witch & lilies
Screenshot by Siliconera

Preview: Witch & Lilies Delivers, But Not on Romance

On paper, Witch & Lilies sounds amazing! A dungeon-crawling RPG with awesome monster designs and yuri? Sign me up! But despite its powerful core concept, the early access build’s execution feels like sitting through a really boring date.

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The premise of Witch & Lilies, as well as the basic gameplay loop, is simple. You create your own unique party out of a preset list of jobs, appearances, and personalities. Then, with your party of five, you traverse through a dungeon teeming with monsters in order to uncover the secrets left behind by the witches. Its main story is pretty standard fare for a DRPG, but the true selling point lies in its relationship system. Witch & Lilies markets itself as a yuri DRPG, in which nurturing the relationships between the girls is a major part of the game. Relationships develop mostly in the post-dungeon events and tasks, though there can be break-ups and jealousy as well.

witch & lilies monster and character design
Screenshot by Siliconera

Before we get into the negatives, let’s talk about the positives. Art style in a game is very subjective, but I quite liked Witch & Lilies’. The cutesy aesthetic of the human characters compared to the more grotesque looks of the monsters reminded me of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The music is also much better than I expected, especially the battle and main menu themes.

Avoiding the witches on a map where you sometimes can’t see what’s around the corner or ahead of you can be tricky. I often trapped myself in a corner, then had no choice but to perish. However, it did force me to resort to the old school method of mapping out the dungeons myself. As a DRPG, it plays very well. But it’s really run-of-the-mill without the romance system. Yet, as I’ll explain later, the romance system has quite a few flaws if you’re interested in yuri as something more than eye candy.

witch & lilies menu screen
Screenshot by Siliconera

Even a second in Witch & Lilies demonstrated that it has a lot of QOL quirks and annoyances. I play using the keyboard, and felt like the game might be better with a controller. It took me a while to figure out things like basic controls and menu navigation. Somehow, I didn’t expect everything to operate using the WASD control scheme. Organizing the party in particular was really not intuitive. If the game expects or developer prefers the player to use a controller, then I wish they would indicate that. The controls for the game only seldom appear on the screen. For example, it told me to open my menu to equip skills, yet it never actually told me which button to press. It took me forever just to figure out my map and menu.

The translation for the game is also rough. It reads a little awkwardly, and there are some random words in sentences. Some words are too long for the window they’re in, causing them to jump to the next line. Though I played in English for this preview, I saw some leftover Japanese in certain menus. I’m inclined to believe that the developers will fix this for the final build though. Finally, the lack of an auto-battle can be frustrating, especially when weaklings jump you on your way to the lower depths.

witch & lilies translation
Screenshot by Siliconera

With those minor issues out of the way, there’s still the core issue I have with the game: the yuri. Witch & Lilies is one of those titles where the concept and premise sound amazing. Yet the execution is so clumsy that not even the main idea can really save it. A DRPG that revolves around maintaining your party’s relationships with each other, and they’re all women you can have romance each other, sounds fantastic.

But remember that you’re making your own party out of preset personalities and appearances. Because there’s such a wide range of potential characters in the game, it makes sense that there’s a limit to the dialogue variation in the game. Whether the girls are turning each other down, breaking up, or dating, they only have about one or two lines in each event. The “conversation” that they have usually doesn’t make any sense at all, either. Two of my girls went on a date that went well, yet their conversation made it seem like one of them got turned down. It reminds me a lot of the “support conversations” in Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn. So outside of strategic benefit, the yuri in the game is not very strong.

witch & lilies date
Screenshot by Siliconera

To be honest, I prefer yaoi more than yuri. So I can’t say I know what the average yuri fan looks for in a ship. In my game, I tended to pair up my cheery Warrior with my proud Bestia, because they’re both front line attackers who need to get post-battle bonuses together. The “genki girl” archetype with the “proud warrior race girl” trope together is really cute. But even when they go on dates and have a good time, the text is so simple that I can’t really enjoy it. It’s only nice to see because the sooner they get together, the sooner they can unlock benefits in battle. While the mechanic is still really interesting, I’m not sure it’s strong enough at present to be what makes this DRPG stand out.

Despite its cutesy aesthetic, Witch & Lilies is an unforgiving DRPG that needs some time fleshing out its core mechanic of romance. It also has a lot of little annoyances and issues that they need to iron out. As of the time of writing, the game has a Mixed reception from Steam, with most of the other players echoing this sentiment. I hope the developers can find a way to utilize player feedback, and incorporate some changes and optimizations into the final product.

Witch & Lilies is in early access and is available on Windows PCs.

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Stephanie Liu
Stephanie is a senior writer who has been writing for games journalism and translating since 2020. After graduating with a BA in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing, she spent a few years teaching English and history before fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a writer. In terms of games, she loves RPGs, action-adventure, and visual novels. Aside from writing for Siliconera and Crunchyroll, she translates light novels, manga, and video games.