Game: Son of a Witch
Genre: Action RPG
System: Nintendo Switch
Price: $5.99 USD | $6.90 AUD | $ 8.39 CAD|£3.99 | €4,99
Age Rating: EU 12+| US Teen
Release Date: 5th December 2019
Review code used thanks to Bigosaur
Son of a Witch is a rogue-like action RPG where you travel between floors to fight monsters, collect upgrades, and ultimately find your mother the witch (that’s in the title. You are the Son of a Witch). The story is that your witch mom goes missing and/or recruited to help with a spell, and you go through various levels to find her.
The progression of levels is interesting. You first start off in a forest full of goblins, then you literally catapult yourself into a sieged castle full of knights. The third level has you fight both the knights AND the goblins in a free for all as they all try to kill each other, and you bravely venture deeper through the game to pursue your goal.
Roguelike? I don’t like
The original rogue-like mode is unforgiving. You have to carefully plan your progress and manage your items through each level. Because if you don’t, the enemies will gang up on you and you will die, and that’s game over. In any rogue-like adventure, that would be the end regardless of how far you’ve gotten.
But Son of a Witch has an RPG mode that makes things easier; when you die in the level you start at the beginning of the level with all your items up to that point still intact. The only problem is that all the enemies from all the floor are revived back too, and you don’t get any reward for killing them again, making the process tedious and more difficult.
Son of a Witch is supposedly a short game, with even playing alone on RPG mode taking a little over an hour to finish. There are a lot of items that enhance the gameplay, like swords and axes to swing melee damage. Secondary items include scrolls that do magical bonuses when used, and keys that can unlock hidden doors or locked chests.
Every level has a sort of bonus objective to complete, that unlocks a new character to play in future runs. For example, in the forest you are tasked to delivering a pet to a soldier in the next level. You can explore every room for new upgrades, but the main objective is to find and defeat the boss, and then move to the room past them to start the next level.
Dragons in a Dungeon
Eventually though, my interest on the whole game waned. The graphics probably have something to do with it, as the character models are all chibi figures that don’t emote being hit, attacking, or dying. Some can just stare blankly at the ceiling with the backs on the floor as they recover. And the room designs lack anything that make them memorable.
Normally this kind of feature doesn’t bother me, but when the epitome of a cutscene has a rogue painstakingly walk behind one tree to the next before getting a staff at an altar, and then going by the same number of trees backwards to avoid waking up the goblins, then it’s hard to give graphics a pass.
So much to do, so much to use
It was also tricky and annoying to use weapons. You are given melee weapons, staves, and bows, but the melee weapons are the most practical. You can continuously damage with them and they get a super move when you reach max rage.
Bows shoot arrows with the R-stick and with them equipped you also attack at a close range. You need max rage to fire one arrow, and even with rage boosting drinks that still takes too long to be practical. I suppose it saves on losing arrows but I ended up finding so many arrows I couldn’t use them all as much as I would have liked.
Item management is a chore. You have one shoulder button to scroll only in one direction through your inventory, and another shoulder button to switch between main and sub items you use at a time. The Z shoulder button can drop an item to the floor, which helps if you have too much. It’s still such a hassle, especially with the extended item storage in RPG mode, to go through items around and around because you accidentally jumped over the one you need.
A lonely number
Son of a Witch is another game geared to be played in co-op. Up to four players helping and managing item upgrades or weapons to use. You will also need to at least play through the game once to unlock all the classes for their nuances. I feel they could have at least given three or four classes open in the beginning. Having a full party of the same warrior model is a boring way to start off the game.
Still even co-op has some issues. It supports a number of different controls, but not the two-in-one Switch handles on their sides. I was unable to play with my cousin during Thanksgiving break because none of the buttons worked as they should. It’s a minor issue as most people would get a spare, Pro controller, but it is still a caveat.
There are also a number of different features to play from regular rogue-like mode to survival mode fighting endless waves of monsters. I didn’t try these myself, but major props to Bigosaur for innovating more and stuff.
I see the merits, but ultimately, I feel neither strongly for nor against Son of a Witch. It does what it sets to do, and would be fun to play with others. However, it doesn’t push or innovate anything to make this a must have game.
Final Verdict: I’m not sure