Select “Soulslike Metroidvanias” on the Steam storefront, and you will be faced with over 400 titles. It is hardly a new or underused genre, and yet they are still churned out by the hundreds.
I have been playing through Kumi Souls Games’ The Last Faith, looking for something that may just break the mold or shine through in the vast ocean of copycats.
It takes something special to be original in the genre The Last Faith sits in. Trying to get a seat between such groundbreaking titles as Blasphemous, Dead Cells, and Hollow Knight is no easy feat. Some of the best indie games of a generation reside within the hallowed walls of the Soulslike Metroidvanias.
Does The Last Faith make the cut?
The genre The Last Faith is in has been stuck in a rut for far too long. Copy-paste versions of FromSoftware games translated into 2D side scrollers are everywhere. They offer little more than the chance to explore the winding maps of some medieval-type landscape and wield demonic weapons against Lovecraftian monsters. The Last Faith doesn’t stray from the flock.
This being said, the unimaginative setting and theme is probably my biggest gripe in a game that honestly feels, sounds, and looks fantastic. Points are always lost in a lack of originality, but they are always taken back, hand-over-fist, when a game feels good to play. And The Last Faith is a feast for the senses.
No, this game is not something you have never experienced before, and if you’re familiar with the genre, then you will recognize almost everything in the game immediately. But, for another Dark Souls/Bloodborne clone, it does some things that stand out.
For a game based entirely on two dimensions, The Last Faith is dripping with atmosphere and spooky horrors. Akin to Blasphemous, the setting takes us through medieval environments ranging from decrepit manors to swamps infested by bug-eyed creeps. I took great pleasure in the varied and beautifully crafted levels I mercilessly massacred the residents of.
A rotting feast for the eyes
The Last Faith is beautiful, from its level design to the sprites. Cutscenes break up the various ‘chapters’ of gameplay with meticulously animated and chillingly gothic illustrations that fit seamlessly into the color-bleached backdrops. Each of the weapons I used was carefully designed, and each looked just as lethal as the last.
The scenery is ripped straight from others in the genre. It could easily have been a flattened version of Bloodborne. Also, anyone who has played Blasphemous will be no stranger to the rickety ladders climbing through cracked castle stones. However, this isn’t meant to take away from the obvious effort and care that the team has taken to recreate a world they obviously care for and know meticulously. Nothing felt out of place, and the creation of an immersive world cannot be denied.
The Kumi Souls Games team didn’t forget about the importance of sound design when it comes to The Last Faith. From the very beginning, it is clear that they have made every effort to make sure that the game sounds exactly the way they want it.
I can’t talk about the sound design without first mentioning the soundtrack that plays alongside each different level. As I made my way through the various winding tunnels and corridors of the accursed map, new and unique soundtracks would immediately set the scene. At one point, breaking my way into an underground, icy domain of horned beasts and treacherous ice, the music switched to something beautiful.
I spent my time, probably slower than usual, enjoying a piano piece that was both as beautiful as the shining ice but as haunting as the tunnels that held it. Jarring yet oddly harmonious chords accompanied my movements through the caverns, creating a chilling atmosphere. When you reach the wonderfully named Damned Ruins of the Osseus Fortress, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Besides the fantastic job of the music of The Last Faith, the sounds of weapons and murder are incredibly satisfying. The huge sword I wielded throughout my playthrough clanged and sliced with gravitas. The forlorn wails of my foes were only drowned out by the satisfying wet crunch of their foul bodies.
A lack of verticality
A problem I find myself having with many games, be it FPS or Metroidvanias, is a lack of imagination when it comes to the actual level design. I love a bit of verticality, and The Last Faith is a game that is horizontal through and through.
A lot of the time, I felt like I was simply running forward with little to do until the next fight. Now, I am not saying the map isn’t vast and winding. However, the lack of platforming for me made the slog through the endless halls more of a task than a challenge.
Complex or controversial gameplay
Now, I don’t want to say the gameplay is bad, although it does have problems. With a Soulslike, it is important to remember that mastering the controls, gimmicks, and quirks of the engine is a huge part of becoming good at the game. The Last Faith is a game that relies heavily on mastering movement and learning keybindings, which is why I would recommend a controller. Something I rarely do.
A sub-par control scheme
I’ll come straight out and say it, playing on a keyboard made me hate the way the controls worked. Certain button combos and movement skills require multiple button presses that simply will not work on a keyboard.
The Last Faith has a parry system built in, tied to a stamina bar. I didn’t once, in my twenty hours of playtime, successfully use the parry. However, I am no stranger to games with a parry system, and I am able to use it to good effect. But this, for me, was a broken mechanic. I admit, I never used a controller. Perhaps it is easier this way.
Another aside in the thread of controllers is the lack of a pause function. This is a completely bizarre choice from the team, and it repeatedly had me die needlessly. There is no cause for a game that is entirely offline not to have a pause function, especially when the inventory system is so convoluted and inaccessible.
Besides the lack of a usable parry, I found that learning the controls was something that only came with time. The way the character moves, cancels actions, or locks into animations, needs to be observed and acted around. It can be very easy to be locked into an animation and subsequently pounded. On the other hand, I accidentally canceled heals before they were used. Patience is a virtue.
Health potions are not a solution
The health injections found in The Last Faith are few and far between. At first, this confused me, especially when a boss’s spawn point is directly outside its lair. This means that to load up with the maximum amount of health injections, I would have to backtrack for miles to a merchant or through tons of enemies.
I figured that instead of doing this, I would settle for the four they gave me at the boss’s entrance and see what I could do with them. Herein lay the answer to how Kumi Souls Games wants their bosses to be beaten.
Health Injections are simply a way to lengthen your life, and The Last Faith says that four should be enough. I found that by the time I had fought a boss long enough, I knew its attack patterns so well that I would often leave fights having used only one of them. These fights were satisfying. Each defeat felt well earned, and each boss was unique — in attack pattern, at least.
The bosses in The Last Faith are predictable and, with patience, learnable. Do not go hunting for health injections; this is not their purpose. The Last Faith wants you to learn the rhythm of the boss rather than blunder blindly, expecting to heal your way through the fight. I respect this, but I could easily see how the restrictive playstyle may not sit well with some.
A problem with the progression
I found the progression straightforward, easy to understand, and consistent. It never felt like I had to grind to get to where I needed to be or that I was hung up and under-leveled. This being said, a lot of my bigger problems with why the game just doesn’t make the cut lie within this section.
Little chance of variety
The attributes you can level up with each spending of XP can be buried into five different areas. However, if, like me, you don’t or, rather, can’t use the parry feature, and you have little use for magic due to using the gun, then there are only two attributes to put XP into.
At first, I put some points into Dexterity, hoping it would assist in my rolling I Frames or even speed my character up. These were wasted points, and in the end, I put almost every point I had into Vigor and Strength due to my weapon leveling with the latter.
This took away a lot of the build crafting I enjoy that comes with Soulslike games. Creating a unique and complex build and poring over the next spending of hard-earned XP is a big part of the game.
Perhaps playing a more magic-and-block-based build gives more variety in where to spend points, but for me, it was tragically simple.
Now, the weapons in The Last Faith look good and feel excellent. They have a fantastic variety in range, speed, leveling, and damage. This makes each one its own, and I wanted to try out every single one. However, this isn’t possible.
In my twenty hours of gameplay, I didn’t find a way in which to redistribute my skill points. This meant I was locked in with the Strength/Vigor build I had made for my monstrous sword. This worked perfectly for this weapon. However, any weapon that didn’t level with Strength was rendered completely unusable.
The game has a great selection of weapons, but I feel unless there is a way to redistribute points I may not have reached, they are unplayable until the next playthrough.
Fruitless side missions
Throughout The Last Faith, you will meet your regular assortment of cyclopean horrors and nameless souls. Many of these require your help and can be brought back to your home base. These characters add a little more depth to the storyline as you move your way through the hallowed halls, but there is emphasis on little.
I completed a number of their quests and was rarely rewarded with more than a thank you and a little XP. Although that’s nice for the progression of the game, it made the characters feel hollow and one-dimensional. I had expected more from the completion. Maybe a unique perk or weapon could have come from them. Their missions took little thought, and the outcome just seemed unworthy.
Is The Last Faith redefining the genre?
Although The Last Faith is a pleasure to play in many respects with its beautiful design and satisfying combat, it lacks in certain areas that I feel will just result in it sinking into the murky depths with the hundreds of other Soulslike Metroidvanias.
The Last Faith doesn’t bring anything new to the table that will make it really stand out. The game design is beautiful, and the obvious passion behind it is clear, but it isn’t anything new. Anyone who has played the genre before will recognize the game within the first few minutes and will be sadly let down if they’re expecting a surprise.
What this game has in design, it lacks in originality. I feel that a player who likes the most vanilla gameplay style of a Soulslike Metroidvania will find comfort in the familiar loop of The Last Faith. However, its various puzzles, maps, and bosses aren’t going to win any prizes for innovation.
For solutions to all your questions in The Last Faith, check out PC Invasion.