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Betrayer (PC) artwork

Betrayer (PC) review

"A knife in the back"

Betrayer (PC) image

I am torn...

I would love to start this review by jumping right into a description of Betrayer's excellent opening scene. However, such an introduction runs the risk of suggesting that the game as a whole is a terrific piece of isolation horror. It's not, and for that reason, I'm forced to temper my enthusiasm. I don't want you to go into your possible experience with the game expecting brilliance that it never delivers, especially on my account. Even so, Betrayer is at least solid enough to warrant one casual playthrough. I certainly don't want to discourage any interested parties from checking it out.

Betrayer embarks in an eerie fashion. A chilling ambient theme kicks in, accompanying a credit sequence and a vague cinematic. The game immediately cuts to a shot of you standing on a beach. The music quiets, giving way to the roar of the sea and the sough of wind through a nearby forest. A pale, colorless environment awaits you (provided you don't modify the color saturation in the options menu), broken only by the occasional dab of red.

Betrayer (PC) image

With the exception of a crimson-clad girl clutching a bow, you're the only living human on the island. Forts and settlements stand empty, offering vague clues as to what befell England's attempt to colonize the land. Map markers that provide goodies and story-advancing items dot the surrounding region. Treasure chests and burial mounds hold handfuls of coins, weapons or charms that modify your stats. Often, though, these locations are marred by grisly details: pools of blood, decayed bodies, stained murder weapons, bullet-penetrated skulls... Suffice it to say that Betrayer's campaign is one very grim investigation.

The game finds its bleak narrative punch as you piece together each crime. One man murdered a flute player because he uncovered a sinister secret. A woman committed suicide after her child accidentally shot himself while playing with his father's pistol. An adulterer accused his mistress of witchcraft so that the townsfolk would burn her at the stake, thereby eliminating the child they'd conceived. Betrayer's backstory is a cavalcade of heart-wrenching tales that befit the game's downbeat mood.

You eventually discover that you're not alone on this rock. Now and then, you hear grunts in the distance, or a blood-curdling series of howls. Possessed Spaniards patrol the land, ready to plug musket rounds into any living souls they spot. Meanwhile, cursed natives spy you from miles away, cutting loose speedy arrows while their bodies burn. Demonic spiders and spectres from beyond also join the humanoid threats, plunging Betrayer into stranger, more supernatural territories.

Betrayer (PC) image

It's sad, then, that despite the game's spooky content, excellent atmosphere and brutal setup, Betrayer fails to offer an overall experience that is as effective as it should be.

Betrayer presents the player with several semi-open world stages to explore. Unfortunately, surveying each level is a routine affair. As you enter a locale, you inspect the aforementioned points of interest for clues and loot. Eventually, you make your way to a particular settlement, locate a missing bell and replace it. Upon ringing it, you enter a Silent Hill-ish netherworld full of ghouls and wraiths. There, you converse with the damned souls of the colonialists, reconstruct their stories and find someplace to cry yourself numb.

Interviews with the dead are straightforward affairs. Most adventure titles with dialogue sequences offer a fair number of speaking options, with each fetching a different result. Betrayer, however, only provides you with a single line that advances the sub-plot. You don't rely on wits or consider your phrasing when conversing with anyone. You might ultimately wonder why the developers even bothered to include an interactive dialogue system in the first place.

Traveling and dealing with monsters require stealth. When pit against the Spaniards, sneaking is pretty effective. Only once in a while did a foe spot me when I felt he shouldn't be able to, but even then, dispatching him and his cohorts didn't prove excessively troublesome. The natives, on the other hand, are a different story. Their presence pretty much negates Betrayer's stealth elements. No matter how well I surveyed the land, I never detected a native before he noticed me. Regardless of my level of vigilance and covertness, I still heard them baying from ten miles away.

Betrayer (PC) image

Have you ever wondered why there aren't many realistic first-person shooters that take place during the colonial period? Betrayer answers that question. When you forgo sneaking, ranged weapons are your only viable recourse. Pistols and muskets fell monsters with ease, but they're also low tech firearms with lengthy reload times. It's frustrating watching the protagonist slowly pour a shot into a musket, ram the ammo and engage the flintlock while the forces of hell charge towards him. Bows are a wonderful alternative, since they're easy to reload, but they also don't deal as much damage. Now your choices consist of either button mashing as you fire arrows at a foe, or running erratically to avoid opposing projectiles. If you're lucky, your missile might actually nail your target.

It doesn't help that your enemies lack a sense of self-preservation. They charge towards you, heedless of your shots, and stop right in front of you. They practically beg to be slaughtered. The natives diverge from this AI routine by running back and forth, though it grants them no special strategic advantage. It only means you need to aim a little more carefully while shooting at them. Ultimately, Betrayer's skirmishes are tedious and not the least bit frightening or exciting.

Betrayer starts with a guttural roar and concludes with a whimper. It loses most of its surprises and psychological scares and eventually descends into a monotonous list of chores. Still, I can't say I regret my time with the game, even though I am ultimately disappointed by its wasted potential. This could have been a poignant, disturbing tale about the notion that humanity is its own worst enemy. Although Betrayer succeeds in communicating that point, its message nearly becomes lost under a torrent of dull tasks and ho-hum fights.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (November 08, 2016)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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