These days the lines between Metroidvanias, souslikes, roguelites, and soulsbornes is becoming blurrier and blurrier. Not to mention confusing, as they are, after all, a bunch of made up words concocted by smashing a couple of genres together. So allow me to add to the pile-up with SoulsVania, which is the best way to sum-up what The Last Faith is in a single phrase.
A little research might have gone a long way here but I went into The Last Faith with zero expectations and within the first half hour felt a little unimpressed. I assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that it was another Blasphemous-style exercise in self-flagellation that I’d only stop playing when one of us was dead. And then I started to lean into it. Then I kept leaning into it until I was fucking lying down in it, making snow angels in a heap of bonemeal and zombie guts. Because what The Last Faith actually is, is the closest thing to a new Castlevania we’ve had since Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night in 2019.
Now, while this is cause for celebration – and I’ll say right away that fans of the genre should just play it, no questions asked – it is a little bit double-edged. The big problem is that because The Last Faith feels so familiar, from the atmosphere and movement to the appearance of the main character and the enemy design, I kept struggling to invest in the story. I just couldn’t ever seem to lock in and engage with it. I mean, you arguably don’t need to, either.
You are Eryk, a long-haired, great coat-wearing swordsman with his collar over his mouth and, although he’s not voiced, I imagine he sounds a lot like Michael Fassbender talking through a handkerchief. The land is beset by a terrible Scourge turning man to beast, and the last few survivors are huddled in places of faith, trying to stay alive. And you, as Eryk, have come to this darkened realm to jolly well sort it out by shooting and stabbing things until they stop growling. There’s more to it, of course, but it’s a little generic throughout.
Not that it really affects things. The NPCs you meet along the way wax maudlin about how doomed the world is, how everyone is damned, and how they can help you out if you bring them stuff. The hub area is a huge, baroque estate where you can ship NPCs you come across for safety. Usually they’ll set up shop as vendors, ready to seek you everything from healing injections to new weapons and upgrades.
The Last Faith is not a Soulslike in terms of difficulty, despite what the Steam tags might suggest. Levelling up follows the FromSoft template, as you must accrue a substance called Nycrux and dying drops it all for you to collect later. Returning to Last Helena at the estate allows you to spend points in five stats, all of which affect your attributes and weapon scaling. Oh, and enemies respawn when you use a save point. But there’s a huge MetroidVania-style map to study, and you can fast-travel between save points for no cost.
Combat is a mix of dodge-rolling and melee comboing, while employing a ranged weapon, a variety of magic spells, throwables like bombs and knives, and weapon arts tied to individual tools of death. There’s a surprising amount of build diversity, with weapons that come u multiple varieties and a decent array of spells. There’s even oils you can apply to your blade, and elemental pellets to remove status effects like burning, bleeding, and electrocution.
But where The Last Faith one me over was in its approach to difficulty. It is a tough game, and death can come at any moment, but it rarely feels unfair. Bosses are challenging but not often frustrating, and as you develop new skills and abilities you can go and explore other areas, or simply grind for Nycrux and improve your stats or weapon strength. There are occasional two-phase bosses, too, but defeating them almost always comes down to timing, active-parrying with one of Eryk’s special abilities, and positioning. It’s decidedly less frustrating than Blasphemous 2, but still offers an enjoyable level of challenge.
It’s fun to explore, too. The Last Faith employs every trick in the book, from destructible walls to fake ones, doors locked by multiple switches, keys you’ll need to find, surprise ambushes, and tons of shortcuts around each area. You’ll gradually find new gear that opens up new areas, such as a ring that lets you move heavy obstacles, Soul Reaver-like wings, and gloves that allow you to cling to certain surfaces. Nothing here is terribly original, but it’s executed with confidence and competence throughout.
The Last Faith is a superb example of its genre, only let down by a story that struggled to really pull me in. Thankfully, everything else makes up for it. The combat and exploration elements were compelling enough to keep me moving forward, always excited to see what the next weapon, spell, or power would be, and eager to face the next challenge because I wasn’t expecting it to immediately take me apart (though some of the bosses did just that). It’s not hugely original, but it’s an atmospheric, thrilling experience throughout.
Fluid, engaging combat
Challenging not frustrating
Solid character progression
Lots of secrets to find
Story isn't very original