Blacktail, developed by The Parasight and published by Focus Entertainment is an indie story-driven, action adventure game that is based on the Slavic Baba Yaga tale. It is currently available on Windows PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, and for the purpose of my review I was playing the PlayStation 5 version.
There are many different interpretations of the Baba Yaga tales, however, the general gist of it is that Baba Yaga is believed to be a witch who lives in the woods, known for kidnapping and devouring people, usually children, who wander upon her. The name “Baba Yaga” is often understood to mean “Grandmother Witch”, and is usually perceived to be evil and villainous. However, she is often remembered as offering help and assistance to people who she perhaps takes a liking to.
As you begin your adventure in Blacktail, the game starts with some of the story behind the young girl whose adventure you will be living vicariously through. First, you are presented with a choice... will you choose the path of light or the path of darkness? After you make your decision you awaken in the middle of the woods with nothing except some hazy memories. Some of those memories are of a sister, and friends, who you have to find. As Yaga opens her eyes she hears two voices. One is always referred to as “The Voice”, and is a woman who repeatedly belittles and degrades Yaga along the way on her journey. Despite her irate and irritated tones, she still helps Yaga in ways. Shortly after arriving in the forest, Yaga collects a bow which will become her weapon of choice throughout the adventure. As you progress through the game you’ll be able to upgrade the bow. Alongside your trusty bow, you’ll also have access to a magic gauntlet of sorts, that means you can cast spells to freeze enemies, which really helps in chaotic situations.
Blacktail also relies heavily on the choices that you make throughout the game and your morality and scruples will absolutely be tested repeatedly. Depending on which path you choose you’ll receive a title of either “Gracious” or “Corrupt”, and you will find yourself setting off down a different path in each quest.
There are also a few survival-esque elements at play within Blacktail where you need to hunt for food, gather wood for arrows and find ingredients for potions. There is a small mini-game similar to the one found in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, where you have to catch flames to cook something correctly. This gives you the chance to gain a temporary status effect, the better that you cook, the increase in powers that you may receive through the food. However, if you cook badly, you may find yourself laid up in bed for a few days with a sore stomach.
One thing I truly appreciated and loved about Blacktail is that there are two game modes available. If combat isn’t your thing, you can select story mode. The key difference in story mode is the difficulty which means the combat becomes a breeze, and you can focus more on the story and the environment. I prefer a bit of a challenge, particularly true after I discovered a love for the From Software games… so I went for adventure mode which still felt fairly balanced for me personally. It's nice to know, however, that people of all skill levels are somewhat catered for in Blacktail.
Blacktail performs really well on the PlayStation 5 and provides quite a beautiful landscape to explore around. I had no issues with the way it ran. The world has its own unique feel and feels alive for me. One thing that heavily contributed to this was the fact that most NPC’s had what felt and looked like their own personality, so it's clear that a lot of thought went into the backdrop of the game which I really appreciated.
My main issue with Blacktail comes down to the story writing. In particular, the ending. I don’t want to say too much, simply because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but if you want to play totally blind in terms of the story, skip through this paragraph. I was very disappointed when I discovered that my choices in terms of morality don't affect the ending. I found this to be one area where the writers seriously dropped the ball. If I knew that my decisions, good or bad, had no impact on the actual story then I’d not have given a fraction of the thought to my choices and actions. After getting to the end and realising this, I was sorely disappointed. Other than that, my only small gripe with Blacktail was that the combat got a little bit boring and repetitive, but that was a small issue considering the rest of the game is so rich.
I had a lot of fun with Blacktail and have very little negatives to offer. If you enjoy a good narrative, an interesting story or folklore, then don't skip out on Blacktail. I had briefly heard of Baba Yaga and further researched the folklore behind her, and after that I concluded that this was a really fun take on the fairytale. I’d love to see more games made in this vein as it was really interesting. It stuck to the general popular story, but also offered some unique and fun elements to it as well.
Lj’s Rating: 4 out of 5.
For more information on Blacktail please use the following links...
Many thanks to Indigo Pearl for supplying the review code.