The surprisingly wonderful indie series for mobile is back with its third installment, and like its predecessors, it’s packing a whole lot of content behind its cute exterior. With Witch Spring 4 just announced, let’s take a look at Witch Spring 3 in more detail.
The Witch Spring series is developed by the Korean company Kiwi Walks, and it’s probably one of mobile’s best kept secrets. For those who have had the pleasure of stumbling across this series, they each follow the exploits of a different practising Witch, a race separated from and often derided by the Humans of the games fantasy setting. You’ll spend time looking after their well-being, growing their relationships and turning them into powerful combatants in their own right. Whilst this latest instalment doesn’t necessarily show as much advancement as was evident between the first and second titles in the trilogy, it’s apparent that everything has been polished and reworked in small ways to better the experience for players. In terms of tone, Witch Spring games spark very similar cords to the Atelier series with their pleasingly approachable take on the genre.
Graphically the game is depicted in full 3D, with environments viewed at a locked overhead angle. Character models walk around on set, three dimensional backgrounds, displaying a cartoonish level of detail and are well animated. These lend themselves to good fidelity on smaller devices due to the character designs being easily recognisable, but also show off a variety of smooth touches on bigger screens that keep things looking visually lush. Though the design on the characters is well thought out and uses an anime-inspired style, the attention given to this games HUD and menu screens shows off the biggest advances by far, with them seeing a great deal of tweaking to better implement the games various systems into one smooth blend of action and adventure. 2D character art is used in some sequences as characters converse in place of portraits, and this is very well drawn and implemented in such a manner as not to break the immersion. There are some loading times on display with the games engine that are a little more noticeable now larger areas are being explored.
Musically this title feels significantly more upbeat in tone to Witch Spring 2, featuring tracks that sound like high quality Midi work. These are memorable and work well in tandem with the action on screen, but characters do lack their own unique themes to help distinguish them tonally. The title screen features an excellent addition in the form of a small player that allows you to flit through the games seven key tracks, which is a particularly nice touch. Sound effects are short and sharp, working to add a level of interaction to the menus to let you know when you’ve activated or accomplished an action. They can feel a little bland in combat however, with the usual slashing and stabbing sounds from previous titles repeated here.
The narrative closely follows Eirudy a young deity who lives on the continent of Derkarr (a neighbouring location to Vavelia where the previous two games were set and running concurrently with their events). She’s largely alone in the forest, surrounded by inanimate dolls for company that she’s attempting to use magic to bring to life and teach to speak at the games outset. When she meets a human boy by the name of Adrian who is on his own quest to restore his comatose mother, her life takes a sharp turn that sees her embarking on an adventure of her own. There’s a well-paced tone to this title that sees your understanding of the world expand at the same rate as Eirudy’s and your choices guide her relationships, leading you into one of several different conclusions. The script does at times devolve into Engrish but on the whole the translation is well handled and delicate balance between characters well upheld.
Gameplay sees you splitting your time between exploration, turn based combat combat and gathering materials in a manner not unlike the ‘Altier’ series of games. You can travel freely between screens by tapping and dragging your finger to move the character and she will interact with her environment, only occasionally getting caught on terrain you didn’t realise was an obstacle. Monsters, their levels and Health are always visible on the screen and you will be given the option to back out of any non-plot related battle before it begins, with the course of difficulty usually dictating which areas you should be exploring at any given time. In combat you can cast spells, which you learn through research and equip with varying levels of magic circles to add additional power and effects, attack with your sword multiple times for a cost in HP, summon a doll to supplement your character and use items. This system is very robust and expands as you build your character to make you feel like a powerhouse. The game does a great job in rewarding the player for exploring outside the plot’s confines and taking down tough monsters always feels like its own reward. The game can at times be vague about what to do next however, and this can lead to some frustration when attempting to meet the required goal to forward the story. Luckily as you explore and battle you will also be filling a gauge that counts down time until you can improve your character. When full, returning home will allow you to take on a series of exercises from a broad selection that will all affect your stats, and subsequently your character’s skill set, dramatically. Making this rarer means you can’t spam it in the early sections of the game as in previous entries, and adds to the impression of developing Eirudy as a character. Automating her doing tasks you’ve selected also greatly speeds up the actual process.
There’s a lot to love about this title, though it does take up over a gigabyte of space on your device and will have some loading times now and again, especially when returning to the game after some time. The experience more than makes up for these light drawbacks though, and with the game being a rare example of a ‘pay once’ model on a mobile store, it’s certainly well worth the effort of buying for yourself.