2022 has been one hell of a year for games, despite what many of us thought early on, with the announcement of massive delays across all platforms. Focus Home has had an especially great year, publishing some of the most noteworthy titles, including the tense narrative spectacle Plague Tales Requiem, and the unique space puzzle game Hardspace: Shipbreaker. However, BLACKTAIL stands out to me as something just a little bit different, and it rounds out this already fantastic year with something pleasantly surprising.


The witch’s hut.

You play as Yaga; a sixteen year old girl who has been afflicted with a mysterious condition, giving her a gauntlet. As a result of this, Yaga and her sister, Zora, are living as outcasts and trying to simply get by. Until one night, when Zora disappears. In Yaga’s search for Zora, she discovers the hut of the legendary Baba Yaga.

I’m going to preface my review with this; as a relative newcomer to the tale of Baba Yaga, I didn’t really know too much about what to expect. I knew who Baba Yaga was, and what she did in folklore, but couldn’t really go into detail about the specifics.

What I can say about BLACKTAIL‘s story, is that it builds an incredibly intriguing and fascinating narrative. One that pushed me through from beginning to end, thanks to the help of the main cast. Yaga, and the mysterious Voice that guides you through the game, prove to be a fantastic duo. It’s an intriguing story, and whilst some parts are predictable, the end result was something I truly enjoyed.

BLACKTAIL’s world is beautifully crafted.

As you progress through the BLACKTAIL‘s story, you will need to make some narrative decisions. This will ultimately decide if you are the evil witch of the legend, or a good one. The choices you make throughout the game impact things, such as the skills you have available, as well as other perks. It’s not as impactful as other games, and the choices are broken down into “good or evil”, but it is still a decent enough touch, regardless. They were at least interesting enough for me to start a second playthrough.

One of the biggest surprises in BLACKTAIL is within its open world. Alongside a bunch of exciting quests and characters to meet, you will be put into this detailed and beautiful fantasy world you actually want to explore. Every time I started to progress through the main story, I would see something that caught my attention. Something as simple as a statue or a cave could have some great treasure, or even a secret boss fight. There’s also some light puzzle solving in the open-world environment. Whenever I was on the main route, I would often get distracted and see where the path would take me.

Just about everything that you do in the open world feeds back into the main progression of the game. Finding lost pages out in the world and gathering some of the different resources, enables you to unlock more skills at the cauldron. These range from basic damage boosts, to dash upgrades, and new special attacks. It’s a great natural progression system that encourages open-world exploration in the best of ways.


The voice steals the show.

The core gameplay of BLACKTAIL is pretty solid, but does have a little bit of jankiness behind it. Yaga’s main weapon is the bow, and whilst not the most exciting weapon, it does a great job. Yaga also has the ability to use her gauntlet to push back and freeze enemies, allowing her to reposition using the dash ability.

Combat is fun, but can take a little while to get interesting, as the first area can fall a bit too on the easy side. Thankfully, in later stages encounters do become a little bit more interesting, as the game throws more enemies at you and forces you to use Yaga’s arsenal to survive. There are also some really enjoyable boss fights thrown in there as well. I was just hoping for a little bit more enemy variety, as the game will often repeat boss fights in different areas.

Also, resources are a little too common. Meaning I would rarely if ever actually run out of them, but you do have to craft arrows a lot on the fly, which can be rather dull having to open up the radial menu and spam craft more arrows. Auto-crafting would go a long way here. A few of the mechanics, such as cooking and fishing, feel half-baked and platforming is awkward; especially when trying to grab onto a ledge and having Yaga just plummet towards her death. As a whole though, BLACKTAIL was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that took me around twenty hours to complete, with a fair bit of the side content done as well.

The visuals won’t impress anyone from a technical standpoint. It has some low-detail textures and quite a few rough edges that you’ll see throughout. However, it’s a uniquely colourful and wonderfully built world that is always a joy to be in. BLACKTAIL looks like a traditional fairy tale with a lot of darker touches. Every part of BLACKTAIL is just oozing in style.


You can pet the cat!

As a fan of Hades, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of Megaera in this game as  “The Voice”. She absolutely steals the show with a wonderful performance. It’s a menacing, yet calm, voice that pushes Yaga through the game to uncover her past. Yaga herself is really well voice acted as well, and as their relationship grew, I became to like them more and more. The rest of the cast, however, is a bit more hit-and-miss.

As for the Steam Deck experience; BLACKTAIL is already verified for the handheld platform, so expect a solid experience. With the settings of the game at medium and 40Hz mode enabled, it was a relatively smooth experience. There were some stutters when quickly moving through the environment, but it was still extremely playable. Battery life sits around the two hour mark. Of course with the graphics options, there are a lot of variables and you can adjust as needed. My only complaint is that settings are synced across PC and Steam Deck.

BLACKTAIL is one of the biggest surprises of the year. It’s a game that pulled me into its mysterious and beautifully crafted world, filled with plenty of mysteries to discover. BLACKTAIL is a constantly engaging experience with only a few minor drawbacks.


Graphics: 8.0

Whilst not technically impressive; BLACKTAIL‘s unique visual style is striking to look at

Gameplay: 8.0

There’s a few rough edges, but the fast-paced combat is entertaining and the world is exciting.

Sound: 8.5

The Voice steals the show with an unforgettable performance.

Fun Factor: 9.0

BLACKTAIL provides one of the most engrossing and interesting worlds I’ve played in a long time.

Final Verdict: 8.5

BLACKTAIL is available now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X.

Reviewed on PC. With an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X, and 16GB RAM. Tested on Steam Deck.

A copy of BLACKTAIL was provided by the publisher.