Blacktail is an action adventure first-person archery game from The Parasight, set in a dark fantasy world inspired by Slavic myth and folklore. You play as Yaga, a young girl accused of witchcraft and banished from her village on a journey to find her twin sister Zora. Zora’s disappearance was only the latest in a string of missing children from the village, which you’re being blamed for.
The story foreshadows its big reveals pretty explicitly, but the writing is very aware of this fact and doesn’t make the characters play stupid as the plot unravels. Instead, the main story is content to slowly reveal how and why events lead to the conclusion players are likely to guess at. It succeeded at keeping me interested just to get the full picture.
You’ll come across a handful of NPC characters with a couple of side quests you can tackle. Although I found no side story as intriguing as the main one, I did grow fond of the recurring supporting cast of strange creatures like a megalomaniacal ant queen and an old pair of bickering twin mushrooms. Which side characters you choose to help, what actions you perform out in the world, and what decisions you make in the main story all feed into a morality system that will close or open certain interactions for you, as well as certain abilities in your skill tree.
Yaga has access to a trusty handcrafted bow and will need to pick up sticks and bird feathers scattered about to craft arrows on the fly. Collecting an assortment of other items and materials will allow further investment in her skill tree, adding new arrow types, improving cooldowns for abilities like charged shots, and dashing around. A magical deflect ability allows Yaga to push any enemies or projectiles in front of her away and will act as a magical shotgun if used while nocking an arrow.
Sadly, the limited kit leaves most combat encounters feeling pretty dry; even after a few upgrades, loading and firing arrows still feels slow. With almost every enemy type rushing your position, combat demands you keep distance but doesn’t give you fun enough ways to do this. You’ll also have to deal with the same handful of enemy types throughout, with boss encounters that borrow a lot from each other along the way.
I was impressed with the scale and density of the open-world map. There are sections of the world the story just doesn’t need you to investigate, yet side quests or your own curiosity may lead you into the wilderness. Blacktail uses a clever hint mechanic where, if you don’t know what you should be doing next, locating and shooting down creepy acorn idols scattered literally everywhere in the world will have spirits whisper the info to you.
This conceit plays up the game’s strongest trait, which is its folklore setting. As an ignorant American, I’ve never heard most or maybe any of the tales from which many of the creatures and scenarios you experience are drawn, but a few had me captivated, like a short but amazing section where I needed to help a race of stone people escape an upside-down bridge. I’m sure anyone familiar with these stories would appreciate them even more. The game is fully voiced by an enthusiastic cast who seem like they’re having a lot of fun, with fitting music and a bright yet slightly twisted art style reminiscent of an unsettling storybook.
Blacktail leverages its unique backdrop and fascinates with its world, while it tells you its grim story. Despite the lacking enemy variety and burdensome combat, this 12-16-hour adventure is a worthwhile one. The game is out now for $29.99 on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X | S with a 20% launch discount.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Blacktail.