Blair Witch is a first person story driven psychological horror game, inspired by the cinematic lore of the Blair Witch films.The game was released on August 30th, 2019, and take into account that I played only on the Xbox One S. Moving on, this game tried hard to match the mystery of the movies and pretty much nailed it. Set in 1996, two years after a group of teens inexplicably disappeared in the Black Hills forest near Burkittsville, Maryland. Try to follow the descent into madness and relentless fear as you unfold the mystery of Ellis, a veteran, an ex-cop, and the main protagonist in Blair Witch. The local legend is that these woods are haunted by the Blair Witch, what seems almost to be a force of nature, that can easily influence the minds of anybody unlucky enough to get caught in her woods at night.
In Blair Witch, the game begins as Ellis and his trusty canine companion, Bullet, are driving into the woods to join the search party for Peter, a small boy who has gone missing. If you read the papers around the start you learn that Peter is no first time runaway, so hopefully this will go smoothly and Peter’s parents will be satisfied. Of course, this doesn’t go so well as they would imagine. The game starts with a nice slow pace and introduces you to the simple basic mechanics of the game. You and bullet, a German Shepard begin to search, making sure the larger search party didn’t leave anything behind. With the advantage of a dog’s nose on your side however, you pick up a trace and follow it deeper in the woods. Bullet gets distracted and runs off for a time, leaving you alone. This is where we learn that Bullet is a stress dog for Ellis and he will begin to freak out if the calming presence of Bullet is not here with him. This plays into the game’s mechanics really well and was a great idea on the creator’s part. Where most horror games throw you in alone, this one gives you a helpful buddy and makes you shiver if he isn’t by your side. The only thing not so good about the beginning is the least subtle expositional dialogue you have ever heard, and the obnoxious tutorials which totally pause the game and kill your potential immersion. The game also introduces you to your item wheels, one for dog commands and the other for items you start with or pick up along the way. These are very uninspired, basic looking HUD displays but they get the job done. The controls are bang average, but sometimes they fail to work. For example, I had to restart my game mid way through because I couldn’t put an item I was inspecting down.
Once you get deeper into the forest you find a strange campsite, and then things begin to get weird. Time doesn’t seem to be passing normally, there is no way back to the main road, you find a strange video camera that doesn’t obey the laws of physics, and you keep having flashbacks from your past. This game was set during the very beginning of cell phones, so we are introduced to another voice, Jess. Obviously Ellis’ significant other, but evidently they are having problems right now, and Ellis can’t stop blaming himself for something, something they weirdly leave out of the conversations, but you will find out later in the game. Then the game progresses, things happen, you can’t seem to escape your past, and you can’t seem to escape the present either, but is the present even real? What is going on? These are the questions you will most likely be asking yourself throughout the game, this game can easily make your brain hurt. Many times I couldn’t tell the difference between the game trying to confuse me and my own confusion, which only adds to the horror.
To speak of horror, this game may only be about 5 hours, but it is pretty stressful. I would consider it scary as well, but the main feeling I had was stress and being very uncomfortable. Blair Witch’s story starts off okay, but then becomes really enjoyable by the end. If you like the movies, you will probably love this game. Next I want to talk about the last hour of this game being so incredibly painful, true that it is scary and there are monsters coming at you and jumpscares, that is not the only factor making the end so hard to get through. It is repetitive! The game does well to not overstay its welcome except by the last 20 minutes of gameplay. This section was so incredibly unfun, that it makes it very satisfying to finally reach the end. Not to mention the unintentional frustration I had. The last 40 minutes or so take place mostly inside a building, and that was a bad idea. The hallways are so insanely tight that you feel massive walking through them, and then you will get caught on the 1000 doors you have to open, and you then you have to jump and sometimes crouch to get out of the door glitch. The end is terrifying, not because of game design, because I never ever want to go through that again. Not far in, the game introduces these stick monsters that hate light, they are really the only direct threats that will actually kill you, (it is pretty hard to be killed by them) and upon initial contact I thought by the end they would be boring and overused, however they disappear about 75% of the way through and I could not be more happy that they left before they got annoying. The other enemies are really boring though and once you figure them out, they are no fun to go against. The main antagonist is a great character however, but I will give no details about it because it would harm the overall mystery of the game.
The gameplay is somewhat clunky and slow, but it works for the most part when you are exploring the woods. Like I mentioned before though, inside is a nightmare, for the wrong reasons. The graphics are decent, and the character design is good on the bad guys, making them fit the atmosphere perfectly, and speaking of the atmosphere, it is dark and heavy, and really well done. The feeling of isolation, but also vulnerability feels heavy upon your shoulders and adds a lot to the game. The music is really good and overall sound design deserves credit. Especially the background sounds of just walking through the woods, they are horrifying. I had to take off my headphones about three times to make sure someone wasn’t walking around in my house. The voice acting is really good and makes the emotions feel real, especially towards the end of the story. The antagonists voices were haunting and they will sit in your mind for a few good days.
Overall, this game needs a bit of polish, but the story and general art design of the game are really good, and worth playing. The very beginning and the end are the worst parts by far, but it is still easy to enjoy the journey. The game also has some degree of decision making, but it never tells you when you are making these decisions, so playthroughs can be different, but that’s not for me to tell you about, that’s for you to find out by stumbling into the forest of pure evil.