Review: Witch Rise – A Charming-but-short Spellcasting FPS

0
30

Early Retro Inspirations

The first-person-shooter is one of the most popular genre (if not, the most popular) in gaming. Since Wolfenstein 3D popularised it, it has showed no signs of slowing down. Even the modern titans like Call of Duty, Valorant and The Finals owe a lot of inspiration to games that begun so humbly.

Witch Rise from lightUP and Ratalaika Games presents an interesting concept: what if FPS games existed earlier than Wolfenstein 3D? While it may share core gameplay mechanics with DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D, visually, things are more similar to Bubble Bobble, Pit Pot and The Legend of Zelda – but does this idea work?

Witch Rise casts players as a young girl who is extremely gifted with magic. Because of this, she gains the ire of an evil witch who curses her to take the form of a pig-human hybrid. If she wishes to return to her previous form, she’ll need to gather four magical staves and defeat the witch.

Feelin’ Right at Home

It’s a basic story with an even more basic setup, though that was part and parcel for older games from the NES and Sega Master System era. With a brief cutscene, we’re off to navigate the labyrinth in search of the four magical staves.

Gameplay will be immediately accessible, as Witch Rise feels like any FPS you’ve played, although arguably more basic. Players can walk around the dungeon with the left and right analog sticks, shoot/attack with the right trigger, and activate switches with the X button.

In the early stages of the game, players will only have a trusty short sword, and have to approach combat with a sense of caution. Even beginning enemies such as slimes can pose a threat, and don’t get me started on fighting against a ranged opponent with nothing but a glorified butter knife. Thankfully, it isn’t too long before you acquire your first staff.

A Surprising Amount of Strategy

Which is where Witch Rise really started to engage me as a player. In the early stages, I still had to be cautious approaching a fight, as I didn’t want to expend all my magic points and have to swap back to my sword. With this in mind, attacking which type of enemy first is crucial to succesful combat, as well as the tactics you use. Do you use some of your mana and finish them off with your sword? Do you use all of it and run in later like a maniac, or do you shoot a stronger enemy, then finish off a weaker enemy hoping it will drop a health or magic refill?

I wasn’t expecting that level of depth (or any, really) from a game that appears as basic as Witch Rise, nor was I expecting to have the option of choosing which different biome I explore before others. Yes, you can actually choose which of the three starting biomes you approach first, though if I’m being honest, I chose the tried and true stratagem of grinding one area until I had far too much money so I could buy literally everything at each shop I found, making every biome just that little bit more forgiving.

Each staff you require is protected by a boss, which offered a surprising amount of challenge compared to regular enemies. Again, this was not something I was expecting. I found Witch Rise’s bosses to have the perfect amount of difficulty for a game like this. I wasn’t pulling my hair out, but I was just barely scraping through once I analysed their strengths and weaknesses. Perfect, really.

We’re Off to the Witch!

Collect the staves and you’ll unlock access to new areas as you are then able to damage various coloured objects blocking your progress, and just as the game feels it may become tedious, you gain the confidence to sprint through areas, avoiding fights if you have unlocked the ability to dodge, or simply fighting the enemies you need to unlock exits or progress forward. The game even has an on-screen timer should you wish to speedrun it on subsequent playthroughs.

Eventually, players will encounter the evil witch herself. I managed to defeat her with only three of the four magic staffs, which definitely felt odd as they were a crucial plot point. I was then greeted by an ending cutscene, but also a stats screen informing me I only completed 79% of the game. The game then also stated “The End?” and let me continue playing. Maybe it was a bug, but upon collecting everything, the witch has not reappeared, and I haven’t received another ending screen to indicate my full completion of the game.

Another bug which was far more annoying was the game’s stuttering audio while using a headset. I would then check to see if it was my headet by unplugging it, and the game would stall then crash. This happened 100% of the time I tested it, so for the sake of this review, I ended up playing with stuttering audio throuhgh a headset. When I wasn’t capturing screenshots and playing more casually on my Xbox in the lounge room, the audio was perfect.

Short but Sweet

I also feel obliged to tell achievement hunters that yes, this game is some lovely easy (but not too easy) gamerscore, though two achievements are currently bugged. I know I have opened every single chest in the game as I have the stats screen to prove it, but alas, the achievement remains locked.

I have really enjoyed my time with Witch Rise, though I will say the music feels rather generic and sourced from a library. This isn’t a dealbreaker as to my knowledge, it was developed by a single person, but I had hoped for a more exciting chiptune or retro-sounding score to compliment the game’s visuals.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Witch Rise is a fun retro shooter that leaves me wanting more, which is definitely a good thing. It would be exciting to see a follow up entry, though from what I’ve seen, developer lightUP makes games that vary from each other greatly. In any case, they’re a developer I’ll be keeping an eye on for their next retro title.

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here