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Developer(s) Capstone Software
Publisher(s) Intracorp Entertainment
Engine Build engine
Platform(s) PC (MS-DOS)
Release date(s) July 1995
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer (up to 16 players)
Rating(s) ELSPA: 15+
RSAC: V3: Blood and Gore
NS2: Partial Nudity

Witchaven is a 1995 fantasy computer game developed using an early version of Build engine. It was followed by Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance in 1996.



The player takes on the role of a brave knight named Grondoval, hero of his homeland Stazhia. He has been chosen by his master, Lord Verkapheron, to travel to the forbidding island of Char, domain of the powerful witch named Illwhyrin. Her lair hidden in a massive subterranean maze, casting evil spells, the witch is keeping monsters as pets, and, as more than a few unlucky Stazhians learned, performing human sacrifice. For years adventurers from across the Prime Realms have journeyed into those dark depths seeking glory and wealth, but a few have returned. Those who did come back, though, told tales of a horrifying evil. Now the rumour has reached Stazhia that Illwhyrin seeks to lift a dimensional barrier known as the Veil, which separates the game's universe from chaotic Nether Reaches. Each day brings her closer to creating a permanent portal through the Veil to allow the demon lord to traverse into the Prime Realms and rule the world with her as his consort. Grondoval arrives at Char by boat, armed only with a dagger but determined to save his people. His mission is to fight his way through the labirynth of dark caves and dungeons, trying to reach the Illwhyrin's inner sanctum known as Witchaven and slay her before she can succeed. Meanwhile, Stazhia's priests gaze heavenward and pray.

After completing the game, the following end message is displayed: "With the death of Illwhyrin the rift between the Realm and Nether Reaches collapsed. Lord Verkapheron returned triumphantly to redeem his place as a champion and keeper of Char. The scattered remains of the witch's minions fell swiftly under Verkapheron's legions and peace was restored. Grondoval was given a hero's welcome, and his further adventures eventually led him to his own land; his own kingdom. ...But that is another story."


Although a first-person shooter, the game had some role-playing and fantasy elements to it, including character progression (experience points and levels) and a focus on close quarters combat instead of run-and-gun gameplay. This is however still a typical old-school-style FPS, in which the player has to kill everything that moves, looking for an exit to the next level (in this case a pentagram teleport-based system of finishing levels).

There are 10 weapons in Witchaven, each of them having different attack range: bare fists, dagger, short sword, morning star, broadsword, battle axe, bow, pike axe (can be used as a melee weapon or thrown), two-handed sword and halberd. One of the innovative features of the game was that its weapons were not infinitely durable - with the exceptions of the fists, weapons would break down with repeated use so that replacements would need to be found (a potential problem with this system lies in the fact that weapons obtained early were more likely to break due to their lower quality than weapons earned later in the game).

The player can also use magic in his fight. In addition to potions which the player can drink for health, stamina, fire resistance and more, the game has several scroll-based spells which can be cast in Witchaven, such as the Fireball, Fly, Freeze, Scare, Unlock and Nuke invocations.

There are a plethora of enemies the player must contend with, including goblins, ogres, imps, skeletons, willow wisps and fire drakes; one type of enemy, Midian Warriors (Illwhyrin's personal guards), is featured in the game's cover picture, by Ken Kelly. All of these the creatures are bound in loyal servitude to the witch, who is the only boss of the game, but some of them are prone to fight the other species (such as in the case of rival goblin tribes).

The game also offered a LAN-based deathmatch-style multiplayer mode for up to 16 players simultaneously.


Along with William Shatner's TekWar, also by Capstone in 1995, Witchaven was the first Build engine game to be completed. Most of enemies in the game are actually clay models who were photographed at every angle and then turned into computer sprites.

An early version of the game's story, featured in promotional materials, involved a plot by a group of witches "older than time itself" to activate the two-century dormant volcano of Char to cause it to erupt and destroy the surrounding areas, including Stazhia, and the yet-unnamed hero's quest was to break this curse (the sequel's manual actually still mentions the volcano and destruction of several witches[1]). Developers also toyed with a possibility of more having two classes to choose from to play, either warrior of magic user.[2]

In the demo version certain features that differ from the full version: only three levels are playable and they have certain layout adjustments, there are only five weapons to wield (the broadsword is named "magic sword"), there are only six spells (the Fly spell makes the player bounce up and down), the Cure Poison potion is replaced with an Armour potion to increase armour value, and the Fire Resist potion is replaced with a Fire Walk potion doing exactly the same except for the red tinted screen.


Reviewers often criticed the game's bad AI of enemies and poor design of repetitive levels, while its graphics was usually praised. GameSpot rated the game only 53%,[3] saying "This in-your-face combat is novel at first, but after a few hours of play, you'll be praying for a BFG-9000."[4] Regarding the game's dark theme and brutality, PC Zone recalled Witchaven being "sick, twisted, gory and depraved" (apparently in a positive way).[5]


Grondoval returned the next year for the second game, in which the player has to deal with the vengeful sister of Illwhyrin.

Remake project

There is a remake of the both Witchaven games in development by WHTeam and TDGMods. It is described as a "heavily revamped and redesigned" FPS/RPG hybrid, based on the game engine built upon modified Doom source port, and scheluded to come to Windows, Linux, Macintosh and Sega Dreamcast platforms in late 2011. The game is supposed to include 3D acceleration, high-resolution graphics, advanced dynamic lighting, and scripted and more modern gameplay.[6]

See also


  1. ^ [From the introduction section] "The witches have been destroyed. You stand on a precipice overlooking the entrance to their wretched lair. Oily smoke spouts from the mouth of the volcano far up into the heavens - it seems the sky rests on an undulating pillar formed from the ashes of evil. (...)"
  2. ^ YouTube - IE PC game preview : witchhaven (1995)
  3. ^ Witchaven Reviews and Articles for PC - GameRankings
  4. ^ Witchaven Review for PC - GameSpot
  5. ^ Review: Witchaven 2 Review -
  6. ^ Witchaven - 3dfx Development

External links

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