log in or register to remove this ad

 

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight Review Round-Up – What the Critics Say

The reviews for The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, D&D's first official adventure set in the Feywild, are out. Since TWBtW is also the first official adventure designed so that it can be resolved without any combat if desired, making it something new for the game, you might be wondering how other reviews stack up next to my assessment.
Witchlight cover.png

The Good​

Tribality compared TWBtW to a cross between Changeling the Lost and D&D. Like me, Tribality liked the flexibility of the adventure, how it can be added to any setting, and how pieces of the campaign can be repurposed in your own homebrew. We also agreed that the art was beautiful and evocative of the setting. Tribality ranked TWBtW a 10 out of 10, which is an A+ on our scale.

GeekDad doesn't make you wait to know what they think – the headline indicates that the book “HAS to be” reviewer Simon Yule's next adventure. GeekDad also points out that an adventure designed for heavy role-play with an option to skip combat isn't for every group. While Yule does think TWBtW is great for DMs ith limited experience, he doesn't think it's a good fit as the first adventure to DM. Otherwise GeekDad is effusive in its praise, calling out DM tools like the roleplaying cards, story tracker, etc. as well as saying that TWBtW has “the best opening chapters of any official campaign” encountered. Like me, Yule also likes the fact that minor interactions early on can change things later. While a letter grade isn't provided after all of the compliments and only a minor complaint (not liking hags as villains) it's clear GeekDad would give an A+.

Polygon's review starts by pointing how far D&D has evolved from its wargaming roots and that today a large portion of its base came to the game from watching live streams and actual play videos that emphasize the narrative aspects of the game, correctly noting that TWBtW was made with audience (and anyone who loves role-playing) in mind. The designers are praised for going “above and beyond” to create a new style of adventure that focuses on choices, collaboration, and role-play instead of combat. The review also praises TWBtW for empowering players and helping DMs think bigger. TWBtW is praised for its “big swings,” meaning huge chances taken that worked. One cited is a segment where the party is encouraged to split into two groups – long a no-no in RPGs – so one half can investigate while the other half does an improv performance to distract an audience, with the latter facilitated by random lines removed from a hat. The combination of making TWBtW an advanced class in role-playing and storytelling while providing advice and tools for a new DM is also praised. Polygon doesn't give a rating but since the review calls TWBtW “one of the very best products released for D&D's 5th edition” I'm confident assigning it an A+.

Geeks of Doom praised the same things I did – a fresh setting vibrantly depicted, a new approach to adventure resolution, the new races and backgrounds, Easter eggs, and new versions of old villains. The only caution is advice for DMs to get a good grasp on the material to create smooth sessions. Otherwise, TWBtW is praised for its 'bold moves” and “a spectacularly entertaining world.” Though a rating isn't assigned, the totally positive review equates to an A.

Art.jpg

The Slightly Less Good​

Strange Assembly praises TWBtW a lot while also providing disclaimers to ensure that people with the right interests select the adventure. As other reviews, including my own, noted, choices and character actions have long-reaching consequences and the fact that NPCs can reappear later, making things more appealingly complicated than the average adventure. Praise is also given to how it creates the wicked whimsy the creators mentioned in so many interviews. The only real criticism, which is more of an opinion and one I disagree with, is that the two new backgrounds in the book are better for other adventures because they eliminate some of the player's wonder in the Feywild. This review would also equal an A, A- at the worst.

Bell of Lost Souls takes a broad view of how D&D has evolved since 5th Edition launched in 2014, specifically the impact of live streams and how that audience is bringing new players in the game. BoLS praises TWBtW for facilitating a new play style (no combat) if desired, even though writer J.R. Zambrano feels the adventure works best with a little combat. TWBtW is also praised for how it teaches a new DM not only how to run a game but more subtle points, like presenting multiple options, that can take awhile to learn. As I indicated, BoLS admits that it's not an adventure for everyone – the whimsy and fairy tale touches are a specific taste, but overall enjoyed the fact that WotC is stretching beyond the typical adventure style. The review was a “recommended” that falls somewhere between a B+ to an A, leaning toward an A.

Dandylion.jpg

The Final Grade​

While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft received a tiny bit more praise, the reviews for this first Feywild adventure was consistently, and often overwhelmingly, positive. Combining my A rating with the ratings above, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight continues the trend of the last few D&D books by being an A-rated release.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Looking at how something like Avernus or Dragon Heist has fared, even if we assume complete good faith on the part of everyone concerned, it doesn't so much look like "WotC generally puts out good quality material" as "WotC products make a really good first impression, which sometimes lasts and sometimes doesn't".
That's because it's impossible to do a perfect review, especially with content that won't truly be tested until a year or two into the campaign that you're reviewing. Playtesting is one of the key reasons why it's so hard to do good reviews for Unearthed Arcana, published Adventures, or Monster Stat Blocks, because you have to actually run it in a campaign in order to get a good idea of what its flaws are.

And no one really does reviews of books a year or two after they come out.

That's why the reviews of these books are almost always overwhelmingly positive, although some of them lose their hype after people have actually played through them (Tyranny of Dragons, Dragon Heist, Descent into Avernus, etc). However, some don't, like Curse of Strahd as the main example.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

It’s clear that most reviewers aren’t GMs and review more with non core elements to playing an adventure like art and how good something looks in mind than how something actually plays. For example none of these reviews truly address lack of player agency ( I bet the original dragonlance adventures would have gotten As too)
 


Norton

Explorer
I really want to read this but see it as less of adventure for my groups and more as an incorporation to my current homebrew.

But I love the idea of no combat and more RP, particularly in a softly psychedelic, multicolor wonderland that will provide a stark contrast to what they're in now. I can see them fumbling into a portal trying to escape a punishing encounter and emerging, blood-soaked and battered into a lush, fairytale land with a "bluebird on their shoulder". But I need to read a lot of it before shelling out the dosh.
 

The Glen

Hero
I did reviews for a magazine for over a decade and I can tell you reviewing is a bit of an art form. You have limited time to get the review done, there is a rush to be first. This can cause problems as some reviews look rushed.

If you are hyper critical then the people who created the thing reviewed won't like you. If you are overly positive then your audience stops believing you because the review won't be accurate. There are always the accusations of pay to play, I give you good reviews you give me stuff. These allegations are wide spread across a variety of formats and sadly sometimes they are true.

A reviewer learns to code their language so it tells the creator what's wrong without flat out being negative in front of the reader. "It would help if the book was easier to navigate" means "ADD A BLOODY INDEX" for example. It's considered a courtesy and will make you friends even if they don't agree with the assessment.

Most creators love to have their works examined. Often enough they already know the flaws so it's not a surprise. Other times you point out a problem that they can fix. If you can suggest a solution in the review they like you more. Only a few of them will flip out and attack you but that's the nature of the business.
 

Green Onceler

Explorer
Every one of these review round ups I've clicked on here for a new WotC book has the overall grade somewhere in the range of A. Whether reviewers are being disingenuous with this rating or not, it's not really helpful, making it difficult to identify the stand out releases. It does appear fawning to me.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I do wonder how many groups will actually manage to get through this adventure without any combat. Considering that many classes have an almost sole focus on combat, and every class gets cool combat abilities as they level, I think there will still be a lot of groups that go "Well, I just got this cool combat ability so I say we fight these guys!"

Otherwise, I think this adventure might be a good opportunity to make everyone an expert sidekick character or even a modified version of the survivors from the guide to ravenloft with talents more suited to a whimsical fey adventure.
 



Lycurgon

Explorer
I have a friend running the game and other friends playing in it. Their spoiler free review is that it the rolepaying is pretty basic. It is almost a roleplaying 101 for new players or to introduce RP to hack and slash players wanting to expand their play styles. Most of the NPCs didn't have a lot of depth.
They said that in the start of the game you would have to be murder hobos to get into combat. But they have got themselves into combat after the first 2 chapters.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Every one of these review round ups I've clicked on here for a new WotC book has the overall grade somewhere in the range of A. Whether reviewers are being disingenuous with this rating or not, it's not really helpful, making it difficult to identify the stand out releases. It does appear fawning to me.
Should they pretend to dislike some of the books? Is that more useful than their actual opinions?
 

Greg K

Hero
No, it really isn't a big allegation, nor should it be shocking one.

And no, it's also not claiming any sort of fraud or other term you wish to use with such severity.

And, as pointed out, its not about these "big sites" (which they might be big in the RPG world, but are tiny from a larger world view) getting free books/products, but about them getting advanced copies so that they can be one of the first sites to post reviews and therefore attract the most amount of clicks and viewers. And every click or viewer is worth cold hard cash to these sites.
I am always wary about many of the "big sites" alway giving 4 star, A+ reviews to a publisher when there is profit to be made.
I can still recall when the head of the largest mailing list for one licensed rpg received a pre-release copy of a new rpg with the license and wrote a glowing review. To our disappointment, many members (myself included) bought the new game based on the review. Later, he admitted to writing a misleading review that hid his true unbiased opinion, because he hoped to write for the product line.
I am not claiming the reviewers receiving the advanced copies are doing anything inappropiate, but I am wary of the possibility that they might be or that they might be overly enthusiastic fans unable to write unbiased reviews.
 
Last edited:

Zardnaar

Legend
I never trust early reviews of adventures. For 5E they're always positive then later everyone dumps on the "bad" ones.

There's only 3 or four "great" 5E adventures from the official books.
 

Every one of these review round ups I've clicked on here for a new WotC book has the overall grade somewhere in the range of A. Whether reviewers are being disingenuous with this rating or not, it's not really helpful, making it difficult to identify the stand out releases. It does appear fawning to me.
To me, I appreciate critical reviews. But many people today think that to criticize something is to say its bad. Not the case. I don't bother with reviewers if they are not critical because I know they won't be telling me the type of info useful to me.
 
Last edited:

Visit Our Sponsor

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top