The Elly Kedward Tale is the third and final episode of Gathering
of Developers' Blair Witch series. The trilogy opened well enough
with Volume I: Rustin Parr, a romp through Burkittsville that
blended a compelling story with exciting combat and incredible
atmosphere. Volume II: The Legend of Coffin Rock soon followed,
but disappointed due to its lack of story-telling ability, pointless
combat and overuse of flashbacks. Does the series finish on a high
note with Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale? Not quite.
Blair Witch Volume III tells the tale of an old woman named Elly
Kedward who, in February of 1785, lured several local children
into her house and drew their blood. The townspeople reacted
with brutal swiftness, finding her guilty of witchcraft and banishing
her from Blair. Kedward was bound to a wheelbarrow, dragged
into the woods, and left for dead in the middle of a harsh winter. In
November of 1786, on the night of the first snowfall, the daughter
of the town magistrate mysteriously vanished. A week later,
Kedward's main accuser disappeared. By the end of the winter,
nearly more than half the town's children vanished, including
every one of the accusers. Fearing a curse, the townspeople fled
in terror as soon as the weather broke.
In Blair Witch Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale, you play as
Jonathan Prye, a man of God who's lost his faith in all that is Holy.
Prye is a renowned Witch Hunter, skilled with his musket and
learned in the wicked ways of dark magic. So when the troubled
township of Blair, Maryland is besieged by an evil presence, Prye
arrives on the scene to investigate.
Like the previous Blair Witch Volumes, The Elly Kedward Tale is a
third-person action game that uses Terminal Reality's Nocturne
engine. If you're familiar with Nocturne, or any of the other Blair
Witch titles, I'm sure you're well aware of the engine's
shortcomings: clumsy controls and tricky camera angles. You'd
think by now they'd be able to eliminate some of those issues, if
not avoid them as much as possible, but The Elly Kedward Tale
plays right into them. You see, The Elly Kedward Tale is a very
action-oriented title, and the Nocturne engine doesn't take well to
action, it's suited more for adventuring. The result is a quirky game
that lacks purpose due to the emphasis on combat and the lack of
a solid plot.
Blair Witch Volume III opens as you arrive in Blair (aka
Burkittsville). The small town is all but evacuated, with only a few
residents left behind to help fill in the blanks of the story. The first
portion of the game is full of character interaction and dialogue,
setting up the rest of the game. Unfortunately, as you head off for
one of your many journeys into the woods, not only are your
acquaintances left behind, so is the story. From this point on, the
story feels tacked on, with the sole purpose of giving you reason to
venture back and forth into the woods. In order to make up for the
sudden absence of a plot, the action picks up and never lets you
go. Endless combat sequences with all sorts of baddies is all that's
left to glue the game together, leading up to a climatic finale
against the evil force behind it all. Without giving away spoilers,
The Elly Kedward Tale is only dynamic in the way that there are
multiple endings to the game.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for an all-out action game, but the
Nocturne engine is not a good stage for one. The camera
constantly moves around in an attempt to create a cinematic feel
to the action, but it just doesn't work, plain and simple. The
viewpoint changes every few seconds and it's nearly impossible to
find a good spot to stand and fight. You can't jump, or crouch
during combat, so it basically comes down to running around and
firing blindly. Thankfully, the enemies are all relatively easy to
defeat, a trait offset by the sheer number of creatures you'll
encounter. It's endless and it's tedious. I don't understand the
thinking behind creating an action game using an engine that
can't handle it.
Blair Witch Volume II used flashbacks to add another dimension to
the game. The Elly Kedward Tale uses multiple Planes. Two
parallel levels of existence, the Spirit Plane and the Demon Plane,
are introduced. Spiritual advisors aid you by providing wisdom,
weapons and spells for your journey. This attempt to bring a
magical edge to the game fails though, since the spell-based
combat is unsatisfying and as uncontrollable as fighting with
pistols and axes.
If there's anything constant about the series, it's the visuals. All
three games, albeit choppy at times, feature strong lighting effects,
creepy atmospheres and eerie sound effects that help create a
spooky gaming experience. It works well, providing thrills and
chills as creatures jump out at you from every conceivable angle.
The voiceovers sound professional as usual, although this time
around Ritual Entertainment decided to forego facial animations.
No lip-synching, no lip movement at all in fact. It looks quite odd to
say the least.
The previous two Blair Witch titles were extremely short and The
Elly Kedward Tale is no different. Since the game focuses on
action with less puzzle-solving elements, you should be able to
complete your journey in a relatively short period of time. One
annoying bug I should mention lies in the fact that your character
can actually wander off the screen and disappear. This normally
isn't a problem, unless you encounter an opponent that you can't
see. Irritating to the say the least.
The Elly Kedward Tale brings the Blair Witch series to a
disappointing close. The trilogy began with promise as Rustin Parr
delivered an excellent combination of puzzle solving, character
interaction, combat and storytelling. The Legend of Coffin Rock
and The Elly Kedward Tale both failed to deliver strong story
elements, focusing more and more on action without reason, or
good reason for that matter. Rustin Parr was genuinely spooky.
The Legend of Coffin Rock and The Elly Kedward Tale are scary,
but for all the wrong reasons.
[ 26/50 ] Gameplay
[ 07/10 ] Graphics
[ 09/10 ] Sound
[ 06/10 ] Storyline
[ 04/10 ] Controls
[ 04/10 ] Fun Factor