The smell of WTF in the morning.
Are you tired of fighting wars against terrorism for the American military? Do you long to explore untouched time periods in your shooters? Are you interested in dubloons, but not in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag?
If you’ve answered “yes” to all of these questions, it’s highly possible that Blackpowder Game’s Betrayer could interest you. The game, which is currently in alpha on Steam, is set in 1604 near the coast of Virginia. You play an unnamed (and ungendered!) British colonist who arrives to join the others, but when you arrive, the land seems deserted, and there’s an air of crazy abound.
Presented in stark black and white, the visuals are immediately impressive and spooky. Imagine Far Cry 3 if someone sucked out the color and kicked up the contrast—the terrain is varied and covered in lush plant life. There is no music during gameplay, and I found myself mildly freaked out each time a strong breeze would course through the leaves surrounding me. You don’t know what the wind is carrying with it, but its frequent presence makes the experience lonelier.
However, it turns out you’re not alone, at least not how you think. A small girl cloaked in red appears to be watching you, and when it befits her, she sends you messages by arrows giving you hints about how to proceed and your own shortbow. Very soon after, blazing in red flames, a Spanish soldier appears on your path, and judging from his continual pained moaning and grunting, he’s likely not interested in becoming your new best friend. Also, weapons have the chance to deflect, which makes situations tense when flame-engulfed soldiers run at you.
The Spaniards were one of only two enemy types I encountered in the Betrayer alpha, but they come in three flavors—aggressive melee, arrow-shooting, and musket-bearing. Health is persistent, and I found out that I was just as fragile as the enemies I took down with two arrows. When you “die,” your red-hooded overseer brings you to safety, but leaves your belongings where you died, so there’s this Demon’s Souls-esque element to gameplay as you try to recover it.
I eventually encountered an empty fort—well, almost empty. Events transpire that transform the world to a dark dimension, and there stood a ghostly spirit who seemed as confused about the situation as I was. It appears that something otherworldly happened to the colonists, and as you pick up clues from various sites, the web of traitors and betrayal weaves itself before you. When exploring the land surrounding the fort under darkness, I encountered the other foes—ghastly skulls with black wisps of smoke for bodies who can kill in two swipes of their claws. Defeating these enemies is tied to removing corruption from the area so you can proceed with the campaign, which can be easier said than done.
The large area containing the fort is, thus far, the only place to go in the alpha for Betrayer, but a recent update from Blackpowder Games indicates that another area is on its way very soon. Right now, there are just a few hours of gameplay for an incomplete game, which may be a bummer for gamers who want a full product for $15. However, updates are coming to expand and refine the game based on user input, so if you’re into engaging the developer in such a way, it might not be a bad way to go. (Be wary. Some updates require players to start a new game. Welcome to testing!)
Betrayer certainly has a lot of potential to be an intriguing entry in the FPS genre, but it’s a long way off from being more than a demo. Time will tell.