EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Samuel Corey
previewed on PC
An FPS with an Identity Crisis
Another day, another boomer-shooter. I’m not complaining, after a decade of crouching behind rubble in grey-brown war-zones waiting for my health to regenerate while my squamates nicked my kills, this trend is a welcome change of pace. Still, in a world where a new Doom-style shooter comes out every other week, it’s reasonable to ask what anyone game does to differentiate itself from the herd. I suspect this question weighed especially heavily on the minds of developer Byte Barrel, the maker of Forgive me Father, because their game, despite its excellent overall quality, seems to be undergoing an identity crisis.
The most obvious way this manifests itself is the bizarre decisions with the game’s art style. Make no mistake, this is a Lovecraft-inspired game that often flirts with being outright horror. The tone is dark and twisted. Yet for some reason, the developer has opted to use bright colours and cel-shading to make the game’s graphics evoke Western comic books. It even adds sound effects text-balloons that pop up when there is an explosion or other sudden noise, which is downright superfluous in a medium that allows full audio. As a result, the game’s art direction is constantly competing with itself, is this a light and goofy romp or a descent into madness.
The game’s underlying identity crisis extends beyond just the art direction though, as certain aspects of the game’s world just make no sense at all. You play as a priest and employ several religious artefacts as power-ups that will allow you to heal, grant you temporary invulnerability, or paralyze enemies. This is all well and good on its own, but it takes on a different meaning in a game that is patterning itself on Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The whole terror of cosmic horror hinges on the nonexistence of a benevolent deity. Maybe this is just a setup for a late-game twist where it’s been revealed that the god you’ve been praying to all along is just the shape-shifting Nyarlathotep another guise. I can’t say because the entire single-player campaign hasn’t been released yet.
Infernal Labyrinths and Monstrous Beasts
Despite my gripes about the game’s art style, I can’t help but admit that Forgive me Father does manage to create some impressive environments. The stages are built in 3D but populated with hand-drawn 2D details and enemies. The result is, at times, beautiful. At the very least it allows a tremendous amount of detail and personality to be packed into each stage. While the game does struggle to keep a consistent visual style (the sombre cemetery level after the first boss feels like a different universe than what has come before) it nevertheless manages to be consistently visually interesting and appealing.
Moreover, the developers show that they understand the importance of gameplay variation. So, every stage is a mix of claustrophobic corridors, small chambers, and the occasional huge arena. Each environment has its own dangers and its own advantages, forcing the player to constantly assess the situation and change their tactical approach. As a result, the gameplay doesn’t grow stale, one minute you’ll be circle-strafing a horde of zombies in a massive arena, the next you’ll be creeping through a maze of corridors hunting down an elusive foe.
The Enemies are quite impressive if only for their considerable personality. Even the starter enemies, mindless zombies that simply charge after you on sight, have a bit of life to them. Some of these creatures are carrying severed heads in their hands, and if you blow off their heads with a headshot they’ll just plot the spare one on the stump and continue chasing you. Another basic enemy type, that resembles a bloated man in a suit, can be eviscerated to the point where only a single arm and the head remain, if this is done the creature will continue to crawl after you and try to nibble on your ankles. Moreover, each enemy type has a few different skins, so it feels like you are battling a real mob of individuals rather than just the same guy copy-pasted a few dozen times.
The only problem is that the enemies, like all the details in the game, are done in 2D. When trading shots with a ranged enemy this is fine but as soon as you find yourself in melee range of a mob of the enemies they begin to resemble a collection of villainous paper-dolls rather than a genuine monster. This would be a forgivable problem if the game didn’t cram so many melee-only enemies into each of its levels.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.