Bleak Faith Forsaken Review
Whatever else a wannabe-Dark Souls game has to do, it needs to nail down combat. Storytelling and narrative are important, world-building is up there, too. But what elevates a Soulslike from a densely crowded genre is just how finely tuned and fun the game’s combat is. It’s what makes a game like Wo Long so much better than, say, Scars Above. Wo Long has some issues with level design and difficulty spikes. But moment to moment, its combination of combat styles is a pleasure. So, how does Bleak Faith Forsaken stack up against the competition? You don’t wanna know.
Bad news and Worse News
FromSoftware’s games are often known for what might be called opaque storytelling. It’s kind of a bum rap. For one thing, some of the developer’s games like Bloodborne or Sekiro have pretty explicit narrative structures. Others, like Elden Ring, have intricate plots and rich characters but rely on the player to stitch the story together. Then there’s Bleak Faith Forsaken, which takes narrative opacity to the next level. You play as a faceless automaton — no character creator here — whose tasks are survival and exploring the Omnistructure. Who you are, why you are there, and what your ultimate goal is are never explained. It very quickly leads to an imaginary dialogue with the three-person development team. Well, if you don’t care, why should I?
By far, the most engaging aspect of Bleak Faith Forsaken is the Omnistructure, a vast, labyrinthine collection of diverse architectural styles and motifs. Technology and dark, decrepit spaces mingle together. The whole thing suggests a once-thriving, advanced civilization both trying to move forward while collapsing into chaos.
From a distance, the Omnistructure looks like a gothic punk dream, if entirely shaded in greys and muted colors. Up close, primitive textures often do a disservice to the good overall impression. While they most impact combat, character animations are choppy and usually many frames short of looking convincing and fluid. Negatives aside, there is some creativity in the monster and enemy design, mashups of different Lovecraftian elements, and hints of familiar critters blended in.
Patron of Lost Causes
While Bleak Faith Forsaken has moments of tormented visual beauty, it nearly universally comes up short as an action game, especially compared to other, more polished examples of the genre. “Lack of polish” describes almost every aspect of combat. Hit detection and hitboxes are wildly inconsistent for both the player and enemies. In general, melee feels floaty, imprecise, and unsatisfying. Like in many Souls-inspired games, stamina management is key, but brutally difficult. There’s nothing at all wrong with challenging enemies. If, that is, they come with well-honed tools and techniques to counter them.
There is no leveling in Bleak Faith Forsaken. Instead, the game substitutes various tiers of weapons, consumables, and armor found in the world. There is some poorly explained crafting that allows players to mod their weapons. There are no souls or other currency to lose upon death, perhaps a recognition that there is so much still broken it would be ridiculously unfair.
Playing with the mechanics of a Soulslike comes with risks. Hew too closely to FromSoft’s template and your game is labeled a copycat. Diverge too radically and you’re apt to lose what makes the genre great. Bleak Faith embraces a radically minimalist approach. There’s no useful map, only hints of explanation, virtually no narrative, and a cipher-like player character. All of these ideas could work, even in Bleak Faith itself, if it wasn’t for the bugs, glitches, and other technical issues. From clipping through walls to falling through scenery, the problems are constant and annoying.
No Chance of Throwing a Controller
While there has been a steady stream of patches and fixes coming from the developers, they still recommend playing with a mouse and keyboard. I guess some players prefer this form of input, but for most of us, action games and controllers are forever linked. If you insist on playing Bleak Faith Forsaken with a controller — of any kind — be prepared for awkward mapping, missing features, and a lot of frustration. I’m no developer, but not coming out of the gate with controller support nailed down seems like another big misstep.
Bleak Faith Forsaken’s screenshots are impressive. The game’s art direction and atmosphere suggest an oppressive future world, but Bleak Faith Forsaken is all window dressing. Behind the façade, a seriously unpolished Soulslike filled with broken dreams awaits.
***PC code provided by the publisher for review***
- Future goth punk art design
- Interesting enemy and boss characters
- Basically unfinished
- Tons of technical issues
- Nonexistent narrative
- Frustrating combat