You’ve woken up on a beach surviving a recent shipwreck, the local village is deserted, a mysterious woman keeps following you and leaving you messages, and demonic conquistadors roam the countryside who will gladly introduce their swords to you if given the chance. That’s what’s awaiting you when you start playing Betrayer, a horror title by the newly formed Blackpowder Games. The name Blackpowder Games might not mean much to many people, but it will when you learn it’s made up of some of the leads behind the popular F.E.A.R. and No One Lives Forever. They’ve gotten together to bring you a pretty neat survival horror game that takes place in 1604, a time that isn’t really explored that much in gaming.
Most of the story isn’t told to you straight, instead you’ll have to comb through the countryside for clues on what transpired here and slowly piece together what happened. You’ll do this by slowly revealing lost spirits where you can then use the clues you find to question them about the violent events that led up to whatever killed everyone. There are also some notes you can find as well. There’s only one area in the current build so there’s not much story stuff at the moment, but what’s there is intriguing enough. You’ll start out on a beach and after being eased into the mechanics of the game you’ll be thrown into a fairly sizable area that you can explore to your heart’s content. The game doesn’t try to rush you and lets you take your time discovering things for yourself. The available alpha build ends up leaving you with more questions than answers once you’ve finished it but the potential is there.
A notable aspect of the game is how lonely everything feels. Unlike other horror games that toss you in tight corridors I never really feel like I’m alone because I know there’s always a monster waiting for me around the next corner. The random placement of enemies in Betrayer helps keep you on your toes and there’s a somewhat uneasy sense of dread as you walk through the forest thanks in part to the excellent sound design.
Since this is the 17th century you can expect to use muskets, bows, and other period appropriate weaponry. You’ll start out with the bow but you can acquire other weapons from fallen enemies or buy better versions at the shop. Now while the bow is fun to use, the guns don’t really feel right. The gunpowder weapons just aren’t as accurate when you use them as opposed to how pinpoint the enemies are with them and the damage you do with them is pathetic. You’ll have better luck with your bow or a dagger than you will with the musket in a fight. Of course since this is still in alpha they have plenty of time to balance the weapons.
Don’t expect any help from the map because it won’t hold your hand through the game. You’re able to look at a map that will show you a basic layout of the environment but it won’t tell you where you are on it. This means that you’ll have to pay close attention to the map and hope that you’re correctly following the path you want. I’m still somewhat conflicted with this since it appeals to the part of me that enjoys this sort of stuff, but sometimes it can be somewhat difficult to get your bearings on where you are on the map.
There’s a certain Dark Souls element to the game in that death is a very serious thing. You can be killed fairly easily and dying will cause you to drop all of your money. You’re able to reacquire it, but that’s only if you can manage to survive long enough to reach the spot you died. Thankfully there’s an icon on the compass that will point you in the direction of your stuff. Ammo is also fairly scarce with the only way of acquiring more is to pick them off the corpse of enemies. Arrows can be recovered but you shouldn’t rely on it since they’ll usually break on impact.
So dying a lot will leave you without money which means you won’t be able to buy more ammo at the shop which means you’ll have to get down and dirty with these ghastly conquistadors. You do not want to get down and dirty with these conquistadors. They are quick, accurate, and sometimes travel in groups. Even though you can kill them just as easily as they can kill you, their speed and aggressiveness is what makes you want to avoid encounters with large groups of enemies. You’ll sometimes have two or three sprinting right at you with a few very accurate marksmen in the back taking shots at you. It’s moments like these where you have to decide who to take care of first or to just straight up run away which is a viable option.
Unfortunately the sneaking element doesn’t really work very well at the moment. There’s a basic tutorial segment detailing how sneaking works but once you get out into the first open area you’ll quickly learn that it simply doesn’t work. Enemies will spot you before you’ve even seen them and will sprint at you like a fat kid to cake.
Anyone who was turned off by the black & white aesthetic of the game can rest easy knowing that a color slider was recently added to the game. Now you can decide how intense you want the black & white to be and whether or not you want to play the game in color. Of course, the developers stressed that they’re still designing the game around the B&W look so don’t assume they caved in and dropped it. I was a bit put off by the look at first but I quickly got used to it and the game is definitely tenser in B&W than it is in color.
The current build of the game is still a little rough around the edges and will last you one or two hours, but it feels like an alpha because it is an alpha. Betrayer holds a lot of promise and I personally can’t wait to see what the finished product will look like.
MonsterVine was supplied with a Steam code for Betrayer.