E3 2019: Bloober Team’s ‘Blair Witch’ Project Canonically Expands Universe

One of the more surprising announcements coming from E3 was Bloober Teams’ collaboration with Lionsgate to create a totally original story set in the Blair Witch Project universe. Bloober Team (Layers of Fear, Observer) has been heading the development of Blair Witch for the last couple of years. According to the development team, Lionsgate approached Bloober Team while they were wrapping up Observer to create a psychological addition to the Blair Witch Universe. The development team has confirmed that this new game takes place in the cinematic universe with an original story that will become canon and referenced in future “Blair Witch” works.

With such an astounding amount of responsibility to create new content for a beloved cult franchise, Bloober Team plans to bring their signature psychological horror to the title as a way to uphold the original source material. One of the mysteries of the “Blair Witch Project” movie was that we never did truly know what was happening in the Black Hills Forest. Was it indeed witches or were our main protagonists just hallucinating from fear? Using those open ended questions, the writing team over at Bloober has confirmed that story will be “grounded in what was shown in the movie–mystique is our trademark.” Given Bloober’s hair-raising history in games, I can see an original story being a success, especially with confirmed branching dialogue options. One of the lead writers for the team, Barbara Kciuk, details the necessity of unlocking new dialogue options for the replay value. Where one playthrough may yield certain dialogue, a second playthrough will open up additional options. Further playthroughs beyond the first actually rely on context from initial playing to help propel the narrative a second time around.

With narrative being a strong focal point within the game, the development team has also confirmed some fresh gameplay perspectives. Whereas previous Bloober Team IPs mostly relied on psychologically prodding players with a mixture of “run and hide” mechanics, Blair Witch will actually incorporate some fighting mechanics. Players assume the role of a veteran police officer searching the woods for a missing person. We have a few major tools required for our success. First is a flashlight that players will use to fend off creatures. The other major item is the iconic hand-held camera featured in the movie. Back in 1999, The Blair Witch Project set the standard for the “found footage” sub-genre of horror. It’s a feature that is now used in all kinds of horror media, from comics to video games. For that reason, the camera in the Blair Witch title will be important for solving puzzles and traversing the game. Finally, Bloober Team has set us up with the good-boy Bullet, our trusty canine companion. Barbara Kciuk has confirmed that Bullet will actually serve as an important narrative piece by helping players reach certain areas in the game. Players will also need to work closely with Bullet in a cooperative way to help propel the story. And yes, the most important piece of news that we were all wondering about: you can actually pet the dog in the game.

Lionsgate’s choice to utilize Bloober Team for the development of this original project is a solid choice. I’ve personally been watching the Team’s development from the original Layers of Fear to their more current works all these years. They are a development team highly focused on creating memorable psychologically-thrilling titles, with an emphasis on narrative driven play. While their original Layers of Fear did have a weaker narrative (it was an abstract narrative that needed to be pieced together and even then, it still didn’t make much sense to me), their later works have improved significantly. One of the major pitfalls of the horror genre can be a major lack of narrative in order to focus on scares, but this is a backwards method. The narrative is truly the only thing that holds the scares together by feeding players needed information about their environment. While we don’t have much Blair Witch gameplay to analyze, it’s obvious the development team is looking to create a title fans can be proud of. Blair Witch comes out to play on Xbox One and PC August 30, 2019.