Descend into a dark and gruesome nightmare! You alone must face evil within the volcanic pit of the Island of Char, toward the mystical lair of Witchaven. Confront witches that have cast a shadow of evil spells shrouding you in the never-ending darkness. Make use of your magic, might and mind as you engage in bloody warfare with vile demons and monsters. Use medieval weapons to destroy these creatures of the night and cease the chaos. Dare to enter this 3D Hell...Dare to enter Witchaven!
Duck, jump and fly! Using the powerful "Build" engine, exclusively from 3D REALMS, Witchaven has a greater degree of movement, perspective, flight and control...it's like no other first-person game!
~ advertising blurb
Among the adventure gaming community, Capstone are unceremoniously known as Crapstone. Their point-and-click adventures often based on the Hollywood movie du jour are almost universally bad. Their reputation is so bad that I've never dared touch any of them (though I'm often tempted). Brave into their action-based output though, and you'll likely find games of a much higher quality. One of them is their 1995 first-person-shooter called Witchaven.
Utilising the Build engine from Duke Nukem creators 3D Realms, Witchaven sure does look the part. It boasts 640x480 SVGA graphics that impress to this day. Levels are structured nicely, with good variety and scenery breaking up what could otherwise be a load of drab corridors.
What does make the game unique, at least for the time, is its focus on melee combat. Most of your weapons are clubs, axes and blades with a nice reach that makes using more satisfying than the ranged bows or throwing axes. Be aware that they are prone to wear and tear forcing you to hunt for another of your favourite weapons if it breaks. There's no gauge anywhere on the HUD to let you how far gone your blade of choice is, with the only indication being an on-screen prompt when it's close to bust. Most armed enemies will drop something useful in their wake, and a pick-up hidden or otherwise is never far away, so you won't often have to stray far to find a replacement.
Beyond the weapons, there is a spell and potion system, though most of these are status effects designed to solve minor puzzles or reach certain areas. For example, you can cast a night-vision spell to see in the dark or consume a red vial containing a resist fire potion to walk on lava. Health replenishment is handled by way of a blue potion too, rather than instantly curing you the moment you pick it up. This gives the game a slower, more deliberate pace than its frantic competition and at least they factored this in with the enemy behaviour.
On the downside, there are a number more familiar Crapstone traits. Insta-death traps are barely signposted, as well as several dead-end oubliettes that force you to restart the level. The first area you come across features a broken floor with dashes of barely-noticeable lava creeping through that may kill you before you reach the other side if you're unobservant enough.
So, Witchaven is something of a mixed bag. There is plenty here - particularly in the setting and level design - that sparks my interest, but there's just as much that puts me off. I wouldn't necessarily call it a bad game like most of Capstone's back catalogue, but it doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Doom, Heretic or Duke Nukem 3D.
As of 9th June 2021, Witchaven is now available to buy DRM free on Good Old Games.
Buy from GOG
Witchaven is © IntraCorp / Capstone
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me