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Blair Witch Volume 3: The Elly Kedward Tale

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Gathering
Developer: Ritual Entertainment
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Survival Horror/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

After the decided slump of Blair Witch Volume 2, Volume 3 returns with pleasantly dark visuals. Theyíre not to the frightening levels of the first one, which is a shame, but theyíre certainly prettier than the drab graphics in the second title. The characters are sharper and more detailed, the clothes a little nicer (although they still randomly shiver as if alive), and the environments are more detailed. The world comes closer to really being a world, rather than a slapdash environment to have a game in. Itís no Shenmue, mind you, but it gets the job done. There are some issues, however, especially with clipping through solid objects.

The sound is similar -- adequate, but not outstanding. The voice acting is surprisingly solid, and the environmental effects work quite well. Itís nothing thatíll blow you away, and itís not spine-tingling creepy like the movie or first title is, but everything fits the theme of the game well enough. The voice acting, especially, adds to the experience of the game rather than taking away from it -- which is more than I can say for the voices in most games. Itís nothing youíll be turning down, at least.

A special note must be made, however, of a few atmospheric things. Someone who knows Futhark had a little fun on the loading screens, and I thought it made a really nice touch -- especially for those of us who can read the runes. The art direction of the game seems a lot more solid than the last title.


Gameplay:

Well, we had the evil creep-and-die of Volume 1. Then we had the linear plot-and-fight of Volume 2. What exactly can we expect from the third in the Blair Witch series of games? Well, expectations aside, we get a decidedly arcadey adventure that, while entertaining, soon falls flat on its face in terms of storyline and gameplay. Itís not as big of a failure as the second game, and it may irritate slightly less than the first, but itís still no gem.

Youíre Jonathan Prye, a former man of the cloth who has lost his faith. A Witch Hunter, he decides to investigate the recent happenings in Blair Township to see if he can help, and perhaps renew his beliefs as well. The storyline is actually rather good, if only for the first few hours, as you witness a man embittered by the world, one who has lost both his faith in a higher power and his faith in himself. It certainly could have been played a little less heavy-handedly, mind you, but itís a pleasant diversion from Amnesiac Hero or Brash Youth Out to Prove Something.

Unfortunately, the gameplay itself soon degenerates into a slow-paced arcade shooter, with Prye running around and destroying bad guys (most of them the same ones weíve been fighting since the first title) as he runs from location to location. Itís entertaining at first, but it soon becomes rote.

Fortunately, youíre given a nice, wide complement of weapons to destroy the bad guys with. Youíve got your guns, youíve got your big heavy cross oí death, and youíve got spells. Spells? Yeah, spells. You can set enemies on fire, or freeze them, or even heal yourself in times of need. Itís actually pretty cool, as it gives a little variety to the game.

But itís not particularly fulfilling. A plot that actually starts out interesting soon degenerates into fetch-quests and monster slayings, and it never really picks back up. Itís a shame, really -- this entire series of games had a chance to really do something with the Blair Witch mythos, but the website for the original movie still stands as the best way of making something a little more real.

And, like BW Volume 2, Volume 3 has some serious reality check issues. Last time I checked, cemeteries didnít need magical incantations to open the doors. And even if they did, itís doubtful that said incantations would have been put on them by a priest. The same goes for the warding of the local witchís cell. The glowing vials of health-juice and mana-juice that the enemies drop are a little incredulous, the ammo for your guns a little less so.

The game-killer for me, however, was when I was told that, to get to a certain metaphysical location, I had to go to a gate in the middle of the forest. This sort of thing is just plain silly. The house of cards came tumbling down for me at that point, and the game became just another rote exercise in point-A-to-point-Bíing.


Difficulty:

Once again, the control scheme poses the most difficulty with this title, along with some real issues with the ďcameraĒ not tracking what youíre doing. The fights tend to be rather simple, as long as you know what youíre doing, and you can often escape boss fights without a scratch because of abysmal enemy A.I. The puzzles are practically nonexistent, and the only difficulty you might experience is the wholesale slaughter of beasties that ramps up as the game goes along.

Game Mechanics:

As stated before, controls are a definite issue with the Nocturne engine, but they become relatively natural after a while. This game has some major issues with camera positioning -- many, many times I walked off the edge of the screen and the game didnít bother to draw me a new location. People will often get stuck walking in circles before a cinematic, often circling for a good 20 seconds before the game engine gives up and gets on with the cinema anyway. Itís definitely something that could have been fixed with a few more weeks of testing. There are also some display priority issues (fire looking like itís behind a character when you know itís in front of them). The menus are as clear and understandable as the series gets. Take that as you will.

While it may be the strongest showing of the series (by a hair -- Volume 1 had more atmosphere, but less playability), Blair Witch Volume 3: The Elly Kedward Tale is still a mediocre adventure title. If all three titles were tweaked and re-released in a bundle for a reasonable price, I can imagine picking them up to learn more of the background mythos. But separately, theyíre weak titles that should only be bought by the adventure-starved and Blair Witch-obsessed.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win98/NT/2K, PII, 233 Celeron, PIII or AMD Athlon, 64 MB RAM (96 for hardware acceleration), 850 MB HD Space
 

Test System:



AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256 MB RAM, 6x/24x DVD-ROM, 850 MB free hard drive space, 200 MB free virtual memory, Sound Blaster Live!, Creative Labs TNT2 Ultra w/32 MB RAM

Windows Blair Witch Volume 2: The Legend of Coffin Rock Sony PSOne Star Wars: Demolition

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated