Betrayer is a bag of mixed emotions. Appealingly presented in beautful monochrome and undeniably atmospheric, it's a falling star that will mesmerize you for a moment before its light disippates into night sky.
What do i mean by this ? Well, give me a moment to explain.
Year is 1604 and you just woke up on the beach of the New World among the debris of a marooned ship carrying nothing but your knife. World around you is presented in stylish monochrome with pleasant sounds of splashing waves and schreeching seagulls. It could almost be idyllic if it weren't for the fact that you barely escaped watery grave. With only the vaguest idea of where you are and what to do next, you scrounge up what you can from boxes that are strewn around the shore and head up inland. It doesn' take too long until you stumble on a first sign of life in a form of a warning arrow, shot by a person clad in red. A friendly advice on a piece of paper will introduce you with a opportunistic merchant who provides you with your first weapon and hope of future, mutually beneficial relationship. Wepon in hand, but caution in mind, you'll proceed to face whatever dangers stalk the tall grass of this newly colonized country.
Incidentaly, stalking is the best approach to combat. Your crude longbow won't do you much good in a straight on fight and breasplate worn by your enemies will deflect most arrows. Stealthy approach is very much encouraged - hiding in tall grass and utilizing shadows and gusts of wind to mask your footsteps before you can close in for one deadly strike. However, if you cross their direct line of sight they will spot you and charge to your location which creates a lot of intense encounters, at least in the beginning until you size them up and get better equipment. Like in Dark Souls, you lose all your loot when you die; (an option which can be turned off in gameplay menu), so you want to choose your fights carefully. There is a modest variety of weapons, appropriate for that era. Powerful, but slow-loading muskets and flintlock pistols for your short range, fire-and-forget needs with weaker short/longbows and crossbows doing a nice job at long range sniping. There are also quick-throw explosives and tomahawks when enemies get too close.
Exploration will reveal small bits and pieces of information - page scraps provide lore and insight into past events, puzzling clues an evidence into violent misdeeds, graves engraved with names and causes of death - these are constant reminders that something has gone terribly wrong. Immersion is an overused buzzword, but it's really appropriate here. All this culminates when you reach your first settlement; a small fort mysteriously deserted, showing signs of struggle. Here you'll be introduced to another gameplay mechanic, where you need to collect a bell, hang it from a beam and ring it, whereupon you'll be transported to a darker version of normal world. Dark world is populated by skeletons and floating shades; your vision is limited, and you have to orientate yourself by "listening" and/or following small appearing pointers on the screen. These will lead you to lost souls, remaining echoes of colonists who will explain the significance of certain clues and slowly unravel their mysterious fate and events that led to their untimely, violent deaths.
In these first few hours it looks like Betrayer will settle into a nice rythm, providing a good balance between atmospheric, nearly horror experience, exploration and combat, but it never quite comes to that. New areas you discover feel and look pretty much the same - they're mostly empty and while collectibles offer a decent incentive to explore, it will inevitably become tedious. Enemies that seemed dangerous and sinister before will show all limitations of their AI when you realize there's nothing more to their tactics than relentlessly charging to your location. Most of the combat challenge will come from limited 17- century weapons, and finding more powerful ones is crucial to your survival. These are mostly found on dead enemies or in chests, but really powerful unique, weapons are buried beneath piles of rock that can only be accessed once you find a spade much later in the game. Unfortunately they use exactly the same models as regular ones so it lacks that feeling of finding something really special. Backtracking isn't a problem since there's a fast travel system, but your character is shown as area circle on the map, instead of the usual arrow, which creates confusion when you're trying to find your way, so I'd recommend turning on compass. Ghostly investigations you have to do will reveal very interesting albeit mostly tragic stories, but ultimately amount to nothing more than running from one location to the next, picking up mementos and presenting them to appropriate shade. It's gets very formulaic and repetitive very soon - get to the new area, retake the settlment from enemies, find the bell, go to the dark world, play the courier for ghosts, rinse and repeat. It approaches greatness but never reaches it and that's what's most frustrating of all.
Tenative recommendation. If you approach it from purely gameplay standpoint, you will ultimately be disappointed, but if you take in all the atmosphere and look past its objective flaws, you'll find an enthralling experience. Not really a scary one, but one with uncomfortable sense of unfamiliarty and uknown.