It’s no secret that plenty of old fairy tales have a disturbing, creepy quality to them, but perhaps none more so than the old crone Baba Yaga, best known for living in a chicken-footed hut. With upcoming action-adventure survival game Blacktail, developer The Parasight aims to give a dark origin story to the fabled witch, and in my short time with it, I can attest to its uncomfortable levels of bizarre. Not only is the world wonderfully other, with talking plants and sinister kittens, but the main character herself is a spellcasting archer with some truly unsettling darkness to her. Blacktail isn’t even a horror game, strictly speaking, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been more alarmed by a character I myself was playing than in my short time as a 16-year-old witch.
The world of Blacktail was filled with evil mushrooms that taunted me, strange shadow cats with magical powers, and a rather rude voice in my head that seemed to want me to commit acts of unspeakable evil, but the most unnerving element of them all might have been my character herself. As a 16-year-old girl who’s been accused of witchcraft and banished from her home, I wandered the woods to prove my innocence…by doing a whole bunch of witchcraft.
But was I actually some evil child to be feared and reviled? The answer was left up to me to decide as I performed ill or good deeds and allied myself with benevolent or evil woodland rascals to define my path. Some decisions were small, like whether or not to harm innocent animals in the woods or to help ones in need of assistance. While a more substantial decision involved choosing sides with opposing factions of anthropomorphic mushrooms that had divergent opinions on whether or not it’s okay to murder people.
My decisions influenced how characters in the world felt about me — the bloodthirsty mushrooms I ticked off certainly didn’t make me feel comfortable in their neck of the woods, for example. In fact, having a reputation as a benevolent wicken cut me off from accepting quests from certain unscrupulous characters altogether. My good or evil alignment also had gameplay consequences, as being evil makes you better at combat, while being good makes Blacktail’s survival game elements easier to manage. And though I wasn’t able to progress enough in this demo to unlock many of them, my status as a certified compassionate witch also gave me access to skills I wouldn’t have had access to if I’d given in to my darker instincts.
Even if I was on my best behavior though, nothing could save me from the downright creepiness of Blacktail’s otherworldly wilds. Filled with strange noises everywhere I turned, ghostly apparitions appearing and disappearing before me, and giant rabbit skull thingies all over the place, there was pretty much no point in time where I felt at ease. Developer The Parasight has done a great job so far in creating a setting that is disturbingly out of this world, which is fitting for a story centered around the legendary witch Baba Yaga.
Though my time with Blacktail was consistently disquieting, I’m looking forward to jumping back into my witch’s boots and seeing how the origin story plays out.
Source: IGN Video Games All