Through Black and White
You wake up on a shore, possibly because of a shipwreck, with nothing but the sound of the wilderness around you. Betrayer from Black Powder does very little to hold your hand as you intuitively know that you need to interact with the items that are highlighted in red in an otherwise black and white world. Betrayer rightfully assumes that you know the common mechanics to playing a first person video game. As you gather notes, tools, and weapons the mystery of what has happened to the settlers starts to unfold.
The world of Betrayer is bleak (in a good way). You do have the option to play the game in full color, however the black, white, and red color scheme are a big part of setting the tone. The surroundings are from a grade-school field trip gone wrong. “The corruption” that is spreading around the land has killed the settlers and all that remain are ash statues, demon soldiers, and creepy ghosts.
The Betrayer feels like a creepy child of Skyrim and Cabela’s Big Game Hunter. The world is full of arrows and muskets and you spend a lot of time climbing hills and hunting for corrupted beings to shoot. Water barrels are scattered around the map and are needed because your health is easily robbed as players can often be attacked by a corrupted solder without ever seeing it. The control is tight and I was able to figure out early that arrows are for distance and muskets are for one close blast to the face.
The sound in Betrayer is where the game truly shines. The water, wind, and occasional sound of a cicada pulled me into an almost relaxing setting. I could walk around in the game for hours and just listen to the wind blow. The peaceful moments are represented by the sound of the wind blowing and are off-set by the sound of being chased or disturbing ringing.
It did not take me long to realize that I needed to take my time and approach this game with a little stealth as it is easy be overwhelmed and die. Upgrading your gear does not make the game easier, however it still feels rewarding because you can feel the difference in every weapon.
After playing Betrayer for a few hours it seems to get a bit repetitive and frustrating. You need to be willing to be lost in this game and if you are easily bored you might never make it through the first couple of puzzles. You need to play smart because rushing into a field of corrupted solders is a good way to get turned around or killed. I found myself running around looking for boxes, avoiding solders, and scanning the ground for notes on what I needed to do next.
Betrayer is a “good idea” made into a game. I doubt it will win many awards and it did not re-invent the wheel in any way, however it is a spooky ghost story that is told very well by a creepy setting and responsive controls. If you are a sucker for a good American ghost story, like the movie Ravenous, and don’t mind little to no direction then this game is worth the $20.00 price tag. I look forward to more from the independent developer Black Powder.