Blackpowder promises new enemy types and plenty of unsettling scenery in its already bleak world as the game progresses.

By PostMesmrc, Posted 04 Oct 2013

Betrayer is the first project from Blackpowder Games, a new studio composed of alumni from F.E.A.R. developers Monolith. It turns the typical shooter and role-playing game formulas upside down, making a very cryptic and haunting world that has a lot more beneath its earth than you might expect.

One of the game’s most interesting features is the setting itself. Any other shooter would take place in a modern age. Any other adventure game would take place in some far off fantasy realm. Betrayer instead takes place in a 17th century Virginia, where colonists are just starting to explore The New World and the dangers it holds. But it mixes in a paranormal and multi-dimensional element, where traversal between the living and dead planes is frequent. The early colonization era setting alone would make this game interesting, but by adding this surreal spirit world, the game instantly becomes unique in its class.

Betrayer’s art style focuses on black, white and red, very much like Sin City or the Wii action game Madworld. The environments don’t look urban at all, however, instead having an aged, charcoal-esque aesthetic that echoes the darker ages of early North American settler life. The red hue is especially important, as many of the essential elements like treasure, enemies and key items are cloaked in the red hue. It’s striking, for sure, though it can be difficult to navigate since finding important environmental landmarks (many of which aren’t red) can be confusing. However, the animations are remarkably clean, especially the wind effects (which turn out to be much more important to gameplay than meets the eye). The screenshots might be awkward, but in motion, the game is quite expressive.

Right as you make it to the first town, you get the opportunity to change the world around you. A single interaction turns the already aged and spooky world into something straight from a grade-A paranormal horror film. Tremendous fog and psalms of torment burst onto the scene, making an already frightening game into diluted nightmare fuel. This duality combined with the excellent historical setting adds depth to the game; it’s unquestionably terrifying, but in a perverse “I want to see more” kind of way.

The combat itself isn’t too complex; muskets, pistols and bows become the weapons of choice, and pickups from defeated red-bathed specters can be used to restock your armaments. The controls are quite responsive, but be wary of close combat. The enemies in Betrayer are ruthless and can do significant damage even with ranged weapons. The game adopts a Dark Souls system where you can reclaim your currency by returning to your previous death site, though enemies still roam the land. It can get difficult when ammunition management comes into play, but if you’re good with a bow, you won’t be frustrated with the combat much.

Some of the objectives in Betrayer, however, could definitely use some refinement. Exploration and trying to find clues to the mysterious disappearance of the former crew of the crashed vessel are the name of the game, but the environments themselves remain uninteresting, from a topographical view at least. You do see hill paths, forests and even tall grass fields, but there is still a lot of unneeded wandering in Betrayer right now. The first area isn’t necessarily big, but the few landmarks to pinpoint your location by are spread apart immensely, leaving nothing but grey filler to link them. The preview build is still limiting, but I found myself wandering around the map for hours, unknowing of where I was, where I was going, and most importantly, of where I had already explored.

Betrayer is a haunting game and Blackpowder promises new enemy types and plenty of unsettling scenery in its already bleak world as the game progresses. What we’re seeing here is a very creepy world that will hopefully develop a bit more direction and exploratory intuitiveness moving forward. Right now, you’re seeing a game that does what many other shooters aren’t doing these days, making you feel isolated and defenseless, and that’s a strength that will hopefully stick around throughout the entire mystery of Betrayer.

Alex Carlson, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Blackpowder Games
Developer(s): Blackpowder Games
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Horror
Release Date: 2014-03-24

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