A cursed world. An amnesiac protagonist. Shadowy deals for power made with primordial beings. Infected people turning into monsters. A sinister organisation and faith at the heart of it all. This is the world of The Last Faith, the latest Gothic ‘Soulsvania to grace our consoles and to take a deep dive into the oft-mined waters of dark fantasy and cosmic and pulp horror.
The Last Faith embraces all the tropes and mechanics of the genre, drawing inspiration from many of the best in both the ‘Souls-like and Metroidvania libraries. However, there are two titans that The Last Faith specifically in homage to: From Software’s masterpiece Bloodborne, and Konami’s seminal Castlevania: Symphony of The Night. And what more exemplary examples of gaming could you possibly model yourself after?
As such, could The Last Faith be more correctly termed a “Bloodvania” or perhaps a “Castleborne”? Sadly, neither of those terms will probably catch on, but what really matters is how the game plays. The short answer? The Last Faith is an excellent dive into elder madness.
Now the usual Soulslike designs are present and accounted for. There are multiple character classes and builds; stats that govern your character upgrades and synergize with weapon types; enemies that you can farm for the essence to upgrade yourself and your weapons; plenty of weapons and items with their own lore attached to them; and multi-phase bosses to purge from existence. Death forces you to drop the essence you collect, waiting at the point of your demise for you to reclaim it, while Saving at altars will respawn basic enemies, replenish your health and items, and provide fast travel points.
So all the usual mechanics we’ve come to expect from the genre, but where The Last Faith feels significantly different from the rest of the pack is in how it plays. For all its ‘Souls-like influences, The Last Faith plays more like a Metroidvania. Or should I say a Castlevania specifically? As I was trudging through The Last Faith‘s Gothic-themed, towering cities or spires, when I was spelunking through the depths of its tunnels, it often felt like I was playing Symphony of The Night and that’s high praise indeed.
As such, you’ve got massive maps made up of interconnected environments; you gain new abilities to traverse new locations; and there are plenty of weapons or consumables to collect. While that basic framework is all well and good, it’s the minute-to-minute combat and exploration that satisfies. Combo-based attacks are the order of the day with a variety of up close and personal methods of disembowelment. For those who prefer caution, there’s a variety of ranged weapons and skills to help you thin out the enemy ranks from a distance first.
Your basic move-set includes dodge rolls and backsteps, along with a parry and special attacks for each weapon type – all of which you’re going to need to survive. The Last Faith, at times, requires pixel-perfect precision, specifically in combat where AOE attacks are chucked your way, or during platforming sections with environmental hazards perfectly placed to smoosh you in a moment. The only move in the arsenal that I didn’t use frequently was the parry because it’s mapped to two buttons which is, in the heat of combat, unintuitive. Beyond that, combat is fast and fun, and when you deal enough damage to enemies, you can perform a brutal finisher on them. Suffice to say, the dodge roll got a real workout between the enemies and the environment.
I’ve not touched on The Last Faith’s story beyond the premise as it’s what we’ve come to expect from ‘Souls-likes – obscure storytelling. The Last Faith seems to delight in this aspect even more than most, favouring cryptic conversations and lore that is never fully spelled out. I expect at some point more systematic gamers will piece together all of the item descriptions and lore to fully explain what’s happening, but it may leave many scratching their heads at the end.
When it comes to visual design, The Last Faith is yet another gorgeous pixel art game featuring beautifully detailed environments and stunning animations. The Bloodborne inspiration is most evident in the Gothic aesthetics and towering cityscape design. The level of architectural detail is stunning, both in the foreground and the backdrops that evoke Bloodborne‘s Yharnam. Specific enemies will also draw comparisons to Bloodborne’s early encounters.
The Last Faith’s biggest weakness, on Switch at any rate, is its performance and load times. For the bulk of the game, it runs quite smoothly – but there are inexplicable frame rate drops and stutters. Most occurred in specific areas that I first thought were due to a combination of visual complexity onscreen, the size of an area, and all the beautiful 2D art and sprites, but there proved to be no correlation as larger, more visually complex areas would run just fine. None of this was game-breaking, but there were some that dropped to the point I experienced animation skipping. There were also a few locations where the load times between screens could be a little on the long side.
Those issues aside – and maybe the Switch version can be optimised further – The Last Faith is another stellar entry in the ‘Souls-vania genre. With beautiful pixel art and animations, great world design, and amazing combat, The Last Faith is another reason to strap on your adventuring boots and explore another horrifying Gothic world.
The Last Faith was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC, Xbox One/Series S|X, and PS4/5.
The Last Faith (Nintendo Switch) ReviewThe Last Faith (Nintendo Switch) Review
- Gorgeous visuals
- Excellent world design
- Fun combat
- Exploration is fun
- The Nintendo Switch has frame rate drops, stutters, and long loads between screens in some areas