Wytchwood – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Alientrap Games
Publisher: Whitetorn Digital, WhisperGames
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Wytchwood – Review

Site Score
8.5
Good: Fun and elegant crafting system
Bad: Gameplay can get a bit tedious during prolonged sessions
User Score
9.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Halloween may be over, but that’s not stopping game developers from bringing more spooky games to your platform of choice. Alientrap Games’ Wytchwood, which debuted on Steam last year, is now casting its magic on consoles. With a surprisingly dark and twisted story, a delightful art style, and about 10 hours’ worth of gameplay, Wytchwood looks like it could cast a spell on console players. Is the game some kind of magic or the work of the devil?

Story

Wytchwood’s opening plays out exactly like a storybook, complete with a “Once upon a time” introduction. Don’t expect a traditional fairytale, however, as the tone of the narrative quickly shifts into a much darker and twisted affair altogether. The star of the show is an unnamed witch who wears a cauldron on her head, who lives a relatively quiet and peaceful life in a cottage in the local swamp. Of course, things don’t stay quiet for very long, and her peaceful slumber is disturbed by a black goat (who is actually possessed by a demon).

As it turns out, our witch has been asleep for far longer than she realized. She’s suffering from a gap in her memories to boot, and the demon lets her know that she has to fulfill a contract. The witch is tasked with collecting the souls of the creatures that wronged a young woman, who is now suspended in a sleep-like state inside a temple next to the witch’s cottage. It’s now up to our magical protagonist to head out and collect souls, lest her memory be restored and the young woman freed. What follows is a dark but incredibly humorous tale, filled with morally ambiguous characters, witty dialogues, and excellent writing. The game adheres to classic non-Disneyfied versions of fairytales, so there is plenty of death present, as well as demonic rituals and questionable actions on the witch’s behalf. However, it’s all presented in a delightfully tongue-in-cheek way, so the game won’t traumatize anyone.

Graphics

The storybook-like qualities continue within Wytchwood’s visuals. The game features a lovely hand-drawn art style, with appealing character designs, varied environments, and lush colors. We did feel like the game was ‘zoomed out’ a bit too much at certain points, but that feeling mostly occurred when we were playing in handheld mode, so the tiny screen size could’ve had something to do with that. This is a game that looks better on a big screen, so keep this in mind if you’re considering picking it up on a Switch Lite. We also noticed that the game’s framerate occasionally struggled to keep up, though whether this is a Switch-specific issue or not remains to be seen.

Sound

Wytchwood’s OST feels lovingly crafted, with each area you visit getting its own music theme. Key elements of certain tracks return in new areas, although variations have been made to the arrangements. For example, the music playing in the game’s docks sounds like a pirate-themed rendition of the village theme. The tracks are delightfully whimsical and atmospheric where possible, though the music isn’t afraid to shift to darker moods when the story requires it. Likewise, the game’s sound effects befit the cartoonish animations. It’s been a long time since we heard ghosts shout the classic “boooooh” at us, but when this happened in Wytchwood, we couldn’t help but crack a smile.

Gameplay

It may come as a bit of a surprise given Wytchwood’s cartoonish aesthetics, but the core gameplay that the game serves up felt very reminiscent of the Atelier games. What you’re getting here is an RPG that is mostly built around gathering ingredients and crafting mechanics. Any concoctions you create are then subsequently used to collect wayward souls, as requested by your demonic goat friend. This is easier said than done though, as you’ll need to reach your victim in the first place, which often requires completing a chain of tasks in order to obtain the necessary ingredients. It’s not as simple as going out in the woods and hoping you stumble upon the right stuff. Specific ingredients require the completion of specific tasks, making the game feel like a to-do-list occasionally. What you need to gather is displayed on-screen at all times, which is incredibly handy.

Wytchwood is to be taken on one story-driven mission at a time, with the goat telling you who your next target soul to collect is. You’ll need to craft specific materials needed to obtain this goal, of course, and getting the required ingredients requires you to explore the world around you, interacting with all kinds of local critters and performing tasks for them. There’s no real combat system present in Wytchwood. Instead, you’ll rely on tools and potions in order to defeat enemies. You’ll also need to master the ability of ‘witch vision’, which helps you sniff out ingredients, and complete your Grimoire, an encyclopedia of ingredients and recipes.

Unfortunately, that’s underselling just how fun and engaging Wytchwood is in practice. This is a game that sounds awful on paper as you try to explain it, but that turns out to be really fun in practice. This is in part thanks to the aforementioned excellent writing, but even the crafting system is easy to learn and incredibly elegant to use once you get to grips with it. The game successfully avoids becoming a repetitive grindfest where all you do is attempt to collect the same rare ingredients ad nauseum by repeating the same tasks over and over again. This is in part due to the sheer amount of environments that the witch needs to travel to in order to obtain certain ingredients. Exploring the world around you is a delight, and because certain ingredients are exclusive to certain areas, you’ll be venturing into new areas constantly.

It’s a fun little take on the classic RPG formula, and although it’s far from perfect, there is plenty of fun to be had here. The gameplay’s weakest point is an occasional over-reliance on fetch quests, which can get slightly tedious during prolonged gameplay sessions, especially if the fetching requires you to craft something in order to progress. We also would’ve loved some kind of storage system in the witch’s cottage, so you could stack up on common and useful goods rather than having to deal with a limited inventory. We’re absolutely nitpicking here though, because, for the most part, Wytchwood is a fantastic little game. It may not be as deep as the Atelier series, but it is far more accessible for newcomers to the genre, while still providing enough meat for veterans to sink their teeth into.

Conclusion

Wytchwood turned out to be a delightful surprise that exceeded our expectations. Whether it’s the elegant mechanics, the beautiful visuals, the excellent writing, or the atmospheric soundtrack, there is plenty to love here. There are a couple of minor blemishes on what would’ve otherwise been an outstanding game, and despite the humorous take on the subject matter, things can get a little dark, which may be a turnoff for some players -especially younger ones. If you can get past the game’s few minor issues, then we absolutely recommend picking up Wytchwood.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Wytchwood - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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