Remember Mad World? That black and white fighting game from Platinum Games where a monochrome world had a single additional colour, bright, bloody red. Well other than its visual aesthetic Bertayer is nothing like that. Betrayer may be a world of black and white and red, but it’s also a deep and haunting place to visit, and your time there may leave you with more questions than answers.
Developer Blackpowder Games was formed from the remnants of Monolith, but Betrayer is very different to F.E.A.R. or anything else that studio made. Sure, its also frightening at times, but in a completely different way. Betrayer doesn’t go for jump scares as much as it sets out to unsettle you.
Betrayer takes place in a strange, haunted world. Perhaps literally haunted. The crimson ghost-like enemies you face are frightening, and they will kill you with a single blow. Thankfully their bright colour stands out from the black and white of the game world, meaning you can see them from very far away. You also have a wide variety of weapons to fight them with, including an absolutely lethal tomahawk axe which you can throw then collect afterwards. This can see off almost any opponent… as long as you can hit them when they are running straight at you with murder in mind.
As a setting for a game, the New World at the turn of the 17th century is a great choice. By picking a historical setting Blackpowder Games throw you into a world that’s familiar but unsettlingly alien. The elements of mysticism and occult that you explore (but which are never fully explained) just heighten the atmosphere.
At the moment Betrayer’s feature list is sparse. There seems to be a Dark Souls/Demon Souls aspect to the gameplay, whereby you can collect your items if you can reach your corpse each time you die. Obviously, if you died first time round then there’s something dangerous at the location of your remains, so going back to collect the belongings of your past self is nerve wracking and tense. You’re always balancing the desire to explore with the danger of the environment, making for a good risk/reward balance.
During my time with Betrayer I know exactly how the main protagonist of the game feels. Waking up on the shores of a strange land, you are a lost soul, and with little choice but to explore, you have lots of questions to answer and mysteries to solve. At the moment though, it’s not clear if these mysteries really exist, or if they’re merely holes that the developers will fill in the future. The game is at a very early stage, and Blackpowder seem to be looking at the feedback from players who have early access to determine what the game will finally become.
At the moment there’s the framework of a very interesting game here, and a truly amazing looking game world to explore. There are a few very startling and affecting scares in scripted sequences in a village, but this still feels a lot like a proof of concept. This is certainly a game to keep an eye on for the future, and I can’t wait to see the world of Betrayer populated with some more content to explore and experience.