Gaming - -

Blacktail Review – Young Magic

Blacktail follows Yaga, a young witch with much to learn in a beautiful little game about discovery and magic.
Blacktaill Presskit Image

Blacktail is a game that will test your love of animals, the forest, and witchcraft as you traverse the Russian woods in a game about self-discovery and survival craft. With no humans to interact with whatsoever, every moral decision you make will be about how you treat the animals and nature around you as you learn what it truly means to be a witch.

In Blacktail, you play as Yaga, a young woman labeled as a witch by her village. The suspicious and scared villagers assume that Yaga works for Baba, the witch in the woods who ominously portends all of the village’s misfortune. Yaga has nobody but her sister Zora, so its no surprise that when she goes missing in the woods Yaga is quick to follow.

The experience Blacktail has to offer is pretty straightforward. Both the story and level design are linear, expecting you to move through each level at a decently quick pace — I would certainly be surprised if anybody got lost in one of Blacktail’s levels.

Yaga uses magic, her bow and arrow and crafting to make it through the vaguely haunted and whimsical forests in search of Zora. The crafting mechanic feels like a survival game lite, where you gather materials such as sticks and feathers as you explore each level to swiftly craft useful items like arrows and antidotes. The crafting and gathering system isn’t particularly deep, but it really doesn’t need to be.

As Yaga searches for her sister, she’s accompanied by a strangely malicious voice in her head. The foul-mouthed stranger loves to curse at seemingly random times and has seemingly bad intentions for young Yaga, making for interesting interaction between our innocent child-like protagonist and this angry adult voice in her head.

Blacktail Your Path Image

You encounter a number of strange and entertaining characters along your journey, none of which are human. My personal favorites were a spider obsessed with bureaucracy and an ant that wanted to conquer the forest for herself.

Yaga’s adventure can be dangerous, hence the need for arrow and antidote crafting. She can learn skills along the journey, which is the game’s main version of progression. Most of these are straightforwardly unlocked, but some have to be found by exploring and can easily be missed on your first playthrough.

Each skill you use requires materials gathered from the wilds, giving more importance to the gathering mechanic. Using plant ingredients makes each spell feel very witchy in nature, which is something I really appreciate.

The adventure itself can be pretty repetitive, with the main gameplay mechanic being tracking down spirits and defeating them. Doing so yields a special segment, delving into Yaga’s lost memories in the form of a 2d sidescrolling level that replaces what would otherwise be a cutscene. I appreciated these segments for the break in the gameplay they offered, but as someone who isn’t a huge fan of the genre I got pretty bored of them by the second installment.

That’s the worst thing this game can be; boring. At Blacktail’s weakest moments, I did find it a bit hard to keep the game running, but I was able to power through and usually found my attention grabbed by something else before too long. No game is perfect, and saying Blacktail is boring at times is it’s biggest negative is a pretty good sign, I think.

The most interesting system in my opinion is the game’s take on Morality and how your choices effect it. As I mentioned above, there are no other humans in the game, and your decisions push you down the light or dark moral paths depending on which you choose. This means all of the morally impacting decisions you make are based on how you treat nature itself.

Blacktail Forest Image

What this ends up translating into is a fairly refreshing pro-nature take you won’t see in many other games. Unlike many games, especially with crafting elements, the world around you is treated as more than just a resource for you to exploit.

Shooting a crow for feathers to craft more arrows will send you down the dark path, while helping a porcupine reach a piece of fruit will send you down the light. The game really makes you feel bad for mistreating the world around you, even when you’re rewarded for it with materials. It always reminds you that for the life you took, you could have also just put in a little extra legwork.

The game isn’t preachy with this message, either; It all feels natural and in fact important to the story its trying to tell. Being a young witch, these kind of decisions are impactful to your development, and I could really imagine the woman young Yaga would grow into based on my decisions. I think everyone can relate to being young and doing something malicious or mean to nature, and having a sort of awakening when we felt guilty for our actions. In my opinion, Blacktail is all about that feeling, and that time in childhood, which makes it a really refreshing experience.

It would be impossible to wrap up this review without talking about Blacktail’s main strong point – the visuals. Blacktail is an absolutely beautiful game, and you can tell a lot of work went into making the world look the way it does.

Blacktail The Hut Image

The unique design of the game combines shockingly realistic fauna with a storybook-like aesthetic, making you feel like you exist in an old children’s tale about Baba Yaga. The game’s ability to shift from a beautiful sunny wood to a dark and ephemeral magical environment had me gasp once or twice. This is a game I imagine many players will be playing very slowly, taking in as much of the sights as they can as they traverse each level.

The Final Word

Blacktail is a game everyone is raving about and with good reason. The stunning little adventure game has a unique experience to sell you and beautiful visuals to show you along the way. While not everyone is going to have the patience to make it through Blacktail’s single-player experience, if any part of it looks interesting to you then I recommend you give it a try, as it’s shockingly cheap.


Our Blacktail review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!

More Content


Leave a Comment

All comments go through a moderation process, and should be approved in a timely manner. To see why your comment might not have been approved, check out our Comment Rules page!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.