Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn has potential, and I want to play more | Hands-on preview

by on June 10, 2024

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn when I went into the demo. I’d seen a few trailers and a little of the gameplay, but it was hard to figure out exactly what was going on. Having now played the demo, I have a firmer grasp – but still can’t be sure what it’s going to end up being.

It’s set in an intriguing Earth-like fantasy world operating on late 1700s technology, with cannons and the titular flintlock rifle forming the backbone of humanity’s arsenal against the forces of invading gods. One god in particular, Uru, is making a comeback in a big way, besieging human cities with armies of the dead.

Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn

You play as Nor Vanek, a veteran sapper who gets herself more involved than is good for her and winds up partnered with the fox-like god Enki, sworn to defeat Uru at any cost. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Forspoken as I played. Nor grits her teeth against pretty much any form of stimulus, delivering snarky one-liners and spitting hostility at most other characters. She chats back and forth with the much more interesting Enki, who feels similar to Forspoken’s Cuff in his mannerisms and pathos.

Armed with a pistol, a flintlock rifle, and a hatchet-like axe, Nor embarks on a quest with Enki and Baz, a grizzled old soldier whose missives form the narration of the story. It’s through him that you can upgrade your gear and rest at campsites, which function like Dark Souls bonfires. The decision to go full Soulslike with Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn feels like an odd one, given that it would work just as well, if not better, as a straight adventure game.

The world is open enough to warrant exploration, there are numerous hidden secrets and collectibles to find, as well as special spiritual nodes that allow you to harness Enki’s magic and teleport yourself around the immediate area. That Nor can come back to life after death makes sense, too, as she’s god-touched in the narrative, but the fact that all the soldiers respawn makes as little sense here as it did in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.


Combat is fairly par for the course, though. You can perform combos with your axe, crack off pistol shots as long as you have a reserve of black powder, which you regain by hitting enemies, and you hold LT to aim your rifle, which you need to load before each use. A reaction slider allows you to perform this action faster, and dealing damage with your limited ammunition is always satisfying. In fact, the combat feels like a strong suit here. Nor can dole out decent damage, and can parry standard attacks, which staggers the enemy.

Red attacks must be interrupted with a pistol shot, though, which does force you to conserve your powder charges. You can mix in various explosives and debuff items, giving you a fairly broad arsenal to pull from. Landing a critical hit or deathblow usually triggers an animation, while sniping an enemy affords you a slow-motion kill-cam view like you’re playing a Rebellion title, but it’s honestly very choppy, taking more away from the experience than it adds.


One thing I do like is the way you can build a multiplier for your XP currency, here referred to as “Reputation”. The more stuff you do, the higher the multiplier builds, until you claim it by holding the corresponding button, or you die, in which case you’ll need to corpse-run back to the site of your cock-up. You can also use Enki to attack enemies and drain their spirit, or activate large-scale magical attacks.

From what I have seen in the preview build, the world comes over as a little bland, visually. There aren’t many flashy fantasy elements besides some giant aggressive birds, and most the locations are sand-coloured forts at this point. It may well open up later, but what I’ve seen so far isn’t hugely impressive. Vanek’s character design is also dull, although there are outfits you can buy from various spirit vendors in certain settlements so, again, this may open up later. You usually have to clear these settlements first by defeating the Army of the Dead, which is actually usually a few zombies and tougher commander. Kill them all and the fog will clear and the townsfolk will return, and so on.

Flintlock 3

If Flintlock: Siege of Dawn is to do well, it will need to lean into the fantasy element much more. The world is big enough to explore, but most of what you find are nodes containing one of three crafting resources, or tokens that apply over-ridable buffs. There are skill trees focused on Steel, Magic, and Powder which overlap at various points, hinting at some build-crafting potential in the later game, which could add more depth to the overall experience. Oh, and there are actual invisible walls in the game that your character just walks into like they’re on a treadmill, which I hope is just due to it being a preview build.

That said, my biggest takeaway from Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn is that when the demo ended I was disappointed and wanted to play more. I was enjoying the combat, intrigued by the central conflict, and the potential for unlocking new skills and gear was definitely peaking my interest. It does feel a little like a Soulslike playing it safe, but I only experienced around two hours worth of content and it looks like there’ll be at least ten times that to get into when it launches later this Summer.

Flintlock: Siege of Dawn is coming to PC, Xbox Series S|X, and PS5 on July 18th.