Blood on the Heather is a choice-based game about vampires in Scotland, by the same author as the comp game Who Among Us.
Blood on the Heather is similar to Who Among Us in certain ways: it doesn’t bother with any typographical adjustments to the default Twine presentation, but it’s a big meaty story with lots and lots of prose, long passages between choice points, and occasional signs of proofreading trouble. Who Among Us is a mystery using a number of familiar tropes. Blood on the Heather is a vampire story with lots of gore and action. Its vampires are more like the ones in Blade than the ones in Twilight, though the long-running romance-feuds maybe owe something to Anne Rice as well. Or maybe to Angel/Darla/Drusilla/Spike.
In comparison with Who Among Us, though, Blood on the Heather has more work put into characterization. Who Among Us gives its protagonists only names based on their professional characteristics. Blood on the Heather creates a couple of friends of the protagonist who have their own quirks, as well as a suite of villains with a bunch of interpersonal backstory. There are also more funny moments in Blood on the Heather, and the high points of the writing are higher.
As for agency, the two pieces try more or less opposite tacks. Who Among Us is pretty linear for most of the game, with significant branching only near the end; on the other hand, it gives the protagonist a clear and consistent agenda. Blood on the Heather doubles down in the other direction, giving an early game option that massively branches everything that follows. The actual events that unfold aren’t very often under the player’s control, however. After that initial split, there are many choices that have unpredictable effects, and quite a few of them get the protagonist killed without warning.
Admittedly, the game usually lets you restart whatever chapter you were in, rather than going right back to the beginning of the game, so these false endings aren’t as annoying as they otherwise would have been. Nonetheless, I felt in BotH that my character was most often reacting to situations around her as they arose. She didn’t have a long-term plan. While her situation was dire, I didn’t feel as much tension as I might around her choices because it was seldom clear what those choices were going to mean in practice.
So even though the story of Blood on the Heather branches much more often, my sense of control as a player wasn’t much greater than in Who Among Us, and in some ways the interaction felt more arbitrary.
Overall, then, it’s a decent CYOA in a slightly goofy genre. It could have been substantially stronger given a less arbitrary approach to some of the options, combined with a serious edit to the prose. The passages between choices often ran long, which was especially undesirable when the story was otherwise trying for fast-paced action. There were long swathes of exposition. Sometimes the dialogue got repetitive, or was jokey when that wasn’t really appropriate. The whole often had the feel of text that had been written at speed and then not revisited very much. Cutting the prose substantially — to maybe half the length — would have had the useful effect of forcing the author to choose what images, events, and one-liners were good enough to keep, while improving the pacing.
Likewise, a lot of the middle portion of the story consists of characters telling the protagonist things about their particular stripe of vampirism, which has a number of special rules. I applaud the author’s decision to make up a custom vampire lore for this story, but the exposition would have been more palatable if it had been presented in smaller pieces.
Finally, despite top billing in the title, the game’s Scottish setting doesn’t seem to contribute much, other than some standing stones and a haggis joke.