If you haven’t heard of Witchfire, I don’t blame you, in the year of Baldur’s Gate 3 dominating PC hard drives and Starfield taking hundreds of hours for players to explore, this FPS Roguelike could easily slip through the cracks. Although my time in Witchfire has been brief what I have played of this early access title has me coming back for more
With an intriguing dark fantasy plot and solid but tough gameplay mechanics, Witchfire is a palette cleanser from the hundred-hour plots of 2023, providing a brutal but fun gameplay experience that feels just as much like Doom as it does Dark Souls.
What is Witchfire all about?
Although Witchfire is light on its story (that’s a good thing I promise), the pieces it does reveal feel as if 2004’s, Van Helsing and Doom had a weird gothic lovechild. The opening cinematic, which is presented in some very nice illustrated still frames (think the re-caps from The Witcher 3 or Divinity: Original Sin II), sets up the story clearly with some narration explaining what is happening in the world of Witchfire.
As a last resort in the deadly war between humanity and Witches, The Vatican (yes that ‘The Vatican’) has dispatched immortal hunters called ‘Preyers’, to deal with the Witch of the Black Sea and save humanity.
There is also the wreckage of a long-lost papal ship which is thought to carry a valuable artefact that could alter the course of the conflict. There’s just one problem; The ship has landed in the Witch’s territory.
As a Preyer, you have access to guns, spells and abilities to take down the horrors in the world by any means necessary. The backdrop for the game sets the gothic atmosphere from the get-go plunging players into the world of Witchfire without much handholding and overcomplicated lore.
Although from its initial teaser, Witchfire’s atmosphere looked to be more haunting and gothic like The Astronauts’ previous game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a number of the team also worked on shooter titles like Painkiller and Bulletstorm. This means that Witchfire equally draws its DNA from both.
Witchfire Give Us the Magic Words- What makes Witchfire Great to Play?
The basic goal of Witchfire is to load into a session and collect as much gear, Witchfire (the titular in-game currency), and resources as possible before trying to escape back to your home base through a portal. Emphasis on the word “trying” here as in Witchfire everything,(and I mean everything), is trying to kill you.
At the start of the game, you are almost completely drained of the substance that gives you supernatural abilities; Witchfire. You earn the currency by slaying enemies, clearing out areas on the map or finding it in supply chests.
In classic Roguelike fashion if you die, all the gear, Witchfire and treasure you have collected throughout a mission is lost and you are spat back out at the game’s HUB world, The Hermitage.
However much like a Dark Souls game, you can retrieve your items from the last location you died. What this gives players is a goal to get all their loot back before they succumb to the horrors and a spark for them to try and get better so they can claim more Witchfire on each run.
If you manage to escape through one of the portals on the map you can spend your hard-earned Witchfire to increase the stats of your Preyer. Increasing one of the six main stats; Vitality, Healing, Endurance, Witchery, Metanoia, and Luck gives you various passive buffs such as a bigger health bar or faster stamina regeneration.
The Hermitage base also allows you to make health potions and conduct gear research using a magic mirror to unlock new weapons, spells and items all courtesy of the church. However, be warned the stronger you are, the stronger the Witch and her minions will become, with certain ability increases leading to more enemies, traps and boss fights being placed on the map.
The use of Witchfire encourages players to experiment when playing the game as with no time limit on your runs you are free to approach each mission as you see fit. You can test out weapons, farm minions for Witchfire, or go straight to a boss fight, there are no restrictions on how to play the game.
Whatever way you want to play a Roguelike, this game gives you the flexibility to do so. While Witchfire’s map is static it gives enough variety with randomly generated positions for enemy danger zones and loot that make each run a little bit different.
Clearing these danger zones also grants the player access to special Arcana that can only be used for that particular run, which can be massively helpful with weapon buffs or even damage-type reductions. By starting at a random portal each run and having a procedurally generated map with loot and minions to fight you’ll get used to having each run feel just that little bit different each time.
Also Read: Ad Infinitum Review – War Is Hell (PC)
Now when looking at Combat, Witchfire has got to be one of the most rewarding games of the year. With top-notch gunplay, sounds, and animations The Astronauts’ latest title gives off a AAA feel despite being made by a smaller studio.
The movement is reminiscent of Doom (2016) with a dash that consumes stamina, allowing you to quickly move out of the way of enemy attacks or close the gap to finish them off. The dash combined with a sprint slide and a double jump mechanic allows one to move around the battlefield with unparalleled freedom.
There is also enough variety between the different weapon types while playing, with short, medium and, long-range weaponry to choose from. After playing for a few hours my favourite weapon has to be the starting pistol, which although is your default weapon can be upgraded to chew threw enemy health in a single well-placed shot.
Each gun does have its use in the game with several well-designed enemy types that may be similar on the surface but have completely different strategies involved in defeating them. Take for example the Bowman and Musketeer, both may be ranged enemy types however each of them has different attack patterns and damage ranges that you have to learn in order to not die.
Witchfire is as much a game about being able to slay hordes of enemies as it is about learning how not to take damage. That is one of the key things the game beats into you from the beginning with the first few hours being a brutal test of patience, that those who are not familiar with Roguelikes might struggle to adjust to.
Once you do get past the initial loop of kill, die, repeat Witchfire becomes more rewarding with each mistake you make forcing you to reconsider how you approach fights and the best way to take on enemies.
Currently, in the early access version of the game, there are 2 missions (The Scarlet Coast and Irongate Castle), out of a total of six listed, available to play through. Although these maps are atmospheric and gothic with loads of coves, mountains and beaches to explore, some people may find the $39.99/ £31.99 a little bit too steep to justify a game that is currently a little light on content.
Overall although still in early access Witchfire is shaping up to be a Roguelike that may drag you to hell and back, but in the process gets you hooked on the core gameplay mechanics and setting. Whatever the future of Witchfire may hold, this is an early access title to look out for.
Witchfire was reviewed on PC with a code from Evolve PR.