The Souls-like genre is booming with every permutation imaginable. Hot off the heels of Lies of P we have Witchfire, an FPS roguelite 'tough-as-nails' shooter that absolutely delivers on key elements of the genre while also providing a lot of customization, keeping repeat sessions fresh.
In Witchfire players take on the role of a Preyer, a gun-toting holy person whose job it is to take down Witches and the servants that follow them.
The Grim And Oppressive World Of Witchfire
As soon as you're dropped into the Shrouded Hermitorium, your safe haven, the look of the game oozes gothic character. Your Preyer, in large holy clothes and metal facemask, looks like they've been pulled right out of the dark ages.
This Gothic feel extends to the maps you'll be exploring, the Scarlet Coast and Irongate Castle. The grim look of the world, and the story that the empty houses tell of a land overridden with evil do a fantastic job immediately conveying to the player that the world is in dire straits.
This holy war vibe also extends to the weapons and equipment that you'll be using throughout your journey. Your initial weapon is a large six-chamber revolver packed with holy bullets, and crafting potions with old alchemy equipment.
Hunt, Die, Repeat
The core gameplay loop of Witchfire is to travel to the different maps where shadowy enemies and Witch's Familiars lurk, try to kill as many as you can, and then return to the Shrouded Hermitorium to level up and head out again.
When you reach an area you can pull up the map and get a good lay of the land. The area itself won't change but the locations of enemy groups, ammo crates, traps, and more will. Skulls on the map indicate where the encounters will take place, and the size of the horns on the skull will tell you how dangerous the encounter will be.
Each encounter will set off a few waves of enemies. Your first encounter might just have slow-moving zombie-like enemies that attempt to stab you with pitchforks, but as you push into harder fights you'll have flaming swordsmen leaping at you or archers showering you with arrows.
This fodder is good for picking up Witchfire, a currency equivalent to Souls, and completing a challenge will bestow upon you a choice of boons that are persistent for that expedition alone.
This Roguelike element will have you weighing up your available health and resources vs. preparedness to take on a Witch's Familiar. If you happen to die along the way you'll risk respawning in the Shrouded Hermitorium without your Witchlight, needing to reclaim it from where you fell.
The developers at The Astronauts have absolutely nailed the feel for this tough FPS challenge. Basic enemies will easily take you out if you're not careful and this difficulty is multiplied as different enemy types come into play.
Like any good Souls-like or Roguelike as you die you'll start to learn patterns, when to take risks and when to avoid danger, and what kinds of challenges you're best equipped for. If you're someone who enjoys being punished and learning from your mistakes you'll have a lot of fun here.
What also makes this punishing gameplay loop easier to deal with is how much of your Preyer's development is in your own hands.
Progression in Witchfire
While the core gameplay loop alone is fun, as you level up at the Shrouded Hermitorium your loadout options will rapidly expand.
At level 1 you'll just be heading into a map, but by the time you're level 5, you're crafting potions, applying perks to your weapons, and gaining the ability to cast spells. The problems you were having with enemies aren't just fixed by your own skill improvement, but by finding a build that's best for you.
In the Hermitorium you can also conduct research. This research, once completed, will unlock more perks that you can obtain when you're on the map. Adding to the pool helps finding new upgrades stay fresh, and also allows for gradual power scaling making repeat runs slowly become easier (but not by much.)
Something as simple as being able to bring a potion into a map immediately filled me with more confidence to push myself further. I'm still dying horribly but I'm at least lasting longer…
Witchfire Early Access
While the game is only in Early Access there's a lot that you can already see gated off that's ready to be filled with content. A tunnel in the Hermitorium was gated behind a locked gate, as well as a number of other areas, each more difficult than the last.
What was very promising with my time previewing Witchfire is just how stable the game is. It runs like a dream on my computer, and with two areas for the player to explore and plenty of content already available it's a great way to get your toes wet and prepare for the full experience.
Witchfire was previewed on PC with a code provided by the publisher over the course of 6 hours. - all photos in the preview were taken by the reviewer.