Witchfire PC Review

Beware, witch hunting just got a lot more magical and hellishly unforgiving, you are not prepared.

By R3GR3T, Posted 25 Sep 2023

Sometimes, a chaotic start to a good story is all it takes to set the stage for something great. The Astronauts, a small game development studio in Warsaw, Poland, had a similarly chaotic start, and they seem to be a roll. Founded in 2012 by Adrian Chmielarz, Michal Kosieradzki, and Andrzej Poznanski, who left their original venture, People Can Fly, after it was acquired by Epic Games, this chaotic crew kept the fires burning at a steady pace while maintaining a high standard on game quality.


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Their first release was The Vanishing of Ethan Carter in 2014, an epic atmosphere-driven mystery game that garnered mostly positive reviews upon release. It’s not often that a first release gains this much popularity, and it looks like The Astronauts’ second release might just take another top spot. Witchfire is The Astronauts’ second release, and it is practically bursting with potential; with solid mechanics and a good story, this unforgiving roguelike might just be what the gaming world needs for a good shake-up in the right direction. What makes this so impressive is that Witchfire is still in Early Access, usually known for being buggy or underbaked; you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how solidly built it is so far.

The world of Witchfire isn’t one to take lightly; there’s a war on witches, and whatever is left of humanity is led by the Church. Unfortunately, the Church might have greater numbers in armies, but the witches keep taking territories because they outmatch the Church with magic. You’ll take on the role of a witch hunter, also known as a Preyer, tasked with bringing back a valuable artifact discovered by papal scouts deep in witch territory. However, this task is easier said than done, as the long journey to your destination left you low on witchfire, which gives you more supernatural abilities, and most of your belongings were lost on the way.

You’ll have to rebuild your arsenal and defeat the witches and their families that stand in your way. Luckily, you don’t get thrown straight into the fight without knowledge, though this is probably the only forgiving part about Witchfire. Right from the start, you’ll have to familiarize yourself through the tutorial that’ll show you the very basics of how to survive and combat against the strange creatures that await you on your expeditions in this first-person nightmare.  


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Your quest begins in the Hermitorium; this is where you’ll get to prepare for your expeditions, level up, and start research for new gear and spells. Unfortunately, without witchfire, you won’t be able to do much aside from looking around at what’s available, but that’s also pretty limited at first. So your first move will be to go on your first expedition to the Scarlet Coast and start gathering up some witchfire to get started.

Right from the start, you won’t have much besides your gun called Hunger. It might just be a starting weapon but don’t underestimate it. For a simple gun, it packs one hell of a punch. Now that you’ve landed, the first thing you’ll have to do is check the map to get an idea of what’s waiting for you. Areas will be tagged as Dangerous, Highly Dangerous, and Extremely Dangerous – Naturally, this is a literal indication of what you’ll be going up against. Higher danger levels will reward you with more witchfire, though the risk might not always be worth the reward because dying means you return to the Hermitorium with nothing to show for your efforts.

Your map will also show you where to find ammo chests; since ammo doesn’t grow on trees and you’ll run out sooner than you’d like, knowing where to find more will help you in the long run. Eventually, you’ll also get locations for trapped areas, strange objects and more. Plan your route accordingly, and don’t rush into a fight if you can’t handle it. Sometimes, it’s easier to poke and run to slowly build up a decent stock of witchfire and progress your research instead of trying to channel your inner Rambo.


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Run and gun tactics will get you pretty far, but Witchfire made life a bit more interesting with getting around. Granted, Stamina will definitely be the bane of your existence if you don’t pay attention. With a Double Jump and Dash at your disposal, you’ll be glad to know that you can easily ‘Skyrim’ your way around the map. For those who don’t know, ‘Skyrimming’ is deviating from normal paths and instead climbing over mountains and making new shortcuts to get where you want to be. This is great for getting around and using the best vantage points from which to snipe out any hostiles from a safe distance where they can’t touch you. However, Double Jump and Dash both eat massive chunks of your Stamina and draining it will leave you exhausted and slowed down. Luckily, your Stamina recharges quite quickly, but you don’t want to be exhausted in the middle of a fight, pace your wild movements.

While fighting for your life, it’s quite obvious that you’ll need to keep an eye on your health bar too. Witchfire can be somewhat unforgiving in this regard because health elixirs are painfully rare as an item drops, and you don’t start with enough to be reckless. You’ll eventually be able to carry more with you on each expedition as you level up, though this also depends on whether you have any stockpiled back at the Hermitorium. Making more elixirs is easy enough to do at the Hermitorium as long as you have harvested some Angelica; this strange plant can be found almost anywhere, but it’s easily overlooked.

Now that you’ve gotten a few kills in and managed to escape in one piece, you’ll probably have some witchfire that’s burning a hole in your pocket. It’ll be a good time to visit the Ascension Shrine to spend your hard-earned witchfire on a level or two; aside from stats, levelling up also unlocks new items to research at the Workshop, but it will also make your expeditions much more difficult. The Ascension Shrine is a double-edged sword – You can sink your witchfire to boost the following stats: Vitality for HP. Healing, this affects the healing received from elixirs and from certain mushrooms. Endurance, which increases your Stamina and its recharge rate. Witchery, more potent spells! Metanoia is an odd one that gives you bonus witchfire collected during expeditions. And lastly, Luck, this one is a bit more on the vague side and can affect anything from drop rates to the chance of the witch using a calamity spell on you.


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Leveling up comes with the perk of unlocking new items, but it can also bite you in the worst way possible as well. As you get stronger, so does the witch, and leveling up will sometimes give her upgrades to her traps, new minions, and much more that can destroy you. You’ll have to be careful how much you push for stats because it’s painfully easy to level yourself into a corner. This leaves you in a tight situation where you’ll have to either play it extremely safe until you can handle the more serious fights again or… Start over. Both options are far from appealing and will bite you where the sun doesn’t shine.

With higher levels comes some much-needed research potential at the Workshop. You’ll be able to research and unlock new gear like Close, Medium, and Long-Range Weapons, Demonic Weapons, Spells, and Magical Items. Your normal weapons all serve a unique purpose, and there are weapons for every playstyle; you just need to unlock them. Demonic Weapons lean more on the overpowered side, but they’re great in a tight situation where you need to mow down a small army with one shot. Then there’s also your Second and Third Mysterium Incantations that need to be researched, more on this soon. The workshop does come with a catch, nothing is instant, and any piece of research will take time. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear what progresses your research, so go on a vicious killing spree in an expedition, and your research might just be done by the time you get back.

Now that you’ve gained a few levels and geared up, you might be ready to jump into another expedition again. Witchfire wouldn’t be a roguelike without the mechanics to match, and this comes in the form of Arcana after clearing out an area. Clearing an area will reward you with a randomly rolled choice between 2 Arcana that can affect Firearms, Spells and Varia. Firearms Arcana can give you buffs to your weapon damage, fire rate, clip size, etc. Spells are similar in terms of damage, extra effects, recharge rate, etc. Varia is a bit more far-reaching as this can affect your enemies or the Preyer by giving you health or reducing enemy health, boosting your Stamina recharge rate, stun duration, and much more. However, you’ll only get to choose one unless you have White Raven Feathers to spend for rerolls or to activate more than one Arcana.


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Sooner or later, you’ll get to discover one of the bigger buffs Witchfire has to offer when it comes to your weapons and other gear, the Mysterium unlocks. Your weapons can, in a manner of speaking, grow with you. Each piece of gear will have its own unique set of conditions that need to be met before you unlock the next Mysterium tier for it, but these upgrades are well worth it and can make a simple gun like Hunger an absolute monster if you use the upgrades to your advantage. For example – Hunger’s Mysterium unlocks are aimed at critical strikes, which will give you charged bullets for your next reload. These charged bullets deal a decent chunk of extra damage and can definitely make a difference where you need it.

Witchfire has one last curveball to throw at you, and this can come at you when you least expect it just by standing still or by making too much noise. The dreaded Calamity Spell. This nightmare spell is cast by the witch and aimed directly at you. There’s no way to hide from it, and even less so knowing where the catalyst for it will be. The Calamity Spell does come with a small charge-up that gives you time to either find the catalyst and destroy it to disrupt the spell or to get to a portal to escape. Once the spell takes hold, it’ll slowly drain your Sanity, and you’ll still have the option to destroy the catalyst, or you’ll have to exterminate a massive horde of enemies. However, once your Sanity runs out, it’s game over and your run ends.

Witchfire is one of those games that can be somewhat hit or miss on the visual front. Keeping in mind that you need to take this game with a pinch of salt since it’s still in Early Access, you’ll see that some of the textures on trees and other bits of animated environmental objects can look a bit broken or pixelated. Aside from that, the overall aesthetic of Witchfire and the world design as a whole are done perfectly. The enemies and the Preyer’s designs both carry a dark but mystical effect that really add to the atmosphere. While the enemies have variations for each type, they do feel a little ‘copy & paste’; small changes to details between two Husks, as an example, would give them a more unique feel and breathe a bit more life into the dark world of Witchfire.



 

Right from the starting cinematic, the voiced introduction builds a great atmosphere to get you started. However, once the cinematic ends, you’ll basically be alone with just the ominous background music to keep you company. Witchfire’s background music is subtle enough that you don’t really notice it, but it fits the world at hand and adds so much extra depth to the world. The smaller things like enemy noises and even your own footsteps overshadowing the background music just keep adding to the eerie silence around you, though being able to hear something approach from behind shows the work that went into the spacial sound engineering too.

Overall, Witchfire looks like it might set a new example of what the Roguelike genre should be instead of what it’s turning into. While it can be extremely unforgiving, that’s also what’s at the heart of being a Roguelike; you’ll have to keep trying and sharpening your skills to make it to the end. This might not appeal to everybody, especially those who get frustrated easily, but anybody who likes a challenge will have a field day with Witchfire and the unholy chaos it brings.


Jay Claassen (@R3GR3T_3NVY)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Witchfire

80/100

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): The Astronauts
Developer(s): The Astronauts
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: First-Person Shooter, Horror
Release Date: 2023-09-20

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