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One of the most interesting things about Blackpowder Game’s Betrayer is that it’s possibly misattributed as an action-adventure first-person shooter. The genre of first-person shooters brings to mind, subconsciously or overtly, games like Call of Duty or Halo—even the predecessor to this development team in Fear. However, while Betrayer does indeed rely heavily on combat in a first-person perspective, in the same way a game like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion did—just as that game wouldn’t be regarded as a first-person shooter so much as an RPG, Betrayer feels more akin to a modern ‘walking simulator’, with shooting mechanics thrown in.
That being said, Betrayer came out around the time walking sims were making their initial impact on the market, and the moniker may yet have been able to be attributed.
A Monochromatic Design
One of the first things that stands out about Betrayer is the visual style. In most every regard, it’s minimalistic. From its colors to its environment to its enemy design, lodgings, and weapons—the only thing that elevates it all to something more evocative is its sound design. While those things seek to maintain an atmospheric simplicity, the sound seeks to immerse you more completely in that atmosphere. All that said, it’s not a problem of the game inherently—rather a design decision.
Strange New World
The next thing to notice about the game is its interesting setting and straight-to-gameplay mentality. Betrayer wastes no time getting you into the thick of it. In the 17th century, your protagonist washes ashore colonial America to Virginia and the nearby, abandoned, Fort Henry. On the path to this derelict place, you’ll find an assortment of basic armaments to combat ghostly conquistadors and Native American warriors. All that said, the game doesn’t tell you the story outright, or indeed, at all—instead it expects you to understand that, to know more, requires exploration.
Misattribution of Genre
While the game never sold for full-price, it was slightly marketed as a first-person shooter. In that regard, it is likely people were disappointed with the product. However, with hindsight, it’s easier to see the intention of the game. While shooting is the primary means of combat and gameplay, it uses it more as a tool of engagement in exploration than excitement. That said, walking through the woods and various colonies only to experience apparitions and quests to discover the underlying cause—while also ringing bells to transport between realities into a parallel ghost world—only adds to the game’s mystery. With that in mind, walking simulators of recent years have used similar design mechanics, only without so much combat. In that way, Betrayer can be more exciting than those.
Era of Exploration
In some ways Betrayer was ahead of its time and in others, it wasn’t. As a walking simulator method of storytelling that prioritizes immersion in the game-world over cutscenes—it excelled. However, with limited combat variety, animations, diversity in quests, and some sloppier shooting mechanics—it couldn’t hold up to shooters of the time. However, the amazing scenery of colonial America has often been ignored in gaming—with only Greedfall exhibiting a twist on the setting in recent years.
And, with that, along with the benefit of hindsight to the intended gameplay direction of Betrayer—it’s a mysterious, engaging, and ultimately short adventure that’s worth looking in to.
- Wonderful setting, atmosphere, and style
- Sound design
- Mysterious story told all through interactivity with world
- Limited shooting mechanics
- Repetitive gameplay and scenery
- Misattributed genre