Preview – BLACKTAIL
Published by Focus Home Indies and developed by studio newcomers THE PARASITE, comes a new horror title, BLACKTAIL. I spent about six hours with BLACKTAIL, a game that delves into the origin story of the Baba Yaga folktale. Here are my initial impressions from the very start of the game.
In BLACKTAIL, you play as Yaga, a young girl with an infliction and made an outcast from humanity. She hides behind a mask and is on the road with her sister, Zora. However, your sister Zora has gone missing and you are left to fend for yourself. But a voice in your head pushes you to find the hut of Baba. From here you craft the story of Baba Yaga; either living up to its terrible legend or not. It’s an interesting setup that I’m looking forward to seeing played out, and with some solid characters and dialogue, it’s off to a good start. The Voice that taunts Yaga and provides details about the world is an absolute highlight in the opening hours.
I got to explore a chunk of the game’s first area, ranging from a campsite, down to a small camp off in the distance, stopping just as I was about to cross a bridge to a windmill. I started off by hunting deer to collect some food (which seems to be health regeneration and not a hunger mechanic) before making my way to Baba’s hut, which is the central hub place for BLACKTAIL, being able to upgrade Yaga at the cauldron with items you find around the world.
Going further into the world, I met a group of talking mushrooms that promised me they would help if I dealt with their dragon issue, which introduces one of the central focuses of BLACKTAIL. You’re able to pick a side for good or for evil. Throughout the start of this questline, you’re introduced to a variety of characters with their own side of the story; pitting us against one another to further their own goals. Not only that, I met an army of ants looking to overthrow humanity. A wild concept but one that I want to see play out.
It’s unclear how the choices will impact what is happening at this point, so we will have to wait until the game’s full launch to dive into that. It does seem interesting enough, if not entirely impactful, in the opening areas. It allows you to turn the legend of Baba Yaga into either a good or evil witch; by killing animals roaming the world or siding with certain characters. I played through twice to see both the pure good and evil sides. The full impact of my choice isn’t apparent just yet, and the boss fights were the same, despite being different characters.
It gave me a solid impression of just how BLACKTAILs’ world works. It’s not a typical generic open world with map markers every five feet, but it’s also not linear. Instead, it finds a nice balance between guided progression and exploration. There are caves scattering the landscape, all with interesting things to find, and all feeding back into the main progression system back in Baba Yaga’s hut. Hopefully, this remains going into the full game because I really enjoyed just exploring this unique world. BLACKTAIL features tons of beautiful and intriguing sights you will undoubtedly see more of later in the game. There are seemingly plenty of secrets to find as well, which create better reasons to come back to old areas.
As for the combat, BLACKTAIL is off to a decent enough start, even if it’s fairly unremarkable. Your main attack is with the bow, which you can charge to perform powerful attacks. Very quickly in the demo, I was able to use witchery to use special attacks as well. I was able to modify my bow attack into an area of effect cone, and later on summon a broom to distract enemies and there are slots for more weapon types as well.
Yaga can also dodge in any direction, something that did come in useful in the boss fight that I encountered. Hopefully, the full game has more challenging opponents because the early game feels a little too easy. Resources seem really generous, with tons of crafting materials around for plentiful ammo crafting. The same goes for saving as well; it takes a sunflower to save, but with so many around it seems resources are plentiful, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much.
As your scales tip between good and evil, you will gain access to more perks. It’s a basic system, but one I appreciate. Being an evil witch will give you abilities more suited to life stealing, whilst the good branch will help you with resource collecting. Both sides seemingly promise to modify the broom’s behaviour. As a whole BLACKTAIL‘s gameplay is off to a good start.
BLACKTAIL has shown a lot of promise during my brief demo of the game. It certainly won’t blow anyone away with its rather simple gameplay and lack of meaningful choices in the opening hours, but its absolutely beautiful world design, interesting story, and dark humour make BLACKTAIL something well worth looking out for. BLACKTAIL releases on PC, Xbox Series X, and PS5 on the 15th of December.