A dark fairy tale set in a Slavic mythical world
Developed by The Parasight and published by Focus Entertainment, Blacktail is a first-person action-adventure, whose release date is December 15th (2022) for Steam, PC, GOG.com, Epic Games Store, PlayStation5 and Xbox Series X|S.
A unique and intriguing concept, perhaps a little too much in the form of a fairy tale and adventure, and not as dark as one might expect.
A DELICIOUSLY AMBITIOUS DEVELOPMENT TEAM
The Parasight born in 2019 and is located in the heart of Krakow, Poland, where culture, tradition, and folklore abound.
The Parasight team, comprised of skilled developers and established artists, is dedicated to not only resurrecting their territory’s legends, but also to giving them new life.
In fact, their goal is to create games with a good gameplay base that is both fun and captivating, as well as a solid narrative structure that is inspired by more refined and specific fairy tales and tales.
I find their purpose fascinating and intriguing, and we’ll see if they’re successful with this game.
A CLASSIC COMING OF AGE STORY WITH AN UNUSUAL BABA YAGA
Baba Yaga is a Slavic mythological figure, perhaps one of the most enigmatic and contentious in the European mythological panorama, whose origins date back to the proto-historic period. This creature appears as a character in numerous Russian, Polish, Slovakian, Bulgarian, and Czech fairy tales today.
The Russian and Polish stories are similar in that an old witch moves by flying on a mortar, using the pestle as a rudder, and clearing the paths in the woods with a silver birch broom.
In Blacktail, she is the protagonist, and we meet her as a troubled sixteen-year-old who embarks on an adventure filled with challenges and dangers.
Why does the young woman decide to embark on this perilous journey?
The game introduces us to her tragic story, which is made up of a childhood suffered as a result of people’s rejection of her, who see in her a freak, a figure they can’t trust and from whom they should stay away, convinced that she’s cursed.
The memories are gradually revealed and are represented by artistically very accurate 2.5D narrative episodes each time. Every one of these memories reveals Baba Yaga’s soul and heart, as well as his mysterious past.
With her face hidden by a wooden mask, Baba Yaga has only one person who cares for and loves her: her sister Zora.
However, Zora suddenly and unexpectedly vanishes, leaving Baba Yaga alone to face the world’s distrust and cruelty.
And this is the engine that drives our protagonist to go into the heart of the forest, in search of her beloved lost sister, with the guidance of an ominous voice speaking to her from the back of her head.
WILL YOU BE THE GOOD OR THE EVIL WITCH?
As previously stated, the mythological figure of Baba Jaga is contentious and enigmatic, particularly because it is sometimes portrayed negatively and other times positively. In the first, she is represented as a kidnapper and devourer of children; in the second, as a giver of sound advice and genuine assistance to those in search of something significant. To obtain her benevolent intervention, one must be pure of heart, or be prepared for a negative reaction from her.
This duality can also be found in Blacktail. As a result, the player’s moral choices determine whether Baba Yaga manifests in a negative or positive sense. We’ve seen this possibility of characterization between good and evil in many games, the first that comes me to mind of which is Infamous, a fantastic free-roaming action game based on Karma. In these types of stories, you are not penalized for moral choices, and I assume Blacktail is no exception.
So, Baba Yaga will be able to become the forest’s guardian, a helper to all needy creatures, or a true nightmare, confirming the initial fears of those who judged and isolated her in this title.
As with any similar situation, and regardless of how much one can partially justify or at least understand the decision to embrace one’s dark side, it will be up to the player to decide whether to make the character in question a beacon of light and wisdom or a terrifying, vengeful shadow with a heart hardened by suffering.
However, we are talking about a game, so it will be entertaining and challenging. I suppose it makes sense to play it either way because the skills, upgrades, and story will be different.
Above all, remember that “where there is light, there must be shadow, the darker the night, the brighter the stars“.
NOT ONLY A FAIRY TALE
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Parasight team does not intend to focus exclusively on the narrative aspect, but also wants to place equal emphasis on gameplay.
As a result, Blacktail is an action game full of fights, challenges, and more.
We’ll have a variety of weapons, both physical and magical, with the bow being the most important. We’ll have to face the elusive forest spirits and terrifying bosses with everything we’ve got. All thanks to Black Cat‘s assistance in tracking down the spirits. All of this will lead us to gradually unlock Baba Yaga’s memories and find clues to solve the mystery that drove her to embark on the journey.
Natural materials will be used to create various types of lethal arrows as well as a wide range of potions required to improve skills.
We will encounter many strange creatures along the way in this surreal world, and we will be able to choose whether or not to assist them.
The game lasts approximately 15 hours in total.
The title I chose for this article is not coincidental: the way the game appears, the idea I have had is that it is a classic action adventure with an original story, but lacking in atmosphere. We’ll see if it’s just my impression.
So, there’s nothing new under the sun, my friends. The setting (which does not stand out in terms of graphic peculiarities in this case) and the concept from which the story develops are undeniably appealing and original; the problem is that everything appears to be something that has already been seen. There’s even Hellblade in there somewhere, as evidenced by the voices in our protagonist’s head that guide her along the way or the outcast status from which she begins right away. However, the agonizing atmosphere that made Hellblade a viable title in this regard is unmistakably absent here.
Without a doubt, it’s a well-made and enjoyable game, but given the circumstances, I’d have expected something more atmospheric and dark. For as it defines itself, it’s not so dark at all.
The Parasight’s intentions remain consistent, but with such an idea and the in-depth knowledge they undoubtedly possess, I would have made better use of the idea, adding more originality to all game design.
In short, it appears to be a lot of fun, but will it actually teach us anything about the legendary Baba Jaga?