#14 Wytchwood

#14 Wytchwood

December 9, 2021 0 By Owly

Alientrap is an independent studio based in Toronto, Canada. The company was originally founded in 2002 by secondary school student Lee Vermeulen The plan was to run website contracts and open-source game development with Nexuiz, a free FPS game.

In 2009, childhood friend Jesse McGibney joined the company, helping to re-establish Alientrap with their first commercial release, Capsized. The game began as a school project for Lee and Jesse. It was released in 2011 on Steam and then on the Xbox 360 a couple of years later.

Capsized is a fast paced 2D platformer focused on intense action and exploration. As a intrepid space traveler, your ship has crash landed on a mysterious alien planet. You must navigate through the perilous environment and fight off blood-thirsty creatures to save your crewmates and escape with your lives!

Apotheon followed in 2015, earning very positive reviews on Steam.

Apotheon is a heroic action game set within the vibrant world of Ancient Greek Mythology. Ascend Mount Olympus, wrestle the divine powers from the Pantheon of Gods, and save mankind.

Modbox released in 2016 as a VR multiplayer, again garnering a great reception from players.

Modbox is a multiplayer game creation sandbox for Desktop+VR.

2017 saw a remarkable three releases, with Maximum Overide hitting Steam in March…

Maximum Override is a chaotic city destruction game where the machines come alive. Wreak havoc in a fully destructible randomly generated city with anything you can find.

…followed by CRYPTARK getting its release in June…

Cryptark is a 2D sci-fi shooter where you take on the role of a heavily armed privateer seeking to earn government contracts by boarding deadly alien space-hulks. It’s up to you to strategize a plan of attack, pick an equipment loadout, and destroy the central core to be victorious.

…and Autocraft being in September.

That brings us up to date. All roads have led to Wytchwood. This game caught my eye due to its art style. It made me think of The Wild at Heart – I hope that is a compliment – which released earlier this year. I loved that game and I got similar vibes from the trailer for Wytchwood. So, let’s play!

Wytchwood is a crafting adventure game set in a land of gothic fables and fairytales. As the old witch of the woods, explore a strange countryside, collect magic ingredients, brew sorcerous spells, and pass judgement upon a capricious cast of characters.

Some games are like participating in a hot-dog competition. Some games are like a seven course taster menu. Then there are games that are like eating a big slice of warm chocolate cake, curled up on the sofa as it rains outside. Wytchwood is comfort food. However, just as you wouldn’t eat an entire cake in one sitting, I would recommend taking your time with this. As much as I enjoyed my playthrough, this is essentially a ten hour collect-athon and its relentless core mechanic could potentially tire out players before they reach the end. Approach this in the right way and there is lots to enjoy.

Your journey begins at home

You play as a witch, living alone in a small house, situated in a swamp. You keep to yourself and pass the days tending to your garden and resting in your chair – you are old and are reminded of this by many a rude NPC. One day, your sleep is interrupted by a goat reeking havoc in your home. The worst of the goat’s crimes has been to devour the pages of your grimoire – an instructional book of incantations. Therefore, you will have to relearn all your spells. To help you with this, you have your ‘witch’s eye’. By pressing G, time stops and you can hover over enemies and objects to learn more about them – most importantly, their weaknesses. Once outside, the goat leads you to a sleeping maiden within a shrine, and informs you that in order to save her, you must collect twelve wicked souls. With that, you are unleashed upon the world.

The Sleeping Maiden’s shrine

The game has full controller support but you can also navigate the witch either via the WASD keys, or by simply directing with the mouse, as you would in a traditional point-and-click. I played Wytchwood on my MSI GF65 gaming laptop, which has an i7 and an RTX 3060, and I had settings on max. The game’s strongest asset is in its storybook style and presentation. Everything is very easy on the eyes and adds a feast of charm throughout the entire experience. Due to its gameplay nature, you’ll revisit places over and over and the games visuals and storybook approach went a long way to ease the somewhat repetitive quests.

Can you see the gnomes? You must craft puzzle boxes to lure them in, all so you can steal their hats. Bet you’ve never done that in a game before.

At the beginning of your adventure, you can only visit a couple of locations, which are the forest and the swamp. Over time you’ll also explore fields, a village, a dock, a market, and a mountain. You can walk from place to place or find gateways within each level that lead you to a portal room. I walked a lot early on to learn the layout of each level, but the portal room plays a big part in the later stages of the game.

The portal room – a god send for the final stretch.

Each environment has within it situations and conflicts which must be resolved in order to progress and open up more of the map to visit. Although you have twelve wicked souls to collect, you complete the main objective in batches of four at a time. Within those four, you can complete tasks in an order of your choosing. Storylines are mature and often dark, and Wytchwood is brimming with tales and characters that you’ll be familiar with. They are all implemented with care and importance within the narrative.

What the game does very well is in making you feel like a proper witch. Yes, you’re old, but you’re wise and crafty, and you are no fool. There are a huge amount of ingredients and spells to attain. You’ll create a porcine effigy, haunted mannequins, avian lexicons so that you can talk to birds, exorcism charms, truth serums, a spirit board to summon banshees, metamorphosis elixirs, an acidic unguent to dissolve bones, and even purification water. I felt powerful. A favourite quest of mine was hiding in the woods and creating a puppet of Red, a local barmaid but obviously based on Red Riding Hood, all to lure the bid bad wolf to a huntsman who was waiting with a silver bullet that I had made for him. It was tense and exciting, and there is danger. You have three hearts of health and there are plenty of enemies in the game that won’t hesitate to attack. I had a supply of potions on me at all times.

It’s easy to lose your way in the woods and fatal if you do.

I won’t spoil the ending but there is a twist that I really enjoyed. I would gladly recommend this to gamers but I would just stress once more that the main focus is collecting items. You can find yourself in situations where in order to craft something, you need three or four other things, but in order to get those, you need to collect five or six other things, and in order to get those…and so on. I actively talked to all NPCs at the beginning of the game, but by the end I was only approaching progression characters, thinking ‘right, just tell me what you want so I can crack on’. Play this in small bursts, that is what I’d suggest. There is a great game here, one that has been made with a lot of love and attention to detail. It deserves to do well.

Wytchwood is out December 9th on Steam, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and Epic!
DeveloperAlientrap Games
Publisher Whitethorn Games and Whisper Games

Bonus

Alientrap are currently working on Gunhead, set for a 2022 release. You can wishlist it on Steam