witch strandings is the second official “Strong Type” gamea genre (but more of an ideal) first introduced by Hideo Kojima’s transport-focused death stranding. Like the other game witch strandings lets you traverse a ruined, dangerous landscape to deliver things. Unlike this other game, witch strandings is bare bones, berry colored squares and creatures are all heavy on the pixels. At first glance, its mission as a “strang” game is incomprehensible, so I’ve compiled a list of five things you should know before you play.
1. You are your mouse, you are your mouse
Officially you play witch strandings like a faint point of light, but you are really your computer mouse. You can’t play this game with a controller or keyboard, so don’t even think about it. You can click and drag.
How fun this constraint is depends on your relationship with your mouse. Mine is a bit sticky when moving on its pad, which is unfortunate since moving the mouse around is what this game counts as its main method of movement. You can change your mouse sensitivity and whether you want to capture elements with a click-and-drag approach or by toggling, but whatever you choose, it’s a good idea to make room for your mouse. Get out your smoothest, widest mouse pad. Prepare to move.
2. The map is small but dangerous
You don’t have to travel much for the sake of your mouse.
When you create a new file, the game’s rather nice story appears as a short message: “Dark things live in this forest – and you’re not one of them. They arrive quietly, in a cloud of dust and magic summoned to its heart by the forest itself. A spirit of light to face the darkness of the witch who ruined it, one miracle at a time.” The forest is dark indeed, with all its square components appearing in deep autumn tones. It has various areas marked by specific items or terrain (the killing fields are littered with shriveled carcasses, the riverhead is angled with grass), but it’s not big, especially when you zoom all the way out with the mouse.
It is also immutable. The days pass and time is ticked by a ticking grandfather clock in the lower right corner, but it makes no significant difference in how the forest looks or behaves. (If you noticed something I missed, please let me know in the comments!).
Due to the repeatability of the tiny map, I often got impatient while searching and often found myself in hostile terrain, all of which are marked by different colors or patterns that affect your mouse movement. Mud, for example, is represented by blotchy brown blocks and is a drudgery that forces you to trudge your mouse through with jerky physical movements or keep your face where you are.
Even more impractical, accidentally hovering over areas of rushing water, poison, or pink hexes will quickly drain your health bar until you die (your bar will grow back quickly if you retreat in time). Be patient and considerate as you navigate this tiny but deadly map.
3. You desperately need a tote bag
Your main purpose as a small point of light is to restore the forest to its full potential, a mission that you can pursue by observing the bare tree in the bottom left of the screen. By delivering items, you gradually restore the creatures and structures of the forest to their former glory, indicated by filling the tree. In the beginning, however, it is one element at a time. Finally, you will get a bag for storage. The bag can hold one more item.
Let me tell you – I’m a very impatient person, and it was so damn annoying to bring the game’s downcast woodsmen their healing treats, no matter how funny their names were (my favorite is a bunny named “Chad Shakespeare”) . My impatience, of course, brings us back to my problem of rushing around the grounds, and I’ve died many times. I died twice in the tutorial.
It’s helpful to make a habit of remembering where you typically see certain items so you don’t waste time getting lost in a bunch of toxic pixels. But get the tote bag ASAP.
4. People love to take and take, don’t they?
If you get good at knowing where all the cures and tchotchkes are, you’re still not entirely clear.
Passing days signal changes in the needs of forest animals – if they were disturbed yesterday, they may be hungry and thirsty today. They’re like helpless babies named Chad Shakespeare, and while you’re a benevolent ray of light, when you’re tired of all that moaning you can kill them using a skull you can find in a hollow tree.
Murder earns you a tragic -4,023 points compared to 200 points for helping, but if you decide to take the evil path despite the game’s desires, know that personally I won’t judge you. Otherwise, put a high demand item in your bag.
5. I FEAR DEATH
This is my number one tip: when you die, keep dragging your cursor towards the bottom of the screen until you come to a burst of white light and sound that transports you back to the forest.
As it turned out, I died too many times on my first playthrough, and each time I wanted to smash my friend’s $3,000 gaming computer with a sledgehammer. But that’s not Nvidia’s fault witch strandings has such a dull resurrection process. It’s poignant, sure – flying your light through the inky death screen feels like you’re in universe soup flying to your humanity, but in terms of my carpal tunnel, dragging my mouse through eternity was unideal. Be aware, OK?
And let me know what you think of it witch strandings, or if you have other helpful tips. We’re still learning about the “strange guy” game culturally.