Betrayer is a horror game in the first-person shooter style. It’s loosely based around one of the greatest mysteries of pre-colonial America, the disappearance of the Roanoke colony. You play a traveler to the New World, brought at last to the shores via the cliché shipwreck, with no clue what’s going on.
Since the inhabitants of Roanoke all vanished, it’s tough to get an idea of the story without taking license with the store. So, a few premises that must be swallowed. A mysterious stranger follows you around; from time to time he shoots arrows in your direction; he’s not trying to kill you, the arrows have neatly but (evidently) hastily written messages attached to them, generally warning you of dangers ahead. If you take critical damage, he pulls out of combat and treats your wounds; he leaves your loot behind, however, and you must reclaim it yourself (if you die again before reclaiming it, you lose it permanently). Also, the town merchant isn’t really around; he leaves a message to take what you want, and to leave money on the counter. Okeedoke, I can handle those rather glaring assaults on my suspension of disbelief.
You’re introduced to combat before the mystery, so I’ll cover that first. Weapons in the game include single-shot muskets, tomahawks, and bows, among other equipment you can buy. For the most part, this is a game for archers, your trusty bow is amazingly accurate and effective, even against the conquistador-armored skeletons that are your most common foe (although in game lore, arrows are usually not good against skeletons, and steel armor is quite good against flint arrowheads usually… really gotta just go with the flow here). Most combat is but one style, alas: fire and retreat while continuing to shoot. Offsetting the relative ease of the battle is the relative lethality: a couple of hits can easily take you down, leading to the rescue/loot retrieval mentioned before. Healing is equally fast—a single sip from a water barrel heals all. While the skeletal conquistadores get old fast, there are other, creepier monsters from time to time, enough to keep the game interesting.
Eventually you’ll make it to the abandoned fort at Roanoke, and make contact with a spirit there, who tells you there are mysteries to be solved, by talking to other spirits. That’s basically your quest, and quests are handled in a clever way. I have to admit the hand holding quest system most other games use makes things a little easy. For example, Skyrim lights up where you need to go on your compass; I find I spend so much time staring at that compass that I miss much scenery and find myself a little lost on streets I’ve traveled several times before. Here, things are a bit more subtle. You have to “listen” for the next quest location. Press the “listen” key, and a weird noise emanates, louder the closer you are to it. I don’t trust my hearing nearly as well as a compass (my hearing is not so good thanks to a youth spent in heavy metal bands—I was quite fetching in spandex about 50 pounds ago, for what it’s worth), but nevertheless I could follow the sounds (and enjoy the scenery) to whatever the game wanted me to see next somewhat reliably.
Another interesting take on the game is it’s intended to be played in pseudo black-and-white (which is to say, black and white, except for some red highlights). It works for a while, but mercifully the developers included an option to put color in the game. I like my trees green, even as I acknowledge the different color scheme goes far to adding to the horror factor of the game (and everything was black and white in the old days, right? At least, that how it’s portrayed in old movies).
While the game is fairly quick to play out (an afternoon or two), there are enough interesting ideas here to make it worth the price of admission, especially in a household with more than one gamer willing to investigate the mystery of Roanoke.