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Witchaven

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:James Wheeler

GAME DEVELOPER:Capstone

GAME PUBLISHER:Intracorp

Copyright 1995, Capstone

Witchaven is a decent first-person shooter from Capstone/Intracorp that introduces a few innovations to the genre at the time (1995 – the era of Duke Nukem 3D and DOOM), but falls flat with repetitive gameplay and poor graphics. The plot, should you feel it important in this sort of game, goes as follows: you are an intrepid hero chosen to enter Witchaven, Lord VerKapheron’s Keep which has been overrun by evil creatures from the Nether Reaches. Your job is to kill them all before they could open a permanent portal that connects their world to ours.

The gameplay is a mix of Heretic and traditional RPG elements. As in Heretic, you will wield a number of weapons and can cast spells at the enemies. On the RPG side, we have ‘realistic’ factors such as the classic experience points to accumulate to gain experience levels. Higher levels grant you access to more powerful spells and better weapons handling. There are also numerous fantasy power-ups such as various magic potions, magic rings, amulets, etc. Weapons and armor also suffer from wear and tear: the weapons wear out the more you use them, and the armor wears out the more damage you sustain.

One big difference between Witchaven and Heretic (and other DOOM games) is that most of the combat is not conducted from long range, but hand-to-hand with close combat weapons such as knifes, swords, etc. There is a number of moves you can make with these hand-to-hand weapons, but ultimately the weapons feel too much like each other.

In typical Capstone fashion, the few good aspects of the game are overwhelmed by many bad aspects. For starters, the monsters look downright ugly. Sure, graphics is not the most important thing in games, but it is quite important in a first-person shooter – especially one that emphasizes so much close combat where you see your enemies up close most of the time. The monsters in the game are badly pixellated and downright ugly, and the dull color palette doesn’t help things that much. It is hard to believe that this game is based on Build, the same 3D engine that powers Duke Nukem 3D: it looks more like some shoddy in-house engine. The AI of monsters is also horrendous: once you attack monsters, sometimes they won’t counter attack but even turn their back on you! Level design is also not worth mentioning: every level looks more or less the same as the last one, and there is no ingenuity at all in the design to keep you interested in the gameworld.

Overall, Witchaven was a decent attempt at creating a good close-combat-oriented FPS. But now that we have Interplay’s far superior Die by the Sword, there is no longer any reason to tolerate Witchaven‘s ugly, pixellated monsters and uninspired gameplay. Pick up Interplay’s game at your favorite software retailer and leave this average underdog alone.



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