So, Blair Witch. Boy, we have not heard that name in quite a while, especially not when it comes to the video game industry. The original Blair Witch Project (1999) is a cult-classic that introduced the genre of the found-footage films we have today.
When the trailer for the game was first unveiled at Microsoft’s E3 2019 conference, fans were curious and their opinion about the game’s title swayed from Alan Wake 2 to a new Silent Hills to perhaps another Outlast. The dark forest environments and the handheld camera sure did point towards some justification to the above ideas.
However, it was not until the title was revealed that fans understood the Blair Witch concept was being revived, surprising everyone in the crowd.
Although the trailer might make it seem like its in-engine, the gameplay seems to be a tweaked a little, both graphically and mechanically, to give a more cinematic feel. The footage sets the tone, feel of the original Blair Witch film that has three teenagers wandering in a forest after they have lost their way, and seem to be hunted by a mysterious witch who’s never shown.
Of course, if we can pinpoint one moment that shows the game shares its aesthetics with the film, it is this iconic and ominous one with a person facing the wall while being completely stationary. You may also remember a similar shot that inspired one of the VHS footage sequences in Resident Evil 7.
The Blair Witch is described as a first-person story-driven psychological thriller that will stay faithful to the lore of the movies set in the universe and yet will take the story into brave new directions. The official synopsis for the game reads:
“It’s 1996. A young boy disappears in the Black Hills Forest near Burkittsville, Maryland. As Ellis, a former police officer with a troubled past, you join the search. What starts as an ordinary investigation soon turns into an endless nightmare as you confront your fears and the Blair Witch, a mysterious force that haunts the woods…”
There are more bits of info on the game’s Steam page including a vague hint towards “distorting time and space” within the forest as well as other supernatural elements at play. Although the film left the horrors to the viewers’ imaginations, it is safe to say the game will diverge in that aspect and be a bit more explicit.
The story itself will be divided between shedding light on the events surrounding the boy’s disappearance and the protagonist’s own struggles as he confronts his “troubled past” and keeps learning more about his psychology and fears through what he uncovers throughout this journey of his.
More story aspects and gameplay details were highlighted in a recent interview between the developers and journalist Geoff Keighley that can be found embedded just below:
The developers, who have worked previously on another psychological horror in the past, Layers of Fear, aim to go deep into the minds of the players via the protagonist. To reinstate, Blair Witch is far from a walking simulator, as you are encouraged to explore for any clues that further your investigation regarding the case.
There are a bunch of puzzles to interact with and your faithful and only companion, the dog, will lead you to routes you normally would not be able to discover via your human senses. The bond with your dog plays a vital role as you pet the animal and it, in turn, aids you at every turn of the investigation.
The flashlight and camcorder play the most important roles as the former helps with navigation and the latter will help you solve puzzles and even play clips of videos to get a better understanding of the events and your surroundings.
Combat in Blair Witch is present but very minimal and not encouraged. After all, you will be up against foes more powerful and the threat of danger is much scarier when you are unarmed. The developers also wanted the player to feel “vulnerable” while roaming this haunted forest so expect more Amnesia and Outlast rather than Resident Evil or F.E.A.R.
Blair Witch is a Microsoft exclusive, so it will launch on Xbox One and PC only. The game is set to be released officially on Aug. 30 this year. Until then, sweet dreams!