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Wytchwood Review


The humble fetch quest gets a bad rap. Play enough RPGs and you will come across them: a farmhand wants you to gather five lost pigs from around their farm, even though they’re paid five gold coins an hour to do exactly that. Grandma Goggins wants you to fetch her cat from a character who wants a poisonous mushroom from a character who wants backstreet dentistry from another character, and so on. The fetch quest is lazy makework, a notch down from the ‘Kill X wolves’ quest.

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Wytchwood is, effectively, ten hours of fetch questing. It’s a concentric web of characters all wanting different items, which in turn unlocks the next ring of item-hungry characters. You will be picking up everything from the floor, simply because Barry from the Docks might want it for a stew in five hours’ time. 

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? There is no denying that Wytchwood has its foibles, and a gentle sense of ennui – that nothing you do really matters – is definitely one of them. But Wytchwood has mastered the art of the fetch quest, and through a simple but enjoyable crafting system and a world that keeps uncovering wonders, it manages to remove a lot of their friction.

You play an unnamed witch, waking up in her Shrek-like cabin in the forest, and you don’t have a memory of who you are or how you got there. Luckily, you remember how to make a mean spell, so you’re not completely useless. You’re greeted by ‘Goat’, a demon who claims that you owe him the souls of twelve deviants. Once he has those twelve souls, he will wake a mysterious woman who lies in a coma in a backyard crypt. Don’t lie, we all have one.

These twelve deviants are unlocked, four at a time, for you to meet and eventually kill. But there’s not a jot of combat here: you will be killing them by hoisting them on their own petards, murdering them in ironic ways that reflect on their character flaws. Gold-worshipping braggarts will be turned into gold – that sort of thing. Each of these twelve targets has a capital-lettered name – ‘The Snake’, ‘The Bull’, ‘The Ram’ – and they are exactly those animals, writ large.

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Killing them is not easy. You need to complete a series of tasks before it’s possible. A warmongering bear who is killing his own troops first needs to have his claws clipped, before you can start poisoning him with honey. And to complete each of these tasks, you need to be creating spells and reagents, which means processing a huge number of items that you forage in the surrounding lands.

This is the meat of Wytchwood’s gameplay. As you travel about on your fetch-quest erranding, you will be stopping to cut reeds, gather wood, shovel ash, catch frogs, fairies and fireflies in nets, and generally hoover the environment up into your backpack. There’s a persistent, low-level fear that, if you don’t, you will only have to return to gather them all later. And while it’s not a ballache to come back – Wytchwood is fantastic at giving you fast teleports to its regions – it’s enough of a pain that you want to prepare for the eventuality.

The crafting system ensures that it gets a bit more complicated than that. Accessed with a touch of the Y button, there’s an impressive grid of items that you can make, and it grows as the game goes on. You might make traps from logs and reeds which in turn can capture birds, which give you feathers that make lures, and so on. The circle of gathering continues. 

This pattern of play leads to a rising or sinking feeling when you get a quest from a character. Sometimes, they will ask for something that you can already make. The components are right there in your inventory because you are a prepared little Cub Scout. You touch your face in ecstasy. Sometimes, they ask you for an item that requires a cascading chain of items that you don’t have. You write a shopping list and realise it’s going to take you half an hour, and you sink into the sofa. It’s in these latter moments that you wonder if you’re better off playing Halo Infinite.

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It’s the gaping chasm that Wytchwood tries to build a bridge over. Sometimes, and it’s not a rare occurrence, Wytchwood’s beautiful wrapping peels back and you see that it’s made of the same interactions, over and over again. It’s a yawning void of picking up items, trapping creatures and combining other items. You would be perfectly justified to put down the pad when Wytchwood asks you for the same far-flung item that you have gained five times before (looking at you, ghost skull).

Wytchwood understands this, and does a couple of things to mitigate it. The first is that you rarely need more than one of each item. You can pop to the right region, do one action, and you are now fully stocked. It stops the feelings of grind and repetition that you often get in MMOs or large-scale RPGs. 

But the main way that Wytchwood files off its own edges is it’s overwhelming character. This is a beautiful game, in much the same way that Knights & Bikes and Wild at Heart are beautiful, with 2D cutouts dancing on a semi-3D world. The deviants you are killing are hulking, grotesque versions of woodland animals, and they have fairy-tale-like stories to make them larger than life. And there’s a dark sense of humour running through it like rock. The world often reacts to your crafting and fetching in imaginative ways.

It’s not perfect in this area: the overriding objective is a faulty one. You’re meant to care about waking a body in your backyard, but Wytchwood doesn’t give you enough to be all that bothered. It has good reasoning for keeping the body mysterious, but it means you’re often stopping mid-quest to wonder why you’re bothering, and the answer is often ‘because it’s the only way to progress’. The smaller stories are much, much better.

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Wytchwood is one of those games that will clearly benefit from a sequel. The gems of enjoyment are clear and obvious, while the flaws are just as visible. Get rid of those flaws and you have an outstanding little RPG. As it stands, the ledger is plenty in Wytchwood’s favour: it’s too characterful and enjoyable in the basics to become swamped in the monotony.

Wytchwood isn’t much more than ten hours of fetch quests, one after the other, bound to a simple crafting system. Forage, make and deliver, over and over again. But while that repetition sours the cauldron a little, there’s plenty that’s special in Wytchwood’s world of spells and recipes to mask the flavour. Accept its limitations, and Wytchwood has more than enough to put you under its spell.

You can buy Wytchwood from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

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