Starbound developer and Stardew Valley publisher Chucklefish revealed it was working on magical RPG with serious Harry Potter vibes back in 2017. Witchbrook, as it's now officially called, has been on my mind for quite a while thanks to its charming pixelated style and general concept. I mean, who doesn't want to attend magic school? Admit it, I bet you waited it out for your Hogwarts letter back in the day, too. Chucklefish’s CEO and lead designer Finn Brice recently released a design document for Witchbrook on Twitter, which details some of the potential features and possible directions the game could go in. Brice made it clear that the document is continually changing, and none of the features or overall direction of the RPG are set in stone, but it's the first time we've gotten some insight into what kind of elements could be included. It's also a very neat way for folks to gain a better understanding of the development process, with several notes questioning whether or not to develop or include certain features like fast travelling.
This changes constantly and shouldn't be seen as a confirmation of any features or even of the overall direction of the game. It's a development tool I thought curious minds might like to have a look at. https://t.co/anwsxscDfQAugust 21, 2019
The detailed document lists a whole variety of mechanics, gameplay features and goals the developer has been looking to bring to the RPG. The overview describes Witchbrook as a top down/ isometric RPG that ‘takes place inside a fantastical magic school.’ It goes on to detail that players ‘take on the role of a student attempting to graduate from the school whilst dealing with school life and discovering who they are,’ with the ultimate goal of graduating and earning their ‘Witching Permit.’ Self-discovery, growing pains, and magic? Sign. Me. Up. Once again, this outlines the general concept of the game, and the documents states that the “contents may change at any time and to any degree”, but it already sounds enchanting.
After looking through the document, we’ve put together 10 potential gameplay mechanics and features that get our magic-loving hearts racing the most.
1. Chucklefish want to create an 'engaging but relaxing experience'
Right off the broom, I can’t help but highlight the list of goals the developers hope to achieve with Witchbrook. The magical RPG hopes to bring us "an engaging but relaxing experience," which already gets my number. I’m all about games that offer some relaxation. After a long and difficult day, I often retreat into the world of Stardew Valley to get stuck into some farming goodness and feel my stress just melt away. Interestingly, they also hope "to create a simulation players will enjoy simply interacting with like a toy." Intriguing. To be honest, all of goals conjure up a lot of excitement - especially the one about "encouraging player curiosity, experimentation and the building of identity." You can see all the goals listed below:
- To provide an engaging but relaxing experience.
- To tap into the players nostalgia by hitting on key school themes and events.
- To create a simulation the player will enjoy simply interacting with like a toy.
- To create an intimate, charming experience within a convincing magical world.
- To encourage player curiosity, experimentation and the building of identity.
2. Wizard duels “play out like RPG battles”
There's mention of a duelling club, which spells lots of magical battles against your fellow students. What’s even more exciting about this is it currently plans to draw inspiration from traditional JRPG battles, where “both the player and the opponent will attempt to disarm each other using the spells at their disposal.” Our imaginations have run wild with just how this will look. I’d bet on it being turn-based, and I can’t wait to see how this particular element could shape up.
3. Witchbrook wants you to care about its characters
The game summary also drops some very promising aspects that just make me fall in love with the idea of Witchbrook even more. It hopes to create a living and breathing world, with various characters we’ll get to meet in the school that “players should feel attached to” as we progress through the story. I’m more than ready to meet some new characters who will cast a spell over my heart...figuratively speaking, of course.
4. There's a "targeting mode"
I think the most interesting part of the design doc is the targeting mode https://t.co/zkAsjcVa56 as it attempts to allow for context sensitive magic with a massive number of potential outcomes. It's kind of like a traditional JRPG battle system meets a point & click adventure?August 21, 2019
Brice said on Twitter that one of the most interesting details in the design document is the targeting mode. “Interactive entities that require a more complex interaction from the player are marked with an icon that indicates to the player that they’ll enter targeting mode,” the document says. “Targeting mode opens up a unique interaction UI that allows the player to interact with the entity in a large variety of ways, often leading to unexpected results.” Apparently this mode lets you choose a target in the environment and choose from a list of “categorized actions/spells/items/tools to apply to that target.” An example shown demonstrates the targeting mode used to fish (see image above). By targeting the fish, you can select the fishing rod from the tool category to trigger the fishing minigame. The mode is said to allow for a way of interacting with the world around you in surprising ways by using unexpected options in different scenarios.
5. You can use forbidden magic, but you may get detention for it
Forbidden magic has always had its own kind of allure. You know you shouldn't use it...I mean, the clues right there in the word “forbidden,” but that just makes it all the more tantalising, doesn’t it? It's the same kind of thing as wanting to push a button someone's warned you not to push. Apparently the forbidden kind of magic in Witchbrook “has a range of uses,” but not much more is said beyond that. If you’re caught using it at “inappropriate times,” or by a tutor, you’ll get yourself in detention. One idea they’ve mentioned is that repeated use of forbidden magic can result in expulsion. Oh, no! But wait, it goes on to say that “luckily the player wakes up the next day and the expulsion was but a dream!” Phew. I love the idea that you can get up to some naughty shenanigans in the world of Witchbrook, and I can’t wait to find out what the the forbidden spells might actually do.
6. You can go on dates and fall in love
I am a sucker for romance. I can't tell you just how excited I get if a game features some sort of romantic aspect, and Witchbrook is really going to capture my heart in this department by the looks of it. According to the document, they're working to implement a kind of affection metre, with hearts representing your bond with other characters. Once your bond is high enough, you can trigger dates and eventually fall in love. “The players bond to other characters in the Witchbrook gameworld is represented by the number of hearts the player has earned in respect to that character. Each heart requires a number of bond points to be collected and will turn from an ‘empty heart’ into a ‘full heart’ as bond points are earned.” You can earn bond points or lose them by correctly or incorrectly answering questions NPCs might ask you.
Each character is said to have their own unique date scenarios and are set to involve dialogue trees you’ll have to “successfully navigate” to pull off the perfect date. “Dates should be amusing and tongue in cheek, reflecting both the nature of young romance and the absurdity of using a JRPG style targeting system to undertake a date.”
7. You can also turn hearts to stone
Of course, you can’t please everyone, and not everyone will like or love you. In fact, Chucklefish says character’s “hearts can be turned to stone, making them unfillable.” Just as you can raise affection, you can also cause enmity. “Stone hearts exist to make each character unique in their desires and requirements.” There appear to be various different reasons behind why a character’s hearts may turn to stone. One example given is that all of the hearts of a certain character may turn to stone when you begin dating another character. Oooh. So maybe there’s some pre-existing bad blood between NPCs. But stone hearts can be broken and filled again. Some characters may even already have stone hearts when you meet them. It also says that particular characters “may have very specific requirements and breaking stone hearts can have surprising results.” I really like the idea that you can work to break someone’s stoney heart to try and improve your bond. It’s like you’re unbreaking their heart…”unbreak my hearttttt, say you’ll love me again”...okay, I’ll stop.
8. A lot of different activities are mentioned
Lots of different activities and “distractions” are also listed, including fishing, potion making, cooking, foraging, artifact hunting, and stamp collecting. Potion making is set to take place in the school’s potion lab, which has different kinds of equipment such as cauldrons. It looks like they’re still ironing out how long it will take to craft potions, but they make it clear that they also want to bring a lot of surprises to the process. Stamp/mail collecting also sounds like another fun addition where you receive mail in your dorm from other NPCS that can sometimes have gifts attached. Other times you might get post from a family member outside of school who sends you postcards with stamps that can be collected in your “witches tome.”
9. Witchbrook is set to have changing seasons, day/night cycles, and a curfew time
Currently Witchbrook is divided into four months that will make up the school year, with changing seasons and various seasonal events that will take place throughout. It sounds quite similar to Stardew Valley in this respect. Weather conditions also come into play depending on the season, and every month consists of 30 days. NPCs will also have birthdays throughout the calendar year. Day and night cycles will also correspond to the in-game clock, and every day begins at 7 am. There's a curfew time at 11pm and if you don't return to your room, you'll have to try and avoid getting spotted by the tutors or you'll land yourself in detention. Nothing like being a little rebellious, eh?
10. You track your progression in different forms of magic using a "Witches permit"
The “Witches permit” is a “visually beautiful representation of the players progress,” and will be a way to keep track of your progress in the game. “It consists of a main permit, with stamps for each form of magic the player is permitted to use.” Eventually, once you get a full permit for each of the different forms of magic, it can be upgraded to “a fancier and more beautiful permit.” The permit is set to be accompanied by a space for a list of in game achievements. Once your Witches permit is full, you'll be able to take your final exam and presumably graduate.
Until we get our magical mitts on Witchbrook, why not check out our suggestions for the best games like Stardew Valley?