Friday, March 28, 2014

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Now Available: Betrayer, the Stylish Stealth Shooter Fresh from Steam's Early Access Program

Betrayer 4
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It takes a lot of work and a lot of flair to make a first-person shooter stand out anymore, but Blackpowder Games' Betrayer, a recent graduate of Steam's Early Access program which lets players buy into and support games while they're still in development, is an interesting example of how that can be done. The game's striking high-contrast visual style is hard to miss, but in spite of that this challenging shooter is more than just a pretty face.

I covered Betrayer's Early Access debut last August, and since then there have been quite a few changes. Most notably the story has been filled in, the world has been opened up, and a color saturation slider has been implemented just below the sliders used to fine tune lightness and darkness. That means that now you can make Betrayer look like basically every other game (if you're into that sort of thing.)

There's one thing in particular that hasn't been changed at all, and I just can't fathom why. Every so often when you strike an enemy, your shot will be deflected by their armor and make an over-the-top, CLANGGGG noise. I originally described it as "the same sound you'd expect to hear when someone gets hit over the head with a frying pan in an old cartoon," and it really works against the quiet, ominous mood the game works so hard to maintain. At the time I assumed it was a placeholder, but apparently that's not the case.

Most of these are superficial details, and when it comes to the actual gameplay (which can be very unforgiving) you'll either love it or hate it. Inspired by ill-fated early American settlements like Roanoke, you'll need equal parts stealth and strategy to succeed in Betrayer. Most of the enemies (posessed conquistadors, for the most part) are very easy to aggro, and take 2-4 hits with your bow to finally drop. There are guns, of course, and they are much more effective, but any historian (or Wikipedia fan) will tell you that reloading a musket or pistol during the colonial era wasn't exactly a speedy process.

I haven't had the chance to finish Betrayer for myself yet, but I'm looking forward to it. It's not an easy game, nor does it seem to be a long game, but in a genre plagued by worlds that are all too often indistinguishable from each other, Betrayer could offer a breath of fresh air.

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.


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