You think key skills for being a witch would just be hat fashion sense, gingerbread architecture, and fruit poisoning, but it turns out that you really need some executive-level multitasking abilities. At least according to the visually delightful and fiendishly addictive Wytchwood, which you can play right now.
As the pleasingly cantankerous witch of the woods, you find yourself drawn into the personal dramas of every weirdo and monster in your fairytale realm. Weeping sweethearts, cabbage-faced farmers, old ladies with missing husbands, all who are key to your various quests but have problems of their own that need solving first. Luckily you have your grimoire, full of helpful recipes for potions and magical items, and a world where almost everything can yield a useful ingredient or two.
Eye of next and snot of goblin
Of course, it's never that simple. So while you might need an eye of newt for a potion, you need to catch one first, which means crafting a trap. A simple sewing kit needs the barb of a mosquito-like bug in the swamp, but you'll require a smoke bomb to disarm it before you can whack it with your ax. Wytchwood is one of those games where you sit down with a cup of tea to knock out a couple of missions and end up in a cascade of crafting that keeps you wedged in your gaming chair until pressure sores start to form.
Finding a corpse means I need to go and find some goblin snot, but then I need to make a creepy doll to distract the little cretins. To steal a tooth from a drake for a crucial ritual, I'll first need to construct a snackrifice – a cascade of crafting requirements soon follows that, mercifully, is easily tracked and double-checked in the menus. Someone else wants a pie, someone else needs me to find the shards of a mirror, and then I need to fight a bloody dryad who is guarding a fairy den I promised to smash. No wonder the witch of the woods has had enough.
You won't get stuck though, thanks to your grimoire. Checking a recipe or using your "witch sight" on a magical creature will let you know exactly what you need to make or combat it, where to find it, and if you already have the means to craft it, and new concoctions pop up every time you encounter a new ingredient. Not that it stopped my desk looking like Draco Malfoy's after an exam season mental breakdown, with Post-its everywhere with things like "frog slime?!?" and "turkey gizzards, digestive tablets" written on them.
In a less charming game, this multiplying to-do list could feel tedious, but Wytchwood is such a carnival of eye candy and curious characters that you just surrender to the ride. There's a doctor called The Leech who probably isn't just draining their patients like blood-flavored Capri Suns, a farmer ox whose fields got suspiciously fertile around the time his family went missing, and a snake running a circus. There are rituals to complete, portals to find, dank underground caverns to explore, and mead-aholic bears to meet.
If you've ever found yourself obsessively leveling up your crafting abilities in an MMO, or are the sort of person that collects every rag and rock in an RPG just in case, this game was made for you. It's all that joy of a useful and bulging inventory distilled, with just enough mental exercise – remembering what you need to battle a goblin, where you wanted to use your magical reveal powder, where you saw some chickens you could steal eggs for a pie dough from – to make it more than just organizing a magical junk cupboard.
This dark fairytale snuck out just before Christmas, but don't let that be the reason you miss out on its magic.
Wytchwood is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X.