Soulslike shooter Witchfire gets massive early access update: New classes, content, events, and they finally fixed Calamities

Rather than going off on a tangent about how good Painkiller is (it's really good), I will open by simply saying that Witchfire, the new shooter from The Astronauts—founded in 2012 by the co-founders of People Can Fly—is really good too, but also very different: Studio co-founder and creative director Adrian Chmielarz said in 2023 that Witchfire is "much closer to Souls" than straight-up shooters like Doom, and having played it a good bit myself, I can say that's absolutely correct.

Witchfire has been in early access on the Epic Games Store since September 2023, and today it got its first major update, which adds a pile of new content and aims to address a couple of the biggest complaints about the game, difficulty scaling and "Calamities."

Without getting into the deep lore, Witchfire's Calamity system is designed to keep players on their toes by occasionally unleashing hell (in a literal sense), forcing either a frenetic fight or a hasty retreat—although that latter option isn't always doable. It works within a defined system of rules, but the game really isn't clear about what those rules are, or when you're breaking them, and frankly it sometimes just comes off as spiteful. The update will add clarity to the system through the addition of a "calamity meter" that will give players a rough idea of when, and why, the trouble is coming.

"The threat of a Calamity is immense, but so is the reward," Chmielarz said. "The witch tends to launch these assaults when players are wounded, at their weakest—which hasn’t always been well-received by players—but this design still feels exciting to me. So we’ve kept the soul of it, but redesigned it to feel more fair.

"It’s a feature that both teaches you how to play by pointing out mistakes, and motivates you to do better. Yet it’s also an element great players can abuse: trick the Witch into thinking you’re losing, then strike back and reap the rewards. This supports two main pillars of our design philosophy: competence and autonomy."

Witchfire's difficulty scaling has been nerfed "slightly" through the addition of a new feature called Gnosis, which will allow players to "over-level" to a small extent without triggering an increase in enemy difficulty. This is also a very welcome change: The original system tied difficulty to player level, which made it far too easy to level up too quickly and run face-first into a wall of pain.

"[The difficulty system] kind of backfired and turned the game meta into being about how to not ascend your character too much," The Astronauts said. "This is now hopefully fixed, as the difficulty is driven by Gnosis, and not the player’s ascension level."

The new content additions are also a big deal. Six new Souls-style character classes are being added along with five new weapons, three new Calamity types (including the Ghost Galleon Calamity the update is named for), four new spells, 10 new enemies, a new shop vendor, new events, raids on witch vaults, new magical items and traps, and of course all sorts of bug fixes, gameplay adjustments, and quality of life improvements.

It's a very big update, and I'm eager to dive into it to see how all these changes and additions come together: I really enjoyed the time I spent with Witchfire after it first came out (except for the boss fights, which I loathe as a matter of principle) but the limitations of early access were evident in the relatively small number of things to do, and the ways you could do them. Unfortunately, while this update is clearly a big move toward the 1.0 release of Witchfire, there's still no sign of a full launch date.

After some struggles with last-second technical issues, Witchfire's Ghost Galleon Update is now live. The full patch notes, and "sort of a guide" to what's new, are available at

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.