Witchfire Early Access – Available

It’s been a few weeks since the highly-anticipated Witchfire landed in early access, and this game proves itself to be a unique experience in the gaming world. While it offers familiar elements of standard shooting fare – shotguns, handguns, long-range rifles – it also introduces a variety of spells that range from seemingly ineffective to god-like, depending on the situation. What truly sets Witchfire apart from other shooters in the genre is its random unlock system, challenging difficulty, and the time investment required to unlock everything. While it might not cater to the casual gaming crowd, those seeking a rogue-lite shooter will discover intriguing concepts, combat strategies, and unique scenarios. However, Witchfire truly begins to shine after players have spent considerable time battling a horde of creatures.

Developed and published by The Astronauts, known for their work on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Witchfire plunges players into the game without much of a backstory. A brief mention of witches and a short tutorial to grasp basic skills are all players receive before they are immersed in the grind. And grind they will, especially when starting a new game. Players commence their journey with nothing but a six-shooting revolver. While it is reasonably powerful, players can quickly become overwhelmed when faced with even a small horde of rapidly spawning enemies. This is partly due to the weapon’s seemingly slow reload speed and the time it takes to unlock more weapons and spells. Witchfire stands out by blending past and present weaponry with a dash of medieval themes and attire, giving it a unique flavor in the shooter genre.

In addition to the grind for random unlocks, players need to weigh whether the game’s ever-changing elements between playthroughs are enough to maintain their interest. Everything, from enemy groups to monsters and event starting locations, changes each time a player enters their chosen level. It may feel like pure luck whether a player faces a challenging or favorable combination of spawns, especially when it comes to the distance between them and their lifeless body, making recovery extremely tough or even impossible. Early on, players might find that deliberately dying to retrieve their corpse and volatile witchfire, the in-game currency for leveling up, is the most viable way to progress. It may seem peculiar to purposefully meet one’s demise in order to advance, but in certain early situations, it becomes the only practical means of making headway.

The gunplay in Witchfire is solid, offering a satisfying sense of weight, recoil, and variety among different weapons. Each weapon includes an upgrade system that can significantly alter its usage. For instance, the auto rifle, when first unlocked, operates like typical automatic rifles – hold the trigger, and the magazine empties. After an upgrade, it features a progress bar with cold, heat, and overheat segments. Holding the trigger progresses from cold to heat, with maximum damage occurring in the heat section. Players need to be cautious and control their trigger pulls to maintain it in the heat section for maximum damage. It transforms the weapon from an automatic to almost semi-automatic if players want to maximize its potential. Although some armaments lack this dynamic feature, certain players may be disappointed when their favorite weapon undergoes changes.

A controversial gameplay aspect in Witchfire Early Access is the way damage diminishes with distance when fighting enemies. While close-range attacks always deal maximum damage, some weapons have rapid damage fall-off, and even medium-range weapons can be frustrating with how quickly damage weakens. This mechanic is essential to prevent players from effortlessly sniping enemies from great distances, but it can feel unfair at times. Even the starting revolver sometimes appears to suffer from damage fall-off when enemies aren’t particularly far away. Players need to get unnervingly close to opponents during the initial stages, which puts them at a significant disadvantage and often seems unjust. Long-range weapons offer more leeway, but the rapid decrease in damage can still seem peculiar when firing from what doesn’t feel like a considerable distance.

Despite these gameplay quirks, witchfire steam is visually stunning. The game boasts top-notch textures that align with the expectations of a next-generation game. Enemy textures are equally impressive, although grunt enemies lack visual diversity. Some of the witch’s minions, such as the ghost that roams and summons over 30 minions when provoked, or the skeletal minions, are truly terrifying and add a touch of Halloween-inspired horror to the game. Spell effects are excellent, although some are more subtle in their presentation. However, this doesn’t diminish their effectiveness. Weapon skins, while basic, possess a blend of styles from past and present, providing them with a unique appearance. Nonetheless, certain ground textures tend to repeat, making it challenging to discern the specific area a player is in. Sound design, although at times repetitive, is generally solid and doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

Regrettably, the early access version of Witchfire did present a few issues leading to unnecessary deaths. These issues include getting stuck on rocks or between walls and sliding off objects and off the map. While some of these problems may be resolved in future patches, others may require more complex adjustments related to level assets, which could prove challenging before the official release. Fortunately, these incidents were infrequent, but in a game where the line between life and death is razor-thin, such small moments hold significance.

Switching genres from one game to another can be a daunting task, even for the most accomplished studios. The Astronauts have done a commendable job by creating a game with significant replayability potential, despite its somewhat challenging early game experience. While some scenarios may feel unjust on an otherwise great run, fighting witches and their undead armies remains an enjoyable experience for those who relish a higher level of difficulty. In conclusion, Witchfire Early Access is a game worth exploring for players in search of something different in the shooter genre.