Blair Witch: Volume 3 - The Elly Kedward Tale
|a game by||Ritual Entertainment|
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Are we bored of Blair Witch yet? Of course we bloody well are. In this final installment of Take 2's budget trilogy, the entertainment factor disappears faster than the local children. The obvious sense of double deja vu permeates through the game like a recurring nightmare, and things really aren't helped by a lead character who looks more like Crazy Legs Crane than an 18th century witch hunter.
Blair Witch 3's reliance on simplistic blasting action rather than any meaningful adventure means it's up to the graphics to Keep things interesting, and in fairness there are some notable effects. Jonathan Prye's omnipresent lantern is a nice touch, and the burning cross spell is often spectacular.
Still, visually things can get a bit murky, which sometimes makes it difficult to see exits. Collision detection is also a bit iffy and there are numerous occasions where you're blocked from walking over seemingly obstacle-free sections of ground. Jonathan is also prone to getting himself stuck inside sections of the background such as walls and doors, so save often in order to avoid any nasty repercussions.
Unlike Rustic Parr and Coffin Rock, Elly Kedward is devoid of shocks (apart from a completely unnecessary hanging goat) or even surprising plot twists. From the moment you start you know what to do. First, you try all the doors on the houses to see who hasn't fled. Next, you listen to lengthy dialogues in order to find out information. Then you enter the woods. Yes, it really is that predictable.
The inclusion of the spirit plane and the demon plane provides some atmospheric variation, but even exploring these two worlds does little to improve the tedious formulaic drivel that is Blair Witch 3. Even the Native Indian in the Woods spouts the same mystical crap as in Rustic Pan.
Again, as far as the enemies are concerned it's more of the same: devil dogs, phantom demons and zombies - there's nothing that can be classed as even vaguely original or imaginative. Frankly, we're tired of the whole thing - and judging by the total lack of ideas here it was clearly a mistake to release three short games based on the same second-hand engine.
Maybe we're being a bit over-critical though; after all, it's only $20 and we finally get to find out who's really responsible for centuries of mayhem in the Burkitsville/Maryiand area.
But let's face it, nobody really cares and $20 is still too much money to throw away on a game that's already on sale in two other different boxes.
Download Blair Witch: Volume 3 - The Elly Kedward Tale
Halloween has definitely lingered longer than usual this year. With a film sequel and two exciting games to titillate our pagan curiosity, it's been hard to escape the omnipresent spirit of the Blair Witch. Even now, the chances of sleeping peacefully remain slim, when in the spirit of modem horror the witch just keeps coming back for more.
Ritual Entertainment is currendy putting together the finishing touches for the third and final game in the Blair Witch trilogy. Blair Witch Volume 3: The Elly Kedward Tale takes place before the other two games, concentrating instead on events from 1786, when Elly Kedward (the so-called Blair Witch) is accused of using local brats in unsavoury pagan rituals, and is then exiled from the township of Blair into the surrounding woods.
The player assumes the role of Jonathan Pyre, a disillusioned Pastor (and part-time witch hunter) who takes it upon himself to investigate the subsequent murders of various townsfolk after Elly's banishing, and thus save the township from the witch bitch and restore his own wavering faith in die Lord Almighty.
One curious quirk the game will undoubtedly have to abide by is the fact that Pyre will never actually succeed in his quest. Why? Because if he did manage to banish whatever evil is lurking in Blair, the films and games set further down the fictional Blair Witch timeline simply wouldn't make sense. Consequently, you have to wonder whether there's any point in creating the game at all when effectively, we already know the ending.
Anyway, fact is the game is being made and, once again, it's the spooky Nocturne engine that powers proceedings. Graphically, you can expect flitting shadows, great use of lighting and a rather tasty cloth modelling technique on the main protagonist. In other words, the aesthetics are not too dissimilar to Rustin Parr or Coffin Rock.
The real difference with Blair 3 lies in its beefed-up combat system. Standard guns and gadgetry are accompanied by a unique spell-based interface that should, if all goes to plan, make Blair 3 the complete horror action/adventure. Sure enough, we racked our brains to think of another game that blends spell casting with fixed viewpoint cinematic gameplay and came up with nothing: Resident Evil can only boast guns; Alone In The Dark is a similar kettle of fish; and the original Nocturne is the same.
So it seems that Blair 3 will be a unique proposition, but the truth is Ritual has clearly not played by the rules here. A considerable amount of time has been spent tweaking the Nocturne engine rather than sticking with the original code, whereas Terminal Reality and Human Head used the engine as it was and moulded their games around it. It's probably the reason why the latter developers' games are sitting on shop shelves while Blair 3 still languishes in the sticky mitts of play testers. But then Ritual is renowned for making things difficult for itself - look at the bug problems on SiN...
As it stands, gameplay falls somewhere between Diablo and Resident Evil. There are three forms of magic that will aide Pyre in his quest: Christian Invocation, Shamanistic Rites and good old Pagan witchcraft. This magic is currently one of the major areas of concern for the developers. One word that keeps cropping up when Ritual talk about this segment of the engine is 'robust'. Apparently, creating spells that look different and affect objects or monsters in different ways is no easy task. Not only must the particle effects for the spells be significantly and recognisably different from each other, the interface must also be intuitive and easy to use.
The enemies themselves should also prove to be varied. Players will encounter everything from zombies to demons - and choosing whether to dispose of these creatures with magic or more conventional weapons of the era, such as a musket, should be part of the game's allure. There will also be certain magic items to help Pyre in his quest, and he'll also receive advice from three mentors (Shaman, Pagan and Christian) who turn up from time to time to teach new spells and whisper obscure riddles into his ear.
Overall, Blair 3 will be considerably more action-based than the first two. Puzzles will be extremely limited with the main focus falling squarely on blasting, zapping, running and panicking. Whether or not this leads to a rather more sedate atmosphere as opposed to the paranoid, menacing atmosphere of the film and the first game in particular remains to be seen. What cannot be ignored, however, is that out of all three games, this is probably the title that is most removed from the general creeping terror of the whole Blair Witch ethos.
This doesn't mean it's going to be a bad game, though. What we're actually saying is that, because of the action-orientated gamcplay, this is most likely to be the game that will ultimately appeal to a wider gaming audience rather than fans of the Blair Witch legend alone. Look out for the review in a couple of months.