Is it possible to have a hybrid Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Pro? This is exactly what Black Book is and it looks like it could be pretty good.
Black Book is a game that has been on my radar for a while. Up until recently I didn’t realise how much of a miss the game is. With no reviews or information available, I was curious to see what it’s about. I’ve heard a lot of bad press about the game, so this is my chance to see if my assertion that it’s one of the worst games I’ve played is correct.
Black Book is a quirky little game about naming the next President of the United States. In it, you play as a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, who must help him win the presidency in a series of intense, albeit yet hilarious, scenarios. Along the way you will have to deal with all sorts of bizarre characters, such as a crazy witch, a talking car and a distraught FBI agent. Black Book is a game that will put a smile on your face and maybe even inspire you to help make our country a better place!
The video game business enjoys focusing on culturally relevant games, although many of them have already been done to death. There are hundreds of games based on Japanese, European, American, and Nordic cultures, to the point where they’ve outstayed their welcome. Every now and then, a game based in a less-explored area may appear, such as Raji: An Ancient Epic, set in India, Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards, set in Incan civilization, or Someday You’ll Return, situated in the Czech Republic’s highlands. Even if they aren’t all winners, it’s still fun to play a game that offers you a glimpse into some lesser-known places and cultures. When indie developer Morteshka, makers of The Mooseman, developed Black Book, a game based on 19th century Slavic mythology, they did precisely that.
You’ll see the Devil face to face.
You play Vasilisa in Black Book, a young girl who has been reluctant to follow in her family’s footsteps of becoming a witch in favor of a regular life. When her lover commits suicide, she decides to study witchcraft with her grandpa in order to unlock the Black Book. This will allow her to revive him and rescue his soul from the depths of hell. Dealing with demons, however, is frequently more difficult than it seems.
Black Book is an adventure RPG featuring card-based fighting systems, comparable to Slay the Spire but with a stronger RPG emphasis. Newcomers to the genre shouldn’t be concerned since the card combat system isn’t too complex. That’s not to say it’s without difficulty; the Standard level offers a good gradual increase in complexity, and the Hard option stands up to its name. There’s a decent instructional system, but one that doesn’t linger too long.
As time goes on, you’ll continue to add to your deck.
However, Black Book isn’t only about card battles. Vasilisa spends a significant part of the game traveling from place to location, examining odd events or different houses along the way. To be honest, this is how much of Black Book is made up of. Vasilisa will explore each outpost or monument she comes across. These make for a lot of short tales, like Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, but much more fascinating.
Based on her understanding of different demons and spirits, Vasilisa will have to make cautious conclusions about what to do or what has happened.
This is where Black Book shines the most, since many of the encounters will teach you about different types of Slavic mythology. You’ll discover the traditional names for many demons, as well as the rituals and circumstances that accompany their appearance. You’ll notice early on that not all demons are inherently evil. Some are there because they are cursed to a particular place, while others are just inquisitive about the world we live in. Others, on the other hand, aren’t demons at all, but rather victims of a tragic situation. Not every situation is black and white, and determining the right course of action requires some thinking. However, there are plenty of demons that will murder you on sight, so proceed with caution.
He’ll join forces with you once you kill this winged monster.
You may also send the demons under your command (known as chorts) out into different areas of the map to cause mayhem among the townspeople, which is an intriguing feature of Black Book. This may sound harsh, but if you don’t give your chorts anything to do for a lengthy period of time, they’ll become extremely destructive. You may send one to poison the animals on one farm, another to infect the crops of a different farmer, and so on. As a result, you’ll get experience points, money, and other useful things. Isn’t it a win-win situation?
Not always, to be sure. In Black Book, there is a morality system. Every action and choice you make has ramifications. Killing every demon you come across straight immediately may provide you with some great experience points and stuff, but you may lose out on sidequests, premium items, and a better understanding of their history. That isn’t to suggest that every demonic encounter is all rainbows and sunshine, but many of your choices carry a surprising amount of weight. You’ll earn benefits if you send your devils out on missions, but you’ll also grow more sinful. Depending on whatever path you choose, the more immoral or pious you become, you’ll unlock additional sidequests and conversation choices. This has a significant impact on the villagers, as well as your outcome.
You will not come across every creature that is wicked. Some people need your assistance.
While the small stops and interactions can be a lot of fun and very insightful into the folklore, they can feel a bit tedious after a while. Black Book turned out to be a lot longer than I was expecting, clocking in about fifteen hours to beat. However, a lot of that time is padded out by these micro encounters, which stop feeling fresh after engaging in so many. There are optional tasks in each map you can choose to skip if you’d wish, but that’s where most of the new lore and best items are found. Unfortunately, there’s no option to bypass the rest of the stops on the map, which is why Black Book can feel like it drags on at times. The fact that controlling Vasilisa feels like trying to drive a bus through a vat of molasses doesn’t add to the experience either.
With these basic animations, the fight is far from lively.
Perhaps if the little exchanges were more aesthetically attractive, they wouldn’t be as boring. Regrettably, this is one of Black Book’s most significant roadblocks. This game isn’t very appealing. There are many interesting demons to encounter, but they aren’t frightening due to their terrible design and animation. It’s also a pity, since Black Book had the potential to be something really unique if Morteshka had more financial support. I’m concerned that the bad visuals will turn off most people and prevent them from giving it a fair go. Characters converse with one another via well-crafted hand-drawn stills, although even these are restricted.
Thankfully, the sound design contributes to a little improvement in the overall experience. The music is suitably dark and ominous. The voice performances are also very good throughout the game. Because I knew Black Book didn’t have a big budget, I was shocked at how believable several of the characters’ delivery were.
Egor the Elder is in charge of escorting Vasilisa on her trip.
I liked my time with Black Book, although it is undeniably hampered by a number of flaws. This isn’t always due to a lack of competence on the part of the developers, but rather to a financial constraint. However, I believe they would have benefitted from a new visual style, maybe similar to The Mooseman, which they used in their last game. Many of the bad animations that detracted from the rest of the experience would have been hidden by this. It might have also been a couple hours shorter, which is something I don’t frequently say. That said, Black Book is a fascinating look into Slavic mythology, and it’s definitely worth your time just for that.
While there are some beautiful hand-drawn graphics for when characters talk to one another in Black Book, the most of the game isn’t very appealing.
Driving a vehicle through a vat of molasses is about as simple as controlling Vasilisa. Fortunately, the card battle mechanics are very good.
The majority of the voice acting is adequate, and the music is well-suited to the game’s tone.
Although there are several glitches and difficulties with player movement in Black Book, the study into Slavic mythology is fascinating.
Final Score: 7.0
Black Book is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
On Switch, the game was reviewed.
The publisher supplied a copy of Black Book.
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This article broadly covered the following related topics:
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- category upcoming video games