The idea of being thrown into 17th century America in an empty, greyscale world, left to solve the myself of “where did everyone go,” sounds great. Walking through the forest as the wind howls around me and slowly, eerily calms is very interesting a new. Using it as a mechanic, even newer. But just like the wind, Blackpowder Games’ Betrayer howls with great ideas and then slowly comes to a calm and depressing end.
Betrayer starts off with you being washed ashore outside of a deserted British colony. The sky lacks detail, shadows are darker than black, and all color is nonexistent from the world, save for the color red. Red is used to detail various things, be it chests that can be opened, objects that you can interact with, or enemies that wish you harm. As you get up from the shore, you notice a crate and you go to open it. How do you open it? With a ridiculous bashing motion, of course. The sound, the motion, everything just made me bust out laughing at how out of place this was as the rest of the world seems to respond in a sensible way.
As you continue to journey forward down this path, a women covered in a red cloak shoots an arrow with a note down towards a pole. I approached the note and bashed on it in order to read it. The women in red has written to let me know I should “go back the way I came.” Perhaps she stays up all night writing warning for newcomers to the land? Ignoring the warning, of course, I continued down the path to find a chest with a longbow and arrows. Then I finally reached Fort Henry.
Exploring the apparently abandoned Fort Henry is where the game becomes interesting. As I approached the fort, it was completely deserted. Signs of battle were shown from the arrows still stuck in the structure of the outposts. The battle wasn’t what caught my attention though, it was the ash figures. Figures of men were turned to ash which I could destroy upon hitting them. Then I found a bell laying on the ground, as I picked it up and returned it to the front of the fort, I struck it.
Upon striking the bell, I entered the Otherworld. I wandered around and found an eye on the ground, after picking it up I saw a ghost. I could neither speak nor hear the spectre, so I continued looking around. Soon I found an ear and a tongue. With these new appendages, I could finally communicate with the ghost. He gave me a quest. Soon after, I snapped back into the regular world and the red woman was back. She once again warned me, and I once again did not heed her warning.
Both worlds are the same locations, just different versions. Cabins that look peaceful turn solem and eerie within the Otherworld. Locations aren’t the only thing to change either, as enemies you encounter will transform from skeletons to demons and so forth. These enemies feature an array of weapons from 17th-century one-shot muskets and hatchets to bow and arrow. These enemies aren’t dumb either as they can spot you from yards away. That’s where the stealth gameplay comes in.
The wind is a stealth mechanic used to mask your footsteps. While the wind is howling, you can move with haste in order to prepare to strike your target. A headshot while unseen will almost always finish off your enemy. However, missing the shot can gain their attention, resulting in them coming after you. These fights can be hard but they are completable. Missing a shot when using the musket will send you into a frenzy of fear as enemies approach you and you have to do the painful reloading ritual of powder, ball, and ramrod. This is not a bad thing in my opinion as it makes you feel as though every shot must count.
But without a wide selection of enemies, the combat gets boring and laborious after a few hours. Skeletons are especially easy enemies as they only take a few arrows or melee attacks before they come tumbling down. The demonic conquistadors are much more difficult and are probably my favorite enemy in the game. Their AI is very exceptional and I feel a true challenge when going up against more than one of them at the same time.
As you go around the land, you will find clues laying about. Be they objects buried or things a ghost may have said. Going around the game in search of what these clues meant was interesting and very fun. The clues can lead you to discover how some colonists died or what may have happened to introduce such corruption to the land. Piecing together the puzzle was what took up the majority of my time in Betrayer, and it felt worth it being that this was the main plot-pusher throughout the game.
The Maiden in Red is the only human character you will meet in the game and so she is extremely important. Luckily, she is a delight to deal with. She is full of personality and makes the game’s progression that much more interesting. Throughout the game you have multiple choices of dialogue with the Maiden in Red, to which she replies with often teasing, jabbing comments. During the final act of the game, you will not be disappointed with her. Something I was greatly afraid of and yet very grateful that my fear was misplaced.
In the final act of the game, things become fresh again as a great twist to the storyline is presented and sets all of the past gameplay into full swing. Until you get to the boss. The boss sends wave after boring wave of the same kinds of enemies you’ve been fighting for the last five hours until you can finally get a few good shots at him. Boss fights aren’t something I wanted to see in this game and it left me very unhappy with the end product due to how poorly this boss was done.
All in all, Betrayer wasn’t a terrible game. It fell short due to one overall problem. It failed to capture the full aspect of it’s ideas. Betrayer had the potential to be an absolutely solid and amazing game but fell short due to lack of content and a shoddy boss battle. The game is extremely short featuring only about 4 hours of content that might be able to be stretched into 6 hours if explore every nook and cranny. I don’t like criticizing this game because it was fresh and new, but the final product of all these great new ideas just didn’t work out as well as I had hoped.
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