Despite their ubiquity in movies and literature, video games don’t seem to take a lot of direct inspiration from fairy tales. The Witcher series is probably the most well known to do this, but that’s a continuation of a book series. Enter Blacktail – a first person adventure exploring Slavic folklore, namely the Baba Yaga. We had the opportunity to play through the game’s opening moments in this alpha build, so let’s dive right in.
You play as Yaga – a young woman exiled from her village after the disappearance of her sister. Spending an indeterminate amount of time in the forest searching, Yaga eventually encounters the witch Baba’s hut. There, a mysterious voice begins to speak in her mind and shows her how to use the powers granted by a gauntlet attached to her left arm. From there, the two begin to follow a trail of literal breadcrumbs and encounter several strange creatures like talking mushrooms and Willo-the-Wasps.
Right off the bat I really enjoy Yaga and The Voice’s dynamic. Yaga is reticent and timid while The Voice is brash, loud, and mean. Whether you listen to The Voice or not is up to you, Blacktail has a morality system akin to games of the early 2010’s. Occasionally you’ll reach a crossroads in the story, for example to defeat a dragon you can either ally with the righteous knight or duplicitous thief, and whichever you choose will move your morality meter in the appropriate direction. Outside of those moments, you’ll come across similar opportunities out in the world like choosing to free a bird from a carnivorous plant or more safely just shooting the plant with the bird inside. It’s usually pretty clear when you come across these moments, but with the aforementioned bird and plant I didn’t realize the bird was even in there until I had already put an arrow through the plant.
Your powers and abilities will change depending on your alignment, though I didn’t notice anything in my short playthrough. While I’m sure it’ll have more weight in the final game, even as it is now it’s just fun to interact with. It’s been a while since I’ve played a game with a morality system, and the fairy tale flavor compliments it perfectly due to the black and white nature of those stories.
The survival elements also feel weirdly appropriate. Given that you’re armed only with a bow, you need to craft arrows and other supplies to survive. There’s no hunger system thankfully, but the only way to heal is to eat food either by finding berries or hunting animals and cooking their meat. Given that the story is about the Baba Yaga, you appropriately feel like a scavenger and hoarder, constantly gathering supplies to either craft things or for use in the hut’s cauldron to purchase skills. I couldn’t really explore much of the skill tree here, but it’s got what you’d expect: improved arrows and powers and such.
While Blacktail isn’t doing anything particularly new, the fairy tale themes make it feel fresh and exciting. The story is intriguing, the world is beautiful and fun to explore, and the combat feels challenging despite a limited moveset. I hadn’t even heard of the game before doing this preview, but it has quickly shot up the list of my most anticipated.