Next on my list of horror games is Betrayer, a stealth-based game that came out in 2014. I can’t say that I looked forward to this one, because I played it several years ago for maybe an hour, got bored, and ultimately gave up then.
However, I decided to attempt to give it a second chance this year. In this Betrayer game review, I’ll tell you what I thought about the game and if I think it’s worth your time.
Intro to Betrayer
Let’s start with an explanation on what this game is. Betrayer is a stealth, action-adventure, and horror (although I hesitate to call it that last one entirely) game that came out in 2014.
As you can see from my screenshot above, the entire game is in black and white, except for parts that are red, including enemies, some important items, and blood. It’s kind of like Sin City in that it cleverly uses color to highlight crucial elements. I’ve seen some people play the game in color, but honestly, I think it kind of defeats the artistic flair the game otherwise has.
It takes place in the colonial era. You wake up on a beach, then follow a path into the woods and into a seemingly abandoned settlement. Monsters disguised as Spaniards and Native Americans stalk the wilderness during the day, and at night, skeletons and ghosts roam the land.
What’s going on? It’s up to you to find out by hunting for clues like abandoned items and notes left behind. Along the way, you’ll work with a mysterious woman in a red hooded cloak who claims she doesn’t remember who she is.
I don’t think the story is the main selling point of the game, which is a good thing. The story in this game is convoluted as heck.
Your character’s name and background are, as far as I know, never revealed. (It’s entirely possible I missed this, though, among all the other dozens of threads that are there.) You wake up on a beach, start wandering through settlements, and talk to ghosts that each have their own unsolved business that has them lingering here.
Arguably the most important character is the woman in red you meet at the settlements. Her story is the core thread throughout the game, but it easily gets drowned out for the first 80% of the game among the dozens of other narratives from all the ghosts.
It’s extremely hard to keep track of what’s going on. There’s a journal tab in the menu that lets you review each ghost’s story and investigation, but I felt it was still difficult to keep all the details straight.
Even now, I’m not 100% sure how to describe it. I guess the gist of the story is that a young woman, Tabitha Markley, was brutally slaughtered after becoming pregnant with a Native American from the local tribe – a union her piece of crap father didn’t support. In death, her justifiable rage and pain is what causes a “curse” of sorts over the surrounding area.
Spoiler (so don’t read the rest of this section if you’re planning on playing)…..
The woman in red is Allison Markley, the murdered woman’s twin sister. After you set poor Tabitha’s soul free and Allison buries her, Allison turns to you, asks for your forgiveness, and then…there are monsters all around you?
Like I said before, the rest of the story is so convoluted, this twist is hopelessly diluted and made less impactful. It also seemingly doesn’t make sense. I personally didn’t enjoy Betrayer’s story.
If story wasn’t one of the strongest points in the game, surely it’s the gameplay. And I will admit, for a couple hours, the gameplay can be kind of fun.
It’s a heavily stealth-based game. I would compare it to playing as a stealth archer in Skyrim. You have a small range of 1600’s-era type weapons to use, and there are monsters lurking around the map. Occasionally, you can use the sound of the wind to cover your movements and sneak up on them for an easier kill.
There are progressively better charms you can equip to buff your stats, such as your health and damage output. You also get better weapons as the game goes on.
I also like that you can use sound to guide you to clues. Pressing a button produces a creepy groaning sound that you follow to track down important story elements.
There’s a lot I don’t like, though. For instance, you spend the game clearing areas and unlocking new maps to explore. The maps are largely empty, though, and the game starts to feel repetitive after the first couple.
After two areas, I had it down to a science: unlock the new area, track down all the red circles in the daytime denoting clues and loot, then switch to nighttime and use the sound to find spirits. Rinse and repeat several times.
By the end of the game, I was understandably sick of this format…and then, when you get to the end, they effectively make you do it all over again. The final leg of the story requires you to go back through almost all the maps, tracking down and releasing the spirits you spoke with. It felt like a tedious and annoying way of padding out the runtime that, in the end, was probably already overstretched.
Like many other games, I’d say the soundtrack is simply serviceable. It wasn’t enough to jar me from immersion, but it also wasn’t particularly memorable.
In fact, as I sit here writing this, I cannot recall a single melody from the entire soundtrack. It’s forgettable.
There are both many and very few characters in Betrayer. That’s a confusing statement, so allow me to explain…there are two main ones: you and Allison, the woman in the red cloak.
However, between the two of you, there are tons of spirits scattered over the maps. Each one has a backstory and dialogue for you to dive into, which gets scribbled into your journal. However, as I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to keep all these stories straight in your memory, so in some ways, it kind of feels like there aren’t many characters at all.
Let’s focus on the most important ones: you and Allison. Your character’s background is buried beneath the tangled threads of all the others, if it’s ever mentioned at all. It feels like the person you’re playing is nothing more than a self-insert, which I suppose is fine.
Or, it would be, if the other characters were well-defined, immersive, and likeable. Allison, however, is kind of bland…especially given that she has amnesia for about the first three-quarters of the game. She says little of import, doesn’t have much in the way of personality, and doesn’t do anything to help you.
Out of all the things on this list of traits, I think visuals are probably the game’s most impactful feature. There’s something starkly memorable about the look of the monochrome landscapes pierced with occasional crimson features.
I mentioned before that you can play the game in color, but I feel like you shouldn’t. Not only does it make it strangely easier to navigate when everything is in black and white while important things are red, but it also just looks good.
It’s not the best-looking game I’ve ever seen. But unlike its soundtrack, Betrayer’s aesthetic is memorable.
Is Betrayer Worth Playing?
If you’ve read this far, you probably know what my verdict is: I frankly don’t consider Betrayer worth your time. It starts off strong, but quickly becomes tedious. With all the characters and journal entries, the story becomes a messy tangle of narratives.
And, full disclosure here, I couldn’t even finish the game. A memory leak developed towards the end that would fill my GPU’s memory and crash it. I got so frustrated with the crashing that I gave up about half an hour from the end of the game and watched the final minutes of it on YouTube.
I’m not sure if this was a problem with anyone else, but it is the only game I’ve ever experienced this issue on. So, in addition to its ending feeling like a chore and its story being diluted with forgettable ghosts, it’s buggy.
It takes a specific kind of gamer to enjoy Betrayer. I think if you like stealth mechanics and you’re a bit of a history nut, you’ll probably love being able to sneak around and try out old weapons. For anyone else, though, I honestly just recommend watching a Let’s Play series on YouTube rather than playing it yourself.
Betrayer may not be the best horror game I’ve played, but it’s not the worst, either. It’s not even necessarily a really bad game – I just feel it has some issues and is really only intriguing for the first couple hours or so. You might have a different opinion entirely.
One of the better horror games I’ve played recently is Alien: Isolation. You can learn more about my thoughts on that one in my Alien: Isolation review.