Blacktail on PS5
There has been plenty of evidence over the years of mythology and folklore making for good video game subject matter (God of War, Assassin’s Creed). While some of those trod over the same ground and seem to follow more popular cultures, Blacktail breaks off to provide a look into Slavic folklore with a story set around the existence of Baba Yaga.
The story follows Yaga, a 16-year-old girl barely tolerated in her village due to the suspicion she is aligned with Baba, the witch feared by the whole village. This same witch has taken three of the local children over the last few years, which warrants their wariness. Yaga’s sister, Zora, is well-liked and the only reason the villagers allowed Yaga to stay as long as they did. Once Zora goes missing, all of the villagers band together to expel Yaga. This is where our story begins.
Now on her own for the first time in her life, Yaga must discover who she is in the search for her missing sister. She has only her bow for defense and an enigmatic voice in her head, compelling her forward along this journey.
There’s a morality system at work in Blacktail that controls certain aspects of the game and does affect the story. This is set when you make your initial good or evil choice at the start. Taking the good route means Yaga will be able to collect more materials with each harvest, whereas evil alignment means more ways to heal from doing damage to enemies.
Going the good route is absolutely the harder choice, as you have far fewer ways to heal for the first several hours. Even if you don’t choose the higher difficulty, the good route is bound to slow you down. You are slightly healed upon saving the game, but doing so costs a type of crafting material that isn’t just available everywhere. I couldn’t tell if the game was trying to make some sort of point with the unbalance or if the evil route is simply just better.
All crafting materials can be harvested ethically to maintain good alignment. Counter to that, there are much easier ways to get everything if you’re wanting to gain evil progress. Feathers can be gained by shooting down birds, and sticks can be earned from killing stick bugs. Due to this, it is usually much easier to further the evil path than the good path, as the former has many more options available.
The bow is an excellent weapon and handles incredibly well, but it definitely needs to be built up from where it is at the start of the game. Basic arrows are crafted from easily found feathers and sticks, which is great as it’s very easy to run out at the beginning. There are three arrow types, but the other two typically serve a specific purpose and aren’t meant for general combat.
When Yaga is out of arrows, pressing the trigger will elicit a nice melodic twang, like a plucked guitar string. This is a nice indication to get some distance and craft a new set quickly. Crafting is as simple as holding L1 to open a radial menu and hitting square to craft the maximum possible. This makes boss fights much less stressful, as there’s no downtime to reset your stock.
To improve Yaga, players must follow a skill tree. However, there aren’t any sort of level or XP mechanics in Blacktail. Instead, you must gather the required crafting ingredients to unlock available skill nodes and find skill pages to unlock the unknown ones. These upgrades can be things like you can craft more arrows with the same amount of materials, arrows will do more damage, or being able to hold more materials at one time.
Yaga also has a limited arsenal of magic. For the majority of the game, you have a projectile for knocking enemies back or an attack that requires holding R3 that will drain the health of enemies directly in front of you. The R3 attack is greatly affected by the game’s morality system. It is also the attack I found myself using the most, even over the bow. When good, it looks like a round circle and slows enemies while doing damage. If you’re evil, it looks like a blood-red tether and will heal you but lacks the slowing factor.
Blacktail is all about exploration. While the game is very good at guiding players to the next objective, the areas are very open. Though this is technically an open-world game, it is made up of several large areas with one hub point. These maps don’t have any other connection between them, but it is easy enough to navigate around them as they open up through the story.
The game does have a definite loop until the finish. You’ll follow a path to a boss, defeat the boss, and are then treated to a 2.5D platformer section that reveals some of what Yaga has been through. The first two sections also unlock new traversal mechanics that give a reason to go back to earlier areas. Despite how it sounds, this process always felt fresh and enjoyable with the new revelations.
At the same time, Blacktail also slightly feels like it punishes exploration early on. There was at least one spot I fell into early in the game to check something out and ended up entirely trapped. The idea is that you’re supposed to be able to get out with the first learned traversal mechanic, but I didn’t have it yet. My only option was to fall into the water, which depletes just about all of Yaga’s health.
My journey through Blacktail was enjoyable, the story kept the right pace while also letting me venture off to my heart’s content. It says a lot that I went straight from finishing the game to loading into New Game Plus to take a second look at this terrific game.
Blacktail provides an excellent foray into Slavic folklore and some terrific bow-based combat. You get to follow the journey of a timid teenager as she learns to stand on her own two feet while also handing a solid smackdown to some really cool boss fights. There’s more than enough depth here to keep you coming back to the game.
If you have ever wanted to play a game where you actually feel like a witch in the woods, then you have every reason to pick up Blacktail and won’t regret it. Considering this is the first game from developer The Parasight, there is every reason to be incredibly excited about where they go from here.
- Excellent combat.
- Fun, challenging boss fights.
- Intuitive skill tree.
- Engaging voice acting.
- Moralty system feels very unbalanced with evil path the obviously superior choice.
- Diving too heavily into exploration too early can get you stuck.
Dec. 15, 2022
PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
- How to Solve the Ice Teleporter Puzzle in Blacktail
- How to Fast Travel in Blacktail
- How to Destroy Black Sphere Plants in Blacktail
- How to Save in Blacktail
- How to Get Teeth in Blacktail