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Letters from the Front

( Editor’s note: This was written on August 30th. Reason why I haven’t been writing that much and less content has been going up on the site is because it is officially videogame season. I’ve been playing a lot of videogames recently and here is one of many. Please enjoy the read and the review should be up soon!)

Blair Witch released on August 30th by Bloober Team, best known for Observer and the Layers of Fear series. It is set in Maryland’s Burkittsville Forest in 1996, shortly after the original film. In Blair Witch, a child has gone missing in the woods where the protagonist Ellis has joined the hunt with this dog Bullet, even if nobody wants him there. Ellis is a real jerk.

The game begins when Ellis joins the hunt to find the lost boy. I spent most of my time in the introductory phase walking through the woods, following Bullet and picking up clues to the whereabouts of the boy. The core gameplay is very much like Firewatch and Outlast, but that doesn’t come until much later. There is a lot of listening and hearing and looking around, so it’s best to pay attention here. Things quickly get out of control, as things usually does and Ellis becomes disoriented as the sounds of war fill his head and blacks out.

Spooky things go bump in the dark. Supernatural entities haunt the forest, and the characters just discovered the tapes of The Blair Witch Project, the original film. The characters begin to share stories of evil that haunt these woods and legends that have fallen into folklore. By this time, reality has now collapsed and has been warped around our main protagonist, Ellis, as the forest now becomes the site of a warzone: Trenches, a bunker, impossibly-placed vehicles, and much more dot the once beautiful and pristine forest. There is a satisfying atmosphere out in the woods, Bloober Team has created an ominous, very creepy and intimidating forest here that already looks suspicious. The markers that we have come to expect out in the woods can no longer be trusted and the rules of reality like time moves in one direction can no longer be applied.

Ellis can find red tapes that are scattered across the woods that have the ability to wrap reality and time and change the course of events. One tape depicts that the boy drops a baseball on the ground and there it is on the ground in front of me. These tapes allow you to solve pretty easy puzzles and sometimes you have to return to a previous video to solve a puzzle. It’s a pretty neat mechanic.

When it comes to combat, it is definitely something that is inspired by Alan Wake. Ellis can defend himself via a flashlight, that is a nice little callback to Alan Wake and Bullet glares and follows enemies with his eyes, allowing me to spot them and shine my flashlight on them. You barely see the monsters, they attack from all sides and they’re long limbed white blurs that flash. This form of enemy reminds me a lot of Alan Wake and it’s a good way to keep things on the spookier side. These flashlight-based combat sections are great and they work well.

As I continue to go through the game, it’s hard to tell how many of the game’s mechanics actually matter in the long run. Their effects aren’t made clear, even a few hours in and you completely settled yourself in. The game warns you that it is watching you and will react to your every action but what action? Petting the dog? Picking up the wood carved idols? Crushing the Blair Witch symbols that hang from trees? It isn’t necessarily well-explained and it’s pretty confusing.

Blair Witch isn’t a very long game, it is a 5 hour game so stay tuned for my review coming soon.

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