August 10 saw the light of day “Black Book” – a new game by the national studio Morteshka. This is the second title of the team: earlier it released “Man-Eye”, where the story was also based on folk legends. “Black Book”, unlike the first game, is a much larger and more self-sufficient thing. The novelty from the studio from Perm is no longer a short adventure for a couple of hours, but a full-fledged RPG with role-playing, a complex combat system and interesting finds, despite the seemingly hackneyed basis in the form of a card engine. offers to look at the game and understand what it is – just indie, of which there are hundreds, or a new word for the domestic gaming industry?



Across the Cherdynsky district

Screenshot from the “Black Book”

The game takes place in the Cherdyn district of the Perm province in the 19th century. In the center of the story is the girl Vasilisa, who was forced to become an eyelid, a sorceress, handling evil spirits. The fact is that her lover committed suicide, which she does not believe in, but the only way to save the guy’s soul is to get the Black Book and open all seven of its seals. This will allow Vasya to fulfill any desire, on which she makes the main bet.

Of course, beads of additional stories are gradually strung on the thread of the main plot: here Vasya is taken to help the dashing soldier Nikolai, who, on a dare, climbed into an abandoned bathhouse at night and almost became a victim of the mistress of the bathhouse. One of the petitioners comes with a request to drive away the spirit that has settled in the mill – and vekshe have to deal with who and why does not allow the grain to be ground. And then attempts to save the child from hiccups, an evil spirit, lead to the appearance of a house-neighbor (brownie), who in the end turns out to be quite a bearable assistant in the household and not only.

All these outdated and specific words are organically built into the narrative: at the right moments, the game will throw up a pop-up hint about an unfamiliar term or give a bylich – a small legend on a particular topic. It is noteworthy that even little things are used: for example, in one of the scenes, in order to advance further, you need to calm down the neighbor who is tormenting the horse. He does this in accordance with his nature: the horse simply does not match in color with the owner’s beard, which means it is not suitable. It seems that there has never been such attention to detail in games on Slavic themes: in the first hours, the player manages to receive more than a dozen stories and historical explanations, all of which are really important for the plot.

Bylichki and other legends

Screenshot from the “Black Book”

The importance of the stories obtained during the passage is indicated at least by the need to solve dialog riddles. Various characters will ask Vasilisa every now and then, testing her “knowledge” in practice. For the correct answer, you have to read the proposed stories, submitted, fortunately, extremely interesting, with the peculiarities of the local dialect.

By the way, bylichki are almost the only text moments left without voice acting. All texts and dialogues found directly in the game are fully voiced – even descriptions of locations. The voice acting is largely made in the spirit of folk tales: the actors replay a little, but within the framework of the permissible and do not cause rejection by this. At the same time, each of the characters has its own unique personality, reflected both in the voice and in various little things.

Each of the main characters who can be taken as companions also has a well-developed background: the same Nikolai can tell a lot about his combat everyday life (it is not for nothing that an iron cross flaunts on his chest!), And grandfather Efim, who once sheltered Vasya as his own and gave her A black book, he will tell how he himself set foot on the witch’s path. Yes, and my neighbor Proshka managed to live a lot in the world and can also share a lot.

Dialogues with characters, even with minor ones, are written with knowledge of the matter: it is interesting to communicate here, and the choice of the answer has weight. Every now and then the player will be faced with the consequences of his decisions, and often even insignificant things can at least a line, but come back to haunt in a dialogue with a random passer-by.

Card, money, two sins

Screenshot from the “Black Book”

It is noteworthy that, unlike roguelikes, Black Book is a game with pre-set levels that are furnished as random encounters. This seems to reduce replayability, but in fact it works great for the atmosphere: the approach allowed the developers to fill the passage with a lot of the very details that make up the unique face of the game.

The meetings are extremely varied: sometimes Vasilisa simply finds an interesting flower on the side of the road, which can be picked and then used in battle and not only, otherwise she will collide with a random passer-by, who can turn out to be a gape peasant returning home, or a devil. The latter, by the way, are not always in an aggressive mood: many conflicts can be avoided by choosing the right lines, resorting to the help of friends, or even by switching to the “Fool”.

The latter does not exist here for a catchphrase, but is deduced as a separate mechanics. “Fool”, of course, is a throw-in one, and the game is played in three variations – one on one, for three or in pairs. The latter option requires not only to win yourself, but also not to let your partner lose, and the latter is often even more difficult.

During the trip, you can also meet merchants who help Vasilisa for a coin. There are three of them: the peddler sells artifacts that the Vekshitsa can use by hanging them on the slots, the herbalist – respectively, herbs, and the scribe offers pages for the Black Book – of course, you can buy them in Grandfather Yegor’s hut before sending them to the next quest, but the prices the scribe is much less biting.

Here I would also like to note the motley with devils – Vasilisa, as a vekshitsa, is forced to possess evil spirits, which constantly require work. Expectedly, the evil spirits want to do dirty things: lime the cattle, set fire to the barn, or bring children into the forest deeper. All this, alas, is sinful and weighs heavily on Vasya’s shoulders. You can, of course, play as an evil connoisseur, but you can’t get a good ending that way.

The word alive and dead

Screenshot from the “Black Book”

Of course, the focus is not on dialogues or characters, but on the combat system – after all, it is it that is the central mechanics of the Black Book. It is implemented, at first glance, in a standard way: battles are fought with the help of conspiracies that are typed into the book. Stylization, of course, under the pages of white and black, and Vasilisa allegedly weaves a verbal spell, choosing pages in the book: at the start of the turn, two conspiracies and one key are available, but over time the size of the spell will grow.

In fact, this is, of course, more or less standard card mechanics familiar to gamers from games like Slay the Spire or Fights in Tight Spaces. The player is free to rebuild his “book” in the process, filling it with new pages at his own discretion.

As you progress through, more and more powerful spells will open, which will affect the final version of the conspiracy in different ways. Different pages have different effects: White focuses primarily on imposing beneficial status upgrades, defense and healing, while Black focuses on direct and indirect damage. Most of the combat and the lion’s share of the game, in principle, revolve around the pages.

It’s nice that there are almost no simple cards in the game: they are all combined in different ways through the system of additional statuses. So, for example, a black page with the word “foldable” will increase damage depending on the number of black plots in the spell. The “blessing” status temporarily increases damage, and, for example, “corruption” allows you to poison the enemy and inflict constant damage on him at the beginning of the turn. There are plenty of similar effects: individual cards increase the received protection, transfer damage from one enemy to all, impose the ability to “steal” enemy health or wound for each attack that has passed on Vasya. In some cases, the number of statuses superimposed simultaneously reaches almost a dozen.

At first, everything seems obvious: just insert better cards and remove weaker ones. Why would you need a card for two damage units, if there is the same card, but for four? Or why keep a page in the deck that inflicts two units of damage (read: indirect damage), if you can burn by three in an area? It all looks like a pretty standard way for card roguelikes to improve the existing features … until the game starts changing its own rules.

The ugly duckling turned into a swan

Screenshot from the “Black Book”

A deck assembled for damage can easily turn out to be useless when meeting an enemy who not only completely ignores physical damage, but also restores health due to vampirism. One of such skirmishes with a seemingly invincible deck ended in defeat for me, despite the fact that the enemy “navampiril” with Vasya a couple of hundred health points. What is nice, the primary “How then?” finds a solution in the correct layout of the deck on other principles: it was worth assembling it otherwise, as a seemingly formidable opponent died in a couple of moves.

At some point, the game begins to regularly throw up new tasks and literally forces you to abandon working schemes: yes, they help on ordinary opponents, but in more serious battles a special approach is required. However, if the player is not ready to bother, “Black Book” helpfully throws up an offer to skip a particularly difficult battle – and simply automatically counts the victory.

A particularly useful feature, judging by the reviews, has become in puzzle battles – unique battles that radically change the rules of the game. Here, the battle lasts a strictly allotted number of moves, and instead of an already collected book and objects, it gives pre-prepared pages in a strictly defined order. The player is required to figure out how best to use the available arsenal, and squeeze the maximum out of it in the minimum number of moves. Quite often, such skirmishes require a fair amount of strain on the gray matter.

New cards push you to experiment over and over again. If at the beginning of the game there are not so many options for collecting a winning book, then more advanced conspiracies and clues instantly generate some monstrous combinations in your head that you really want to achieve. Often we are not talking about balance, but it is not that much needed – the game is still single, so no one bothers to have fun from the heart.

The main thing is the soul, not the face

Screenshot from the “Black Book”

If everything is clear with the gameplay – it is diverse and really pleases – then there are a number of big questions to the graphics. The budget of the title affects: only five people work in Morteshka, and this is most noticeable precisely in the visual component. The text parts are accompanied by two-dimensional character sprites in a rather sloppy style, and if the main characters still look nothing, then half of the evil spirits have enough questions.

The situation is even worse with the character models and their animation: it is painfully obvious that there is no specialist on the team who could hone this side of the game. Oak heroes strangely move their limbs, “clip” through themselves and look ridiculous half the time. Fortunately, the situation is saved by skillful art direction: good angles and colors pretty much brighten up the lack of elaboration, making the poor picture stylish. In statics, some species look amazingly good, but the dynamics, alas, knocks down the magic in an instant.

But apart from the graphics, it is extremely difficult to find fault with anything in the “Black Book”. The plot is written on a solid “top five”, the combat system does not cease to amaze even after a dozen hours, the opponents are diverse, there is room for wagering, there are secrets – a carriage and a small cart … As a result, “Black Book” easily takes the place of one of the most interesting projects, at least this summer, not very rich in releases. And on the street of fans of Slavic fantasy, there is a holiday at all, which has not been for a long time.


  • interesting story;
  • deep combat system;
  • variety of mechanics;
  • great setting;
  • many interesting stories.


  • poor graphics;
  • some of the properties of the cards are poorly explained.

Epic victory
Black Book is a bright and interesting title. It is easy to miss the game behind a nondescript wrapper, but once you wade through the initial skepticism, it will be simply impossible to come off. Piece things of such a cut do not lie on the road, and all lovers of high-quality role-playing games are strongly discouraged from passing by. In addition, the purchase of “Black Book” is a great way to support the domestic game industry, which does not often please with something truly outstanding. You shouldn’t worry about Morteshka in this regard.