Written by sPINDRAFT 11/22/2013
Here is an interesting and fresh approach to game delivery with a base line set in historical mystery that at once can be a simple cat and mouse spat in the country with some deranged Spaniards or, with the ringing of the bell, a dark and violent place filled with lost spirits and deadly ghouls.
Welcome to Betrayer, the new alpha release available now via early purchase through Steam or Blackpowder Games. It is set in the rough and dangerous landscape of coastal North America somewhere around an historical colony in Virginia. The year is 1604 and you have sailed to this new world with great hope only to find it deserted of Englishmen, Spaniards running rampant in the hills, eerie wind in the trees and a split in the fabric of space here that unleashes even worse anomolies if you should step through it.
I always love games that incorporate some level of historical interest into their story line or overall existence and betrayer does just that although Blackpowder is not afraid to mix it up a little; so I would like to set the record straight about the games initial location, Fort Henry. It was indeed located in the Virginia colony in the 17th century but it was not in existence until 1645 near what is present day Saint Petersburg. There was an earlier version that the in-game fort most likely models itself after, it was near present day Hampton, VA, was built in 1610 and it was defunct by the time the second fort came into being. The actual date of the fort is pretty irrelevant as far as good game play goes but I am always drawn to the facts when I see historical immitations.
The alpha version available right now is absolutley beautiful for an alpha build, the game world is alive and vibrant, the graphics and textures are very realistic; in fact the overall quality of the presentation thus far ranks right up there with the greats like ‘Alan Wake’ and the much newer ‘Outlast’ – gorgeous is a word that comes to mind.
Now for something we don’t get to talk much about in the horror game genre; stealth, planned attacks and ranged fighting that allows you to thin a crowd without the AI being able to find you. To clarify here – sneaking past an enemy or hiding until they go away is not the same thing as premeditated attacks on your enemy where stealth and vantage point are part of your available arsenal. This is so f%^&* awesome, love it; back in my RPG days I played a game called Risen which got mixed returns from the gaming community. Risen’s combat system was unique in that it allowed for very careful planning and execution on the players part which if played correctly would have a decided say in the outcome of any given confrontation (there is more to gaming than tanking up and smashing the hell out of everything) and Betrayer brings this same uniqueness into its gaming mechanics.
Atmosphere in game is pretty cool as well, it is mostly quiet – I mean like eerily without noise – and then the wind gusts through the trees with something approaching hurricane force and you stop for a moment, frozen in time as this harbinger brings no answers only the promise that something terrible is waiting along the path ahead. The careful use of sound in Betrayer’s vacant landscape is smart, lending to the creepy of its horror side, but it will be an added pleasure to actually here some ghostly voices in the future updates (providing that this is in the works); its almost too damn quiet in here.
The game does have a touch of bugginess in places like items not showing up in inventory; in retrospect this is the only real bug I have noticed – the characeter inventory in relation to what transpires in game does not seem to match up at times; the rest of the character interface appears to work just fine. The user interface has a very unique quality, aside from all of the usual tweaks that one might have there is one in the graphics options called ‘color saturation’ and this is really an A+ for Blackpowder; the worst thing you can do with a game is force feed it to a public that wants it their way right now at the click of a button and the button better have kudos of options in case the popular trend changes. With this option you can leave the game in its original India Ink garments or you can turn up the saturation to your desired level of active color. I turned my all the way up, its the fantasy RPG’er resurfacing in me; I like rich, detailed and colorful worlds (funny that I now play mostly games that are in dark shadow with a pin prick of light to guide me) and full saturation delivers an amazingly crafted landscape that should garner an artistic award.
If all of this is not enough to get you excited then go to Fort Henry and ring the bell, you will have to re-install it first, and head outside the gates. This is the side of the game that really gets it going in the horror direction although I would probably call it plain ole creepy or scary, like being in fear of physical harm from a known source. The game is fairly put – bad ass – it gets under your skin, the Spaniards are annoying and the dark souls on the shadowy side make you more determined then ever to put down whatever it is that set this world on tilt. A beautiful alpha release and a must play to date, the HAG is looking forward to the final fleshing of this destined to be classic.
Betrayer Alpha score - A+
Blackpowder Games score - A+