Witchfire - PC Preview

Witchfire by developer and publisher The AstronautsPC preview written by Robert with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

This game is witched-good fun... Sorry, wicked-good fun. Fast-paced and beautiful, Witchfire by The Astronauts is a snappy little extraction shooter that has recently been getting a bit more attention. Currently available on the Epic Games Store, Witchfire puts you in the shoes of a Preyer after the end of a war that saw witches defeat humanity. Preyers are a special soldier of faith charged with venturing into the wilds to hunt down artefacts and do what you can to survive the onslaught of the witches. 

Combining roguelike elements with the frenetic combat of an extraction shooter, Witchfire manages to come out with something truly unique in a post-Tarkov world. Though it's still in Early Access, Witchfire is perhaps one of the best-optimized games I've played in years. Gorgeous, responsive, and simply FUN to play, Witchfire is most certainly one to keep your eye on.

Not being the biggest fan of PvP (I'll throw down in games where PvP can happen but isn't the focus, think Star Citizen or Elite: Dangerous, but I prefer cooperative play over competitive), I was fairly late to the extraction shooter shooter genre. I've always loved the idea of an extraction shooter- diving into ruins or wild territory with nothing more than what's on your back, scrounge, scavenge, survive, then extract while gathering resources to improve your base defenses. One of the biggest struggles for me, though, was finding a title that had more of a solo or co-op PvE experience that ticked most of the boxes. While I absolutely adore everything about Zero Sievert, Witchfire is scratching the extraction itch in all the best ways.

Worldcrafting mystic toxicity...

Given the early stages of development, worldcrafting in Witchfire is currently fairly minimal, however I think that what's there is the start of something wonderful. The setting having a post-apocalyptic Salem Witch Trials-gone-awry mixed with the frenetic almost Souls-like combat actually marries the Puritanical + Inquisition themes and designs REALLY well. At first I was a bit skeptical of the aesthetic as I'm not a big fan of the pilgrim-esque designs of the 17th century Americas but the dark, almost mystically-toxic designs found throughout the world make it weirdly... inviting. It may be because amidst the open corridors of the map, the game feels wildly like Yarnham from Bloodborne. 

The feeling is just right and continues to pull you in- as you work through a run, clearing the various spaces, a golden glimmer appears that feels inviting and warm, but then it dawns on you that the Witch's attention is starting to become more focused on you. When that happens, all hell breaks loose and it's a mad scramble to the nearest portal. There is a simple darkness to the environmental/world building found in Witchfire that is both new and nostalgic at the same time so it will be with baited breath that I wait for more lore from The Astronauts.

Designing a colorful apocalypse...

With the atmosphere established by the deceptively foreboding world design and environmental storytelling, The Astronauts draped a contradictively-bright veneer over the world. While not as bright as a title like Battlestate Games' Escape from Tarkov, Witchfire's pallette is clean, clear, and absolutely stunning to see. I think it's important to note that I'm quite colorblind so I do use ReShade to adjust the colors of a title, however... it's honestly not needed in my eyes. There is a smoothness to the art in Witchfire and I'm not referring to the weird, smoothed-out effect that occurs with AI-generated content. This is more that the huts and wheelbarrows, shrines, chests, and trees all smoothly interconnect to create this clean, flowing design that is mesmerizing at times. 

Pairing the smooth and vibrant aesthetic with the sickly black and red effects caused by Witchfire creates a striking difference between the corporeal and the mystic. It's honestly one of my favorite-looking games and am eternally sad that there isn't a photo mode given my love for all things virtual photography. I will always encourage single-player titles to offer tools for players to show off / show appreciation or pride in accomplishment and a photo mode is an awesome way to bring that connective value.

Agency of motion...

The United States Navy SEALs have a message that they ingrain into their member is, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" and Witchfire is an excellent representation of that creed. Motion, while it is quick, near twitch-shooter levels of speed at times, but there is a fluidity to it that slows the action down. When first dropping in there is this sense of motion that makes you feel, "I gotta go fast!" But then you start moving, and smoothly through the level you start to realize that movement feels like Mirror's Edge and Doom (2016) had a witch-filled child. 

This is by no means a bad thing; it adds a weight to your movement that feels good- it's slow enough that using your short dodge or double-jump to evade an attack is rewarding but not easy. Combine that with the meaty "thunk" you get with your firearms (Hunger, a revolver is most certainly my favorite as it hits like a Mac truck and just sounds mean) or the sizzling crackle you get when you're hurling fireballs and it almost feels like a dance. Once you begin to get the rhythm of your weapons down and you begin to pair them with the optimal distances for damage, Witchfire truly begins to sing.

Hear where you go...

With the punchy sounding firearms and an incredibly eerie-sounding witch voice (seriously- there is this deep, guttural growl is just amazing) however, sound is where I feel that we could see greater improvement. In part due to bugs- there are plenty of times where the music would start to swell and feel all, "oh dear, hear we go again" only to run around for five minutes not finding any enemies. It's also fairly typical in a modern tactical / extraction shooter to have audio cues for when you're running low on ammo and Witcfire is no different. However, the "click click" that appears as a magazine is almost out and needing to be reloaded... sounds really plastic-y. Almost like you're reloading an old plastic NERF toy that's on it's last legs. It's fairly jarring, given the thick, meaty sounds you hear when a fireball lands on an explosive enemy, or when you punch that damn pikeman that won't leave you alone ... then there's "click click." Given the Early Access nature of Witchfire, though, I'm absolutely confident that The Astronauts will continue to iterate and grow its audio cues and while it's annoying, it's not game-breaking.

Enjoy what you have...

Witchfire by The Astronauts is impressive, engrossing in its design, and one of my more excitable titles. It may be the thick atmosphere of fear that's permeating every step of your Preyer, or the sickeningly red witchfire that you collect, I don't really know but I love it as it has its hooks in deep. Snappy gunplay, wonderful optimization, with interesting environmental storytelling, and a theme not often seen in games these days. While the audio does, at times, leave much to be desired, overall the experience I had in Witchfire is incredibly positive so be sure to check it out for yourself at: https://store.epicgames.com/en-US/p/witchfire-db273e.
Score: N/A  


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