Is Witchfire, Worth Playing?
Honest Video Game Reviews received a free copy of this title for review purposes, however our opinions are our own.
Witchfire takes the best parts of the Extraction Shooter genre and turns it into a single-player experience that is as engaging and rewarding as Escape from Tarkov and, in some ways, even more so.

The Lowdown.

Product Details
Genre: Extraction Shooter
Developer: The Astronauts
Publisher: The Astronauts
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 30 September 2023
Supported Modes:

Narrative.

While Witchfire’s narrative is rather sparse and beyond the exceptionally good cutscenes can best be summarised as “Kill the Witch”, the concept of the Catholic church going to war with the forces of evil is rather fun.

While it does lean a little heavy into the anti-hero trope, with the player character being portrayed as a dark magic-wielding agent of the church,

I cannot help but feel the plot would be better if the player character were a more traditional “heroic” character, utilising all manner of holy devices and weapons from the era.

Weapons and Gunplay.

Witchfire’s gunplay is excellent, and the ability to level up weapons and unlock additional passive abilities is even better. However, I wish the weapons were period-authentic.

While using an SMG on undead archers is fun, and gunning down zombified musket men with a pump shotgun is very amusing, I would have preferred the player only to have access to period-authentic weapons such as swords, knives, bows, crossbows, flintlock pistols, blunderbuss, and muskets.

While this would have slowed down combat considerably, placing a greater emphasis on melee combat and spells or holy relics would have helped keep combat fluid while adding the additional challenge of reloading a musket or flintlock pistol while enemies move ever closer.

Inauthentic weapons aside, Witchfire gunplay is top-notch for a game of this type. While titles such as Destiny 2 and Call of Duty offer a far smoother expierance, that is to be expected, as gunplay is the main reason people play those games, unlike Witchfire, which is in itself a decent single-player extraction game with RPG elements, roguelike progression, and Souls-like combat.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing 2

Progression.

Witchfire’s progression system is solid, but it does need improvement.

While levelling is rewarding, being forced to choose between investing Witchfire into levelling up or purchasing items such as chest keys, gold coins, or herbs is a nice change of pace.

However, progression is ultimately limited by just how little gold a successful run gives players, with some runs giving as few as five gold coins, while many mid-game research projects need 20-40 gold coins per upgrade, requiring players to collect an eye-watering 280 gold coins to level all of their items to tier 3 (Third Mysterium Incantation), not including the gold required to fill those slots, and if necessary research multiple projects per slot if you get a weapon or item that does synergise with your current build.

A much better progression system is already in-game, with each workshop item taking a set amount of active play time (idling in the pause menu doesn’t count) while exploring outside of your home base; this system rewards active players and allows players to focus on enjoying the game, instead of scrimping and saving every scrap of gold they find while being forced to replay easier constantly or repeatedly die while they farm the gold needed to upgrade their weapons enough to tackle more challenging encounters and higher Gnosis (difficulty) levels.

I would personally remove the gold requirement from workshop research projects and instead limit access by player level and time played; this system would allow players to upgrade at a decent pace without feeling the need to farm gold endlessly when there are so many better things to be doing.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing 3

Roguelike Elements.

While players retain Witchfire and items such as Mysterium scrolls, herbs, and chestArcanafrom successful runs, the arcana (passive abilities) unlocked during each match do not carry over between runs, which I feel punishes players needlessly.

I would prefer a system that allowed players to purchase an arcana/upgrade permanently in exchange for a comparable amount of Witchfire, allowing the player character to become incrementally more powerful while giving players more control over how they build their character and how they wish to invest their hard-earned Witchifire.

World Building.

While only a small part of Witchfire world is currently explorable due to Witchire being in early access, the maps which players get to explore are spacious, well designed, and continue a fair variety of locations which encourage and often reward greater exploration by hiding various chests and items throughout each map, which except for single-use treasure locations, often exposed by increasing Gnosis level and unlocked by spending Witchfire, are spawned randomly throughout the world, ensuring that players cannot speed run every good item and chest before making a beeline for the exit portal.

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Keeping Things Interesting.

While the player character has more than a few tricks up his sleeve, so does the witch, and she will send hunting parties after the player character and seek to kill them when they are at their weakest by unleashing a calamity just when things look like they cannot get any worse, forcing players to either flee for an exit portal, fight a challenging foe, or slowly die of insanity, as an overwhelming dread slowly destroys the player characters mind and more importantly erodes their health.

Visuals and Performance.

Witchfire is a really nice-looking Unreal Engine 4 game and is very well-optimised for an early-access title.

While Unreal Engine 4 is slowly starting to show its age, and Unreal Engine 5 is capable of so much more than what Unreal Engine 4 could ever hope to be, a good engine is a good engine, and Witchfire is one of the best-looking Unreal Engine 4 games I have ever played.

A big part of what makes it look so good is the care and attention to detail that the developers have invested in making the world of Witchfire feel alive; every location, weapon and enemy unit feels like it belongs there and has been created especially for the game.

While I am not saying that every single asset is custom made, as honestly doing so is a waste of time for many things such as rocks, trees and other world-building assets, where it matters most, Witchfire uses almost exclusively high-quality custom assets, which, when combined with some of the best lighting work I have seen on an Unreal Engine 4 game, and excellent atmospheric effects, Witchfire is a visual treat, that is sure to please all but the pickiest graphics aficionado.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing 6

The Loot Pool Could Be Better.

While Witchfire’s maps are gorgeous, its enemies are numerous and challenging, and gunplay is fair for a game of this type (but nowhere as refined as Call of Duty or Destiny 2), Its loot system is a little underwhelming.

The vast majority of items are either useless trinkets that are auto-converted to gold at the end of each mission or utility/healing items, which, while useful, are not very exciting.

Of course, that does not mean there is no reason to explore the world. There are hidden goodies scattered across each map, and I found a fantastic revive at half-health item behind an enchanted wall.

While that is great, and honestly, it was one of the biggest dopamine rush moments I had while playing Witchfire, beyond finding those few previous items, there is very little loot to find, which is a pity, as Witchfire has some of the best-looking weapon models I have ever seen. How passive attributes are applied to weapons allows for a nearly limitless number of possible weapon variations. This system could be expanded even more by incorporating Arcana (temporary passive upgrades) into the weapon passive ability pool.

I would love to search for a rare chest that dropped meaningful legendary weapons, such as a shotgun that heals the player when they oneshot an enemy or a rifle with a small chance of triggering damage over time.

It would make replaying the game even more rewarding and help tide players over between map releases, which are very demanding in development resources. The developer stressed this in detail during a recent development update blog post, letting players know that more large maps would be coming in future, but for right now, players should only expect smaller and more condensed locations while they work on other aspects of the game.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing 5

The Developer’s Response to Feedback.

While it’s still early days for Witchfire, the developers have already proven they are more than willing to make huge changes if the community asks for them, and a revamp of the loot system is not off the table if enough of the community wants it.

Recently, the developers rebuilt Witchfires entire difficulty scaling mechanic from the ground up in response to player feedback, a commendable move and one that is sure to players, as while the old system was certainly challenging, it punished players for levelling up, something which many players found unenjoyable.

As of May 2024, this system was replaced with a far superior system called Gnosis. This system functions as a world-level setting, allowing players to only move to a new difficulty tier when they feel ready.

This change allows all players to enjoy the game and makes Witchfire far more palatable to casual players, who may wish to explore a dark and foreboding world without the constant threat of being one-shot by every enemy they encounter.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing 10

Controversy.

Whenever you make the player character dress or act in a manner traditionally associated with evil characters, you will get people who won’t touch it with a barge pole.

Witchire is no different, and the fact that it implies that the Pope authorised a “dark magic user” to act on behalf of the church is even more controversial.

Yet, honestly, I find the concept of an anti-hero who wears a mask to hide his shame (or signs of physical corruption) while he strives for redemption rather intriguing. While Witchfire has some controversial elements, I feel it’s not as problematic as some people would lead you to believe.

Let’s take, for example, the magic used by the player character; beyond occasional terminology, it has little to no resemblance to actual witchcraft practised by actual witches and warlocks, which, yes, actually do exist, with over 1.4 million people actively identifying as Witches in the USA alone.

While fantasy books, movies, and games have convinced some people that fireballs, ice shields, and turning people into toads are the work of actual witches, such “spells” are pure fiction.

While I strongly believe that the occult is real and should be avoided at all costs, an opinion shared by the late Christoper Lee and, most importantly, God, religious people need to be very careful in branding benign things as evil, as it honestly is embarrassing, and weakens their overall argument.

We all know the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“, and it’s no better to be “The Church That Cried Evil“.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing 9

I find games such as Witchfire a wonderful opportunity to explore the deeper themes contained within and see how they align with real-world theology and issues.

In Witchfire, players play as a witch hunter (Preyer) who hides his face behind a hideous mask as he seeks redemption by fighting against the very evil that flows in his veins; corrupted by Witchfire, the prayer finds himself unable to live without the dark ether that burns in his blood.

What a terrible situation to be in, fighting against evil while the very same evil consumes you. This is a perfect presentation of the effect sin has on the hearts of men and women. Since humanity’s fall in the earliest days of creation, every man, woman, and child has been consumed by this sin, which they cannot overcome by human will or might.

It has been said that modern civilisation is less than three days away from collapse at any given time and that even good people will do terrible things after just three days of complete hopelessness; this is a terrifying thought.

No matter how “good” you are or how civilised you may think of yourself, in as little as three days, you could become someone who would do anything to ensure your survival and the survival of those you love.

It was because of this festering sickness deep within the heart of mankind that we needed a saviour, but not just anyone would do. We had proven that we could never save ourselves, and to abuse by the laws of divine justice, God himself could not just wipe our records clean; a price had to be paid, and a price was paid, and only one person could pay that price: Jesus Christ.

I know some people may not understand the magnitude of what I am saying; two millennia of paintings of a milquetoast white guy with blue eyes on a cross with a few streaks of red does not even come close to capturing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the perfect union of God and Man, equal parts divine and mortal, a man who was tortured beyond the point of recognition as was prophesied over 800 years before he was born in Isaiah 52:14

But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. - Isaiah 52:14

If a realistic presentation of the death of Jesus Christ were to be in a video game, it would be R-rated at the very least and likely banned in many countries due to the extreme violence and sadism on display.

Many non-believers mockingly reduce the story of redemption to Jesus saving people from his or his Father’s wrath, and that is not academically honest; it was humankind who, by welcoming sin into the world, gave their destiny and that of all their descendants into the hands of lucifer, a fallen angel with delusions of grandeur.

In contrast, the Father foresaw man’s fall and ensured that there was a way for humankind to be redeemed.

When God (the Father) created man, it was in the full knowledge that by doing so, he would have to sacrifice his Son, as he could not allow sin into his presence quite literally, as if he tried to do so, his glory would consume them, in much the same way a roaring fire could not allow snowflakes to warm themselves in its presence, no matter how much it longed for their company and well-being.

Bonus Round: The Question of Resurrection.

Many dismiss the idea of Jesus rising from the dead as a myth or a fraud perpetuated by his disciples.

Here are two common (rather weak) arguments used to try and deny the reality of resurrection.

“There Is No Evidence Jesus Never Raised From The Dead”.

People who make this claim ignore the fact that, unlike today, where money-hungry false evangelists and pastors use religion to gain power, at its inception, Christianity was a religion composed mostly of poor and powerless people who were essentially ending their (earthly) lives as they knew it by claiming to follow Jesus.

And yet this is exactly what thousands did even in the face of persecution and death, including multitudes of Pharisees, who hated Jesus during his life and actively sought to kill him during his earthly ministry, not to mention various accounts of Roman soldiers and nobles following after him, despite having full knowledge of his death at the hands of the Romans.

In what world would people choose to follow a man they killed, at the cost of their life and status, unless he did rise from the dead?

It would be complete madness, and anyone who wishes to be academically honest must concede the point that regardless of the mess that Christianity finds itself in today, in the beginning, no one in their right mind would choose to throw away their lives and livelihoods unless there was overwhelming evidence to assure them that knowing and believing in the Truth (Jesus) was worth giving up everything on Earth.

“His Disciples Stole His Body”.

To believe this, you must believe that a group of middle-aged grief-stricken fishermen and a tax collector were able to overpower a unit of highly trained and most likely battle-hardened Roman infantry despite documented evidence of similar-sized units holding off much larger groups of well-armed and well-trained attackers multiple times throughout the history of the Roman empire.

Honestly, that takes more faith than it requires believing in the resurrection itself and is a desperate straw man used by those who know the truth but are unwilling to accept it, lest they are compelled to admit that Jesus was and is everything he claimed to be.

In Conclusion.

No matter how hard the Preyer fights for redemption, he can never earn redemption or find respite from the evil that flows in his blood by good works alone.

Like everyone reading this, he must acknowledge that he cannot save himself. Only by repentance and trusting in Jesus Christ can the hold of evil, be it sin or Witchfire, be broken from over his life.

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Witchfire FAQ

Witchfire is a extraction shooter video game developed and published by The Astronauts, it was released on 30 September 2023 and retails for $39.99.

Platform Availability.

Witchfire is available exclusively on PC.

Are The Developers Active?

Witchfire is currently in Early Access on the Epic Game Store and receives updates fairly regularly.

What Peripherals Are Supported?

The following peripherals are officially supported:

  • PC - Controller.
  • PC - Mouse and Keyboard.

Is There Any Mature Content?

Witchfire is unrated and contains the following:

  • Mature Themes
  • Violence

Final Verdict.

Witchfire is, quite simply, a work of art. It is one of the best extraction shooters I have ever played, and I have played most of the genre’s offerings.

Challenging, visually stunning, and ultimately very rewarding, Witchfire is a real treat for fans of dark fantasy titles and extraction shooters.

While Witchfire has not yet completed its early access journey, and this is still time for things to go wrong, as of May 2024, I fully recommend it to anyone who likes single-player first-person shooters and enjoys unique and dark fantasy settings.

Is Witchfire Worth Playing In 2024?

9
Honest Video Game Reviews has given "Witchfire" a rating of 9/10, indicating that it is near perfect and suffers only minor flaws, and the average gamer will enjoy it immensely.

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