Witchfire early access review: It’s hope that kills you
For an FPS aficionado such as myself who never dared to stumble upon a roguelike shooter, Witchfire was a good enough start. Needless to say, the game thoroughly bruised my pride. Witchfire punishes you badly, and it shows no mercy if you let your guard down. The biggest mistake that I made embarking upon the journey in this witch-infested world was underestimating the enemies. Initially, enchanted by the lightning-fast movement, my inner competitive FPS player did not take a second to rush into the arena, and eventually got humbled by this world of sorcery.
Here is an in-depth review of trying my luck multiple times in Witchfire, and what I’ve experienced in this dark fantasy world so far.
Witchfire punishes you badly, but it's worth it
Witchfire is set in a world where a massive war was fought between the Church and the witches. You embark upon a journey as The Preyer (Witch Hunter), an entity that the Church forges to fight against the witches in the mysterious realm where danger lurks around every corner.
However, there is a haven for you if you are ever in distress. It’s the game’s hub world, Shrouded Hermonitorium. Here, you ascend in power, refine your understanding of the realm, and craft your arsenal and elixirs.
One of the greatest things that I thought the developers, The Astronauts, implemented perfectly is the progression style in this game. Witchfire has a quasi-permadeath feature, but it doesn’t let you start from the beginning. This means that if you die, you lose all your items. But there is a way to get it all back, and once you finish one camp on the map, the enemies do not respawn there on your next trip.
So, what is the best bet for you? Don’t risk all your items and Volatile Witchfire (In-game currency) in one go. You gather your experiences, you find a portal, and you return and make yourself worthy enough to face a more dangerous foe.
Don't push back, push forward
Currently, the game is in early access. Hence, an array of places and items in the game are out of your reach.
You can only explore two areas, the Scarlet Coast and the Irongate Castle, and your primary goal is to kill the boss on a map aka The Witch’s Familiar.
After spending hours in this game, one of the key aspects that I understood is that you have to survive and come back to your hideout to level up. As you explore, you’ll unlock new weapons, relics, and spells, and these are indispensable for fighting the boss at the end.
If you are an FPS fanatic like me, wielding the All Seeing Eye Bolt Action or the Midas mid-range rifle would be a cherry on top. Crafting a Relic that cripples enemies with lightning or using Spells to blind or stun witches is extremely fun to perform. But it never gets old with a good one-on-one gunfight, where you stand tall as a gallant warrior in this world steeped in magic.
The enemies throw fire arrows that will instantly damage your health, or the Swordsman can traverse the battlefield to show you what the hell looks like. Don’t push back; the best action in this game is to push forward. You can just come back through a portal and use Volatile Witchfire to increase your Vitality, Healing Abilities, or even your Luck against the demons in this hellish land.
As you gain more endurance, the enemies can see through you. They’ll know that you’ve become a greater threat, and that’s where your skill lies as a Preyer. But be prepared; it’ll make you lose your sanity, literally.
A true FPS at its core
Coming to the movement mechanics of the game, everything is extremely fluid and is on the level of a title like Apex Legends. But don’t get fooled by it, which I did initially. All the dashing and sprinting comes at a cost. You’ll lose your stamina immediately, and the only way to get it back is to kill witches.
And when there are plenty of these dark souls, movement is not something that you’d want to completely rely upon. However, it is a crucial feature that’s extremely fun to have.
At its core, Witchfire remains an FPS experience. While Spells, Relics, or Perks (Arcana) bolster your combat experience, they should be viewed as enhancers rather than crutches. Hence, strengthening your gun skills is mandatory.
From blasting with your Shotgun Echo to using a Crossbow or the Bolt Action, the aim game should be on point. This will become especially pivotal once the Witch’s Familiar showers their wrath upon you.
Visual fidelity and performance
The game looks gorgeous from the get-go. For a development team that consists of 12 people, what they did with Witchfire is an amazing achievement. It isn’t ultra-realistic; the visual fidelity has the reminiscing charm of old-school games and is nice to look at.
However, there are some performance issues that I faced while playing the game. It ran smoothly for most of the times, but some massive FPS drops during my expeditions were a bit of a letdown. But, that is acceptable for an early access build. I hope the developers will look into the issue and fix it in time for the game's full release.
Witchfire is extremely fun and challenging to play, but that doesn’t mean it’s a completely perfect game. There are some major issues with finding resources once you clear a camp of enemies, and you’ll need a significant amount of crystals, white raven feathers, and much more to research or build magical items.
The herbs in the game are also extremely difficult to find. In most of my campaigns, I had a hard time building Elixirs. Hence, the developers might need to work on the availability of items because the game is already hard as a shooter. Making it more difficult for players to find resources doesn’t make sense to me.
While the title has its ups and downs, it’s still in early access, and a plethora of content is yet to come. Based on what I have experienced so far, Witchfire is an extremely promising FPS game and a fresh entry in this world of multiplayer shooters.
All the magical elements and the world-building are well crafted too, and give you a sense of belonging in this rather hellish realm that might hook for hours. The game punishes you badly if you become volatile. But when you eventually get accustomed to it, and you will, you'll find that the hope doesn’t kill you anymore.
Reviewed on: PC (Code provided by The Astronauts)
Platform(s): Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer(s): The Astronauts
Publisher(s): The Astronauts
Release date: September 20, 2023