Do you remember when Castlevania was top of the tree when it came to platform action games? Well, the teams at Kumi Souls Games and Playstack certainly do, as their new game, The Last Faith, bears more than a passing resemblance to Konami’s masterpieces.
A resemblance, that is if you run it through one of those fairground mirrors that make the reflection distorted. This isn’t the friendly game that you might fondly remember from your youth, instead running as an unlikely combination on paper; a cross between a Metroidvania and a Soulslike.
With that, the scene is set to take on the world and see who comes out alive. Hint – it’s unlikely to be us!
The story of The Last Faith is somewhat scarce, as is so often the case with the Soulslike genre. We are Eryk, a man who seemingly cannot spell even the most simple of names, and we have no memory. Before you can say “Tired old plot point”, we are engaged in a search for salvation, as we seem to have a disease that will not only kill us, but will also cause our mind and conscience to deteriorate. The only way to stave off this illness is by inflicting violence on other people in the world, and also on various and sundry monsters. Sounds like fun, right?
The design of the game is unrelentingly gothic. The backdrops, the scenery – you’re looking at it all run with a capital G – Gothic. The style of the game is very retro, sort of pixel art in appearance, and while the design of Eryk and the monsters he must face off against look good when they are still, they look a whole lot better when they are moving.
Part of the fun of the game is that the combat (of which more later) feels rewarding, and thankfully the visual style is good enough for us to see when we can press an attack and when we should dodge – and this really makes a difference. The animation is also of a high standard, and the overall aesthetic of the game draws you into the dark and desperate tale within.
Further, the layout of the levels is nothing short of massive, with multiple routes to find and secrets to unearth. This is very much a Metroidvania – come back later after you have opened another path to get to items you can’t reach on your first journey through the area.
The sound is very good as well, from fully voiced cutscenes that explain what is going on, through to the usual combat noises of swords swishing and flesh squelching, through to my favourite part – one of the enemies inviting us to come forward so he can “Show us his knives”. Hearing enemies mumbling to themselves off-screen is a good way of knowing what’s coming. Although to be fair, if you assume that at any moment something is going to drop down and kill you stone dead, you won’t be far wrong.
Onto the actual gameplay itself, and it will surprise no one, I’m sure, to hear that this is very much a game of two halves. There is the nasty, brutal crunching combat, and there is the wandering around in circles, lost, as you try to figure out where you are meant to be!
Taking option number two first, the sheer size of the maps that you have to traverse in The Last Faith are something to behold, and while there is a map, it doesn’t show you where you haven’t been, if you get what I mean? I’m forever looking for little areas where it looks like I may have missed a door or a ledge, in order to backtrack and try and find a new path. Throw in lifts, ladders to knock down and various secret bits of scenery to find, and the exploring phase of the game can start to feel like a full time job. Of course, wandering about and finding chests will increase our stock of weapons and spells, so it is always good to wander!
Speaking of weapons, there appears to be more in The Last Faith than you can shake a stick at. We have swords, axes and sundry other melee weapons. We also have firearms that we can equip. Spells are also treated as ranged weapons, so there is the choice between a gun and a spell, or both if you are feeling fancy. Yes, we can equip two different melee weapons, and two different ranged weapons and swap between them at will. Firearms need bullets in order to work, which isn’t a shock, and spells use your blue focus bar to be cast – run out of either and you’ll be using harsh language only! Luckily, a big sword or axe will always be a good thing to fall back on.
The combat on display in The Last Faith is exceedingly brutal. The enemies can be straight out killed, as usual, but every now and then there will be an enemy left standing after you have depleted their health bar. A swift press of the Y button will see you execute these unfortunate creatures. Each type of monster has a separate animation, all of which are gruesomely well animated. The first time it happened it did bring a smile to my face, and every time since then I’ve been left trying to work out what animation goes with each creature; that soon becomes compelling. The combat has a great feel, but it is the dodge move which is a lifesaver, literally, enabling you to roll through certain attacks ( but not all, so be careful!). Coming up behind a foe and giving them the good news with a melee weapon is always decent fun.
There isn’t a lot to complain about with The Last Faith. I would have liked a little bit of signposting as it is very easy to get lost, but the style and the crunching combat more than make up for this. With a bit of a better map and a couple more clues, The Last Faith would have been very close to a perfect score.
If you want to try something a bit different, then The Last Faith could well be the blend of genres for you.