Review: The Last Faith
Nothing beats getting stuck into a great metroidvania. The non-linear exploration, the progression of new abilities, challenging boss fights—when prepared properly, all of these elements confect one of gaming’s most satisfying, addicting experiences.
The appreciation I have for this genre is on my mind with every metroidvania I play, but it’s especially true for those that I review, and that brings us to The Last Faith from developer Kumi Souls Games and publisher Playstack. Its a categorization with tried and true conventions, which means titles under its umbrella can go one of two ways: refine those predictable mechanics and include them wholesale, or flip them on their head to play with player expectation.
When The Last Faith lands on PC, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch on November 15th, players will find it assuredly leans more into the former than the latter, but the real question is whether or not it does so effectively. The PC version was played for this review.
The Last Faith puts players in control of Eryk, an imprisoned man who awakens and subsequently escapes from his confines, doing so in the manner any self-respecting amnesic warrior would: hacking and slashing his way through grotesque creatures in gothic locales. Eventually he reaches a manor, a last bastion for the few remaining human beings he comes across in his travels, to piece together what’s happened and what’s to come.
As you work your way through the game’s world, you’ll come across several NPCs placed with the expressed purpose of feeding you increasingly vague dialogue and sharing portents of the end. Nonspecific tales of corruption, curses, and Eryk’s ill-fated future are common topics of conversation. There’s also written lore to find and read, but they’re similarly nebulous and unclear. If you’ve played a soulslike game before, Eryk’s interaction with NPC will feel like treading over pretty familiar ground.
While that isn’t a critique in and of itself, the storylines covered in The Last Faith are typically confined to the immediate area they’re found in without doing much establishment beforehand, which can make it a more of challenge to find the game’s more overarching plot than it needs to be. There’s certainly nothing wrong with keeping a storyline vague for the purpose of asking the player to do some of the heavy lifting themselves, but having more of an immediate through line would have done wonders for encouraging me to want to do so.
At the end of the day, story simply isn’t The Last Faith’s strong suit, but it doesn’t really need to be. If the gameplay is exciting enough, it doesn’t matter much if you’re unable to get invested into the narrative as long as you can still get invested in the gameplay loop.
And getting into the heart of that gameplay loop is where The Last Faith really starts to shine.
Brace For Impact
Metroidvanias are games where speedy, immediate control over your character is a bare-minimum expectation. Because of this, The Last Faith can feel somewhat odd initially. I wouldn’t go as far as saying you don’t have full control over Eryk, but there is an inherent heaviness to his movement, attacks, and so on that isn’t always there in your typical metroidvania.
This was one of the more prominent criticisms I saw in discourse surrounding the game’s pre-release demo, but as I adjusted to it over the course of the full game, it became one of the combat’s more enjoyable aspects for me. By slowing Eryk and his attacks down, it gives more importance to your decision making in the heat of the moment. Do I have time to cast a spell for a big burst of damage, or do I only have time for a few quick hits? Should I walk out of the way to avoid this attack to squeak out some damage, or do I need to fully commit to a dodge roll for the invincibility? These split-second decisions keep the game’s combat feeling active even as your playtime grows, and are nigh constant during boss fights.
And boss fights are where The Last Faith is at its best. The majority of them are balanced exceedingly well, with their attack patterns reaching a level of difficulty that doesn’t feel insurmountable, but still requires the player to put some time into learning how to deal with them. More importantly, the boss attacks feel as though they’re fully designed around that heaviness of movement, which lends itself to a satisfying feeling of improvement as you get more comfortable with the controls.
That said, this balance does have an appreciable drawback when it comes to the number of patterns. Each boss has a unique set of attacks, but they tend to to have a relatively small pool of them to pull from. While I wouldn’t say they’re predictable affairs, I did consistently feel as though a given boss could have had just a couple more attacks to learn.
Regular enemies encountered during exploration put up much less of a challenge. There are certainly some tough enemy placements and encounters in The Last Faith, but the game affords the player quite a few concessions to make progression easier. Touching or walking through enemies doesn’t harm you, they have relatively low HP pools, most only have one or two attacks to contend with, and healing items are cheap to purchase. These sound like they could be criticisms, but I prefer it when a metroidvania is at its hardest during boss fights, and the sheer variety of enemies and the lack of their reuse across areas ensures the fighting doesn’t become stale.
When it comes to the areas they inhabit, while each zone feels significantly different from the one before it, some simply don’t reach the same level of fun. There are sprawling areas complete with multiple unique mechanics, shortcuts, and platforming challenges, while others will see Eryk trudging through overly spacious hallways with enemies scattered on a platform here and there. The game is paced in such a way that it knows when the player has had it easy for a stretch and is wanting more challenge, however, so thankfully the less exciting areas never overstay their welcome.
The rewards for exploration, on the other hand, are a touch more hit and miss. As is tradition, movement upgrades and returning to older areas to reach new locations is included here, and they play out in the exact way you’d expect them to with little fanfare. You’ll get a double jump, you’ll get the ability to climb certain walls—it’s fun, but it’s standard.
The Last Faith‘s emphasis on soulslike RPG mechanics ended up being something of a sore spot in terms of progression. Currency that drops upon death, stat selection level ups, and weapon-specific skill scaling are all present here, but their contributions to the overall experience feel superfluous. There’s little to do other than pump the stat for the class you chose initially when you want to squeak out a bit more damage, or health when you want to die less frequently. It was also a bit deflating whenever I discovered a new weapon, only to be locked out of trying it because I’d been leveling up Dexterity instead of Strength.
Even with all of this said, it’s still easy to settle into The Last Faith’s groove. It knows when it’s time to put the pedal to the metal on challenging platforming and enemy placements without forgetting to give the player room to breathe elsewhere. That makes it a game that’s hard to put down.
As one can tell from so much as a glance at the game’s page on Steam, The Last Faith prominently features some absolutely gorgeous pixel artistry. I found myself consistently impressed by the sheer degree of detail to be found in the foregrounds and backgrounds, but even more impressive is the way the game sports this level of detail without distracting from the importance of the action onscreen. Particularly the background details do an excellent job of establishing a sense of scale for the environment.
The various areas that comprise the map all feel quite different from one another as well, even if the rooms themselves can blend together. The underground caverns of the Drowned Crypt are a far cry from the mirror-laden halls of The Esk Mansion, for example, and the unveiling of the next location was always a treat. The same can also be said for the NPCs inhabiting the game’s desolate world; nearly every one has a distinct, interesting design as well as an excellent voice actor to bring them further to life, even if I was wish for more colorful personalities on offer from them.
Music is also utilized to great effect. The soothing, lo-fi vibes of the save room jingle were always welcome, and the more operatic orchestral segments excellently accentuate and build up the atmosphere. I only wish there had been a handful more tracks to go around.
First In, Last Out
It’s hard to deny The Last Faith its place as a solid entry into the greater canon of metroidvanias, but its successes aren’t without any caveat. There’s no shortage of content, but that content is somewhat inconsistent in how fun it is to play through. Boss fights are addictive to learn, but leave the player wanting for more variety in their patterns. The standard metroidvania progression is fun, but the soulslike elements can feel tacked on.
This is all to say it’s well worth the time for even seasoned metroidvania enthusiasts, but it can be hard to ignore the areas that needed a bit more refinement while spending said time with it. The Last Faith is a strong title with some clear stumbles, but quality still wins out more often than not, and I’m eager to see Kumi Souls Games’ next effort as a result.
Review code provided by Playstack for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Playstack.