BlackSoul – Review (PC)

BlackSoul is a PC indie horror game developed by Xenios Vision, and is currently available via digital distribution service Desura. The game is set in the town of BlackWood which is subject to strange happenings and has the player take control of two siblings as the story unfolds. It starts with the protagonist, a policeman, reading a letter from his journalist sister. He then decides to case after her, after finding out that she has gone to investigate  the mysterious events in the town. In the opening sequence the camera pans and zooms on newspaper articles, leaving the player to do some guesswork to find out what as actually occurred.

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The first thing we noticed about the game is that it looks and feels like a throwback to the original Resident Evil on the Playstation; the camera style, the control of the character  and the graphics are all reminiscent.The game looks very dated for a 2013 release; things are not helped by the games configurator which would not save and let us run te game at native resolution, but instead opts for the default resolution ( 640 *480 ) which leads to ugly textures, blocky characters and almost ineligible captions. In a game like Blacksoul where the story is important it really shoots itself in the foot; half the problem solving involved figuring out what we were reading. Significant screen tearing is also an issue.

The sound effects in Blacksoul are unremarkable and at times just plain lazy. The music playing in the background however was far better and created an atmosphere typical of a horror game. Sadly, the music is not dynamic to what is happening on-screen. For example whilst solving a puzzle there was a very climactic score being played which did not suit the task at all and was out of place.

With the visual darkness of the game and the poor resolution we played it in, it took us a moment to realise that we had switched to the female protagonist as she explored a cemetery. With no control of the camera the game feels forced at times and sometimes leads to problems moving around. However, a nice feature in Blacksoul is the ability to move the direction of the flashlight, in a style similar to Alan Wake.

The game features numerous loading screens; for almost every room you enter it has to load the scene. Thankfully the load is quite quick but it is a nuisance that should not exist in a modern horror title – why kill the suspense?

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Blacksoul is heavy on puzzle solving and light on action, this makes sense because of the difficulty involved in intricate movement. Relying on precise movement would be incredibly frustrating. The zombies in the game are slow acting to compensate for the sluggish controls but in doing so it takes away the fear that they should instill when they appear. Add to that the ability to casually walk back out the room to avoid an attack, and it really lowers the scare factor.

Overall we are not impressed by BlackSoul. Horror games are hard to get right; they are similar to movies in that regard so some leniency is due. The game does delivers on a creepy, isolated atmosphere but fails to deliver on any real scares and for that reason it disappointed. Considering that the game was released after Red Barrels indie horror title “Outlast” whilst not coming close to competing with it in terms of graphics, sound, story or gameplay – it is hard to recommend the game to anyone looking for a late night scare.

BlackSoul is available now to purchase from Desura.