Betrayer is the first game from Blackpowder Games, an independent studio made up of people who worked on the No One Lives Forever series and the first F.E.A.R. game. The game was initially released in August 2013 through the Steam Early Access program, and has just been released in a complete state. I wanted to play this because of the setting and because I really enjoyed the first No One Lives Forever game.
Watch the trailer:
“Betrayer is a first-person action adventure game that takes you to the New World at the turn of the 17th century. The year is 1604. You sailed from England expecting to join a struggling colony on the coast of Virginia. Instead, you find only ghosts and mysteries. What catastrophe blighted the land and drained it of color and life? Where are the settlers and tribes who lived here? And who is the strange, silent woman in red who aids you from afar? Clue by clue, you must piece together the story of what befell this doomed settlement and find a way to set things right. You will be hunted by corrupted Conquistadors and ravening shadows as you explore an expansive wilderness in order to trace the brief, tragic history of the colony and search for survivors.”
That’s one of the more extensive game summaries I’ve seen provided, and it covers pretty much everything. You discover this plot through notes and by talking to spirits. The world you have to explore is pretty huge – it’s not quite open world, but it felt like that sometimes. It’s not quite a FPS, as there’s a lot more to do than just run and gun – the closest thing I would compare it to as Skyrim (with much fewer people and a less open world). The mystery and plot is intriguing, and I’m really enjoying the alternate history the game presents. It has horror aspects – ghosts, a couple jump scares based on sound, and general creepiness – so keep that in mind if it’s something you don’t like.
Graphics and Sound
The color scheme of Betrayer is quite unique. The entire game is in black and white, with the exception of things you need to pay attention to, which are bright red. You don’t have to play this way if it bothers your eyes though (it did mine); you can move a settings slider to add color to the world. Playing in black and white does make it easier to spot chests and enemies, but even in a colorful environment, they’re easy to spot because nothing else is red. While playing within the corruption, you have to play in black and white, but the contrast is a lot less pronounced, and you can adjust the gain within that world (I found it easier on the eyes with it on).
There is no voice acting in Betrayer at all, which is something that in a game like this seems out of place. Everything is conveyed through text boxes instead. The sound design, however, is mostly excellent – environmental and monster sounds especially. Wind rustling through the trees and grass doubles as cover for your movements, and the sounds that the Conquistadors make are REALLY creepy and inhuman, which tips you off that something about them is decidedly Not Right. Other enemies make equally great noises – skeletons, for example, sound creaky and old. The only complaint I have is that the sound arrows make when they bounce off metal is silly and out of place – a really pronounced/cartoony metal-on-metal noise.
Combat is very much like Skyrim, especially if you’re like me and play Skyrim in stealth mode. You don’t have to be stealthy in Betrayer, but it ups your chances of survival. You can change the difficulty level of the enemies between less difficult and more difficult, and you can also make it so you have to retrieve your corpse after death. I played with less difficult enemies, because I was getting killed a lot more often on the default enemy difficulty. Enemies are challenging but fair, with a lot of variety in fighting styles. If they detect you, red flames come out of their heads (and they start rushing at you, which is also pretty noticeable!). If you manage to sneakily dispatch them (by crouching, hiding in grass, shooting when the wind is blowing, or all three of those things), they will go down in one hit. Weapons include bow and arrow, pistols, and rifles, but keep in mind you’re working with a short range and gunpowder because of the time period.
There are two distinct universes where you will play the game. The normal world, and the corrupted world which you get to by ringing bells throughout the area. In the normal world, you will fight the Conquistadors and everything can be colorful. The corrupted world has you fighting skeletons and other undead enemies. You’re also able to speak to ghosts, spirits, and wights while inside the corrupted world. Clearing the corruption from one area (by fighting a lot of undead) will open the next area. Your mysterious guide (in the form of a woman in a red cloak) can only be spoken to in the normal world. Her motives for helping you, along with her identity, are two of the big mysteries of the game.
It can sometimes be a little difficult to discover exactly what to do and where to go. You’ll be consulting your map a LOT. You can fast-travel between areas, but not when enemies are around. I wished there were more fast-travel points; for example, I was looking for a small camp I had found previously, and it took a LONG time because it wasn’t marked on the map in any way. I think the map could have been enhanced if it either updated with more landmarks or if you could make notes on it.
The “listen” button is unique in that if you press it, the game will direct you to items you still haven’t found. This also works without even pressing the button – you hear a sparkly kind of noise when you’re close to something you can interact with, like a treasure chest or a note. Speaking of treasure chests, there is an unseen merchant who just trusts you to buy things from treasure chests he leaves in every town. You find loot, which is automatically converted to gold, and you can also sell weapons/charms right from your inventory to get more gold.
I ran into a couple of small bugs, such as running/crouching not toggling until I pushed the buttons twice, the game locking up on one system when I tried adjusting the options, and upon dying needing to save, quit, and go back into the game so I could keep playing. There’s also only one save slot, which I found odd.
Betrayer has twenty-one Steam achievements. There are no trading cards.
Betrayer is a unique game, both visually and gameplay-wise, that will be enjoyed by players who love exploring. It can be a bit obscure in terms of goals, but I’m having a lot of fun playing despite that.
[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]