It is dark, stormy night. You are a lone knight, who has just arrived on the island of Char, home of the evil witch Illwhyrin. Armed only with your trusty dagger, you are determined to enter her lair and stop her plans to summon demons to our world. This is Witchaven in nutshell.
On a quick glance, you could say that Witchaven is pretty much just a carbon copy of Heretic or Hexen...and you'd be pretty much correct. I think proper description would be "Heretic with melee weapons" (as it was released around the same time as Hexen, which had similar aspect). You go down deeper and deeper in to the dungeons and fight against enemies with your typical medieval fantasy weapons like swords, morning stars and bows. You can also find spells that can help with the killing (freeze, magic arrow, nuke) or skipping parts of the level (unlock, fly). There's also useful potions to power you up or heal your wounds and finally, per typical FPS fashion, keys to open the doors, including a pentagram that allows you to use teleporter to go to the next level.
One unique aspect of Witchaven is the experience system. Kill enemies or collect items and treasure, and you'll get XP, just like in a RPG. Getting to next level raises your health, makes your weapons last longer and allows you to use more powerful spells. And..thats it I think. While the system is unique, its not used to full potential and in the end, its pretty much useless since you'll naturally try to kill everyone and collect everything...it doesnt really make much sense.
While you start with a weak dagger, you'll immediately start to find better weapons, from swords to bows. All the weapons, however, break in use and you'll have to find a replacement. When you think about it, its pretty much like collecting ammo in a typical FPS game. Still, however, when you get to higher levels, your weapons duration increases and you dont have to scavenge new weapons that much anymore, so again, it really doesnt make any sense. While there are spells available, I found out that you're better off with your sword. Flying and unlock doors-spell do help sometimes when you cant find that one tiny key or something like that, but you can pretty much kill anyone with your standard weapons. The only exception are the bigger creatures you find later in the game, which can be quickly killed with the nuke spell.
Other items are small potions. There are five different potions: health, strenght, cure poison, fire resistance and invisibility. Although rest of the RPG elements are kind of sucky, potions are really useful and you'll eventually find out using them a lot.
Although the dungeons lack specific detail, I think they're still pretty well made. There's not much of gimmicks or different graphics between the levels, but overall they're still different enough to keep you interested. I think part of the reason why I like it is because this is the second game made on the Build engine, the engine that was later used in games like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warriors. The visuals are also very good, and the monsters look neat. There's somewhat a noticeable amount of gore too, but not that much compared to some of the later FPS games.
So Witchaven isnt much of a RPG, FPS or even a horror game despite its dark elements and gore, but in the end, I found it enjoyable enough to hack n' slash through the levels. Its a great time-waster If you're not expecting a mind-blowing in your face gaming experience. Think of it as a simpler version of Diablo, in FPS.
Simply run either "whaven" or "wh" with Dosbox. Make sure you have no cd drive mounted, because otherwise it tries to find the original cd and fails. Alternatively, you can edit cd.dat file inside the whaven folder and switch the letter D to the letter of the drive where the folder is.
The game also supports multiplayer for up to 16 players. Havent tested it, but it should be possible with the Dosbox and with programs like Hamachi.