FBT is in the monochrome colonies
In 17th century colonial times, all is not well in Virginia. The undead, made up of Spanish Conquistadors and Native Americans patrol the wilds, while ghosts of the Settlers are roaming about the empty forts. More shocking than that, we seem to be suffering from an extreme case of Achromatopsia (total colour-blindness, google it).
The first thing you notice about Betrayer is, obviously, the colour-scheme. Looking at the world in this monochrome way is incredibly surreal and unsettling. Of course, you can do this with any game; just turn the contrast down, but then you’d not see the bad guys coming.
As you wander the fields, the undead will make a beeline for you, firing arrows, muskets, pistols, throwing rocks and melee’ing. They give off flashes of red as they go, giving you a marginal edge in spotting them coming, or letting you get in a stealth-kill. It’s striking and makes you hyper vigilant, staring intently at the world looking for a glimpse of red.
So it turns out the Captain of the settlers got wind of some scared land, and ignoring the Native American guides, sets off to settle it – and never returns. Soon after, people start dying, and their spirits are trapped. Guess who has to resolve their issues and guide them into the afterlife? I think it’s me?
I have no issue with a game keeping its secrets, but for the first hour I’m not sure if I’ve accidently wandered into some new Fortnite map. I just walk about, getting attacked randomly. You spend most of the time picking up indiscriminate items like I have OCD and the game goes ‘you have found all the clues’ - yeah but I have no idea what I’m cluing here.
Eventually I realise I have to ring a bell in each area’s fort, which turns the black and white world to a white and black one, where the Conquistadors and Native Americans swap for skeletons which erupt from the earth to scratch you and fire energy balls like skeletal Doom Imps. In this environment you can interact with the Shadows of the settlers to learn more of their story, then go talk to the Wraiths and get clues to where you need to go to find an item and piece together their fate.
The first problem is we have a map and a compass. Great, but they don’t work in tandem. The compass can tell you where an errant arrow landed or fast travel point, but it doesn’t show the clues, graves, Wraiths etc which are all detailed by dots on the map – how can I have a map that reveals the location of every clue before I even know I need the clue, but it’s not show on the compass? It just ruins the feel, endlessly looking at the map, going ‘Right, north west’ then you strike out north west, and then flip between map and compass going ‘missed it’ and turning around and ‘missed it’ again, while also trying to see a tiny black and white object in a black and white world that is flashing black and white.
Sound is another strong gameplay mechanic, and alongside the visual design, they combine to create an amazing headache. A wind constantly blows across the land, and you can use its gusts to manoeuvre around the creatures, hiding your footsteps, which is great - but the soundscape escalates when you’re near something of interest/threat like a kind of listening-detective mode until all the sounds rise until only dogs can hear it. It all creates this consistent ringing in the background, like the way the world sounds the morning after an Iron Maiden concert. It’s not haunting or ethereal, its like an advert for a tinnitus cure. You know that thing people do where they run their finger around the top of a wine glass to create the high pitched sound of you yelling at them to stop it? It’s that, for hours. After I finished playing I could still hear it.