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The Plague, the Black Death those who lived through it in 14th Century England times called it, thousands / millions of people died in its short breath of life. 

The BLACK DEATH, the game for the PC on Steam, is a dark and mysterious adventure with the emphasis on dark, and mysterious! As a Plague Doctor you are hired by several of the Town's hierarchy, each one has a different task for you but you only get a new one after you have completed the previous one. In fact if you go back to the wrong quest-giver they will either ignore you completely of threaten to skewer you like a shish-kebab on their sword (or other such nasty threats). Considering you are trying to help these people by discovering and curing the cause of the plague they treat you miserably. The people of the Town you begin in, Freeman's Port, are few and far between, but even so they are mostly unwilling to talk. Some of them run food stalls, often selling apples, but as you have no money (most of the time you either are broke or have not enough coin to purchase anything) they even shun you when you are hungry. Another weirdness about the folk in Freeman's Port is similar to that I have already mentioned, a quest-giver bows to you as you approach and in their next breath they threaten to have you killed if you touch him. My personal thoughts were to say "**** them" and let the town's folk suffer and die.

    

So as food is required for your health you are down to stealing apples, mostly sour or rotten, from the boxes on the sale-stands. If you eat them they up your health by not very much but they keep you alive for a few minutes longer. You can also pick up all manner of crafting material from the floor though unless you have a reason to collect this rubbish I cannot believe that I would be picking up broken, mouldy sticks and other assorted rubbish. However and for some unfathomable reason, the traders around Town will buy the rubbish from you - some of the stuff you pick up will be edible, such as berries etc. If you die, which you probably will (and more than once) you lose any unspent Skill points but you do not lose any actual skills acquired.

    

One of the first tasks you have to do is go and chat to someone at RAVEN's REACH, the larger town near Freeman's Port but separated by a wide bay. To get there you have to find a pathway around the bay and through or over various types of dangerous terrain, without any kind of weapon or, to be honest, any real skill in fighting - running away is more your forte. Somehow you get wages for your work, they simply appear in your account every day. "M" will bring up a map, as you probably expected, but the map is not as useful as in-game maps usually are as there is no "You are here", no Route planned and shown, in fact it is just like a map you (in this life not in the game) can buy from a garage - it shows compass points, roads and places, the rest is up to you.

    

I have played this game for several long hours over many sessions but I still can't get my head around it. I find it confusing that the Towns have traders but virtually no people. I understand there is the Plague problem but if the people are dead, dying or locked away in their homes, why are their traders still looking for business ?

One of your tasks is searching for animals that have the plague and then examining them. However, until you obtain the necessary equipment your examinations are very limited, basically what you see is what you can report so quickly look, don't touch, and burn the corpse as soon as possible. Thankfully these reports, no matter that it is scanty, are accepted by the quest-givers, so that's a win (sort of).

    

The BLACK DEATH is one of the latest in the "Survival" genre that is sweeping board and electronic gaming at the moment. It is a game that can be played solo or with multiple players and as I said before it is very dark and mysterious. It is also as near to a sandbox game as possible without characters having total freedom. It is quite a slow paced game even though your character can run and jump, though the only need for running is usually to get away from someone who wants to kill you for no apparent reason.

I found this on the Steam page and it trells you as much as I can as to what the game is about: "The Black Death is a massively multiplayer survival game that allows you to choose your own path in this dark, medieval land, complete with a diverse population of villagers, wildlife, and plague victims. Create your own story from a range of different play styles - become a blacksmith; defend the weak as a knight; or earn your living as a merchant. The wealthier, the richer, the stronger you become, the better your chance of survival." This all makes it sound like you have multiple choices when creating your character at the beginning but your only real character modification is whether you have a Female or Male character and adjustments to their Head, Hair, Body and Legs, though at present in Beta there is very little by way of changes available to you, and if the template is going to remain the same when the game goes live then the mods will be few and far between.

    

At present and probably when it is completed the goal of the game is to survive. Survive the Black Death but more importantly survive the threats and attacks from your fellow humans. If you begin to talk and they begin to hit then run away. Once talking has broken down it cannot be kickstarted back into play - only combat or running away are options available to you and combat is rarely the best choice.

I'm intrigued by the idea of the game and I love the despair that the onscreen visuals imparts but I am not, at the moment, comfortable with the gameplay. I am hoping it will grow on me. From what I have read on the internet the game is due in March. As it isn't available at the moment I am going to surmise that it is March 2018 that is meant and not that it is 8 months late.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015