Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Black Book gives you the opportunity to live out your dream of being a practicing witch. Don’t deny it – you’ve had that dream.
You play Vasilisa, a ‘Knower’, who can see demons and even dispatch them with a swift ‘Zagovor’, or spell. In-between the demon-busting, you’re helping out locals with their domestic curses, making the odd potion, and ensuring the harvests are good this year.
We’ve had the privilege of playing Black Book through to the end, and can safely say that there’s plenty here to get excited about. Perhaps its greatest achievement is its setting, which feels utterly authentic and convincingly created. We haven’t had many opportunities to explore a Slavic setting, and Black Book mires itself in the mythology of the area. You’re not dealing with the usual vampires, demons and werewolves: this is populated with bailichkas and chorts, and you get the feeling that you’re being exposed to folktales that aren’t regularly exposed.
The deckbuilding, too, is one of the stars of Black Book’s show. This isn’t the usual Slay the Spire template, although you’ll be stacking attack while protecting yourself with defence, which seems to have become the genre’s mainstay. In Black Book, you are constructing spells or Zagovors, and the components of the spell combo and react to the other components. You don’t have the opportunity to stick any old things into the spell, either, as there are scroll and key sockets for the spells to go into. It’s a deep and strategic system, and constructing the best deck to capitalise is a min-maxer’s dream.
In our review, we complimented much of Black Book, but it does have a few flaws. If you’re a deckbuilding fan, or love text-based narrative adventures, the flaws don’t sink Black Book, so it’s probably still worth taking part in its blood-soaked rituals. The flaws mostly surround the sheer number of sub-games and genres that Black Book tries to fold in. It’s hugely ambitious, and some aspects of the game – like a demon resource management system, a trumps-like card game and some battle-puzzles – don’t really work. There are some sharp edges too in the execution, and some playtesting wouldn’t have done it much harm.
Game features include:
- Uncover the seals of Black Book – Unleash hellish spells on your enemies! Collect spell cards and new skills as you progress.
- A Historic Adventure – Solve riddles and complete side-quests as you learn more about life in the Slavic countryside.
- Lead a Demonic Flock – Send demons to do your bidding, but be careful – idle demons will torture you if you don’t find them something to do!
- Myths and legends – Explore a world based on Northern Slavic mythology. Learn from an in-game encyclopedia, created with the help of expert anthropologists – and find all folk tales hidden within the game!
All in all, though, this is a witch’s brew that’s well worth downing. Black Book is out now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S and starts at £20.99 from the Xbox Store. It’s also out on PS4, PS5, Switch and PC.
A fusion of card-based RPGs and Adventure games, “Black Book” is a haunting tale of a young sorceress, who gave her life to serve the dark forces. Dive into the cold, yet alluring world of Slavic folktales – and uncover the secrets that hide in the darkness. A young girl named Vasilisa, destined to become a witch, decides to throw her fate away and marry her beloved – but that dream is shattered when her betrothed dies under mysterious circumstances. Aching for her lost love, Vasilisa seeks out the Black Book – a demonic artifact, said to be powerful enough to grant any wish to the one who uncovers all 7 of its seals. Join Vasilisa in her adventures across the rural countryside, as she solves the woes of common folk by confronting demons and performing exorcisms.