Let’s start this off with just one word, shall we: crafting. There you go, now you know whether or not you’re going to enjoy Wytchwood; thanks for stopping by!
In all seriousness, crafting has become such a prevalent mechanic in modern gaming, and it’s one that people rarely sit on the fence with. You either love it or you don’t. Indeed, one of the most common complaints leveled at Animal Crossing: New Horizons was something along the lines of “well yeah, it’s great, but man, the crafting”. Because with crafting comes item management, and with item management comes the laborious notion of trawling through the environment to find the required objects and ingredients. Crafting isn't for everybody, but if you’re in, then it can prove to be incredibly rewarding.
Wytchwood is all about crafting, then; that’s its main hook. You’ll be exploring several different areas (or biomes, if you like) and looting every nook and cranny for precious ingredients to craft all sorts of weird and wonderful objects. You take on the role of an elderly witch who awakens in her cozy — albeit messy — hut after the rather unusual invasion of a black billy goat. As it turns out, the goat is possessed by a demon and is looking for the witch to fulfill a long forgotten contract. So begins a quaint, but ultimately rather forgettable tale in which you must gather the souls of 12 animals to fulfill your side of the bargain, all the while recovering the witch’s lost memories in the process.
The story is well-written for the most part, with plenty of interesting characters dotted around the various environments. Interestingly, interspersed within the segments of dialogue are excerpts of narration, similar to text-based RPGs. For example, lines like “you step outside into a humid marsh”, or “you boot the goat through the front door” are fairly commonplace and give a bit more context around your actions. We perhaps would have liked to have seen some events play out in real-time, but the narration is at least a reasonable alternative.
Right from the start, inside your little hut, the game immediately sets your expectations that you’re going to be spending the vast majority of your time crafting by introducing the Grimoire, a handy tool that displays all of your crafting recipes along with the ingredients necessary to make the desired object. Navigating this is pleasantly intuitive, allowing you to tab through the ingredients for each recipe to discover their general location. Once you’ve gathered the required ingredients, you simply hold down ‘A” to craft your item; easy! Of course, learning recipes and finding the ingredients is a bit more tricky.
This is where the ‘Witch Sense’ comes into play. As you navigate the environment, you can tap ‘Y’ at any point to effectively pause the action and observe your immediate surroundings. Using a cursor, you can hover over highlighted items or similar points of interest, and this will then give you an immediate breakdown of an item’s general properties or purpose. Should you come across any potential recipes, these will automatically be added to your Grimoire so you can track the required ingredients.
The game does a good job of gradually introducing you to new recipes as you progress without overwhelming you. Having said that, there are moments where the pacing grinds to a halt as you’re trying to search for certain objects. Specific tasks within the world require specific items and it can get a little frustrating when you’re unable to find anything, despite being in the correct area. Eventually, the penny drops and you’ll locate the item you’re after, but the period of seemingly fruitless searching prior to this can turn repetitive and dull.
In terms of its visuals and general performance, Wytchwood shares similar appearances to games like Guacamelee!, with a focus on clean sprites and bold colours. It’s a striking game, and the art style goes a long way to ensuring each and every collectible item is instantly recognisable and easy to spot. The frame rate remains solid throughout (a day one patch saw to that), but it’s a shame the devs couldn’t push the performance up to 60fps, as there’s an undeniable jitter that occurs when moving through the environment; it’s subtle, but it’s there.
The game’s soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. In keeping with the overall relaxed nature of the gameplay, the music largely consists of gentle, soothing tunes that largely melt into the background, like a calm ambient noise. It goes a long way to ensuring that those long bouts of frustrated searching feel a bit more tolerable, and we immediately searched for the soundtrack upon completion.
Overall then, this is a crafting game for crafting fans. If you’re not into the crafting mechanic as a whole, then there’s little here that’s going to convince you otherwise. It’s a relatively lean experience at around 10 hours or so, but it’s also the kind of game that would offer little when it comes to replayability. If the idea of gathering heaps of items and ingredients sounds appealing, though, then we reckon you’ll have a good time with this one.
Wytchwood is a crafting game, through and through — and a good one. It smartly puts its focus purely on the act of gathering materials to create a wide range of objects, with little else to distract from the core crafting mechanic. It’s backed up by a great soundtrack and a reasonably well-told but ultimately forgettable tale as you trawl through the various areas searching for ingredients. Trying to locate specific items can at times feel exhausting and drags down the pacing of the game, and the gorgeous visuals are unfortunately hampered by a slight frame rate jitter. Ultimately though, Wytchwood is a relaxing and addictive jaunt into the world of crafting.