Here Is How Witchmarsh Is Like Baldur’s Gate, Wizardry

Witchmarsh looks like a hoot, and I do not use that word lightly as I am not an owl. The jazz-infused occult 1920s RPG is currently on Kickstarter, and it looks totally gorgeous. On top of that, it cites two role-playing legends, Baldur’s Gate and Wizardry, as its primary influences. However, I keep seeing the same question pop up in regards to said influences: “…How?” Witchmarsh is, after all, a side-scrolling co-op (if you want) action-RPG. Baldur’s Gate and Wizardry were… not that. I got in touch with Witchmarsh’s creators to find out what exactly it has in common with those two games, and here’s what they told me.

Developer Inglenook was adamant that they don’t want to throw around those names lightly. So first up, here’s how Witchmarsh is like Baldur’s Gate:

“As with Baldur’s Gate, there will be branching dialogue, factions to side with, and unique in-game events depending on how you’ve constructed your party. If you walk into a certain area with an Innkeeper for example, something may trigger relating to her storyline.”

“Witchmarsh will feature a party camping system, day/night rotation, and plenty of hidden areas and dungeons to explore. We understand the feeling and lengths of the two games will be completely different, but cRPGs are at the heart of our design choices. We’re also a small team, so we can’t produce a 100+ hour long quest. I’ve been playing Baldur’s Gate for 10 years and I’ve still not seen everything there is to see in that game!”

Rivulets of Wizardry, meanwhile, course all throughout Witchmarsh’s DNA, both conceptually and systemically:

“Like in Wizardry, you’ll create your own team using a combination of Character types, Skill Points, Abilities (Spell Points in Wizardry I believe) and Attributes (Stats). Then you’ll lead them into the game world, doing battle, talking to NPCs and further configuring them as you level up. The secret item system will also function a little bit like Wizardry 8’s, with stat rolls being used to discover hidden loot.”

“For the ‘Spellbook’ in Witchmarsh we’ve drawn heavily from Wizardry’s system of stat checks (if Character has 8 in Fire, and 10 Spirit = Learn X spell) and the thematic feel of Baldur’s Gate-style of wizard/priest spellbooks. This is just part of our plan for a huge character sandbox where players can create almost anything to match their playstyle. I’ve seen a lot of modern RPGs which feel far too limiting in this respect.”

So Witchmarsh might look nothing like either of those games, but Inglenook is aspiring to the same sort of complexity, depth, and character development. And that’s fantastic, assuming it can follow through. Of course, that won’t be the easiest thing to do in a side-scrolling action-RPG, but I’m definitely rooting for them. Hooting for them too. Spoiler alert: turns out I actually was an owl all along.

23 Comments

  1. Einhaender says:

    All it took to get me interested was “The jazz-infused occult 1920s RPG”

  2. Artea says:

    ‘Branching dialogue, factions to side with, and unique in-game events depending on how you’ve constructed your party’ are a common aspect of most western RPG’s, and Baldur’s Gate didn’t pioneer those features. So citing it as a ‘primary influence’ is still weird, especially when the rest of the game and the gameplay look nothing like Baldur’s Gate.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I thought the same thing. I’m excited about the game independently, but those are really common crpg features.

    • misterT0AST says:

      I feel like it makes sense to cite an influence even when it’s not properly the first source of the features in common. For example if you play a lot of Terraria (only Terraria) and develop a 3d game that borrows a lot from it, you’re going to say you’ve been influenced by Terraria, even though the final result is way more similar to Minecraft (which maybe you as a developer have never played). These guys wanted to include some elements of those games in their own creation, and they cite those as an influence, even if the final product doesn’t fully show it, they tell you that their tought process went through remembering Baldur’s Gate’s features and putting them in, when maybe their result is much closer to other games with dialogue choices and factions.

      Sure, they could do their research and look up where those features originated from, but that’s not the game they as developers were familiar with, so the final statement would be more artificial, forced and farther from the truth.

      They just tell you where they as people got their idea from.

      Sure even this way of saying things is problematic, because it’s more personal than technical, and people might expect from their product things that it doesn’t have, this has to be taken with a bucketload of salt rather than a grain of salt, but it may still be true that Baldur’s Gate was in fact the source of their inspiration to add these features.

      • The Random One says:

        Pretty much my thoughts. You can try to recreate a game’s feel without literally recreating its mechanics or appearance.

        • Continuity says:

          The real problem here is not being influenced by a game, but stating to your customers that you are influenced by a game, that sets up expectation on the part of the customer that your game will have strong recognisable elements from the influencing game.

          It borders on misselling IMO.

          Have your influences, but don’t advertise them unless you’re damn sure your game does justice to those games. Or, you know, take a bucket of internet shit to the face.

          • welverin says:

            No, the problem is you don’t see the influence so you presume their lying.

            And, so you know, an influence doesn’t have to be obvious for it to exist.

    • Jeremy says:

      Once more unto the breach, dear pedants, once more.

      • Convolvulus says:

        The correct quote is: One more onto the beach, Macduff.

  3. Geebs says:

    Wizardry.
    Wizardry.
    Wizardry.

  4. gnodab says:

    So basically having dialog options, stats and character classes makes your game Baldur’s Gate and Wizary?
    Well, why hasn’t anybody else thought of this?

    Ok maybe I am a bit unfair, but I genuinely don’t understand their marketing campaing.
    Do they want to antagonize people? Throwing those comparisons around is simply ridiculous and trying to justify it only makes it worse. Is there really anybody who looks at the game and thinks finally a new Wizardy/Baldur’s Gate?
    And having said all that, I don’t think the game looks that bad. But if a developer doesn’t put forth the unique selling points of their game, but instead has to resort to (incredibly) far fetched comparisons, does not suggest much confidence in their own design. Even worse it makes it pretty hard to trust them and throw money at the kickstarter.
    Which is a bit sad.

    Edit: also demanding 30 pound for the game + soundtrack, really seems a tad greedy.

    • xao says:

      No. They don’t make your game anything. If, however, the designers pulled those ideas from Baldur’s Gate and Wizardry, then they absolutely make your game INSPIRED by Baldur’s Gate and Wizardry.

      “Inspired by” is not the same as “like”: just witness any movie “inspired by a true story”.

  5. JFS says:

    So, an Action RPG with standard RPG features and maybe they got inspired by Wizardry’s spell system? Okay. They could just as well have picked any other RPG and said “it’s like this”, but of course big names give big buzz. The sad thing is, their concept has a lot of standalone potential, it doesn’t need to go around and do the spiritual successor number.

    Thanks, Nathan, for inquiring further into this. RPS rules!

    Edit: Come to think of it, mentioning BG in concert with unlimited character creation possibilities is not-quite-there. BG has many options, but also features many of the arbitrary AD&D 2E limitations. Many many of them.

  6. rexx.sabotage says:

    Witchmarsh looks like a hoot, and I do not use that word lightly as I am not an owl.

    Ha!

    Imma go kickstart this shindig just for that alone!

  7. damoqles says:

    That was a really nice ad for BG.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Guys, in all fairness, probably about 98%* of all RPGs created after 2000 have been inspired by Baldur’s Gate. Just like how 98%* of all musicians between 1975 – 2010 claimed The Beatles as inspiration. Important games, just like music, inspire people to create, so let’s not get too picky about it.

    *98% of these stats have been made up.

    • Josh W says:

      I suppose the difference might be that those people being asked about their influences were notionally doing it after they’d become successful (although they were probably only talking to the press because they wanted to get more famous) , and more importantly you had the existing music to listen to as a comparison. If a muscian says in their kickstarter that they are equally inspired by david bowie and nine inch nails, they might be being honest, and actually end up producing punk music that sounds different to either, but people could still take that as a kind of contract about what they are going to produce.

  9. pullthewires says:

    I don’t want to play a game made by people who have played BG for 10 years but still only take ‘generic RPG elements’ away from the experience, because it suggests to me these people don’t understand games the way I do.

    The comparison is either cynical or idiotic, and that’s why they should drop it.

    • jrodman says:

      Yup. Similarly if all you got out of wizardry is “it has skills and branching”. No.