Black Book: Game Review

Black Book is an adventure role-playing video game, developed by Morteshka, which created The Mooseman, and published by HypeTrain Digital. The game was released on August 10, 2021. Taking place in 19th century Russia, the game is heavily inspired by Russian folklore and narrative is based on Bailichkas.

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox One, Macintosh operating systems

Official art of Black Book, Morteshka

The game is structured like a roguelite, but also has a lot in common with more traditional turn-based RPGs, combined with Slavic myths. The playstyle of the game is very similar to for those who know it, and it combines a similar card-based deck-building combat system with a strong narrative and beautiful art style.

It takes place in late 1800s Russia, and brings you into the beautifully dark world filled with dark myths and folk legends of that time period, which also involves witchcraft, demons, curses, and mythological creatures.

Source: Screenshot on Steam

In Black Book, by developers Morteshka, you take on the role of Vasilisa, a koldun (a witch in Slavic folklore) in a family line of kolduns. The young witch Vasilisa finally accepts her inheritance, taking up the black book of spells and the dark power that comes with it. Although, this power that Vasilla possesses comes at a great cost too. As a koldun, she must make a certain pact to receive magical abilities. Vasilisa makes a deal with the devil, and aims to retrieve her husband from Hell and bring him back to the Earthly realm.

Black Book is filled with rich stories and characters, as well as a stunning art style that you can’t look past in a deck-building game. A few companions you meet during your story join you at your home, enhancing the combat and offering interesting dialogue. Each character has their own sidequest that reveal their story, and reward you upon helping them. This way, you also get to explore the world and the dark secrets hidden around.

Source: Screenshot on Steam

When it comes to combat, Black Book offers much more than laying out a set of cards each turn. In each round, you get a hand of pages that act like cards, and you play a number of them to form a zagovor (a spell). These spells are how you form attacking abilities to deal damage to your enemies. You can also play in a way to build up your defense too, with protective pages and blessings. But the game pushes past the regular attacks and defense style. There are also many pages for unique effects to play with, such as Waste, which does a certain amount of stackable damage to your opponents over several turns, and Ward, which gives you additional defense each turn without expending a zagovor slot.

Boss battles in the game also require you to play your cards right, which means you will have to stack up some card effects or rework your entire deck to try a new strategy to defeat them.

Source: Screenshot on Steam, combat style of the Black Book

Unfortunately, Black Book’s explanations of combat and card abilities are often not enough, and it has quite a slow start with the first chapter. If you are willing to put in some effort to create a perfect deck matching your play style and push through the beginning of the game which feels slow, the game starts to blossom. This book is certainly a page-turner, keeps you hooked in the beautiful Slavic story, and makes it fun to make a deal with the devil.

Let me know in the comments which deck-building games you’ve played before, and what you think of Black Book! I hope to see you soon with more news and thoughts on video games, and wish you all short loading screens!

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Self-proclaimed video game connoisseur. This is where I share my own thoughts and news about anything video games related. 🎮