Lou is developing Witchmarsh with Joe Conway, and they’ll be taking their mix of platformer, action and RPG to Kickstarter in mid-January 2014. So it’s time for you to get familiar with the game.
“It’s structured like a semi-linear RPG (Baldur’s Gate), but we’re throwing in some randomly generated elements, such as monster spawns and explorable mini-dungeons determined by a dice-roll,” Lou tells me.
“One of the ideas we had was to allow the player to plant rare time-seeds, granting a re-roll on the randomly generated zones. There will also be lots of optional and forked content to give the players some freedom whilst working their way through the plot.”
“…we’re hoping people will do some silly challenge playthroughs with silly combinations.”
Speaking of the plot, Lou recently got the game’s story nailed down, and the design document is apparently solid. With that done, they’re ready to showcase a “vertical slice build” along with the launch of the Kickstarter, with plenty of concepts and artwork.
“Combat will be real-time, and we’ve drawn on Castlevania, Dark Souls, World of Warcraft, the Diablo series, [Baldur's Gate I & II, Neverwinter Nights, the Wizardry series] and, even more recently, The Last of Us to help mould the combat’s design,” Lou says.
“One thing we’re keen on is having plenty of cycling combat animations to prevent it from getting stale.”
Witchmarsh is an RPG, and that means that your choice of character is very important. Currently, there are twelve characters that you can pick from to form your team of investigators. As you’d hope, each character is unique, with their own abilities, strengths and presence.
While it’s important to choose a team that you think will suit you in single-player, if you’re playing the up-to-four player co-op mode, you’ll get fewer options and will have to bear in mind how you and your co-op partners will work together.
“…your character will draw fire from the divine or native American belief systems.”
“We’re also keen on making sure things like single-character playthroughs are a possibility for those gamers who want an extreme challenge, and we’re thinking about a hardcore mode option being unlockable later in,” Lou tells me.
“I love watching Let’s Plays on YouTube where the casters do interesting and quirky builds, and we’re happy to encourage that. The character builds are already very flexible, so we’re hoping people will do some silly challenge playthroughs with silly combinations.”
In the image above, you can see the twelve characters, but Lou decided to explain a few of them for us in greater detail and reveal how you can build each of them in different ways.
“The Innkeeper can be built as a brawler or stealth attacker, depending on how she likes to handle herself in a barfight. She does a lot of uppercuts and kicks to disrupt spell-casting and lock the enemy down.”
“The Bard is a jack of all trades. He can really be played however you’d like to build him. His unique skills involve playing ballads on his guitar to raise morale or grant positive status effects.”
“The Technician is unique in that she doesn’t plant her points in abilities like everyone else; she places a currency called Rivets into five schools of engineering, which she then uses to construct Gadgets. A few of the gadgets we’ve got lined up for her so far include portable sentry guns, flare guns, shield generators and a Dictaphone.”
“Moose talks in Wingdings, so he’s difficult, if not impossible, to understand. His talent is picking up and throwing people.”
“The Trapper can hunt rare creatures for booty!”
As Witchmarsh is an RPG, you’ll have to customize your characters once you’ve chosen them and started playing the game. There will be five ability schools to progress through, as well as five attribute types.
One of the more exciting prospects that Lou outlined is the ability to alter the types of abilities you can learn. He gave the example of mixing Fire and Craft, which will turn you into a fire wizard, essentially. A combination of Spirit and Fire would result in a priestly or spiritual mage, Lou reckons, in which your character will draw fire from the divine or native American belief systems.
You also get to choose what weapon your character uses, with both melee and ranged choices, but as with everything else, you’ll need to take into consideration the base traits and strengths of your character.
“There will also be perks, which work a bit like in the Fallout series of games,” Lou reveals.
“Players can assign a limited number of perks to each character and unlock more as they level. For Kickstarter stretch goals, we’d really love to plan more character re-skin perks. Currently, one of the re-skin perks we’re including is called the Tuesday Night Club.”
“The perk turns the Curator (a thirty-something curator at the local museum) into a Mrs. Marple-style sleuth (the name is a reference to the short story in which she first appeared).”
Lou adds that they’re being cautious with these re-skin perks as they take a lot of work. Whole characters have be redrawn for every single animation they’ll need to perform in the game, after all. The plan is to have a re-skin for every character in the game, so I’d imagine that this will be a limited reward of just twelve on the Kickstarter.
That’s all Lou told me about Witchmarsh, but it should be plenty to get your interest and anticipate its arrival on Kickstarter. I love the pixel art, and Lou was kind enough to pass along the concept of the first zone at around dusk. Lou says they’ve tested part of the diurnal cycle in the game’s engine and is happy to say that the result ends up being very close to the concept.