Last, but just barely not least.
For a mysterious metaphysical entity, the Blair Witch has become about as familiar
as that banana that’s been in your gym locker since last semester. After two
short and relatively disappointing stabs as a game concept, the witch is back
yet again for a third and equally disappointing attempt in Blair Witch Volume
3: Elly Kedward’s Tale.
The game takes place in the harsh winter of 1789. A number of people have turned
up missing in Blair since the recent execution-by-exposure of an old woman on
grounds of witchcraft. In fact, many of the missing people played key roles
in accusing and condemning the old woman. This woman was, of course, Elly Kedward,
henceforth to be known as the Blair Witch.
You play as Jonathan Prye, a clergyman who claims to have lost his faith, but
as a witch-hunter, employs himself in the good work of ridding the world from
those in league with the devil. Prye is dispatched to Blair Township to investigate
the recent disappearances and quickly becomes convinced that the Blair Witch
is somehow posthumously responsible, so he sets off to do something about it.
Let me tell you, nothing puts me to sleep faster than a man of the church struggling
to rediscover his faith. Pagans, can I get an amen?
This third installment in the Blair Witch game trilogy comes from Ritual Entertainment
and sports their interpretation of the Nocturne engine.
It’s a kind of Nocturne-as-seen-by-Disney experience. The backgrounds
are nicely drawn but lack realism and are, as usual, almost as interactive as
the inside of a burlap sack.
In Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, the
developers (Terminal Reality) made great use of sound to create a chilly level
of realism and general creepiness. The movie itself relied heavily on sound
(since they didn’t actually manage to film anything). Having done nothing special
with the sound in Blair Witch 3, Ritual threw in some last minute footstep
effects. It sounds like someone kicking a wicker basket in your general direction
and never quite manages to connect to an actual source. And I assure you, there’s
nothing terrifying about wicker. (You haven’t seen my grandma’s apartment
in Florida… – Ed.)
gameplay consists of running back and forth through the woods collecting a few
talismans, artifacts and clues from the townsfolk (who have terrible voice actors).
Each jaunt through the wooded areas pits Jonathan against zombie after uninteresting
zombie. There are also demons, demon dogs, stick figures, and other enemies
who will request your attention as you’re commuting to and fro. None of these
minor nuisances provide much of a challenge. What happened to the zombie hordes
I always see in the movies? Two to three zombies at a time for a witch hunter
is a walk in the park.
In terms of running, your enemies are not very quick. Their pathetic arthritic
loping makes Jonathan Prye look like Jesse Owens. If you decide to fight them,
Prye has many weapons that can easily suffice – the blunderbuss, for example,
or the crucifix, which can sear the shape of a cross into your opponent’s flesh
until they burst into flames. This is actually pretty cool. I guess that’s for
moments when you want them to feel your wrath.
Most of the enemies you kill will drop health and ammunition, and they also
respawn in the same spots. Needless to say, it’s tempting to hang out on a single
screen for a while to stock up on goodies. All that’s missing are a few cold
brews and your fishing buddy, Earl. And some fun. And some suspense.
I expect more from a horror-themed game than just a spooky premise. Blair
Witch 3 makes no effort at an atmosphere of foreboding and danger. Instead,
they made it dark. But the dark isn’t scary if you know there isn’t something
in it to be afraid of.
The bottom line is this game isn’t very much fun and it plays like it was put
together last night. It manages not to sink to the depths of Blair
Witch Volume 2: Legend of Coffin Rock but hasn’t risen very far above it,
either. Given, it only costs $19.95, though you’d be better off saving that
cash for some nice wicker chairs.