The Parasight is a small indie game development team started in 2019 that makes games based on fairy tales, and so far it’s off to a great start. Its first title, Blacktail, is a survival RPG set in a beautiful, creepy, and alive forest based on the Slavic tale of the Baba Yaga.
For those who aren’t familiar, there are many interpretations of the story, but in some Baba Yaga is believed to be a witch who lives in the woods. Sometimes the ones who seek her are rewarded with help, and sometimes they are devoured. Respect, love, preparedness, and a pure heart were said to be the keys to a successful interaction with Baba Yaga. Blacktail plays to this piece of the lore perfectly with its good and evil paths throughout the story.
The game opens with a little background on the main character, a young mask-wearing girl named Yaga, and then asks if the player will choose the path of light or the path of darkness. After selecting, Yaga wakes in the middle of the woods with nothing but broken memories. The only thing Yaga does remember is that she was with her friends and sister, and she needs to find them. There are two voices heard as Yaga first opens her eyes, one is a young girl and another is referred to only as “The Voice” for the rest of the game. The Voice is a woman who comes off as annoyed and belittling to Yaga, yet helps her along the way anyway. The voice doesn’t seem to belong to anything or anyone physically following Yaga, but coming from within somehow.
Within the first few steps in the forest, Yaga collects and equips her bow, the main weapon for the remainder of the adventure. The bow initially comes with one type of arrow but more are discovered and able to be crafted by the end. There are three types of shots available with the bow – quick, long, and power. As one expects with a bow, it’s as simple as taking aim and choosing a target. But this isn’t the only thing Yaga has at her disposal.
On her arm, Yaga has a wood-like gauntlet that she soon learns can shoot out spells to push back or freeze enemies with rechargeable mana. This is especially helpful to give players a little space to get their aim right when suddenly bombarded with creatures instead of being instantly overwhelmed. On some smaller enemies, this ability is enough to wipe them out within a hit or two.
The good news for players who aren’t as interested in the combat and are more interested in a new interpretation of the Baba Yaga tale is that Blacktail allows players to start in Adventure or Story Mode. The largest difference between the two modes is combat difficulty. For players who prefer to just play games for the story and aren’t interested in their skills or ability in combat, story mode gives a bit of a lighter experience. But for those who like both, Adventure offers plenty of challenges.
Immediately, there are items to pick up for crafting, leading players through the tutorial while giving them a good stock of resources to start with. Players will want to be sure to always have plenty of red flowers, as they will need to provide one to shrines to save. There is usually one nearby each save shrine, though. Soon, Yaga stumbles upon some talking mushrooms, Borvy and Borko, who also portray a light vs dark personality and begin to lead her along the story path. Players can choose which to listen to and if they’d like to follow their instructions or do some exploration of their own. After that, the game opens up and enemies and hidden treasures begin to appear. Yaga encounters mythical creatures, one-eyed spiders, and carnivorous plants, and recovers memories piece by piece as she fights to survive this mystical forest and all its magic and inhabitants.
For players to improve they need to focus on collecting resources through exploration, chests, and defeating smaller enemies. The resources can be used at The Hut to level up Yaga’s skill tree, unlock new mana abilities, improve the bow, and concoct potions. Among these abilities is an increase in the number and type of arrows used, bonus hexes, and freezing power. The tree is set up for players to be able to focus on leveling up the area that best suits their play style or try to keep everything rounded out if they prefer.
While the story unfolds, Yaga ends up breaking her mask, collecting new ones, and placing them on a statue of a faceless man, at which point she learns more about her missing memories and discovers her friends. During these points, players can choose to switch paths. Most of Yaga’s basic interactions have a good or evil alignment and get tracked in the player’s menu as well. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be easy for someone on the path of good to do something evil by accident. For example, when in combat, if a player uses their mana ability to fight enemies it is possible to accidentally hit a nearby bird or stick bug and get a knock on their record.
While learning about Yaga, her sister Zora, and her missing friends, there are storybook-like cut scenes to fill in the gaps in Yaga’s memories. These are narrated by a new voice in the game with a sense of wit, charm, a little sarcasm, and humor that makes the story enticing and breaks up the narrative coming from Yaga and The Voice.
Blacktail is among many great games that are set in the woods, but sets itself apart by taking the concept of a witch in the forest and transforming it into a creative world with a large map and unique characters and enemies along the journey. Day or night, these woods express the same level of eerie beauty with so much to take in. This isn’t a typical fairy tale forest; it has character, edge, and detail. While the expansive map makes for fun exploration, a lot of players will likely be disappointed by the lack of a true fast travel option. There are two kinds of shrines Yaga uses in the game to travel, one has to have an arrow shot through to teleport her over, so she must be close enough to target it with her bow. The other transports her to a twin shrine that is usually not too far away. While this will pull the player forward more quickly than running, it isn’t very efficient or useful for trying to get all the way across the map.
Another travel option that is helpful but doesn’t quite hit the mark is petting the black cat. This will transport players to The Hut to visit the cauldron. There are many locations where the black cat waits for Yaga, and they are clearly labeled on the map. However, it just doesn’t help quite as much as true fast travel.
There were a few features that could be improved on but definitely didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game. At the campfires around the map, players are able to cook meat for health. However, the camera angle is awkward in these scenes, as the player doesn’t find themselves looking at the fire they’re using, but next to the fire, which can break the immersion of the game.
As expected in an exploration-based game, there are a lot of areas where some platforming skill comes into play. The way Yaga’s health and lives are set in the game makes it so a fall can wipe out a lot of progress. The controls in the game aren’t unmanageable, but they can lead to frustration in some areas. This becomes especially noticeable when trying to angle and time a jump just right, as sometimes players may find Yaga shifting oddly and in some cases falling if she’s just on the edge after she lands or trying to jump around an object in the path.
Taking a fairy tale about a witch and turning it into a video game could have easily been a cheesy turn, with a cliché spooky forest that is dark, without a lot of detail, full of owls, and a cackling hag witch. However, The Parasight took this story and added its own elements that give some context to a classic tale and give it a rebirth. The ending was a little bit predictable, but the adventure of young Yaga added something new for fans and those new to the Baba Yaga lore. Dark, entertaining, original, and bewitching – Blacktail is a solid choice that plays on the same level as some of the best RPG games.
Blacktail is out now for PC, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.
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