Black Book promises to be a dark RPG with card-based battles, based on stories from Slavic folklore.
We start the game by being introduced to the narrative of the game. A young woman called Vasilisa decides to become a witch to investigate the death of her loved one. Her grandfather has access to the initiation ritual that will allow us to become a witch so we decide to meet with him at night to acquire the Black Book, a magical artifact that allows us to cast spells.
What I notice right from the beginning of the game is that Black Book is extremely atmospheric. It may not have AAA graphics and cinematic cutscenes but the lighting and the soundtrack and ambient sounds are truly amazing. The spoken language in the game can’t be changed from Russian, adding further to the atmosphere (you can still change subtitles to the language you speak well, of course).
As part of our initiation, we have to fight our first opponent in the game. Vasilisa can use pages from the Black Book to create a spell to attack and/or protect herself. We get a random selection of our available cards to choose from and can then choose three cards to forge our spell. After we end our turn, Vasilisa attacks and then the opponent gets a turn.
After the fight, we wake up in a world unknown to us, with candles and flames everywhere. A figure with glowing red eyes emerges from the dark and confirms that we have passed the initiation ritual and can now be a witch.
In the morning, Vasilisa wakes up in her grandfather’s home, he tells her that he has carried her home after she passed out. But being a witch is more than just casting cool spells and we are being introduced to villager requests. Our neighbours will come to us when seeking advice on how to handle the strange and mysterious and we can deduct a conclusion from the story they are unfolding in front of us. If we can successfully deduct the cause for their troubles, we can set off to visit them and help with their issue.
To get to our destination, we have to walk through the lands. Vasilisa will encounter challenges and side-quests on the way and we can choose how much we want to explore the side paths on the way.
Throughout the game, we can read short stories about northern Slavic folklore in our book and sometimes words in dialogues will be highlighted, hovering over them will give us an explanation of what these words mean. The game definitely has educational value and pairs this with an interesting storyline and intense atmosphere.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first hour in Black Book! I am usually not a huge fan of card based battle systems but this game offers enough around the battles that they seem interesting and actually worth doing. I can’t wait to get back to playing and exploring all the folklore hidden in this gem of a game.
If you want to try out Black Book for yourself, you can buy the game here:
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