Developer: Blackpowder Games
Publisher: Blackpowder Games
Review Platform: PC (Steam)
Review Copy Provided By: Blackpowder Games
Release Date: March 24, 2014
Betrayer is a title in which challenge does not come from combat, or intricate mechanics, but from cryptic tasks, and a mystery-based story. I am not sure if I love Betrayer, or hate it, but it keeps my interest all the way through.
Actual gameplay is a little light. While I cannot say there was anything wrong with it, the shooting mechanics were very simple. Bow combat, and gunplay were easy enough to master, but that is not this game’s purpose. Piecing together the story behind the abandoned colony of Roanoke is the real meat of the game, and its most enjoyable.
If you like games that do not hold your hand, then Betrayer is most certainly for you. Dropped in a world, you are given no instruction or motivation to move forward. There was no exposition beforehand, and Betrayer, doesn’t do objective markers or quest tracking. Unless you become exceptionally lucky, this game will most likely have you doubling back again and again, attempting to solve very cryptic puzzles.
To give an example of how mission structure works, I will walk you through first quest for one of the spirit colonists: After arriving at Fort Henry, and ringing the bell in the center of town, you are transferred into the spirit world. There you meet the first ghost who asks you to find his wife that was last seen on a hill. Fort Henry is a fairly expansive region, with over 50 hills, so instead of being pointed to the hill the spirit was referring to, you must find it on your own, collecting clues, or just running aimlessly around until you find any evidence of her. This in my opinion was the most brilliant part to the entire game and though the vague world puzzles intrigued me, my interest in the game was spurred by the challenge of the mystery, and not the mystery itself.
I actually love the tale of Roanoke, it is one of my favorite American mysteries, but the supernatural twist here did little to keep me entertained. With a spirit world, ethereal ghost colonists, and Spanish soldiers with animal growls for voices, it is either fairly generic, or off-puttingly weird. You are made to feel involved in the stories that the ghosts share with you, but I never felt too interested, and again, it was the challenge of the large scale puzzle that kept me going.
The black and white, mixed with rare shades of red color palette is by far Betrayer’s most distinctive quality. I found this to be really visually appealing, and I loved how the reds stood out so sharply when placed in front of a black and white world. If this is not your taste however, you can always go to a full color version of the game by bumping your contrast all the way up.
When it comes to music or any sound design at all, it is absolutely barebones. When you shoot it makes a sound, the enemies emanate animal growls, and the spirit world sometimes has a bell ringing in the distance, but there is not music, nor actual voice acting. This is done to build atmosphere, and make the times sound does enter the game to be impactful, but for me it just doesn’t work. I feel like it actually detracts from my overall experience, because an element I am so used to in games has been taken out.
Though I am aware that this is supposed to be a survival horror game, I never felt in danger by the enemies, or scared by the atmosphere. It should also be noted that when it comes to typical survival horror games, I tend to scare more than most. While I do not see this as a detriment, in fact, I actually enjoyed its lack of overly creepy aesthetic, hardcore survival horror fans should understand that this won’t dethrone Amnesia or whatever is considered to be the scariest (I don’t know, they all freak me out).
Looking at Betrayer, one may think that this is a full $60 title,because it certainly looks that way, but when finding out that this was made by an indie studio, and is being priced at a mere $20, some of the oversights of the game can be forgiven.
While it is rough around the edges, Betrayer is a challenging world based puzzle. For those sick of games even giving you the luxury of knowing what your next objective should be, this game is for you. For me, the passive challenge that the game has littered throughout with the mystery based quests feel so natural that it overcomes many of my other gripes