The Writer’s Game: Wytchwood
Wytchwood from Alientrap is a “gothic fairy tale game.” You’re an amnesiac witch with a cauldron on her head, stealing the souls of wrongdoers for a mysterious black goat. Steal enough souls, and you’ll awaken a mysterious sleeping maiden and maybe get your memory back. Of course, punishing evil is pretty rewarding . . .
The core of the game is crafting. As the Witch, you wander around collecting ingredients from the countryside and it’s creatures. You can craft traps, magical items, and more with the right components. Figuring out where to get resources, use them, and combine them is critical to progress.
You’ll use all your brews and creations to undermine assorted unpleasant figures and save people from evil. The characters all have a “fairy tale” feel, and more than a few will seem familiar. Completing your missions is semi-linear, making the game more of a visual novel/linear adventure unlocked my making things.
The game itself is really a playable story – it’s just you have to figure out crafting and resources to advance the tale. As you can guess, such an interactive tale yields quite a few lessons for writing fiction.
Look and Feel
Wytchwood is a fairy tale, and the game is excellently crafted to reflect the genre choices. The entire look feels illustrated much like Wildermyth. One wanders through various locations that look like a pop-up storybook. Characters have exaggerated looks in bright colors, and monsters and wildlife are amusingly expressive. It feels right.
Getting that feel is critical to your own writing. Perhaps your novel needs long paragraphs and colorful language, or it needs short breezy commentary. Wychwood’s aesthetic helps you embrace what it’s trying to be – a playable fairy tale.
(Of course, maybe you’re trying to break genre conventions, so keep that in mind as well.)
Know What You’re Doing
Wychwood is a story, but its mechanic is infamously familiar – wander around, collect things, make things. The game boils down to a shopping list and a to-do list that tells stories. The creators knew exactly what they wanted and stuck with it.
This focus means the game delivers on its two premises – crafting and stories – and can go deep in each area. Crafting requires thought in gathering and using items, which can set up satisfying “cascades” as you maximize your travels and tricks. Stories have all sorts of twists and turns as well as human bits, and are obviously carefully written. It’s amazing what you can do with focus.
When making a story, focus on what you want to deliver. It might not be all things to all people, but it will be the right thing you set out to do.
You Don’t Have to Say Much
For a game where you wake up in a world with no memory, the game tells a lot of story without saying a lot. Any exposition comes from conversation with other characters or flavor text – your character has nothing to add. As some storylines are mysteries, you start them at near-zero information.
It turns out that you don’t have to say a lot to tell a story. Wytchwood realizes its tales through conversations, reactions, clues, and flavor text. Everything revealed is relevant to the story and the game, but there’s no giant exposition dumps or walls of text. Wychwood sticks with what’s needed.
Amnesia is a remarkale way to make a story concise.
Keep It Human
Wytchwood tells tales of people, even if they’re very archetypical. A woman wishes to escape the attentions of an amorous wolf-man. Neighbors are fighting with each other because of a cunning manipulator. Workers groan under the burden of some taskmasters who earn a richly creepy comeuppance. It’s a visceral, human game because you relate to the characters.
This sheer humanity draws you into the game, because so much is relatable, albeit colorfully exaggerated.
If you write fiction, keep it human. Ensure characters can be understood and related to work with emotions, feelings, and sensations.
A Lovely Bit Of magic
Wytchwood takes the (in)famous game mechanic of “collect and craft” and uses it to tell a series of compelling fairy tales. Making excellent stylistic choices, making its tales human without information overload, it draws you in.
If you’re trying to craft a good story, Wytchwood is worth examining – and maybe playing.
Takeaways for Writers:
- Chose stylistic elements appropriate to the story and genre (unless breaking convention is the point)
- Focus on what you want to deliver depth. It’s better to do a few things well in writing than be all things to all people.
- Tell your story with relevant elements that reveal enough – character reactions, discussions, appropriate descriptions. You can do a lot with surprisingly little.
- Make your tales human, it ensures people relate and understand, and draws them in.