It's been five years since Polish studio The Astronauts announced Witchfire, a dark fantasy shooter about witches (and worse) in an alt-history medieval world. And it'll be a while yet before the game sees the light of day, as the studio announced today that the release planned for the end of this year has been delayed into early 2023.
The delay has been caused by a major redesign that's changing the game from arena-style combat to open-world fighting. That sounds like a pretty major job for a relatively short delay to me, but Astronauts co-founder and creative director Adrian Chmielarz said the new feature is already "95% implemented."
"It makes the game better," Chmielarz said. "It is kind of hard for me to imagine the player did not have that freedom before. Sure, you can still be trapped by the witch in this or that spot, and some doors will be closed until you find a key, and it might be too dangerous to enter areas closer to the boss before you are ready–but the world is wide open for you to explore in almost any order, and you can both push forward and retreat as you please.”
Chmielarz went into greater detail on the delay in a blog post in which he said the core experience of Witchfire remains the same, "but the way the player experiences the world has changed significantly." In the original design, players would "enter an area, fight some monsters, and then have a choice: take this reward and go left, or take that reward and go right." Under the new system, however, barriers separating different areas of the game have been removed, enabling players (with some limitations—Chmielarz described Witchfire now as a "semi-open world") to travel where they like, when they like.
Naturally, taking out those barriers had all sorts of spillover effect on other parts of the game, including enemy behaviors, spawns, rewards, and how to keep players from breaking the game by doing unpredictable things. But Chmielarz said, presumably with some irony, that the change "made this fantasy game more... realistic."
I've been eager to get my hands on Witchfire pretty much from the moment it was announced. The Astronauts was founded in 2012 by Chmielarz, Michał Kosieradzki, and Andrzej Poznański, also the founders of People Can Fly, the developer of Painkiller and Bulletstorm. Bulletstorm is a blast but Painkiller is amazing, one of my favorite shooters of all time, and while I was happy for all involved that they had such success with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, I'm honestly excited to see the team getting back to its original love of supernatural gunfire.
Chmielarz also addressed questions about Witchfire's release plan, saying it will debut in early access as an Epic Games Store exclusive but go to other storefronts at full release.
"Epic is fine, Epic Game Store is fine, we like our cooperation. But the choice of where to buy Witchfire is yours," he wrote. "If you want to support us and play the Early Access version, it is coming to EGS soon. If you prefer Steam or maybe you don’t even play on PC and want a console version, just please wait a little longer, until the game is done. As simple as this."
Check out some fresh screens below: