#37: Blair Witch Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale

Well, it’s better than the Bloober Team one

june gloom
5 min readJul 14, 2022

This review was originally posted to Twitter on January 12, 2019

Initial release: 2000
Developer: Ritual Entertainment
Platform: PC

In 1999, a badly shot indie film called The Blair Witch Project pioneered the dubious “found-footage” genre as well as many viral marketing techniques. Amongst a multimedia blitz was… this game. Gathering of Developers, a short-lived auteur publisher, had secured the rights to create a trilogy of spin-off games. The first of these was created by Terminal Reality, and tied in with their other game, the cult hit Nocturne. By all rights, it was a minor success. Blair Witch Volume III, much like Volume II, is rather less successful, financially and in what it was trying to do, than Terminal Reality’s Volume I.

A lot of the lore in Blair Witch is relegated to the myriad tie-in media; the movie itself is, if you want to be cynical, a commercial for all the other shit. A core part is the tale of Elly Kedward, an old woman who takes revenge on the village that banished her for a witch. As you can guess by the game’s subtitle, this game expands somewhat on this, taking place in 1785, shortly after the banishment, when children have begun disappearing. A disillusioned priest named Prye goes to Blair Township to investigate and finds himself wrapped up in a battle of good and evil. When he arrives, the last of the citizens are on their way out; only the local reverend and judge remain, with a couple of prisoners in the holding cells: an old drunk and a beautiful young woman who claims to be a “good” witch. “Elly’s just misunderstood, like me,” she claims.

Armed with a few clues, our Mr. Prye, Witch Hunter, heads out into the woods. The game starts here in earnest, but there’s really not much to it. Most of the game will be spent in these woods, and it’s not a terribly large area — just a series of paths. Some of these paths will loop back on one another, similar to how the characters in the film walk miles only to find themselves where they started. the woods are also filled with zombies (and other monsters, but mostly zombies.)

Superficially, the game is reminiscent of Resident Evil, in that it uses pre-rendered backgrounds. the combat, though, is decidedly less survival oriented. you have a number of weapons that use either bullets or mana, and both drop in plentiful amounts.

I must stress a point: the controls are shit. Take every complaint you’ve ever had about old-school survival horror controls, and apply them haphazardly to a keyboard. Using XPadder one can get by with a controller, but you’ll still rely on the keyboard a lot.

I had a lot of technical problems just fiddling with the control configuration. The game is old; the only way I could get it to behave properly is to not use hardware acceleration and run it in Windows 98 mode. In hardware mode the game has serious framerate issues.

Don’t get me wrong, the Nocturne engine is pretty great for a game released at the turn of the millennium. I’d argue that with better pre-rendered scenes, it’d be on par with Resident Evil 0 or the Resident Evil remake, making extensive use of shadows in a way not really surpassed until Doom 3. but much like Resident Evil, the camera can be frustrating. While some of the game’s problems can be attributed to the engine itself (in spite of its technical advances, it’s certainly shown its age), the shortness, linearity, and the story (oh my god the story) are all Ritual, and it’s frankly a little shameful. PC Gamer called it “amazingly mediocre.” P thought they were being generous.

The story really is really really dumb by the way. Part of what made the movie work was so little was actually explained. This game, instead, goes off on some bullshit about a demon named idontrememberandidontcare, apparently the source of all the evil. There’s also a LOT of Magical Native American bullshit in this, and while I’m no expert on the myriad cultures of pre-Colonial Maryland, I’m pretty sure zero thought was given to the accuracy. shit, Sven that awful original version of Prey was better about this. The script is garbage, too. Every evil entity you run into has a bad habit of talking at length about how Prye is going to suffer, etc. and I’m just sitting here screaming JUST GET ON WITH IT.

In the end, the magical Native American sacrifices himself to seal the evil away, but the beautiful “good” witch turns out to be evil too, having manipulated Prye into preparing the way to open a gate to the demon realm, or some dumb shit, I dunno. That being said, in a subversion, you can use an “exorcism Bible” given to you by the local reverend to free her from the spell. The final boss fight is an enormous pain in the ass, though, like, seriously impossible, even if you’re used to the controls. I had to god mode it. This stands in marked contrast with the rest of the game, by the way. For the most part, combat is surprisingly easy: you just (auto)aim and shoot, and maybe reposition as needed. Ammo and mana are so plentiful you’re rarely in trouble. But the final boss is almost impossible.

I complain a lot about this film, but I do need to point out that I really liked the soundtrack — it’s honestly the best part of the game, creating a moody atmosphere that suits the wintry scene. The voice acting isn’t bad either, if mixed a bit loud. Oddly enough, the credits don’t list any voice actors at all.

All in all, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this game and I got even less than that. it’s clear that Ritual Entertainment, always doomed to mediocrity in spite of minor successes like The Scourge of Armagon expansion for the original Quake, and later the cult classic shooter SiN, were to maintain their reputation with Blair witch volume III.




june gloom

Media critic, retired streamer, furry. I love you. [she/her]