Wytchwood, a review of a haunted adventure



In this review of Wytchwood we tell you about our experience inside a fairy-tale universe, among witches, spells and contracts to be settled

Repetitiveness is an integral part of the video game system. Without it, probably, there would be no interactive adventure in the true sense of the word. Whether it’s shooting hordes of enemies, solving more or less diverse puzzles, or the provision of resources essential to their livelihood within the virtual world, every game has its own form of repetitiveness.

The skill lies in masking those elements that are cyclically fed to the player, offering an experience that gives both the impression of a constant increase in the level of challenge, and the right degree of knowledge of the world that you find yourself exploring. What is needed, in essence, is a balance between what can be controlled and what remains unknown until you face it face to face. This balance is often broken by a frantic search for longevity, especially within the titles that crowd the market today. Sometimes, stepping outside of these binaries leads to unexpected results (made up of a few out-of-chorus voices). Others, as in most cases, to searing disappointment.

In this review of Wytchwood, the most recent work from AlienTrap Games (the studio behind that particular two-dimensional experiment that was Apotheon), let’s see which of these two macro-sets the game belongs to.

A fairy tale narration

Wytchwood: the narrative compartment draws heavily from European folkloric tradition

Wytchwood catapults us directly into an imaginary world, inhabited by human beings and animal creatures with an anthropomorphic appearance, as well as all the imaginative undergrowth that “populates” European folklore.

We play the role of a witch, who one day wakes up with no memory in her hut near a swamp. Here she finds a goat who, in addition to having eaten the pages of her grimoire, turns out to be able to speak. This reminds the sorceress that she has signed a binding contract according to which she owes him twelve souls in exchange for one, that of a mysterious sleeping maiden, lying on the altar of a crypt not too far from her crumbling abode. Our task is to go and redeem these twelve souls, belonging to beastly-looking characters, each with their own doses of meanness and malice.

A peculiarity of these missions is the fact that they recall the most famous fairy tales and fables, as well as myths and legends (we have Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, but also references to the alchemical philosopher’s stone, just to name a few). An adaptation operation of this kind risks to easily expire in the territory of “lack of defined identity”. Yet, the work done by AlienTrap is very convincing and, above all, engaging.

These short and light-hearted tales, completely unconnected to each other, were it not for our direct intervention, manage to create a mythology strongly linked to the game, starting (but never relying completely) from traditional tropes more than abused by the modern and contemporary media landscape. A result not easy to achieve and, for this reason, worthy of appreciation.

PC System Requirements

Test Configuration

  • Operating System: Windows 11
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-10700
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • Video card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070

Minimum Requirements

  • Operating System: Windows 7 64bit
  • Processor: Dual-core processor (Intel Dual Core 2.0 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 5200+ 2.6 GHz)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video card: GeForce 9600 GS, Radeon HD4000, Shader Model 3.0, 512 MB
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Memory: 1 GB of available space

Longevity hurting experience

Wytchwood: our task is to reclaim the twelve souls of as many unsavory characters

The structure of Wytchwood is by no means something complex. In order to obtain the necessary souls, we have to explore the eight strongly characterized territories that make up this world, unlockable as we collect the “essences” for the ovine entity with demonic traits. Through the use of our sorcerous talents, we must help free these regions from the oppressive yoke of these evil figures. This means that combat is virtually absent, reduced to magical potions and alchemical solutions with which to confuse or transmute the threats that undermine our path.

The gameplay all gravitates around the collection of resources and the creation of more or less lethal objects, with which to deal directly with the “enemies” (if we can call them that) or to exchange with other characters or, again, to mix and merge in more elaborate compositions. And this is what you will find yourself doing throughout the adventure. The “ritual” is cyclical: explore the environment, discover new recipes by examining the elements that make up the areas, create what is necessary for the purposes of the mission and continue the adventure. All this for twelve stories, for heaven’s sake, different and diverse as you like, but still structurally similar in their development and their resolution. Which brings us back to the speech on the repetitiveness.

Wytchwood: ingredients and spells are our weapons against evil

In this case, the succession of actions very similar to each other, involving an uninterrupted use of the same commands, does not necessarily mean a lack of variety within the title. This is mainly due to its strongly narrative nature, which does not provide other “distractions” or fillers in addition to the main story. However, it is also true that this method of approach to gameplay can not be maintained for too long, otherwise the loss of involvement of even the most emotionally attached to the adventure.

The biggest criticism of Wytchwood is precisely its excessive development, its exasperated longevity, which leads to feel the weight of the repetitiveness of the actions of the game, as well as the constant return to territories now beaten dozens and dozens of times to recover always the same ingredients. As far as we are concerned, we remained avvadhiati to the game and its mechanics until the eighth soul, while the last four have definitely waned our interest, especially considering that the final, as in many operations of this type, fails to match the expressive power of the journey that preceded it.

The art of the derivative

Wytchwood: visual incisiveness goes hand in hand with narrative incisiveness

From the first moments of the game, it is immediately evident the strong impact that some works (both video game and not) have had on the conceptualization and visual realization of AlienTrap’s game.

In its gameplay phases, it is impossible not to find similarities (both visual and playful) with a game like Don’t Starve. During the dialogue sequences, however, the inspiration to the two-dimensional Disney stretch (especially of the recent era “Disney Channel”) is obvious. Despite these juxtapositions, also thanks to a soundtrack perfectly integrated with the atmosphere of the game (with, however, some problems of sound mixing, particularly evident when using headphones), Wytchwood still manages to stand out from the competition and to find a stylistic uniqueness, able to bind to its narrative nature, also derivative, but extremely fascinating.

Comment

Wytchwood is a game whose structure is strongly linked to its themes. Just like a coven of wizards in front of a collective cauldron, the AlienTrap team has managed to skillfully bind the ingredients together, creating an elixir capable of bewitching the player for several hours. However, even the strongest spells, with time, lose their effectiveness and, thus, we awaken from the alchemical dream, worn by the hypnotic effects of a highly derivative product that has not been able to stop and be satisfied with the more than unusual result achieved. A further victim of the expositive greed, a plague already rooted in the plot of the dawning Third Millennium.

PRO

  • Intriguing adaptation of folk tradition
  • Stylistically bewitching
  • Centrality of the creation system
  • Excessively long-lived
  • Repetitiveness that is felt at the end
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