If you’ve played a Souls game before, then you roughly know what to expect, as those were primarily the inspiration for Bleak Faith: Forsaken. For those who haven’t played a title like Demon’s or Dark Souls, “Souls-like” is the classification players give games where you control a character in third person and explore large environments with extremely dangerous enemies.
Editor’s Note: Check out Vincent’s review of Elden Ring, a previous souls-like game covered by GiN.
There are some additions to Bleak Faith that you may not find in other titles in the overly difficult, third person action genre. You can climb onto some walls, which is something that lots of titles used to do in the starting eras of Assassin’s Creed, but is mysteriously missing from a lot of other games. The combat has a combo system that rewards players for pressing buttons at the right time, somewhat similar to the first Witcher game, for all six of us who liked it. Properly timing your button presses will let you do some attacks more quickly, cost less stamina, and more. So, if you notice that your attacks take huge chunks of your stamina, you should probably spend a little time learning when to queue your next attack to properly take advantage of the combo system.
One major difference between Bleak Faith and many other Souls-like titles is that you have no invincibility frames when you dodge in this game. This means that rolling through attacks is something you should never do, which is actually a super good change. You need to pay close attention to your positioning because a panic roll isn’t going to save you, and that made the combat feel quite a bit more engaging when coupled with the timed hits system. You can also cancel many of your attack animations by dashing or use a parry in the middle of your own attack, interrupting your opponent’s strike and leaving them open for big damage. When the combat in Bleak Faith works, it works extremely well.
Enemies in Bleak Faith have a pretty wide variety, and almost all of them are interesting, creepy, or both. You’ll fight a wide variety of robots, steampunk abominations, knights, giants, and crazy centipede creatures. Encountering an enemy that you might find too challenging can only really be dealt with by exploring other areas to find better gear- there’s no level up system here to carry you, so if you didn’t like that approach in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, then you won’t like it here, either. Bosses you defeat drop essences you can use to unlock perks that actually give some pretty drastic gameplay benefits, like giving you life steal on weapon attacks, increasing your stats, or making a shadow clone of you when you dodge attacks.
There are quite a number of instances of hit box issues, however, which can really make it hard for new players to intuit whether they have i-frames on dodges or not. For example, the first boss, Konrad the Traitor, has some large, sweeping attacks where he spins his huge spear in front of him. Even though he makes a huge arc directly in front of him with his weapon, you can just stand close to him and watch his weapon phase go completely through your body and you take zero damage. Some enemy axes will sweep directly through the player. It’s just weird, because sometimes they’ll swing, intersect your character model, and nothing happens, and then other times things work as they should, so it could be a weird interaction with game logic being tied to frame rate, or something.
It is worth noting that while I look back favorably on the combat and exploration now, my first impressions of Bleak Faith: Forsaken were overwhelmingly negative. This was primarily due to the title’s controls, or insane slipperiness therein. After the brief opening, I found myself on the roof of some very impressive architecture, but the controlled character was so oddly fast and imprecise that moving around on the thin roofs of buildings was an absolute chore because it was a simple matter to fall off everything when even gentle pushes of the stick moved him several feet in-game. The controls were so slippery, it’s as if my character coated himself in Vaseline before I pressed New Game.
To extrapolate on how bad the controls were, tilting the right stick just slightly could result in the camera spinning completely around the character multiple times (it took setting aim sensitivity to 0.1 before getting any semblance of control). Gently tapping the left stick could push the player character three to six character lengths almost instantly. Physics were also insanely off, with every physics object acting strange and exaggerated, and sometimes when getting hit by enemies my character would fly hundreds of feet into walls or off cliffs, getting launched so hard I half expected him to wind up in a Isekai light novel.
After several hours of dealing with this, I switched from controller to mouse and keyboard, which improved camera control by leaps and bounds with the mouse, and it took capping the frame rate at 60fps to mostly prevent the player character from slipping around like a greased up man at a roller rink. Once those changes were made, outside of the occasional random death to nonsense, Bleak Faith: Forsaken became like a whole new title- combat was fun and engaging, exploration was entertaining and meaningful.
There were also instances of things like enemies spawning in the ground or walls, or falling through the floor of elevators you’re riding if you move or press jump. There’s also bugs where maybe the ground won’t load, so you fall forever, or you dodge to get away from an attack, but suddenly this time your dodge moves you 20 times the distance so you fly off a cliff and die. One time everything in the game was invincible- my character, the enemies, nobody was dying, which made exploring fairly stress-free until an impromptu instance of falling off a cliff, again. The sheer number of ways Bleak Faith comes up with to drop the player into the abyss is wild.
One of the largest bugbears I have with this title is that most player deaths won’t actually be from any foe that Bleak Faith: Forsaken throws at you. Gravity is the true final boss of Bleak Faith, creating frustrating situations like instantly dying from a fall that’s actually shorter than a jump you had made minutes previous, or because you suddenly and uncontrollably flew off of a ledge, or maybe because the entire world suddenly unloaded so you fall into nothingness (seriously, this kept happening). Sir Isaac Newton is singlehandedly more dangerous than anything with a health bar in this game.
That being said, it’s not as if Bleak Faith: Forsaken is without any merit. The world is kind of incredible, as everything has this medieval or gothic style combined with a futuristic aesthetic since you’re a creature clubbing robots with whatever weapons you can find. The contrast of cyberpunk and old world architecture really creates a phenomenal environment for players to explore, and if not for the bugs, would have been an incredible experience from start to finish since the combat is pretty fantastic.
The level design is on a whole new level in comparison to the rest of the game, too. Every path on which the player can traverse leads to a variety of alternate pathways to the same destinations. Some corridors may hide goodies, some may house enemies or even some cleverly placed and funny traps. While you’re exploring, you’ll clearly be able to intuit how the different areas connect, and there’s so many items to find and enemies to kill that there’s always something to do, some new passage to explore or ladder to climb.
Bleak Faith: Forsaken didn’t launch as an Early Access title, which makes issues cropping up post launch quite strange. The developers are spending their time redesigning elements of the UI, like icons, and it was discovered that Bleak Faith was using animations lifted wholesale from Elden Ring. The good news is that the development team is steadily working on these bugs and squashing them several at a time, which hopefully the devs keep up with over time as currently they seem to be working on replacing those animations from the Epic Marketplace that were extracted from Elden Ring.
If Bleak Faith: Forsaken has many of its critical bugs patched, this could be a solidly 4/5 game, because the world is visually interesting, well designed, and the combat is great once you get a handle on it. The environment, the Omnistructure, is phenomenal and really sells bleak overtones of the title. However, Bleak Faith: Forsaken has effectively been released in an Early Access state without being labeled as such, which shakes my faith in both the game and the development team. Thankfully, this game has not been forsaken by the dev team, as they’ve been studiously putting out patches for the last few days.
There’s actually an amazing indie Souls-like game in Bleak Faith: Forsaken… you just need to have a lot of patience in order to actually get to it, which means that while Souls games aren’t for everyone, Bleak Faith: Forsaken is for even fewer of them due to its many glitches and bugs. This isn’t for someone expecting a title with polish, at least not for right now. Players interested would probably be best served to wishlist the title and check it out in a few weeks or a month, to see if many of the more irritating bugs have been dealt with, or if movement and camera control have been improved in a later update.