Witchfire reveals a surprisingly deep magic system at the Future Games Show

I've been anticipating Witchfire ever since it was announced in 2017. At first, it was all about the pedigree: It's a "dark fantasy shooter" being developed by The Astronauts, a studio founded by former members of Painkiller developer People Can Fly. Painkiller is quite simply  a masterpiece FPS, and so the prospect of a similar shooter from the original creators immediately had my attention. Everything I've seen since has only strengthened my interest.

Witchfire will square off against hordes of demonic enemies using both guns and magic, and while most of what we've seen of the game so far has focused on conventional firepower, a new trailer unveiled today at the Future Games Show is all about the spells. They deal impressive damage on their own, and also work in conjunction with the game's weapons to amplify their destructive capabilities.

The magic system in Witchfire looks to be more complex than I expected from a run-and-gun shooter. There are two types of spells, light and heavy. Light spells are quick to fire and draw little stamina, while heavy spells are slower and more damaging, and more draining on the player, too. 

Most spells are also based on the four classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire. Each has its own unique property, and they'll interact when combined: Fire-based spells cause enemies to take more damage, for instance, so if you set an opponent on fire and then hit it with a shock spell that spreads to other enemies, they'll all take more damage because the "source enemy" was on fire.

I'm not sure it's quite as "intuitive" as designer Karol Krok says in the video, but it definitely looks cool. Purists may disagree, but to my eye it gives Witchfire a shade of similarity to games like Destiny 2 or Outriders: Hails of bullets punctuated by blasts of high-damage powers that skillful players can weave together to really wreak havoc. Painkiller didn't really have a system like that, but People Can Fly's follow-up Bulletstorm sort of did. The skillshots system was maybe a bit crude (and definitely a bit silly), but it fostered a similar sort of systems-combo creativity in players.

(Courtesy of Future Gaming Show host GamesRadar, here's a video of every skillshot in Bulletstorm. It's 10 minutes long and amusing from start to finish, although I must admit I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.)

Witchfire is expected to be out later this year and will be available for PC on the Epic Games Store.

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.