Witch Strandings | Review

Witch Strandings | Review

How beautiful is magic, isn't it? That of Witch Strandings does not seem to betray our amazement and the wonder that so distinguishes us when we think of spells, towers and fire-breathing dragons. On the other hand, in recent years among the noble and independent video games there are some that tell the magic in a unique and engaging way, digging into the collective imagination with intimacy but at the same time remaining distant, as if any courtly tone kept a soul and an idea, which manifested themselves through short and incessant emotions, the only ones that push the human desire to know and to deepen what is hidden in the proverbial lair of the White Rabbit, the only one that is worth discovering and then tell.

Witch Strandings, before you think you are faced with a video game with a complex soul, is actually built with simple but relevant ideas, taking your time to come up with it. Developed by Strange Scaffold and published by Modern Wolf, this reflective experience is dedicated to the sincere and simple souls, as well as the most sensitive. It is a video game, simply, that follows the phenomenon of Death Stranding not by amplifying the game formula but not even by offering a discounted play structure. But let's proceed in order, from the beginning.

A light in the dark

If on the one hand, therefore we have an incessant darkness, on the other hand there is a light that needs to come out, illuminating the life of these creatures. This is precisely the concept and the ideas of the film, which come out from the first moment proving to be mature and convincing, capable of conveying the seriousness of the events with a more dramatic and tormented tone. The forest, the place from which our adventures start, is now dark and full of terror, yet it was once the solid demonstration of a wonderful and luxuriant world, capable not only of welcoming life and making it shine, but of giving it a breath and an existence capable of giving birth to many others.

Because, if you had not understood it, in Witch Strandings there is no plot that shows itself in all its glory, screaming to the world how beautiful and different from all the others. Everything is concentrated in every moment, which can turn out to be incredible and unexpected, as well as suffering and mystical. In short, everything is to the detriment of the player, everything exists because there is a reason, and everything is supported by different objectives, and not all in this order: save the forest, heal a broken heart and give life so that another can be born.

Witch Strandings, however, tells of hope not as the only solution, but as the best option we could pursue. As he tells the story of a light that illuminates the world, he unexpectedly stages a sweet and illuminating tale, capable of making sense of the world as much as defining it. Sometimes we want similar stories, the same ones capable of reaching the public and the target with these premises.

Although the story of Witch Strandings does not tell us anything about the timeline of the events that follow one another over the course of the adventure, does not give information on the protagonists and secondary characters, but offers an intimate vision of their ideas, which are concretized from beginning to end in a convincing way. Simply, the story packaged by us by Strange Scaffold could recall the one already experienced in other simulation video games such as Animal Crossing or Cozy Grove, instead of awakening consciences by reminding us of the adventures lived in the role of Sam Porter Bridges. If the Witch Strandings tale is barely whispered and hinted at, it is because it is based on one element: taking care of the world.

This happens as if we had in front of us someone looking for peace and a reason to go forward, who clings to the twigs and creepers so as not to slip, making themselves. It is the story of those who live for others while an evil witch, intent on obscuring the world, is no longer able only to see the light in the world, but within herself. The Witch Strandings tale, focused on caring for the creatures of a wood and a forest, is constructed with extreme simplicity and is curated with enormous depth.

A simple game, a simple structure, a simple approach: Witch Strandings is… simple.

Witch Strandings is a simulation video game with a top-down view, which focuses on the shifts of light that we find ourselves impersonating in the adventure. Before you think of finding yourself in front of a complex video game, know that the play structure of the game works because it is expressed in an understandable way, not exaggerating and showing enviable confidence. Movements are made using the mouse, an essential accessory to advance in the course of the adventure: with the wheel we zoom in to better see the actions we perform and to move it away when we no longer need a more complete and in-depth view.

As you advance in experience, the risk of dying is around the corner. In the open world map proposed for the occasion, there are areas scattered with dangers, which we can avoid with the objects we can find for the various settings. Fungi, capable of removing a muddy substance, can open the way for us like scepters useful for consuming water, while corals drive away poisonous creepers. Witch Strandings, in this sense, vaguely recalls Death Stranding for the basic ideas, which focus on the best path to take and to shape at the same time in the journey we face. The most successful addition, in fact, concerns the care for others, that is the little creatures who need our attention to stay in shape and preserve themselves.

We give them food and medicine, as well as many other gifts during our journey, all to increase our coexistence with the heart of the witch and the rest of the lives that need our care. And then we move forward, slowly, while the forest changes as its characters, who trust us every time we bring them the objects they need. On the other hand, the gameplay focuses precisely on this: on the needs of the creatures and the journey we undertake to grab them, certainly not as simple as we imagine.

Advancing in the experience, we we were faced with complex roads to travel, which we were forced to change using what we found in our path and to do so we positioned them carefully. Often, sometimes due to our inattention, we found ourselves enveloped in darkness and died, following again the light that has often brought us back to life. If you die, in Witch Strandings, the world around us changes and the pets we help, such as foxes and frogs, find themselves in other places other than those we remembered. The open world, however simple, plays a marginal role, giving the feeling of not being a further supplement. Instead it proves to be a well-implemented surprise.

As the day passes, everything becomes darker and darker. It is a playful structure that works because, in addition to encouraging fun, it encourages you to explore, while varying what is shown on the screen. On your journey we have discovered ancestral runes capable of repairing ancient portals, which take the place of rapid travel, very useful when we have to transport objects very quickly for the critters in need of care.

We have been forced to do so. to use the inventory bag, which gets stuck at a certain moment of the experience that we cannot reveal. It is certainly a relevant addition, especially because, in addition to making it easier for us to travel, it is certainly a useful way to bring the necessary supplies to our new friends, who need care. Death, which occurs for the most foolish reasons, can even be caused by a distraction as we move from one side of the map to the other; on many occasions, in fact, we have drowned and reborn, following the light that saw us now lost. It is an interesting and intriguing concept, in line with the soul of the product.

A detailed style, but…

The artistic direction of With Stranings is based on boxes that we explore in different colors. There is the sand, there is the earth, there is a dark place where we do not have to slip into the world at all and there is the sea, where it is better not to end up if we want to survive. It is the atmospheres of the game that convince more than the visual impact, so much so that the faint light we move recalls that of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, consequently taking us back in time. However, the rest of the production follows a slow and staid pace, convincing only thanks to its atmospheres, its playful structure and its ideas, that in the overall evolution of the story they manage to express themselves at their best, even if it is a work that could remove the most demanding and less attracted players from a similar story.

During our test on PC we did not encounter any problems, so much so that the technical side of the work is well optimized. There are long uploads that don't waste too much time and the frame rate is stable, a very important and remarkably good news for the most demanding.

The problem of Witch Strandings is all in the narrative rhythm and in the evolution of the supporting actors. , who don't tell much about them but just want to receive food and attention, not giving anything away. The absence of dialogues, in this regard, is serious considering the other life simulators on the market, which in any case sees Animal Crossing excel among the many alternatives, as was inevitable. One element that could alienate players is the absence of localization in Italian, with only the English language available.

Ultimately, Witch Strandings is a work that takes its time and packs an intelligent and convincing gameplay, not presenting itself as an innovation but a good video game capable of offering hours of entertainment and lightheartedness. It ranks among the most interesting independent video games on the market and, considering its price set at 14.99 euros, it is an offer that is worth the price of the ticket. The forest awaits you: do you perhaps want to make it wait?

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