Stories of magic powers and mystical beings remain some of the most popular in literature and media to this day. Every culture has a library of magical stories and its own version of witches to go with them. Throughout folklore, witches have taken numerous roles from villainous hags to wise old crones to strange mercurial beings. One such witch is Baba Yaga, a Slavic entity who has been portrayed as both an antagonist and an ally. However, not much is known about her origins which is what Blacktail by the Parasight team is trying to explore. As a young Yaga living in the woods, you’ll need to master a combination of magic and survivalist skills.
A Magical Beginning
Sometimes the less information we know about a significant figure, the more intriguing they are to us. This particular story covers Baba Yaga before she became the powerful witch seen across folklore. It follows a young woman named Yaga who is banished to the wilderness with her sister after being accused of witchcraft. One day, Yaga’s sister goes missing and she sets off to find her. As she carves a path through the woods, powers awaken within her, and mysterious beings begin to reveal themselves. As she begins to harness her new abilities, you’ll need to decide how she will use them as she attempts to uncover her past.
The Good Witch
If stories have taught us anything about magic users, it’s that witches aren’t always evil. There are plenty of good ones hiding in fantasy that are able to put their powers to benevolent use. Blacktail makes use of some of this power in its game. The first is presenting itself as an accessible survival game. While titles with survival mechanics have a reputation for being incredibly detailed and complex, this one has a more relaxed feel. Elements are easy to learn with immediate effects and fast gathering. Crafting is also conveniently accessible at any time allowing you to make useful items on the fly.
To complement the ease of the survival mechanics, actions and combat are also streamlined. Rather than overburdening you with tons of abilities and weapons to manage and track, it focuses on developing two main aspects: Archery and sorcery. These are your only defense against the enemies and hazards you’ll encounter while exploring and it’s all you’ll need. You’ll get plenty of time to quickly familiarize yourself with your bow and magic while learning how to alter them in various ways and tailor them to your playstyle.
There’s also a sense of urgency that adds to the challenge and excitement. A bow is not the fastest weapon and your powers have a cooldown so you’ll need to strategize and alternate both in order to stay alive. Your surroundings play an important part as you’ll burn through materials pretty fast when enemies are bearing down on you. Even with all that you have at our disposal, you still need to be sharp and resourceful.
The Bad Witch
You could argue that there are more bad witches than good ones or at the very least, that they’re more memorable. Not even Blacktail is immune to the influence of the dark arts. This can be felt in the graphic quality. While definitely not bad, they are a bit lacking. For a game that takes place almost exclusively in nature, everything feels unnatural. The way certain enemies make them look more like robots than living creatures. Some of the textures are flat with assets that look like cheap decorations.
Among these assets are the materials that can be harvested in the wild. While the game presents the survival mechanics in a fast and simple way, it makes things too easy. There are resources seemingly everywhere and they respawn shortly after being gathered. It’s also confusing that sticks can only be obtained from very specific branches even though all the branches look the same. On the other hand, materials needed to unlock skills can range from uncommon to extremely rare with no clear way to get either.
Finally, there’s the morality system. Even though this helps convey the idea of the good witch vs. bad witch idea, it’s not very fleshed out. Based on certain actions you do, you’ll get either light points or dark which affects what kind of skills become available to you. The issue is that the choices you’re given are almost comically simple. Evil characters are very obvious and situations don’t have much depth to them.
Which Witch To Bewitch?
Blacktail is an upcoming FPS game where you play as a young witch facing the dangers of the woods with archery and magic. There’s potential in its light survival mechanics, focusing on its two forms of combat and the challenge of sudden urgent encounters. However, the gathering is a bit too easy with some graphical dips and a lack of depth in its morality system. The game is still being developed and there’s still time for the good witch to give it a magic touch.
TechRaptor previewed Blacktail on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It will be launching for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S on a currently unannounced date.