Witch Thief (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 17.10.2018

Review for Witch Thief on PC

Once upon a time in a realm of fantasy, there was a warlock who dreamt of power beyond measure. In order to realise that dream, he made a pact with a demon. It wasn't a particularly bright idea, seeing as how, shortly afterwards, the realm fell into total chaos. The ground shuddered, fire rained from the skies, and the fabric of reality was torn to shreds. All this destruction, and more, was eventually sealed into what is now known as the Grimoire. It bequeaths unlimited power to whomever turns its pages, but the costs are far too high to bear. It's up to a Witch Thief to hunt down this legendary tome, if only to ensure its evil is never released.

Witch Thief is best described as an arena shooter, a genre that can be traced back to such classics as Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. This title also draws inspiration from the Touhou franchise and its penchant for bullet-hell. In every room, dolls with hate in their hearts and death in their eyes will accost the four playable heroines. If they can get past the enchanted fiends, they must then deal with fearsome bosses. These adversaries wield spell cards, and are capable of performing a variety of unique attacks. Naturally, survival is tied to dodging as many bullets as humanly possible, because even one is enough to seal the witch's fate.

Unlike most of its forebears, this makes the controversial decision to go fully 3D. That's right, danmaku in three dimensions. It sounds overwhelming at first, particularly when the listed difficulty settings include "insane," which features high-speed bullets, yet only one easily-extinguished life. Not to mention there's the standard issues that tend to crop up in a 3D space, such as camera control. Thankfully, the problematic aspects tend to be few and far between. The basics of movement are accounted for, and there's a "focus" button for making those needle-threading dodges. Attacks that happen out of the player's view aren't too much of a problem, thanks to handy audio cues. In a short time, almost anyone can adjust to the odd perspective.

However, although it admirably deals with the inherent difficulties of being 3D, this title hasn't quite reached the point where it can be taken seriously. It throws together numerous ideas, but they never properly gel. To put it another way, here's a game that's lacking in fundamentals. A myriad of situations are dealt onto the player, but they never feel like they really have to take them seriously. The intensity that is usually prevalent in shooters just isn't found here.

Screenshot for Witch Thief on PC

When it comes to major issues, there are none more jarring than random 1-ups. Usually, extra lives are as welcome as a cold drink is to someone lost in the desert. With this game, however, it's possible for 1-ups to be found in random background objects, or occasionally in the remains of an evil doll. There are no extends for reaching score milestones, nor are any found in fixed locations. In one play-through, a witch might discover seven additional lives. In another, maybe they will find two. Basically, luck is a determinant factor in a player's attempts at winning, and that's just not right.

This game also struggles with balance. When progressing through the five stages, new witches are unlocked, each having their own special attack and passive ability. Evelyn's passive is that she creates a mana shield. This protects her from one attack, and will replenish after several seconds have passed. Needless to say, the ability to take a hit every once in a while makes for one mighty witch. Lucinda's passive is her two familiars: Needle and Thread. With a fully-powered weapon, Lucinda and her summoned friends can melt bosses in seconds. There's not really an incentive to using either of the other playable heroines, unless wanting to see all the character-specific dialogue scenes.

The enemy variety is unfortunate, as well. Although dolls can, and will, change their pattern with every new room, the colour of their dresses is about all that differentiates them. Every now and then, a giant helmet will appear to summon flying swords or books, but that's about all there is to see. Most encounters are quickly dealt with, provided the witch's weapons are sufficient. Strategies for survival never seem to go beyond "destroy all of the baddies" and "dodge their bullets." At least there's a teleport spell for getting out of dangerous situations… There are even a couple full-screen attacks that necessitate its use. Still, aside from the locales, there isn't enough to differentiate one stage from another.

As far as boss battles go, there is some cleverness to them. Depending on circumstances, however, they can also become really boring. If the witch loses a life, for example, she also loses her powered-up weapon. This means that fights will take quite a bit longer. It's especially annoying when fights occur in large rooms. The heroine is constantly on the defensive due to huge swarms of bullets everywhere. All the while, the boss flies around the arena, seemingly taunting their opponent. Given a long enough amount of time, the excitement and energy of what should have been a thrilling fight is lost.

Screenshot for Witch Thief on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Witch Thief understands the importance of working with 3D space in a difficult genre. Beyond that, however, it's hard to look at as anything more than an interesting curiosity. The randomness of something as essential as an extra life makes every attempt feel like it is being influenced by outside forces. It's also hard to get excited about fighting the same dolls over and over again. Then there are the bosses, which are either destroyed in seconds, or chased around the room for several minutes. There's no solidly enjoyable middle ground.

Developer

Cardboard Keep

Publisher

Cardboard Keep

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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