Black Book, by Russian indie developer Morteshka and published by HypeTrain Digital, is an RPG adventure game based deeply in Slavic mythology; you can effectively choose your own adventure with various choices affecting the outcome. There are some excellent story aspects, important choices to make, and a fantastic turn-based card game that acts as the combat. Black Book was released this month and is available on Windows PC, PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo Switch. For the purpose of my review I was playing on the PlayStation 4.
Black Book begins with you meeting your character, Vasilisa, in a beautiful woodland where you discover that the love of her life had tragically died. So you decide to embrace the forces of black magic in the form of The Black Book which is an ancient demonic artifact that the folklore says can grant the user any wish provided they break the seven seals in the hopes of getting back the love of your life. Along the way you get lots of opportunities to help (or hinder) other local townsfolk and these choices can either turn you into a saint or a sinner and have repercussions as you move through the story. As well as this, you're also put on the spot quite a few times during the dialogue where you must answer knowledge questions. The answers are usually found around the area where you are, so plenty of exploration and investigation is needed if you want to give all the right answers to get the right reactions from people.
As previously mentioned, Black Book is set deeply in Slavic mythology which I admittedly don’t know very much about. However it made for an amazing setting for the game and Morteshka actually worked alongside historians and anthropologists to ensure that the games plot followed the narrative of the folklore accurately and was a proper representation of the beliefs portrayed. I found this really interesting as I’m not the most educated in practically any mythology or folklore really so whenever I play games with these kinds of backgrounds I’m always keen to know how accurate they are to the real stories. So, as well a being a great story in general with some interesting gameplay, it was a real education into lore that I’d never really thought about before and I really appreciate the care put into maintaining the accuracy and integrity of these tales.
Between the dialogue and story portions, you get to face off against demons using the spells you gather in the Black Book. Until recently I would have been quite apprehensive and judgemental towards a turn based deck building game within a game but thanks to The Witcher 3 and my absolute love and adoration for Gwent, I was actually quite excited about the concept! The card game was fairly simple and self explanatory and didn’t really require too much to be destroying demons and sending them back to Hell, however as you progress through the chapters you’ll need to use a little more strategy to beat them and really utilise the various spells that you unearth from the Black Book. I found myself really enjoying the games and taking a lot of pleasure in banishing demons and developing my deck.
I really enjoyed the art style in Black Book, it was quaint and simplistic with some moody lighting creating a lovely dynamic and memorable experience that I can’t wait to get back into. The art style really acted as an excellent way to display the folklore and complimented the story so well.
My biggest criticisms of Black Book are probably that the decision making and knowledge portions were slightly thrown at you without you realising initially which meant I quickly committed a sin or two and looked like a bit of an idiot to my unsuspecting guests in game. However I think this baptism by fire was very fitting with the demonic background of the game and by the next decision making part, I knew what I was in for. Apart from that it was a decent game that allowed me to experience a part of the world, histories and beliefs that I had never had a chance to explore before. Aside from that, it also feels like there were at some points too many different aspects at play within Black Book that could have been developed further which would have made the game feel more whole rather than numerous separate concepts. Other than that I’d say the battle puzzles were a bit of an unnecessary challenge. They halted progress quite significantly for me by locking me in and making me use a set deck that was made up of cards I hadn’t discovered yet, with jargon that I didn’t understand yet. It became a little bit frustrating, but apart from this, Black Book was a great game that really carried itself well. In terms of monetary value and the content provided, I feel like most people would feel quite satisfied by Black Book.
Lj’s Rating: 3.5 chorts out of 5.
For more information on Black Book use the following links...
Many thanks to HypeTrain Digital for the Review Key.