Lone developer Andrii Vintsevych welcomes players to 18th century Spookie-town, whoops, I mean Bellville with their stand alone project: Witch Hunt. Witch Hunt proclaims to be a first person ‘hunt’ game with a skill system on the side and a challenging difficulty. This is a title that holds no hands, while throwing players into the deep end early. Lets dive in and review.
Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Witch Hunt through the lens of more objective metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics. This product was reviewed on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with a i5-7300HQ.
Initially I must admit that I wasn’t impressed with Witch Hunt’s visuals. At times it looks dated and comparable to older titles like Half-Life 2, on the other hand, there are moments when you can see the attention to detail and care inscribed. Character models look warped, as if seen through a disproportionate fish-eye lens. Field of View (FOV) changes remedied this a bit, but reduce much needed visibility. Which is a shame because some of the characters look otherwise good in comparison to ulterior models and textures. Additionally, the game is just too dark. I’m unsure if it’s an intentional stylistic choice, but the game becomes much more playable with the gamma cranked all the way up. Speaking of graphical options, Witch Hunt remains fairly minimalist and uncomplicated in this regard. Strangely its graphics presets range from “fastest”, low, medium, high, and ultra, with no individual sliders for shading, lighting, textures. Upon leaving Bellville and first using players’ flintlock rifle and pistol, I was pleasantly surprised with the level of detail put into these weapons in comparison to the rest of the game. Weapons reflectively glisten and react to different shadows, looking quite nice.
These things considered, and a product being a sum of its parts, you generally won’t be honing in on these minuscule details – rather looking at the big picture. All of Witch Hunt comes together to impress eerie tone upon the player, rather than induce fawning over the greatest looking textures to ever exist. This really isn’t the best looking game on the market, but outstanding visuals are hardly the takeaway from Witch Hunt, let’s move on.
Characters & Story
As far as characters are involved, players will meet the lonely lot from Bellville. This includes it’s Mayor, a Salesman, and a few people residing in the church accompanied by a healer.
A detail I rather enjoyed derived from the games occasional use of environmental storytelling. Be it a hanged man ontop a hill, or an isolated and bloodied cabin; these locations feel like they have tale to tell, if players have a perceptive eye. That being said, unfortunately the story’s accompanied written segments don’t feel up to par. The introductory text is serviceable to establish setting, but reads as rather basic. It’s not something so drastic as to turn players away, though it’s not a winning any awards for expressive writing either.
Content & Length
Players can see upwards to 10-12 hours from Witch Hunt, potentially extended if they suck at the game like I did. The game doesn’t offer extensive replay value aside from re-experiencing it, although for some players this will be enough. I wandered around for hours simply killing enemies and exploring, in my first attempts to kill a Beast. There’s a gold currency to purchase items essential for your success, such as a compass, bullets, abilities and other items necessary for your survival and navigation.
The game is intentionally non-linear, with large environments and no tutorial. As much as I can sometimes enjoy this application in other titles, it seemingly leads to a lot of trial and error scenarios with scarce saves in-between long chasing segments. Witch Hunt boasts incredibly hands-off gameplay with minor/no tutorials. There is also a Perma-Death mode, topping it off.
Herein lies the issue, as compelling as some of the game mechanisms may be; there remains little explanation of how they work. I love that Witch Hunt includes mana, skills, save point requirements, but such details shouldn’t be left for online resources to explain. Minor descriptions could easily remedy this by explaining to the player how mana generation, healing, and skill acquisition, etc. works. I understand the game is designed to be non-linear, and I appreciate a title that doesn’t hold players’ hands, but a slight nudge in the right direction would be tremendously helpful.
For hours of gameplay I had no idea where to buy lockpicks. As it turns out you can’t, lockpicks can only be found in the world – which is fine, but it’d have been nice to know in advance. I can’t imagine how a player would progress if they hadn’t figured out how to acquire at least a compass, which isn’t glaringly obvious. Witch Hunt does have loading screen tips, such as stressing the importance of spending your money. In hindsight, these tips aren’t just handy, but essential. All of this being said the steam page clearly states the following.
Warning: Hunting requires patience and perseverance. If it’s not your strongest qualities you may find this game to be very frustrating.Steam Page
Controls & Gameplay
Surprisingly Witch Hunt supports controller use, if a little awkwardly. Players can remap controls (which is optimal considering the wonky presets), although the thumbstick sensitivity is jacked up, with no way to adjust it. But this a PC and we use mouse and keyboard ’round these parts. It handles as players would expect from a FPS, with the exception of some odd key mappings, that can easily be re-mapped. WASD to move, with the used mouse to look, aim, and fire. Shift to sprint, Tab is Menu, Ctrl to crouch (re-mapped to C), all sounds fairly standard.
So let’s get to the meat and potatoes, How does it play? Well, players are tasked with hunting a variety of beasts throughout their adventure, with the use of flintlock armaments, a handy sabre, along with a repertoire of supernatural trinkets and charms. Witch Hunt finds a balance between making players feel like both hunter, and prey simultaneously. In all honesty the concept is a no-brainer, but the creeping intensity resulting from it’s proper execution makes Witch Hunt worth playing. I don’t scare easy, but Witch Hunt managed to legitimately startle me without the use of cheap tactics like jump scares (not that it doesn’t have a few). I admit, my interest was piqued when my curiosity lead me to a silhouette of a person, only to jump briefly at the frantic assault from a possessed woman. At this moment, I knew Witch Hunt was doing something very right.
Shortly after, I’m hunting for a werewolf (disclaimer, nobody calls it a werewolf, just a “beast”). Various tools and skills are provided to aid players in their hunt, including the ability to sense your target within 500 meters (which is pretty damn far), and see through their first person perspective. These skills help you track your target, and more can be acquired through buying or finding different books. When you’re close to your target, players can hear an audible heartbeat that increases with intensity based on your distance. Paying attention to this will be essential for success, and largly contributes to the well-rounded sound design. Items such as maps, crucifix’s, and the compass will also help in your adventure. I particularly liked the glowstone, that gives players a Fallout-like glow light.
Generally speaking I noticed the AI isn’t too bright, but will be drawn to sound and will chase on line of sight. To be fair, this is often enough to keep players constantly on their toes for the different enemy types. Your main prey comes in 4 variants, the first of which is the werewolf, the rest of which I won’t spoil. Average enemies prowl the night in all forms, from snakes, undead dogs, ‘whisperers’, and spiders, and four legged creepy…things. Players hunt their prey in stages – as they are sure to run away injured. Additionally there are side quests (not in the traditional sense), activities, and other loot to find around the map.
Sound Design & Cinematics
The general sound design of Witch Hunt continually impressed me, as it’s instrumental in the titles composition as a whole. The voice acting ranges from genuinely convincing, to just… off. However to my understanding the english voice work is all attributed to one individual, which makes the range slightly more impressive. Alternatively, the sounds of Witch Hunt are often crisp, and incredibly contributive to the established atmosphere. Owls hoot in the night while music softly sets an eerie undertone, until a loud snarling dog breaks the silence to the crack of your flintlock rifle. The guns and enemies sound rigid and sharp, although many of the recorded sounds and vocals may sound repetitive after a few hours. My only major gripe would be the overpowering pat-pat-pat of every step the player-character takes. The endless walking really detracts from the otherwise exquisitely set tone. Otherwise enemies sound snarly and scary (if a little repetitive), and the musical score fits perfectly.
Although I haven’t beaten Witch Hunt, in my experience there are no cinematics to mention. The game opens with a text prologue, swiftly and subsequently dropping players into Bellville.
As I previously stated, I was initially unimpressed by Witch Hunt. However, once it peeked my curiosity and I found myself leaning into my monitor, momentarily consumed by intrigue; I knew Witch Hunt was at least worth my time. Witch Hunt is Available for PC on Steam, with ‘Very Positive’ Reviews. It’s not that I disagree with the proclaimed quality, and I’m glad it’s found it’s audience. I just believe Witch Hunt could reach it’s true potential with some quality of life changes that reduce aimless wondering and keep players involved in the hunt. My time with Witch Hunt didn’t always feel respected, which was a shame because I desperately wanted to stay engrossed and continue progressing.
I rather want to enjoy Witch Hunt more than I did (not that I didn’t), I just wish it were more accessible. Although I can respect that, the intense learning curve is intentional and an integral part of it’s identity. Witch Hunt is definitely no less than a heartfelt contribution to atmospheric thriller games. I am certain without doubt that Witch Hunt appeals to a particular demographic, and it will serve them well. 7.4/10 A fundamentally well made (if a little unpolished) horror themed hunting game, that knows exactly what it is. Witch Hunt is available on Steam, and released on September 3rd, 2018
What did you think of Witch Hunt? Let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our Killsquad PC Review?
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A Patient Indie Slow Burn, You'll Either Fall In Love Or Fall Asleep
- Score - 7.4/107.4/10
+Intriguing Free Form Hunt
+ Sound Design Considerably Good
– Visuals Occasionally Lacking
+/- Tone is Tense and Eerie, Endless Wandering and Footsteps Detract From it