PAX West 2019: ‘Project Witchstone’ Brings the Freedom of Pen & Paper RPGs to Videogames

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Project Witchstone

Project Witchstone is a sandbox RPG developed by Spearhead Games. It is a role-playing game that tries to bring that pen and paper role-playing style to life. I had the chance to sit down and check it out at PAX West 2019. Set on a fictional continent that is occupied by seven factions completing against each other for control, Project Witchstone allows you, the player, to do as you please within the world.

One of the main goals of Project Witchstone is to always prioritize the player’s freedom, making the world revolves around the players choices. The developers explained that they wanted to make it unlike other video game RPGs out in there by allowing the player the ability to do pretty much anything they choose, ultimately allowing them to make their own stories within the world.

They also talked about the freedom offered by pen and paper RPGs. In those, there are no branching stories and every play through is 100% unique to that play through. Each non-playable character (NPC) in the game is unique, has some depth, and essentially a mind of their own, this is what they’ve strived to bring into Project Witchstone. 

Project Witchstone

Your interactions with NPCs are based on not only the skills of your character, but also on the roll of the digital die. There is a die that, like pen and paper RPGs, is incorporated into the game which players have to “roll” and that determine whether you succeed or fail in conversations. I got to watch as we (the dev and I) persuaded an NPC to quit his job and come be our companion on our adventures. After that, we were even able to convince another one to go commit a crime for us.

The NPCs, as mentioned, do have a mind of their own and nothing showed that more than when a villager was being harassed by the guards and we tried to intervene and ended up having to kill the harassing guards. The villager that we just saved then proceeded to run to town officials and tell on us for murder.

These are just two examples that I got to experience while playing Project Witchstone. The game itself really shines from the creatively of the player as this freedom allows you to be a knight in shining armor playing for peace and prosperity of all the land or be a criminal that causes chaos among the factions in order to rule the land for themselves. 

Project Witchstone

That being said, this freedom of choice and interactions do come with consequences.  As you move through the game, each action taken in the game is recorded causing ripple effects throughout the world. If you join one of the factions then you may be locked out or even hunted by another. If you are known to betray leaders of factions then less people will trust you through the world. The possibilities are endless in this world, anything can happen you can’t be sure of how NPCs will react to your choices.

The devs described this as ” a complex web of causality that drives all of the world to work around you”.  A prime example of this is when you commit a crime. Let’s say you commit a robbery, or worse a murder, there are investigations done by the NPCs. This means that if there are no witnesses and you did it stealthily then you may never get caught. But, if you are sloppy and leave witnesses they can turn you in, leading to problems. In one of the cooler ways to interact with the environment, you can also plant items from other NPCs to frame them or throw investigators off your trail.

I was unable to see much of the character customization due to time constraints, but from what I was able to gather there will be plenty of options with races, classes, and more to choose from, just like pen and paper RPGs. You will be able to play pretty much any style you wish whether be with sword and shield, bow and arrow, spell casting, or something in between.

In addition you will can have almost any NPC as a companion that travels with you on your adventures. As I mentioned earlier, each NPC has their own set of skills, abilities, and personality. This makes choosing a companion more than a simple “hey let’s go”. If you choose the wrong one they may die in battle easy or not like your choices thus causing them to abandon you or even attack you.

Overall, I believe this game has a lot of promise as it allows every player the freedom to be creative and write their own story. The fact that every play through will be unique adds lot to the replay ability of Project Witchstone. Any RPG fan and especially those of pen and paper should love this game as has plenty to offer in so many ways.

Project Witchstone comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC in 2020.

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