Game Preview: Betrayer – Steam Early Access Impressions
Betrayer, what is Betrayer? If I was to give you the press release version of that answer, it would be:
Betrayer washes you ashore in the New World in 1604, where you’re expecting to join a struggling English colony on the Virginia coast. Instead you find only ghosts and mysteries in a land drained of colour and life. You’ll build up an arsenal of weaponry including muskets, crossbows and throwing axes, collecting untold treasures along the way. Chart your own course through an untamed wilderness teeming with danger and discovery as you search for survivors and unravel the colony’s many mysteries, including the identity of the strange, silent woman in red who helps from afar.
Now, my version of that answer after playing the game, wouldn’t be much different. Betrayer certainly washes you ashore and has you trying to figure out what to do after it. You have no idea how you got there, or what happened. You just know you are there, and you need to find out what happened. Maybe the character knows what happened but you don’t. After looking around for a while, a female in a red hood aims a bow towards you and shoots an arrow right onto what appears to be a small totem. The arrow didn’t come alone though, as attached to it is a note that reads: “You will need a weapon, and this bow shall serve you for the time being…” The note also goes on to explain how you will need to collect your bows, and hitting your enemies stealthily will have the maximum effect. However, due to the armour they are wearing, the arrows might deflect, so you will have to get a little bit more personal and use your dagger.
I can definitely say that stealth is very important in this game. You see, all around you, in the bewildering forest, there will be tons of enemies to face, and since they are all extremely aggressive and strong, it won’t take much for them to kill you. You will mostly just die from one hit. So, because of that you have to be very careful on how you approach a situation, you should definitely think if you want to actually attack your enemies, or ignore them altogether.
The feature that really emphasises and promotes planning is the loot mechanic. You see, scattered everywhere in this world, are chests that contain loot for you. You can either find a handful of loot from them, or kill enemies and take theirs after they drop it (wouldn’t be as much though). You can use that loot to purchase new weapons and equipment for yourself, so that you can gain a better fighting chance against these ghouls.
However, be warned, once you die, like the ghouls, you will also drop your entire gold stash, and if you want it back you will have to come looking for it. Fortunately, you won’t have to try too hard to find your last place of death, as the games navigation bar gives you a handy cross to tell you where you had last dropped your loot. So you can either risk it and go back, or decide to ignore it if the amount isn’t worth the trouble. The navigation bar by the way, is akin to the one seen in Skyrim, and works in a similar fashion. Meaning your objects will appear in shapes on it.
Moving on to the combat aspect of the game, the only weapon that truly makes you feel powerful is your bow! If you use it patiently enough and line up headshots before using it, you’ll be a silent predator in no time! It is fast, and it’s responsive. Basically put, it works! The guns on the other hand, even though more powerful then the bow, do have a drawback as they are basically muskets, and thus, require long reloading times between each use. So you have to be extra careful of what you use during combat. For now, I would recommend the silent but deadly approach.
Now even though you have means of destroying your foes, they are still very powerful and will at times be larger in numbers. They will also have weapons that you have, like bows and muskets. So traversing will get really hard at times, especially because you are trying to find clues as to what is happening to the world around you. However, there is a way you can cleverly deal with this for now (The reason I say, “for now” is because the game is still in development and the method will not work for long.)
When you approach your first town in game, you will notice a bell pole. If you proceed to ring it, something really creepy and scary happens! The entire world goes dark, and eerie whispering noises start playing around you. It is very tense! However, the first time I traversed around in this dimension, the enemies were nowhere to be seen. So I used this to my advantage, and whenever I would die, dropping a handful of loot, I would just come back to the town, ring the bell and proceed to recovering my loot without much of a hassle. Another thing that you can do with this bell feature is, whenever someone is running after you, run towards the bell and ring it, causing whomever is running after you to disappear. It is a handy tactic that saved my life more then once when I was in way over my head!
Be warned though, as this place is not completely empty and has its own version of enemies which look like floating ghosts. Before they appear, you will hear a rumbling noise, alerting you to their presence. They are fairly easy to kill by using your bow silently, and can be dispatched with your dagger when they get too close. So, because of this I had found an easy way to my traversing problems, but after researching more on the forums for this game, I had also found out that this version of the world is relatively empty for the moment, because well, it is still in the Alpha phase. Still, for the time being, it serves as a good way to get back your loot in case you are frustrated from getting killed all the time while finding clues.
Now I have mentioned clues before, and you might be wondering what they exactly are. Clues are basically notes left by the previous inhabitants (or the women in red), that better explain the situation to you, like why everything is condemned, and what exactly happened to all the inhabitants of this world. You will also find this entity after ringing the bell in the town for the first time, it seems to be bothered by your presence. You can talk to him, and ask questions in an RPG fashion by selecting what to say from choices that are given to you. So for now, we know that it will have some RPG elements, but just how many, we are not sure.
Also, in this town, you will find what appears at first glance to be statues, but after closer inspection they appear to be people, or were. Now they are nothing but shells of their former selves. The cool thing about this is, that visually they tell an unsettling story. You know that something has happened to them, but for now you have no idea what exactly. It gave me a better incentive though, to find out what has happened to them, to see if they still might be savable. To do that though, you have to explore on your own, go where you haven’t before, and hope that you find clues before the ghouls find you.
Around the forums and comments I’ve seen on the trailers, I have noticed a lot of people have voiced their concerns for this games black and white filter, and how it messes with their eyes. Honestly, I had the same problem first playing the game. When I first went over to get a clear view of the ship that had been wrecked, the problem became apparent. At times, because of the filter, I lost grasp of just how big the world was. The two sided colour doesn’t do much for promoting huge vistas, which I believe this game possesses. However, after playing the game more and finding out about the lore, I understood that this world is not vibrant at all. Something is very wrong with this place, and there is a reason this lack of colour persists as it is all tied to the lore, and hopefully, you’ll just have to find out why.
Still, they could at least try to make the lighting in the game more apparent, as it seems messy at the moment due to the filter. Other problems that some people have is with the games difficulty, and stealth mechanics. I have the same problem at times, and think that the game could dial down on the difficulty a bit, because as of now, you get killed way too fast but your enemies don’t. I understand that it is because your enemies are powerful, but I don’t think it is balanced that well. This might be attributed to the Alpha phase of the stealth mechanics for now though, as they still need tweaking in my opinion, as the enemies notice you coming even if you’re walking far away. So, I hope there will be an option to tone down the difficulty in the final version of the game.
In conclusion, I can safely say that this game is coming along nicely and is tons of fun to play at the moment. The exploration aspect of the game is great and the combat works fine most of the time, especially with the bow. The incentive for exploration is there too, because only after doing so can you actually find out about the story, and find more loot to buy yourself better weapons and equipment. However, it will need a much larger carrot on the end of the stick if it truly plans to succeed, because as of now, I can see some players getting bored with it.