Witchfire is an amazing game I’m desperate to tell everyone about. It’s Destiny combat meets Dark Souls difficulty, and it’s a semi-open-world roguelite with phenomenal progression hooks. As someone who loves Soulsborne games and wholeheartedly believes Destiny 2 is the best-feeling FPS in gaming right now, Witchfire presents a new subgenre I urgently need more of.
While the game is still in Early Access, The Astronauts (the studio behind The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and now Witchfire, which consists of 12 people) has really outdone itself. I love Witchfire, my coworkers love Witchfire, and I think you’ll love Witchfire, too.
Out of the furnace, into the fire – The combat
There’s no better way to describe Witchfire’s combat — it’s almost 1:1 Destiny 2 in the best way possible. The movement, jumping, and sliding, the weapons, spells, and gunplay — it’s all so smooth and responsive. Despite their best efforts, it’s extremely rare for developers to nail the feeling of Destiny 2 FPS combat. As you can tell, Destiny 2 is my gold standard for FPSs, so it’s high praise for Witchfire.
Witchfire gives you two primary weapons and a demonic weapon, all of which feel great and have different uses. You also get a light and heavy spell, which adds a lot of build variety. The dash is extremely fluid and useful, as is the double jump. Exploring the worlds of Witchfire and taking on enemies just feels absolutely wonderful and addicting.
Where Witchfire turns more into Dark Souls is in its enemy and boss difficulty. Instead of a run-and-gun, you need to actually use cover, dash at the right times, and pick your battles to survive. In a world saturated with run-and-gun FPSs, Witchfire is that crisp autumn breath of fresh air.
The enemies are tough and offer a variety of challenges. As you level up, the witch that you’re hunting deploys beefier soldiers, wicked traps, and high-risk, high-reward events that just get cooler and cooler. Though I don’t think it’s a “git gud” game, it is definitely hard, and I could see many players who approach Witchfire as a run-and-gun either getting humbled quickly and enjoying the game or bouncing off. Just know that the difficulty is directly tied to your level, so if you want to get your bearings in Witchfire, ignore the Volatile Witchfire (the progression currency) and just explore.
I’ve beat my head against, and finally beat, one boss in Witchfire so far, and it was an amazing experience. I attempted to beat it about 20 times, and each time, I adjusted my strategy and learned how to do better in my next attempt. Finally beating it was a thrill, and I immediately wanted to do it again.
Chilled to the bone – The environment and tone
Witchfire is a visually stunning game. The tone is, as you’d expect, dark and witchy like a Dark Souls game in the fall. The graphics and frame rates are top notch, which makes exploring the maps an absolute treat. The beaches are littered with shipwrecks and giant rocks, the verticality of steep cliffs and forest hills are majestic, and the abandoned villages make for perfect battlegrounds. Witchfire creates an appetizing concoction by mixing the fear of encountering enemies you aren’t skilled enough to fight with the eerie charm of every sun-stained, haunted location.
Each run is uniquely yours to own as you set out to accomplish one or two things before the Calamity starts. Witchfire features semi-open-world maps that are procedurally filled with random events, varying levels of dangerous enemies, roaming minibosses, and traps. Every map has a boss that can be fought at any time, but you’ll want to prepare a bit before jumping in.
Based on random triggers like low health or angering too many enemies, a final event called the Calamity will start. When this happens, you have a minute to choose one of a few options: sprint to the nearest portal to end your run in safety, get to the source of the Calamity and destroy it to continue your run, or bunker down, embrace the Calamity, and destroy a number of Wraiths (super difficult enemies) to stop the Calamity before you run out of Sanity. It’s thrilling, to say the least, and I love how choice-driven everything feels.
To Hell and back – The progression
Okay, the combat rules. The enemies and bosses are amazing, and the environments and activities within them are beautiful, but what about the progression? This is a roguelite after all, so there needs to be something here to hook us into “just one more run.” Witchfire uses Volatile Witchfire, a collectible currency found when you open chests and kill enemies, as the primary way to level up your stats. It’s Soulslike in that if you die during your run, you’ll have a chance to return to your place of death and recover your Volatile Witchfire — or lose it if you die trying.
Witchfire currently has seven weapons to unlock, five light spells, four heavy spells, and three rings, amulets, and fetishes to unlock. Unlocking them is easy; you get to research two things at once and you’ll make research progress the longer you stay in a run. You also get to upgrade all your weapons up to three times after completing specific challenges, which unlock unique bonuses for each weapon like fire damage for the SMG or AoE poison explosions for the rifle.
Every good roguelite needs hooky progression, and I’m definitely hooked on Witchfire. There’s always a reason for “just one more run,” whether that be to get more Volatile Witchfire to level up (or grab the Volatile Witchfire from your last death), discover secrets and complete events, upgrade your weapons and progress your research, find herbs to make more health potions, or just to bask in the supernatural chill of the environments.
My Witchfire score so far
I’ve put five hours into Witchfire, and I’m craving more. There are a few kinks to iron out and the nature of early access keeps us from experiencing everything Witchfire has to offer, but so far, Witchfire is a genre-defining accomplishment that’s spooky, rewarding, and well-polished. I can’t recommend Witchfire enough, even when it’s in Early Access.
If I had to give it a score right now, I would easily give it a 9.5 out of 10. I can’t wait for Witchfire’s full release, which is currently unknown. I’m eagerly anticipating it, but for now, I’m enjoying slaying undead and hunting that witch.