14 June, 2018
Quick Look: Witch Hunt
Today, after seeing the video appear on Chris O’Neill’s gaming channel, I tried out the indie horror game Witch Hunt, developed and published by Andrii Vintsevych. It’s in early access, but I cautiously think it looks promising. I played for about half an hour. Like I’ve mentioned, I got a janky laptop that doesn’t run games or screen recorders too good. Especially not at the same time. Soooo I don’t have footage yet.
The game drops you straight into the action, light on story. The time is the 18th century, and the place is the town and surrounding area of Bellville, in English North America. The town is haunted by a variety of undead and monstrous creatures. You have supernatural powers (apparently because the blood of an angel runs through your veins) and yo have silver bullets, so you go to be a hero. Your horse gets wrecked, but the mayor, the merchant, and the doctor all like you, and you have a few weapons, so into the woods you go! Happy monster (and apparently which?) hunting!
Let’s start with the most important thing: how the game plays. Witch Hunt is played in first-person, with standard FPS controls: shift to sprint, control to crouch, space to jump, mousewheel to scroll weapons, right click to look down the sights. You start with a flintlock musket, and a flintlock pistol, both with delightfully 18th century reload animations, plus, a silver saber for backup.
The game is light on objectives and story: after talking to the first couple NPCs in town, you wander across a bridge and start exploring: gloomy trees, gloomy roads, gloomy dead sheep, gloomy dead horses. And, at sudden moments, you have to fight vicious dogs, shadow people, and possibly zombies. Your goal is to kill enemies and secondarily to collect loot to improve your abilities.
Because your old school weapons have such long reload times, you have to be particularly prudent with your aim, and a missed shot will react in a furious melee combat out of sheer necessity. Enemies are tough, and you die fast.
The game has more RPG elements than most horror games, too: you can buy lightning and “watcher” wards to attack or spot enemies, and you can upgrade your movement, armor, stealth, and damage with various items from the merchant in town.
For the ~35 minutes I played, there was little in the way of objectives or firm guidance, which I found both a bit frustrating, and a bit refreshing. The game really makes you feel like you’re wandering into the unknown, with it being up to you to discover enemy behavior and to explore the environment. That adds to the fun sense of dread and unease.
Standard Unity engine indie fare, especially for early access. The textures are fine, the enemy models are unsettling. The woods, rivers, and hills are all visually effective. One cool touch, reflective of the game’s time period, is that your musket produces a ton of smoke: this will effectively obscure your vision immediately in front of you for a few seconds.
Good werewolf sounds, decent gunshot sounds, creepy heartbeat (that gets faster as enemies approach,) and many ghostly whispers. It’s effective!
Did I like it?
That’s the crucial question. Answer? I cautiously like it. The premise is cool and the atmosphere is scary, and the history buff in me always digs seeing FPS games with old-school weapons. At times, I felt a bit cheated when I had NO idea where to go, or when apparently invisible enemies were draining my health and mana. Plus, I’m having trouble opening the game again right now after playing it for one session. -_-
Still. I’d add it to your “watch” list, and see if it’s worth a buy once the full version is released.