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The Next Big First-Person Shooter Is Not What You Think

The first-person shooter genre isn't exactly starving for new entries. From upcoming Bethesda shooters like Rage 2 and Doom Eternal to Call of Duty's and Battlefield's usual yearly installments, there's basically an FPS for every type of gamer. Yet, it's not often that new franchises are introduced to the genre. For example, all of the games mentioned above are sequels that build on what's come before instead of reinventing the wheel. Fans pretty much know what to expect.


Indie dark fantasy shooter Witchfire, on the other hand, could become the next surprise hit in a genre full of blockbusters. First introduced at The Game Awards 2017, Witchfire was one of the big unexpected announcements of the show and has continued to be the talk of many gamers on Twitter. With a Gothic aesthetic and macabre enemies that look straight out of a survival horror game, Witchfire looks like something new for the genre.

Let's take a look at a few reasons why Witchfire might be the next big first-person shooter.

It's the second game from the studio behind The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Witchfire is a departure for its studio, The Astronauts, which has previously released only one game, the critically-acclaimed horror adventure title, The Vanishing Ethan Carter. The game tells the story of a paranormal investigator named Paul Prospero, who arrives in the town of Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin at the behest of a 12-year-old fan named Ethan Carter. Upon his arrival, Prospero discovers that Ethan is missing and that an evil spirit known as the Sleeper is now haunting the town.


What unravels through the course of the story, in which Prospero solves mysteries in order to find Ethan, is a web of lies and family drama that makes Ethan Carter one of the best narrative experiences in gaming to date. IGN's Marty Silva wrote of the game, "The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an amazing achievement. Its story is powerful, its freedom is liberating, and its world is one of the most beautiful I've ever wandered around." The game also won a BAFTA for Best Game Innovation in 2015.

The Astronauts' success with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter should immediately put the studio's next game at the top of your list.

Witchfire is being made by the developers of two underrated shooters

While it's true that Witchfire's first trailer showcases a bit more frantic, balls-to-the-wall action than the more thoughtful Vanishing of Ethan Carter, The Astronauts' first shooter isn't as big of a departure for the developers as you might think. After all, the studio was started by Adrian Chmielarz, Andrzej Poznanski, and Michal Kosieradzki, the founders of People Can Fly, the studio behind Bulletstorm and Painkiller, two excellent shooters that don't get nearly enough praise. While you could describe both of these titles as straightforward shooters about killing as many enemies as possible, they're undoubtedly fun.


Bulletstorm, in particular, is a refreshing, lighthearted shooter full of crazy weapons with which to blow up your enemies and turn them into big meaty chunks. IGN wrote in its review of the game, "Bulletstorm demonstrates the value of 'why' for action games. Taken out of the context of its fiction, People Can Fly would have something fun but forgettable on their hands, but the way Bulletstorm fits together results in something cool and memorable."

Judging from the Witchfire trailer, which teases quite a few weapons and abilities to choose from, Chmielarz. Poznanski, and Kosieradzki may be returning to their roots with their new shooter.

Witchfire will have photorealistic assets through the use of photogrammetry

One of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter's most stunning features was its use of photogrammetry — using photographs to measure physical spaces — when creating the town of Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin. In essence, photogrammetry allows developers to take photos of real life locations and render them in their games as 3D models. The Astronauts used a program called Photoscan, which "connects the dots" of the different pictures taken of a location or structure at different angles to recreate it in a digital space.


The Astronauts will use the same design technique for Witchfire, which they hope will render an even more impressive result than with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. If the first trailer is any indication, The Astronauts is indeed putting photogrammetry to good use for its new shooter.

Witchfire's Gothic aesthetic makes it a unique FPS

While there are plenty of first-person shooters out there, few stray very far from the two most common (and arguably overused) FPS aesthetics: futuristic sci-fi and gritty real world. For every WWII or modern warfare shooting game ever released, there is probably a sci-fi shooter set in a distant planet (or ringworld) to accompany it. We don't see horror shooters very often; Doom and Left 4 Dead might very well be the series that most easily come to mind in this case — which is why Witchfire's Gothic style is so eye-catching.


Described as a "dark fantasy shooter," the game's debut trailer gives us just a hint of what that might entail. Dark swamps and woods give way to a portal into a what looks like a cemetery full of very old mausoleums and tombstones overtaken by vines and moss, all covered in a thick gray sky and fog.

There's a distinct Gothic atmosphere in this game that you don't see very often in shooters and is more akin to the horror genre. That bleeds through to the enemies you'll face as well, who are clad in armor and brandish weapons more often seen in fantasy series like The Elder Scrolls. So far, the game looks like a very unique trip.

Witchfire will feature a plethora of guns and melee weapons

While The Astronauts hasn't revealed just how many weapons the game will feature, you can expect at least a few traditional first-person shooter loadouts in the game. The trailer teased a mix of guns and melee weapons, the latter of which came in the form of a spiked sword wielded by the undead enemies in the cemetery.


These swords even seem to have some sort of fire effect when charged up by the enemy, which could result in a more damaging blow. It's unclear if players will also be able to use melee weapons or if they're unique to the undead. General wisdom about the FPS genre tells us that all weapons that appear in the game will probably be available to the player. (We really want to get our hands on one of those swords!)

On top of melee weapons, you can also see the player using a shotgun and a revolver to dispose of the armored skeletons. At one point, you can even catch a quick glimpse of undead enemies using crossbows. It probably won't end there. We expect to see way more weapons as The Astronauts unveils more details about Witchfire.


You'll face a variety of macabre enemies

The enemies showcased so far in Witchfire's debut trailer definitely complement the game's horror aesthetic well. We see the player face off against quite a few grotesque creatures during his brief shootout in the cemetery. The first enemy we see is some sort of giant, undead monster that lies dormant on the cemetery grounds until it's seemingly woken by a strange wind. As the player approaches, the creature turns its head toward the camera, its eyes light up like fire.


More undead ghouls show up in the action portion of the trailer, including a skeleton outfitted in what looks like medieval armor. These enemies are imposing in size and lightning fast, with the ability to dash toward the player for a killing blow, as shown in the final seconds of the video. Some of the other monsters can float in the air, providing a harder target for the player. More enemies will undoubtedly be revealed soon.

The trailer teases a few special abilities

Guns and melee weapons won't be the only tools of death available to the player, according to the trailer. We get a glimpse of at least two special abilities in the game that will give you an edge over the monsters. While it's unclear how these powers work, if you'll have to unlock them, and what they mean for the game's protagonist, we can at the very least see how The Astronauts plans to offer options to the player.


During the shootout in the final third of the trailer, you can see how the player is able to dash towards enemies, bringing him face to face with the undead within seconds, which hints at some soft of enhanced speed ability during battle. The other power (perhaps we should call them "spells" since this is a fantasy shooter) allows the player to emit a sort of shockwave that sends enemies flying away from him — an ability clearly meant to be used when you find yourself surrounded or overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies.

We wish we could say more about these abilities, but The Astronauts isn't ready to talk about them just yet.