Developer: Blackpowder Games
Release Date: March 24th, 2014
Available On: PC
A striking visual style for a game can often go a long way towards making people pay attention to it. What first drew me towards Betrayer was exactly that. The game is impressive looking, with the whole game in black & white with a smattering of red to point out the important things. It really makes the game’s oppressive and just outright creepy atmosphere stand out, but you need more than graphics to have a game worth playing. So the real question is if Betrayer is worth getting stabbed in the back for.
Betrayer has your character waking up after a shipwreck, finding himself right outside of Fort Henry sometime during the Colonial period. The only other person around seems to be a mysterious woman in a red cloak. Upon ringing a bell the player character is brought to the ghostly “Otherworld” where he can find the ghosts of the recently deceased. By switching between these two worlds it’s up to the player to discover what happened here and how to escape. While the overarching plot isn’t bad, I found the little stories of each ghost to be the real star of the game. Every ghost has a depressing and sometimes dark tale of how they ended up where they are and what had happened to those they loved or cared for. From fatal firearm accidents, to accusations of being a witch, each story feels personal and interesting and carries the overall hopeless feeling setting even further.
While the story is pretty neat, Betrayer’s gameplay is less so. Betrayer is a first person shooter with some stealth elements. As you enter each new area you’ll be tasked with solving the problems and restoring the memories of the ghosts that live there. Since each area is pretty open and you don’t want to run around blind hoping you run into the issue, you can hit down on the d-pad to listen to the wind. This gives you an audio clue on where you need to go next, and a visual one if you pay attention to the compass on the top of your screen. Unfortunately there’s really nothing to do in the world besides the story. This means that the game basically turns into “enter new area, listen to wind until you find everything in the light, repeat for Otherworld, move on.” It becomes repetitive quickly and there’s nothing in the game to break this up.
As I searched for these objects I had to avoid and fight various enemies. Early in the game stealth was my best option, but often not an easy one. I had to time my attacks with the wind blowing so enemies didn’t hear me, and they can see long distances so as long as I wasn’t behind cover I was in danger. The daytime segment is full of Spaniards that carry guns and swords and have armor that sometimes caused my arrows to bounce off of them. In the Otherworld I had to deal with skeletons (that shot bullets from their arms or something?) and wraiths that have a tendency to spawn almost on top of me, and a fog so thick that it didn’t even let me see that far anyway. Pretty early in I learned that stealth wasn’t really going to fly, but eventually I got access to better weapons like muskets and crossbows that make my life easier. I also got a hatchet that did a lot of damage but was inaccurate and easy to lose, and single use explosives that basically kill anyone in the blast but alert everyone in the nearby area.
Taking me about 6 hours, I found that what I was doing in the first ten minutes of Betrayer and the last ten were basically identical. Even the enemies themselves never really changed, just occasionally introducing stronger versions of them. Betrayer also lacks any kind of alternate game modes or multiplayer, so once I finished the game I had nothing left to do with it. It did allow me to explore the various zones after I finished the game, but as I mentioned before the lack of anything to do outside of the story and some collectable hunting basically killed any desire to do this. It’s a shame as I think Betrayer would have been better with some side quests, or any reason at all to actually explore the environment. This is one of the few games where being alone in the woods actually felt somewhat scary, so all that atmosphere getting wasted just was a shame.
Betrayer dazzled me with its looks and art style, drawing me in to see its world. While I enjoyed the stories in said world, Betrayer lost me when it came to its repetitive elements, ultimately empty world, poorly made stealth, and short length. Maybe next time I should look for a game that will stay loyal.