If you love bows & arrows in video games, Blacktail will be for you. If you love spells and Slavic folklore, well, Blacktail is something you can’t ignore. Based upon the hour I played in the latest demo, there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but certainly enough interesting and well put together pieces that will make it some players’ favourite game of the year. 

In Blacktail, you control Yaga, a young girl who has run away from her village to try and find her sister, Zora, who has disappeared. She has some black ooze attached to her hand and talks to a voice inside her head. Is it her? Someone else? I don’t know, but it’s not very nice and dropped the only swear words in the whole demo. The demo seems to skip the opening cutscene, but gathering the basics intrigued me with the narrative going forward. 

What kept my attention most was the high-quality voice acting by everyone in the game. Yaga and the rest of the voice in her head are great, and who you’ll hear the most, but even the voices of random characters I met, like a talking piranha plant, are very good. The script is also witty and has a lot of levity that some of the other NPC characters are more than happy to play with instead of assuming this is a family or kids game. 

You have access to a bow and arrows, although they’re limited. You’ll find feathers and sticks all around the world, but you’ve got to remember to pick them up, so you’re able to craft arrows; you can only craft a max of nine at a time. Later in the demo, Yara unlocks a spell that she can cast to shove enemies backwards and then a life-sucking spell that comes in handy during a pinch.

A morality system is in place for Blacktail, but it’s very basic with a straight drawn good or bad isle. Looking at what’s in the menus, depending on your choices, it seems like you’ll unlock different things and get different spells and powers as you advance in the game. 

The world is very colourful and almost feels like exploring an off-centre Wonderland, but the game focuses on witchcraft, and all that pertains. Yaga moves fast, and the combat is satisfying, although I wonder if some boss fights may begin to feel the same. 

My only concern for Blacktail currently is if the need to grab sticks and feathers to craft arrows will grow tiresome over how many hours the campaign will be. Otherwise, I was shocked at how high this game’s cinematic and narrative elements are. I loved the world and creature designs, plus the combat, although simple, is satisfying. 

The demo for Blackltail will be playable for everyone during Steam Next Fest (21-28 February).