Release Date: December 2000
The decision to release the Blair Witch series at a budget price during three consecutive months is one that should be applauded by the gaming community. In an industry where imitation and sequels have become the norm, it is refreshing to see a company go out on a limb and harkens back to the early days of Infocom, when different was welcome. In today's profit-above-quality atmosphere, too many companies have become bottom-line corporations that would rather release Star Wars Episode Ninety-two Phantom On-Line Racer or Quake Really Unreal Tournament XII and won't even take a chance on a project that smacks of innovation.
Blair Witch 3 is the conclusion and also the beginning of a new mythos. The writing and dialogue in all three games has been superb—part two, The Legend of Coffin Rock, is an understated tour de force that slowly unfolded its secrets. The Elly Kedward Story skips such subtlety and goes directly for the jugular. We are immediately told a story of a crazed local woman, Elly Kedward, who in the year 1786 is accused of witchcraft and left in the woods to die. Now children are disappearing and the citizens are fleeing in terror. Enter Jonathan Pyre, a reverend turned witch-hunter, who has decided to visit the town of Blair and hunt down and destroy the witch in hopes that confirmation of the dark side may restore his lost faith. Conversations with the town drunk, who of course knows more than anyone suspects, the local magistrate and pastor, and a female prisoner suspected of witchcraft advance the storyline while providing clues to your next objective. Mysticism, witchcraft, black magic, and Indian folklore intertwine to provide the backdrop for the theme of the story.
BW3 is more action-oriented than the first two games, but if you have played either of them, chances are you will be comfortable with the keyboard- or gamepad-based combat system. The combat is spell-based, with some weapons familiar to the period—such as a flintlock—also available, and besides the usual lightning and fire spells, there is also a nifty voodoo doll that chatters like a rattlesnake when danger is near and a book of exorcism that sucks the souls from your enemies. For adventure gamers who might be reluctant to try the Blair Witch games because of the action elements, be advised that there is a god code that can be activated to prevent your character from dying. Rather than view this as cheating, see it instead as alternate path through the game.
As with the first two volumes, there is a considerable amount of time spent in the woods. Not only has the auto-mapping feature been improved, but it seems the developers have taken some of the previous criticism to heart, as what would have been an elongated romp in the first volume has now been shortened by having some characters meet you at the end of certain quests instead of your trudging back through the woods to their location. The puzzles mostly consist of finding an object and then exploring who or what to use it with, but this is a game that is more concerned with telling a story rather than frustrating the player.BW3 did at times seem to be too easy, but I suspect this was because I was already familiar with the layout of the woods and town from having recently played the first two volumes.
The voice acting and music has been consistently good in all three games. The actors convey that B-movie edge without going overboard. The music has a nice Chiller Theater feel to it and helps to propel along the last third of the story. The graphics, especially in Elly Kedward, are splendidly detailed. In fact, after I switched from a nVidia 16 MB card to a Voodoo 5 video card, they actually became even crisper. The choice of camera angles has been much improved since the first volume also and is often used for short, dramatic effect to heighten a scene much like a suspenseful horror film. Additionally, lengthy conversations always feature multiple changing viewpoints and character movement. Such innovation would have helped tremendously in a game like The Longest Journey that was very static during the drawn-out dialogues.
Overall, the Blair Witch trilogy is of a surprisingly high quality for a budget title based on a B horror movie. Yes, the games are very linear, but not every game needs to be a brain-buster; sometimes the operative word is fun. The games' subtleties and recurring characters are what make the series so interesting. For example, in the third game—which is actually first in chronology—the green forest is covered with pure, white snow. By the time the series has reached the 1930s, the same forest is now black and forbidding; it has been permeated by evil. It is unfortunate that so many other reviewers are so focused on graphics and blood and gore that they overlook the small touches that elevate some games to a higher level.
If you have not yet played any of the Blair Witch games, I would recommend starting with volume 3. One thing that did disappoint me was that I was waiting for a startling explanation as to why the game was released in reverse chronological order, but unless I overlooked the obvious, none was ever forthcoming. Still, if you're just looking to have a good time and enjoy horror based action/adventure games, then theBlair Witch trilogy is a nice walk in the woods.
Final Grade: B
If you liked Blair Witch Volume 3:
Read: Urban Myths & Legends
Watch: Blair Witch 2
Play: Blair Witch Volume 2
PII 233 or higher
64 MB RAMSVGA Video
Mouse/keyboard or gamepad