The Last Faith – Beta Impressions – A grim, gorgeous take on 2D Soulslikes

Gare – Tuesday, August 29, 2023 8:22 PM
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I think it’s safe to say that the so-called “Soulslike” is one of the most popular genres in video games right now – add to that the fact that pixel art reminiscent of the 16-bit era of gaming is undergoing a newfound renaissance, and it’s not hard to imagine why games like The Last Faith are created. To be perfectly honest, I’m very happy with this state of affairs, because, well… just look at this game. It oozes gothic, dark fantasy charm, and promises challenging gameplay with brutal combat, deadly finishers and cool boss fights. That formula worked for Blasphemous, and after playing the beta version of The Last Faith, I’m happy to report it works here as well.

The game is pretty much what you’d expect: a slow, methodical romp through a Bloodborne-esque world full of horrific monstrosities, cryptic NPCs and various different areas to explore. For starters, combat is deliberately punishing, with a focus on well-planned strikes as opposed to mindless hacking and slashing. The demo I played offered a choice between a slow-ish battle axe and a slightly faster one-handed sword – the former is useful for attacking enemies when their guards are down, but I had to occasionally switch over to the latter whenever I ran into fleet-footed monsters that simply refused to stay put, so needless to say, finding the right weapon for the right enemy is key. You also get a dodge roll (because of course you do), but don’t get too cocky with it: enemies are swift and relentless, and many of them won’t wait for you to freely hack away at them. On that note, I found the demo’s variety of enemies to be rather satisfying: you’ll run into sharpshooters with large guns that will slowly take aim and try to shoot you down from afar, demonic dog-creatures that charge at you on sight, zombie maids with deadly tools, flying bat-things that swoop in from above and even small, child-like creatures that keep hopping and jumping around the map, making it increasingly difficult to take them down. All in all, in terms of baddies, I was quite pleased with the beta version’s offerings, and I can only imagine what else the final version will have in store for me.

In good ol’ Bloodborne fashion, you also get a gun, but frankly, I didn’t find it to be as useful as I would’ve liked – for starters, bullets for it are very limited and hard to come by, and more importantly, the damage it does is… lackluster, to say the least. If shooting monsters isn’t your thing, though, there are other tools to be used, most notably throwable bombs that deal a decent bit of damage, but must be aimed well – if you’ve played any of the Dark Souls games and used firebombs, these are essentially a carbon copy of that. That said, I was somewhat more fond of magic: in the demo, you gain access to a magical projectile that travels in a wide arc when thrown; for those familiar with older Castlevania titles, it's essentially the throwing axe from those games. Like most things in The Last Faith, it’s not easy to aim with, but when it hits, it also applies a handy damage-over-time effect to the enemy, which I found to be extremely useful. And it works on bosses, too. Speaking of which, there was only one boss fight in the demo I played, and it felt more like a tutorial than anything else, which was quite the bummer. Dodge out of the way when the boss charges at you, then start hitting its rear end while its back is turned to you. Rinse and repeat. Disappointing, I know, but I’m fairly sure the full version will up the ante in this regard, so I’m not too worried. As you’d imagine, exploration also plays a key role in The Last Faith, and if you’ve played any Metroidvanias in the last ten years, opening up the in-game map will immediately present you with the familiar sight of a large web of interconnected rooms with multiple entrances, numerous shortcuts and a handful of fast travel options. Yay for non-linearity.

The Last FaithPlatform: WindowsGenre: Action, AdventureDeveloper: Kumi Souls GamesPublisher: PlaystackRelease: 11/15/2023

To conclude, The Last Faith is the very definition of “promising”. Combat feels weighty and visceral (some may consider it clunky, but I felt it was intentionally designed that way), the pixel art is absolutely stunning, and the gameplay seems like it’s going to follow a tried-and-tested formula; it may not do a whole lot of new things, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I can only hope that the full version will implement more tools, more spells and more weapons, alongside a satisfying roster of bosses and regular enemies without getting too repetitive – if it manages to do that, The Last Faith could very well end up being one of the best indie games of the year for fans of the genre.

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