Castlevania and Bloodborne have a love child, and the new action adventure game The Last Faith lives up to its parents' brilliance from start to finish.
It's not uncommon for developers to flaunt what other works they've tried to emulate in the hope of attracting an already converted audience, but the question is whether anyone tops the pride that The Last Faith displays when it comes to honouring its inspirations. Like polished medals of honour, hints of both Castlevania and Bloodborne dangle over the flared chest of this new indie adventure, and there's absolutely no doubt that Fromsoftware and Konami have been looked at once or twice. However, there's nothing wrong with aiming high, and in the case of The Last Faith, there's no need to be embarrassed for a second in the company of its more popular big siblings, as they do so much good between these anchoring pillars of proven concepts.
It's hard not to mention the visuals, as that's what stands out at first glance. The well-coloured pixels are brilliantly placed across the screen to create environments that wouldn't look out of place in the dark streets of Yharnam or the ruined castle of Dracula. There is a bleak beauty to everything from the objects looming in the background to the characters operating at the forefront of the scenes, and in conjunction with the smooth animations, each frame becomes a minor masterpiece for the player to savour. The variety is also of the utmost quality as we get to visit everything from dilapidated mansions to haunted crypts, and in between we also have time for detours to quiet swamps and frozen mountain passages where everything from soft warm colours to icy cold tones compete for space.
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All this is then accompanied by a mournful and subtle soundtrack that adds a mood-enhancing blanket to the whole experience, and the rest of the soundscape does a brilliant job of inserting echoing footsteps or icy screams to increase the intensity. Then add in the fact that the voice actors do an impeccable job of bringing all the characters to life, and even though most of the cast pulls a dragging and obscure performance, they do so with a sense of poise and confidence that sucks you as a player into the world you're trying to paint.
In terms of gameplay, The Last Faith delivers a well-composed mix between the aforementioned Castlevania and Bloodborne, but it should be clarified that it draws significantly more towards Symphony of the Night compared to Miyazaki's more modern Souls adventures. There is simply more focus on speed and tempo, and you rarely have to crawl through monster-filled rooms and caves as you quickly feel strong and agile like Alucard or Simon Belmont. Incidentally, this is a relatively fresh approach in a genre that usually wants to knock your legs out from time to time, and I applaud the developers for not blindly going for a difficult and frustrating experience but finding a more fast-paced middle ground without constant speed bumps.
But don't think that The Last Faith isn't challenging, because it is. However, the challenge is in individual moments such as certain enemies or bosses, and it is in these moments that you have to stop and analyse your strategy in order to emerge victorious. Speaking of bosses by the way, here are some of the genre's best examples when it comes to portraying difficult but fair game design. You don't try to do too much at once, but most opponents have clear attack patterns that never feel unfair, so you always have a chance to succeed from the first try.
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It's not all gold and green forests, however, and there are a few flaws that at least detract from the overall picture and give it an edge. For example, you can choose one of four different classes at the start of the game, and although they come with different attributes, their starting equipment is identical to each other. It's strange to be able to choose whether you want to be a mage or a sharpshooter, but you can't start with any tools other than a sword based on the Dexterity category. Very strange indeed. Another annoying thing is that you die immediately if you jump off the screen or fall into a pit of thorns. In most other games of this type, you are usually penalised with lost health points, but here it's a game over screen right away if you take a wrong step. It may sound like a very trivial thing, and to be honest, it rarely bothers you, but it still spoils the adventure somewhat when you don't dare to look for hidden passages or hidden treasures because you know that you may have to restart at the last save point if you make a mistake.
Ultimately, though, The Last Faith offers a highly competent action adventure that isn't ashamed to try and emulate its idols. It may not offer anything new under the sun, but if you like Castlevania's delightful playability and Bloodborne's gothic design thinking, The Last Faith won't leave you disappointed for a single second.