sitting over him crying in the hopes that someone will come to help them. Another scene shows both the rookie cop and his lieutenant in the locker room getting undressed to head into the hot tub at the police station.
Segments from each scene can be swapped to change events in each story, hopefully for the better. One focuses on fateful slippery water which can be swapped from the rookie cop’s storyline and placed into Spottie’s. Instead of Daddie dying, he’s able to dodge in time, but as a result the car that was supposed to hit him ends up crashing. The car’s occupant dies, but this means the rookie cop avoids an embarrassing moment with his lieutenant which could result in him being transferred to another unit.
Will does suffer from introducing new mechanics that can feel redundant, as if the developers were just testing how far they could go instead of being really innovative. There are action sequences for example, segments of stories that can only in a certain order and can’t be moved before or after other actions. I didn’t see a reason to have this as a mechanic other than to complicate how Myth is able to work with the letters. I rarely saw it used anyway, but it’s only one of many convoluted concepts throws your way.
Switching between storylines keeps things fresh, but can be frustrating when you want to continue down one path. There’s a large flow chart keeping track of the constant changes and different endings between each story. It also displays which stories are intertwined or are connected in a single moment so their outcomes can be changed or left alone to play out.
The only real downfall with Will is there’s no real consequences if you get a storyline “wrong”, which actually diminishes an otherwise awesome concept, narratively speaking. I also didn’t like how most of the stories can’t progress unless you achieve the “best” ending, which led to several minutes of swapping segments around until something stuck. That disappointed me because I did want to see less than stellar results when the “right choice” wasn’t made.
Will showcases how the strands of each person’s life can affect another living being, and that’s it’s strongest suit. There were times I experienced moments of existential crisis thinking about how every interaction or word can affect those around me. Other times, small actions like a kind word or gesture can make all the difference to another living being. There are potent moments scattered throughout the experience that had me in tears, like the lonesome crying of Spottie over Daddie when no one had enough compassion to stop and help them.
WILL: A Wonderful World is an interesting, sometimes thrilling, take on visual novel tropes – even if it’s less visual and way more heavy on the novel aspects. The tale of forgetful Myth and the dog buried themselves in my heart and refused to budge. There’s a huge emphasis on reading here, so much so that I’m worried some impatient types won’t give its unique narrative-altering gimmick a chance before simply powering the game off. This would be a mistake, as there’s nothing quite like having the power to change the fates of people using little more than the power of language – and maybe a little trial and error. Flaws aside, if you have the time to take a step back and simply absorb a few good stories, try this out. You won’t regret it.