One aspect that computer representations of tabletop RPGs (or CRPGS) have never been able to adopt from their tabletop variety cousins is the absolute freedom of choice that comes with playing that way. The ability for players to choose and say whatever they want and forcing the dungeon master to respond in kind has always been limited in the digital games, but now, with Spearhead Games upcoming Project Witchstone, we may be at the cusp of that difference between much smaller.
The basic premise is that Witchstone will be an open sandbox title that will give players the tools and options that will allow them to craft their unique story, doing what they want, when they want, killing or saving who they want, consequences be damned.
I had the chance to sit and speak with one of the game’s designers and watched him play through the demo build that was on the show floor. The basic idea, he explained, was that they were creating systems that would make the dungeon master an AI and give players the tools to form their own responses to dialogue, approach situations in their own ways, and kill whomever they feel like. Your choices spawning their own set of consequences that you may never see coming creating a butterfly effect.
Everything that I was told about their plans and aspirations for this game sounded straight out of a fairytale but the bones of what could make those promises work were present in the early build. It’s far from where it needs to be, but it’ still promising to see! The premise of being able to kill any NPC or destroy any town, altering your entire game, has so much potential it’s almost too good to be true.
The team working on Witchstone is intent on listening to what fans of the genre want to be able to do. I personally mentioned how I thought it would be cool to take out a random shopkeep and then take over their shop, running it as if it was mine the whole time. There are a number of additional features that they know they want to implement but have yet to do so, including multiplayer co-op. I salivate at the thought of being able to join up with my friend in their game and perhaps take over a local faction to wage war against them or even frame them for a crime just because you can.
I’ve seen games make similar grandiose and bombastic claims about their gameplay only for the end result to be far less than what was promised. I am not saying that it is certain that Witchstone will follow that path, but I will say the goals are very, very lofty. I will remain cautiously optimistic and hopeful though. It’s still too early to tell if this game will be a new paragon of the genre and bring about a whole new generation of RPGs or if it will be a disappointing failed experiment of a game that tried to do the impossible. This game is still a very long ways off, with this first build of the game being done in six months with an early access release planned to be available in later 2020.