With its rich fantasy setting and alluring visuals, it’s easy to be won over by the sheer charm of the world of Blacktail almost immediately. There’s a lot more to this enchanting adventure than prettiness though, with its unique spin on the story of Baba Yaga making for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Blacktail tells the story of Yaga, a young woman who finds herself embarking on a perilous journey to rescue her missing sister. She doesn’t have any support from her home village during this time, with her magical abilities seeing her accused of witchcraft and getting shunned by those around her. It means she’s left to find her sister alone, though the decisions she makes will have a lasting effect on not only those around her, but her legacy too.
Will you look to help those who need it? Or will you embrace the darkness and become the evil being that you’re already being perceived as? The actions you take and choices you make will determine this during your adventure, with the game offering freedom to the player in their approach to each scenario they face. Sometimes, a decision will bring with it obvious consequences, but sometimes it’s not so black-and-white; you’ve just got to determine what works for you. It’s a neat mortality system that gives players the freedom to be as kind or evil as they please, with even the smallest of choices you make often having a knock-on effect on your moral standing. There is a niggling voice in Yaga’s head that’ll push her to the darker side though, but it’s up to you if you want to listen to it…
The core gameplay experience takes place in an open environment, with players able to scavenge for resources, discover secrets and loot, or complete quests to progress the story or help out folk in need. Everything you can grab has a purpose, whether it’s to keep Yaga healthy or keep her weaponry in good stock to take out enemy threats, whilst you’ll also have to use the resources you find to improve your skillset and upgrade existing ones. Everything has its use, so taking the time to venture off the beaten path and explore your surroundings for goodies always feels rewarding.
“There’s plenty of depth and detail to be found, both from a design and a visual perspective, and it makes Blacktail’s world all the more alluring to be a part of.”
Yaga is also pretty nimble when getting around, whilst its possible to sneak to evade threats or get the upper hand over a wandering foe. There are PLENTY of things out to get you in the world, but you’ll never feel like you can’t handle any of these encounters with a bit of preparation. Having a bow helps, of course, with players able to swiftly unleash countless arrows to keep threats at bay. It’s a fairly simple combat system that doesn’t do anything you wouldn’t have seen before in other first-person adventures, but it’s competent and ensures that action segments throughout Blacktail are always interesting. The new archery abilities you unlock and varied arrow types keep things fresh too, so you won’t tire of your weapon of choice in the later hours of the game.
That being said, Blacktail does have its tricky moments that can be a bit overwhelming during the early hours playing. Some of the creatures that are out for your blood can be vicious and I suffered PLENTY of deaths as I worked on increasing my skills and stats, so there is a bit of a learning curve in place. It’s not a bad thing, but the freedom that the game offers as well an emphasis on player exploration makes it easy to get in plenty of sticky situations as you try to figure things out.
There are plenty of intriguing elements at play to keep the experience engaging though, so players who leap past the initial hurdles will certainly find a lot to enjoy. Things like your morality determining what magical abilities you can access, the array of side quests (and different approaches you can take to them), or utilising your broom (every witch has one, right?) in combat to add some extra tricks to your repertoire give the game plenty of meat on its bones. Add some neat crafting elements to the mix as well as a cooking mini-game and you’ll quickly find that Blacktail has plenty going on to keep players invested until the end.
Check out some screenshots down below:
I’d be remiss not to mention some of the little issues I came across when playing though, such as some of my arrow hits seemingly not registering on foes, the dodging mechanic feeling a little clumsy in busier environments, and the upgrade system getting a little convoluted thanks to the need to grind for specific items. There was one point where I couldn’t progress through a quest because I didn’t have the necessary ability too, which is something that feels like it could have been better explained in-game. None of these issues are game-breaking so they won’t affect your enjoyment of the game, but it does show that despite doing most things right, Blacktail is far from perfect.
Still, there’s definitely a lot more good than bad to be found, whilst I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful world design yet. Blacktail features a fairy tale-like world that’s full of magical sights and simply oozing with charm and colour. I loved exploring each locale and discovering their splendid landmarks, whilst the characters and creatures I encountered felt like something that came from the minds of the Brothers Grimm. There’s plenty of depth and detail to be found, both from a design and a visual perspective, and it makes Blacktail’s world all the more alluring to be a part of.
Blacktail offers an engrossing fantasy adventure that’ll keep players fully invested thanks to its enchanting world and clever morality system. Will you be a nice and friendly witch who wants to use her abilities for good, or will you become the Baba Yaga of legend and scare everyone away? It’s really up to you, with your actions throughout the game determining the legacy you leave behind.
Exploration is great, the action is fine, whilst there are plenty of unique systems at play to keep players busy throughout their adventure. It does have some minor niggles along the way, but for the most part, Blacktail is an enjoyable first-person escapade that offers something a little different.
Developer: The Parasight
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S