A first-person open-world-survival horror game set in the 17th Century New World presented in a bold monochromatic visual style. Is this refreshing recipe bound to succeed?
No intro, cut scene or voiceover explains what happened. You wake up on a beach. Everything is black or white (not even gray). On the horizon you see a wrecked ship, there is only one direction to take: A small path leading into the island.
Soon you might notice something red stand out in the monochromatic but serene looking dense forest of the island. Before you can make it out a figure dashes towards you - a Spanish conquistador with glowing red demonic eyes is out for blood – his growl shows that he’s not really human anymore. Thankfully you have a bow and a knife to defend yourself.
After these first intense moments as well as a mysterious encounter with a woman in red, Betrayer got me hooked. Venturing out into the wilderness where I discover graves, handwritten notes or other clues and hints that tell me more about what happened on the island give me the feeling that I love the most when playing a new game. Exploring and getting to know a new and strange world.
Yet further in, I discovered that Betrayer greatest strength lies somewhere else: After some events that I don’t want to spoil you meet ghosts of deceased settlers that speak in riddles.
These lost souls and their story unfold like little detective cases. You need to find evidence, murder weapons or remains of the ghosts to solve what lead to their demise. Their mostly terrible fates are not only well written and interesting, they also create an atmosphere of desperation and really makes you feel that the island is not a place you wanna stay for longer than necessary.
As interesting as these ghost mysteries are, as problematic is their integration in the gameplay. After figuring out how the game and the environment is set up, you are basically just running from clue to clue and fight every enemy that pops up in between. The game keeps the battle interesting by offering an unconventional weapon roster like Tomahawks, Rifles and Crossbows – all with different attributes, adding a light RPG touch to the game. The combat encourages you to plan ahead a bit as stealth gives you an advantage and realistically long reload times force you to rather switch weapons than trying to get another shot in, but after a while it gets repetitive and there aren’t really many different enemy types. The AI is not really challenging as most foes just chase you straight down once they see you. This overall doesn't hurt the atmosphere of the game, that features a refreshing scenario as instead of just darkness or cramped corridors, it sets you in a sunlit beautiful forest that becomes threatening all on it's own.
All in all, Betrayer is a very interesting game that definitely tries new things in a refreshing scenario. The visual style, the writing as well as the game play mechanics are well implemented, but combat and exploration gets repetitive after the first two areas and the horror subsides after you become familiar with all enemy types. I still enjoyed my stay on the island and would like to revisit the place in a possible sequel.