An old woman, Elly Kedward, lures several local children into her house and draws their blood. The Blair Township parents discover her crime, find her guilty of witchcraft and bind her to a wheelbarrow in the woods, leaving her for dead in the middle of a particularly harsh winter. In November, on the night of the first snowfall, the daughter of the town magistrate vanishes. A week later, Kedward's main accuser disappears. By winter's end, over half the town's children vanish, including all of her accusers. Enter our hero, Jonathan Prye.
The core of the game is intriguing enough: Jonathan is a man tortured by his own lack of faith. Why, we're not entirely sure. He treads the path between Christianity and Shamanism to defeat the forces of evil. The game seems to imply that Elly Kedward is innocent and the murders are caused by a demon known as Hecatomix. As Asgaya Gigagei, Prye's shaman tutor explains: "The White Man did not respect Hecatomix and make sacrifices to him, so now he is so angry he destroys all human children to destroy the future of civilization." Now, Prye must rescue the children and defeat the demons by faith and firearm.
The game's storyline seems forced as Prye cannot leave Blair until he speaks to certain individuals. Conversely, if he doesn't receive the Burning Cross weapon before entering Elizabeth Styler's house, he is guaranteed to die in a death trap against a demon immune to normal weapons. Even more annoying is the long, circuitous travels throughout the Blair Township woods. This is presumably meant to evoke the spookiness of the woods in the original movie but the effect instead only causes long, boring periods of Prye running around lost.
Since Prye has a map and, unlike the characters in the movie is far too intelligent to kick it into the river, the "lost in the woods" effect is lost on the player. Since the game takes place in the same geographical environment as the movie, the same criticism applies -- if you're lost in the woods, why not just follow the river out? Prye can't do that either since an invisible barrier prevents travel along the river's length.
There are several logic flaws that severely diminish the game's storyline. The zombies inexplicably possess vials of health and mana and carry ammo, all of which Prye uses to keep him alive and weapons blazing. This encourages "farming" the zombies for survival and, since they move so slowly, he can simply run past them. In fact, he's encouraged to run just about everywhere, which seems a bit undignified for a former minister.
Speaking of undignified, after Prye encounters the Native American shaman known as Asgaya, he rejects his pagan philosophy despite blowing up zombies and being attacked by an undead priest with a cross -- Jonathan is obviously a hard man to convince. Prye then faces off against a rather benevolent Kedward demon who decides against tearing the faithless minister's soul apart and, instead, merely gives him a good spanking for "not being a believer" and "being filled with fear." This is tantamount to the demon wearing a "Kill Me, I'm an Idiot" sign on his head. Of course, Prye then returns to the shaman, learns how to defeat the demon and obliges the suicidal fiend with a few well-placed blasts from a rather mundane gun.
The game suffers from all the control and perspective flaws found in so many horror shoot-em-ups. The cameras are in frozen positions that can block combat between Prye and zombies. Using the keyboard and the mouse together is a challenge, as the left and right arrow keys cause Prye to strafe rather than turn. With auto-targeting (a very necessary feature to compensate for the poor controls), the only thing you need worry about is backing up as you repeatedly click the left-mouse button to fire. Almost no skill is involved in killing anything, including the bosses, and it's possible to stand still and blaze away at attackers until they drop with minimal health loss.
The Blair Witch Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale could have been a great game. Instead, it's merely a mediocre entry into the horror game genre.
Graphics: The effects in the game are inconsistent. Most of the time, the characters breathe mist from the cold while snow falls around them, yet, only Prye leaves footprints in certain areas. On the other hand, he actually retains weapons in hand during most sequences whereas most other horror games use pre-formatted movie sequences.
Sound: Jonathan Prye, with a voice over by an actor not listed in the credits, has a deep, sonorous voice that keeps the pace flowing during the otherwise bland conversations he has with the other characters. The voice acting quality is fair but the dramatic pauses are oddly placed -- in some cases, characters pause dramatically for no visible reason while others seem to cut each other off or speak too quickly. The sounds of the various monsters aren't well timed. The first demon dog encountered sounds like a wild pig and later demon dogs make no sound at all. The background noises and music are quiet enough to not interfere with the game but do little to enhance the atmosphere of suspense.
Enjoyment: In the tradition of Resident Evil and other games that came after it, Blair Witch Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale is another addition to the shoot-the-zombies genre. It draws a lot of parallels with Evil Dead: Hail to the King because both are supposedly additions to a cult horror film's mythology. However, there are some very important differences. The first distinction is that Evil Dead doesn't take itself too seriously; secondly, Evil Dead has the considerable voice acting talents of Bruce Campbell.
This game has none of these advantages other than filling in the gaps of the fictional timeline of the Blair Witch. Unfortunately, none of this is supported by the official website and there is no mention of Hecatomix (or any of the other characters from the game) in the Blair Witch mythology. So, while Evil Dead: Hail to the King adds its own mythology and thus appeals to fans, Blair Witch Volume III feels more like an unofficial spin-off.
Replay Value: This is not a particularly difficult game. It is possible to get stuck behind objects so you should save the game frequently. There's little point to a replay, though, since the plot is so linear.
People who downloaded Blair Witch Volume 3: The Elly Kedward Tale have also downloaded:
Blair Witch Volume 2: The Legend of Coffin Rock, Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, American McGee's Alice, Alone in the Dark 4: The New Nightmare, Alone in the Dark 2, Dark Earth, Blade of Darkness, Alone in the Dark 3
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