An early version of a production by The Astronauts studio was recently released – and amidst all the major releases, it's worth getting interested in this smaller title. Witchfire is already a lot of fun – something I wasn't prepared for. It's clear that the creators put a lot of effort into it, and the appropriate design makes you feel the character's progress from the very beginning.
Nonetheless, when launching the game, one must prepare for the fact that Witchfire doesn't explain too much and some things have to be discovered through trial and error. I consider this a significant advantage, especially since as the main character, I embody a witch hunter and find myself in unfamiliar territory. That's why learning can be painful, and frequent deaths must be accepted.
Witchfire is an atmospheric roguelike showing that early access can also bring games that are practically ready not only in terms of gameplay, but also technically. This production runs exceptionally smoothly – I have not experienced any performance drops or unexpected crashes that would negatively affect the fun.
A very considered game
After just a few hours, I noticed that the game seems remarkably complete. Only the information about lack of certain elements reveals that this is indeed early access.<br> One way or another, even in this form, the game from The Astronauts is very enjoyable. Roguelike elements make up a neat and consistent whole and if someone liked the old-school shooter Painkiller, they should easily find it up their alley as well.
A Warden patrols the entire map and summons a large group of undead during fights.
A happens during the clashes with opponents, even if they don't have access to a wide range of attacks. It's fast, dynamic, and you constantly have to be on guard, because sometimes a moment of carelessness is enough to die and lose all of the eponymous witchfire, needed to improve character stats. Fortunately, after death you can return to the same expedition and regain the resources you would have lost. Unless you die again on the way.
An interesting solution concerns stamina, which we don't have too much of at the beginning, and which is used for sprinting, jumping, and dodging. Each defeated opponent increases the amount of stamina we can access during a single expedition. It has the upper limit – about twice higher than the initial value. And that makes a huge difference.
Besides, everything in Witchfire is related to combat: to improve weapons, you have to kill enemies, same as to complete research. Sometimes an event occurs and forces you to fight for survival, as enemies appear left and right, immediately next to you. You can feel the adrenaline rush then, especially once your healing potions are gone, we have a few HP left, and the group of undead warriors is still quite large.
I can't count how many times I've died rather stupidly, but I've never felt demotivated by it. Witchfire can become addictive with its progression structure. I can't wait for further character improvements, unlocking new equipment levels to get new bonuses, or complete research providing new types of weapons, spells, or arcana (modifiers). Even a brief expedition and return from it provide some progress. Feeling that the effort you put in yields results motivates the player to continue the adventure.
The best part of the game is the content added to expeditions. Even the first map is not always the same. The growing character level causes new enemies and events to appear, which are, of course, associated with appropriate rewards. Thanks to this and the random distribution of each element on the map, the first expedition can remain very engaging for a long time. There's no need to go boss hunting. You can explore the map, kill monsters, and then return to the hub to unlock new research or equipment abilities.
The game hub definitely makes quite an impression.
Personally, the hub itself reminded me of Vermintide. It's a small space, with locations for creating mixtures, modifying weapons and selecting new research scattered around the map, thanks to which the hero can become even stronger. There are also several – currently closed – passages. They will probably be opened in the future, offering even more content.
Solid dark fantasy
The game world is not lacking in ruins, destroyed villages, and battlefields with old, abandoned equipment. All of this is presented in a toned-down graphical setting, which does a great job of capturing the dark fantasy atmosphere. On the expedition map, I saw that the world was heavily strained by the dark forces of the witches and so they have to be dealt with.
The music is great, and depending on what's happening on the screen, it hits with a different power. During a really tough skirmish or difficult event, it enters more intense tones, which only increases the desire to fight. In such an atmosphere, death equals glory and brings the desire for a swift revenge. At the same time, the music doesn't dominate the gameplay. It's only an addition – unrestricted killing of enemies is always the most important element of it all.
The world we see during expeditions is deserted and destroyed.
Optimization helps to admire the world, which really surprised me during the game. This production ran on "ultra" at a constant 60 frames without problems (with FSR 2.0 set to Quality mode). The only noticeable flaw was the delayed loading of high-resolution textures when first loading the game. However, it only lasted a few seconds. And sure, the game doesn't have imposing system requirements, but recent experience shows that you can never be sure whether a given title will actually perform well or not.
Besides, I haven't encountered anything that could spoil my impressions of the game. Although there certainly were a few issues. Otherwise, the creators wouldn't have prepared a big "Unstack" button in the options after pressing Esc. Somewhat expectedly, the artificial intelligence of the opponents is not outstanding. However, they do not run aimlessly into walls and do not stand still, waiting for death. They actively tried to defeat me, which made the clashes so much more engaging.
Witchfire devs deserve support
There's no denying that early access is a lottery, but after a closer look at Witchfire, I can say that the game is worth the money. Even at this stage, it's already sufficient for many hours of gameplay. The aforementioned character development continuously motivates you to keep playing and even short sessions make sense. In terms of gunplay, this title resembles the good old Painkiller, just in a 17th century setting.
You can just tell that the developers care about their work. In the last few days, at least three updates have appeared (that's how many I counted). One of the better changes was increasing the spawns of a plant called "angelica," required to brew a healing potion and collected during expeditions. Previously, finding the mentioned herb was definitely more difficult.
I just hope the game will not share the fate of Metal Hellsinger, which, despite being a very interesting game offering a unique approach to shooting and excellent graphics, ultimately went unnoticed.The undeniable advantage of Witchfire is the high level repeatability. If the final product expands the foundations and promises to be one of the most interesting premieres.
Zbigniew Woznicki | Gamepressure.com