What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you mention the phrase “Slavic fantasy”? Of course, we are talking about games. We immediately remember the godless “Wolfhound” , “Shadow Blade 5e”and the excellent “Zlatogorye”. Someone will probably call the series “Allods” or even “The Witcher”, although Pan Sapkovsky himself has repeatedly argued that his creation with the Slavs and their culture is very mediocre. In general, what is it for: games with the Russian spirit are so negligible that any new title immediately falls into the focus of attention. And, of course, a special attitude will always be formed towards projects in such a setting even before the first launch. Still – it’s about us, Slavs. Today we will analyze into its components the sensational game Black Book , which with every screenshot, every line of description literally screams: “Yes, I am a Slavic fantasy, be amazed!”
Black Book is the second game of the Russian studio “ Mortyoshka “. Yes, that’s right, it’s not a typo. I have been following the development and release of their debut product called “Chelovek” for a long time, when there was no studio either. The Mooseman , by the way, turned out to be an excellent example of the Russian indie game industry, I strongly recommend at least acquaintance with this interesting little thing. For the second project, the team raised funds on Kickstarter , and they managed to save about twelve million rubles. An excellent amount for developing this level of game, in my opinion. Well, let’s open this Black Book.
According to the old Orthodox tradition, all suicides are buried exclusively outside the cemeteries, which means that the soul of the groom will be forever imprisoned in hell. But Vasilisa is not going to put up with such a course of events: she asks her adopted grandfather to make a real sorceress out of her. And that very Black Book should help her in this – an ancient artifact capable of fulfilling any desire if its owner manages to break all seven seals, which no one has been able to do before.
The game positions itself as a mixture of adventure, quest, visual novel and card-role-playing game like F95zone. It’s worth saying right off the bat that there is only one name from the quest and the visual novel. Quest as a genre in the Black Book is only indicated: there are few riddles and puzzles, and those that exist are very simple and can be solved in a few seconds. Elements of the visual novel are used only in dialogues, but rather only “by eye”, because the player’s answers and choices will not change the plot globally. But the terms adventure, and, even more so, the card-role-playing game are suitable for the ” Black Book ” as well as possible.
After a short intro, Vasilisa’s control is immediately handed over to us. You can move the girl around the locations with a camera fixed on one scene both by mouse clicks and by using the WASD keys. The second option is preferable, because in the first case, the heroine often gets stuck and gets stuck in obstacles, from which she cannot get out on her own – she has to take manual control.
The player is free to wander around the scenes and poke around in pre-highlighted places to hear a comment from a vekshitsa or a description of some interesting subject. Periodically, when acquiring new knowledge after viewing a point of interest, this knowledge is transferred to the girl’s personal notebook. And the information can really come in handy later. Either in a role-playing sense – for example, you can learn how to deal with a certain type of devils and get a hint for dialogue, – or, as part of the progression, acquire very real experience points necessary to increase the level.
After Egor’s grandfather initiates Vaska into Vekshitsa, the player is thrown into the first simple battle and explained by what rules battles are held in the Black Book . Everything looks pretty simple and without frills. The characters of the player and opponents have health and “armor” points. Until you break through the defense, you won’t get to hit points, although there are special cards that allow you to get to the red hearts, bypassing the blue shields. The player has at his disposal a deck of cards, some of which are accidentally dealt to the player on the first move, and in the next ones they are still accidentally thrown into the hand. The first move, as a rule, is made by Vasilisa: she reads from one to three witchcraft words (lays out the cards needed) and passes the move to her opponent.
Maps can be of different types. Some do damage, some restore protection and health, some impose buffs and debuffs. Some types of spells enhance other similar ones if they are laid out on the table at the same time. Others remain on the table for several turns without occupying one of the spell slots. It takes time to figure out the mechanics, and the deck should be made up of complementary cards. This is the main key to success in battles, especially at high difficulties like in HuniePop2. In addition, without spending action points, you can use an activated item that will restore health, give armor or damage the enemy.
Above the heads of the enemy (or opponents), you can see an icon showing what action they want to take in the next turn – this should always be taken into account. If the enemy is going to make an especially powerful attack, it is worth putting cards on the table in advance that increase the armor indicators. If the enemy uses a long-charging ability, then it is better to invest in damage to kill him before the end of the charge. In a battle against several adversaries, it makes sense to first extinguish the “supports” that impose shields on their allies, replenish their health and summon additional devils, and then concentrate the damage on damage dealers.