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Everything we know about Blacktail

Begin a witchy adventure next week!

Folklore. Almost every bit of storytelling we know in the modern age is based upon some aspect of old folklore. It can be found in comic books, music, entertainment, cultural celebrations, and video games. Over the past few years, Slavic folklore has taken front and center, especially in video games. Black Book, a deck building RPG, takes the player through the darkness of the world with classic denizens of hell dogging the witch Vasillisa, while explaining Slavic mythology throughout her journey. CD Projekt Red’s entire The Witcher series is heavily based in Slavic lore, with many of the tales coming to life as quests.

Announced in 2021 and reintroduced at Gamescom in June, Blacktail from developer The Parasight, is the newest game basing its lore in Slavic tales. This one specifically focused on the tale of Baba Yaga. Did your blood run a bit cold? Good… With a unique approach to game play and an uncertain path before the heroine, its up to the player to determine the fate of our witch, for ill or good.

Here’s a look at everything we know about Blacktail, a gorgeously inspired first person archery-based open world game.

Hark, the Witch comes!

First, we must talk about the lore Blacktail is based upon. Baba Yaga is an old woman, often depicted as ugly and harsh in demeanor. She can be found throughout most Eastern European folktales, Russian and Japanese lore. A witch that may or may not eat children, she is also said to have a connection to creatures of the forest and is often their protector. Her origins are unknown, although, she was first definitively mentioned is Russian lore in the 1700’s.

Baba Yaga is unique in that her attributes remain mostly that same in the folklore about her. Between Slavic and Russian tales, she has no equal, but is simply the same being in both mythologies. She is always female, and almost always considered wicked, evil or deceptive. Whether or not this is because of the views of women held by those cultures or not is still up for debate- her sexual anatomy are often mentioned in a reviled way. At times she is one of three sisters, all considered ugly or deformed and vile, with her body stretching to unnatural lengths.

Even if you have no knowledge of ancient Baba Yaga, modern pop culture has used her likeness in several ways. The Witcher based Voleth Meir, or the Deathless Mother, after her. She was seen in the 2019 movie adaptation of Hellboy. Anime fans know her as Fortuneteller Baba in Dragon Ball. And Hayao Miyazaki based his characters Yubaba and Zeniba in Spirited Away, as well as the titular Moving Castle, from Howl’s Moving Castle on her and her surroundings. She is also a playable character in SMITE.

A new tale is spun

All the aforementioned depictions keep her as an old woman. Blacktail’s story is different. Early released gameplay appears to investigate how she got to be the feared, or beloved witch of her forest. Starting out as a little girl playing with her sister Zora, Yaga seeks out the red tree, a place the girls often practiced their archery skills.

Unfortunately, Yaga’s sister mysteriously disappears one day. Shortly there after, 16-year-old Yaga is accused of witchcraft and banished from her village. While out in the woods, a voice, with a wickedly sharp wit and lacking in morality, comes into Yaga’s head. Chastising her in frank, but foul language, the voice goads her into finding her sister.

Along the way, Yaga, armed with her bow and gauntlet, meets various creatures of lore, many with their own stories and tasks they want her to help them with. Talking mushrooms send her on her first real quest. An ant queen seeks world domination. Mr. Larva is confused and only wants to get back to milking Demons. Spiders with huge eyeballs threaten to poison Yaga. And a smoky black cat waits for Yaga at each save point, ready to spirit her back to THE Baba Yaga hut.

The Cauldron bubbles

At the hut, Yaga is able to craft items in her cauldron, like new spells, and unlock upgrades to herself, her bow, and her abilities. Each of these upgrades will cost ingredients that Yaga will find as she explores her world and defeats enemies. There is also a specific branch of abilities system that requires a certain amount of rare ingredients- animal parts.

Which brings us to the morality system. Each major action, every conversation and encounter with the inhabitants of her forest can tip the scales of Yaga’s morality. Blacktail is all about choice, and how those choices shape her story. The developers have revealed that depending on where her moral compass falls- good, gracious and worthy, or evil, will impact her future and how her story ends. Even from the get go, it looks like the player will have the choice to do things unselfishly, or only to benefit Yaga.

Knoch and let fly

This included how she handles her quests and combat. As mentioned before, Yaga has two possessions that serve as weapons: her bow and her gauntlet. It is rare to see a full archery game, without the obvious melee option. In place of melee, Yaga uses her gauntlet, which may or may not be cursed, to open chests, banish encroaching vines, slow down enemies and use powerful attack Hexes. Summon Yaga’s broom to distract enemies during combat and sweep the area ‘clean.’

Arrows crafting is on the fly with the sticks and feathers she picks up. At first, it looks like she has a limited amount she can hold at one time. This will increase as the player upgrades their perks, as well as things like draw speed and number of arrows she can fletch at once. A power shot is available early on, too, striking down several enemies in a single shot. And her gauntlet is somehow ties to her history.

Boss battles almost look “Soul-like” but without the extreme learning curve. How true that statement is, we’ll find out on release.

Painting the scenes

Haunted by “ghosts,” Blacktail’s version of Yaga’s tale is a strange brightly colored semi-horror game. The color pallet and art style are gorgeous and obviously meant to be appreciated. The vistas shown in the trailers and gameplay are beautifully designed. The dark paths down into various caves and other underground areas could be considered eerie flashbacks to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, or The Witcher.

 A large part of Blacktail will involve Yaga’s search for her missing memories. As she finds them, the player will transport into a 2.5D narrative episode. Each is a “mind-bending vision shedding light on Yaga’s heart and soul as well as her mysterious origins.” While much of Blacktail is first person archery shooter in an open world setting, her memories take on a more metroidvania, platformer style, similar to Hollow Knight.

Ready for more?

Whether or not Yaga becomes the vengeful witch of lore, or a new compassionate heroine, we are looking forward to walking her paths with her. Blacktail launches December 15, 2022, through publisher Focus Entertainment’s Indie Series. It is available for pre-order on PC through Steam, Epic Games and GOG.com. It will also be out on Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation5.

Keep it here for more details leading up to Blacktail’s release. We will have our first impressions, full review and a stream on our Twitch channel in the coming weeks.

Video Gallery

Official Announcement teaser

Demo Teaser

Gamescom 2022 Announcement

Gameplay trailer

Alicia Graves

A bit nerdy, a bit punk rock princess, and a whole lot of mom, I'm constantly in motion. I have an enthusiasm for gaming and the cultural complexities of entertainment, both past and present. I don’t believe in limiting myself to one kind of genre in books, comics, manga, anime, music or movies. I prefer to seek out hidden gems in panned pieces, uniqueness in the mundane and new outlooks on nuances.
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