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Bleak Faith: Forsaken Review: A Refreshing Take On The Soulsborne Genre

EDITORS' RATING : 8 / 10
Pros
  • Vertical level design works great
  • Straightforward looting and gearing system
  • Shadow of the Colossus-type boss battles
  • Ability to gear up and attack depending on your play style
Cons
  • Weightier controls would be great
  • Some camera issues
  • Occasional spots where you can get stuck in a hole or crevasse

A PC code was provided to Zaaz for this review. "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

One look at the gameplay for "Bleak Faith: Forsaken," and you might think it's just another drop in the Soulsborne genre bucket. It would be ill-advised to pass over this game, though, especially for fans of the genre. Developed and published by indie studio Archangel Studios, this particular "difficult-but-fair" game provides a refreshing experience that stands out from some of the other major hitters in the genre (that aren't made by FromSoftware).

The game has been in development for a handful of years, with the team making iterative changes based on community feedback to ensure that the game reached its full potential. With its 1.0 launch now a mere day away, it is abundantly clear that the team took that feedback to heart, creating one of the most intriguing, grandiose, action-packed, and (in a good way) hair-pullingly frustrating experiences since "Elden Ring."

That's quite a statement to make. But coming from someone who typically doesn't enjoy or even gravitate towards the Soulsborne genre, there's something about "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" that pulls you right into its despondent and desperate world and keeps you there.

Up, up, and away

"Bleak Faith: Forsaken's" world is one that stands on the brink of death and despair. You'll traverse the cyberpunk-meets-dark fantasy world through different areas of what's known as the Omnistructure with a variety of enemies, obstacles, and larger-than-life boss battles, all while gearing yourself up with better weapons, armor, and Perk points along the way. While this may sound like "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" is simply aping other titles in the genre, it sets itself apart in a couple of special ways.

The game's levels are incredibly well-crafted and detailed. You won't just be running through hallways or different areas of a castle; you'll explore forests, deserts, and ruins — each with its own unique creature designs and environmental hazards to keep you on your toes. The level design is also incredibly open, and you'll often find yourself considering multiple paths to progress or taking advantage of side passages and off-the-beaten-path areas that provide additional rewards (and enemy encounters).

"Ok, but this still sounds like a typical Soulsborne experience," you might say. A fair point. However, "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" manages to stand tall against those traditional games — literally.

While most Soulsboune games utilize level design themes on the scale of grandiose and epic, the design in "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" is hyper-focused on verticality, making you think upwards instead of forwards. You'll have to scale walls, ruins, and cliffs to progress. With (more often than not) such a long way to drop, it's a tense and exhilarating experience that makes excellent use of the game's atmosphere and thematic elements.

Colossal battles

The core gameplay in "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" sticks to the classic Soulsborne formula of intense combat and exploration. Enemies are varied and challenging, with each one requiring some sort of strategy — and, of course, countless attempts to take them down — before they can be defeated.

Thankfully, you'll have a number of tools at your disposal to help make the journey easier. Weapons and armor can be gained along the way, and each provides different combat approaches depending on your style of play.

It doesn't take long to encounter the first boss, and, most likely, you won't be able to defeat it on your first (or 20th) try. This is where the game's learning curve comes into play, as you'll have to learn enemy attacks and patterns so that you know when to take advantage and make your attack. Combat emphasizes combos, which allow you to maintain more of your stamina. Running around, dodging, and making single-attack strikes is doable, but ill-advised since you'll likely just be extending the fight longer than it needs to be. Of course, each boss fight is a frantic and intense affair in incredibly detailed and dynamic environments, always threatening to overwhelm you.

Where "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" truly shines is in its mechanic that allows you to climb onto these massive bosses and make your attacks (or avoid oncoming ones). Think "Shadow of the Colossus," but on an even grander scale. These are the battles worth gearing up for and seeking out. They are as enjoyable as they are difficult, toeing the line of falling into the masocore genre. (Like you'd expect anything less from this type of game though, right?)

An Emphasis on Exploration

Character stats and gear play a crucial role in the game's combat and progression. You must choose your gear and stats wisely if you have any hope of making it through the game. Once you are geared up, it's almost always worth revisiting earlier sections of the game as you can take on tougher challenges with better rewards, or even come across areas you might have initially missed.

Exploration is a key element of "Bleak Faith: Forsaken," as every area has additional secrets and details to uncover, especially as you're able to take on tougher challenges that you couldn't before. The game's looting system is straightforward. Gear can be upgraded through crafting, which is essential to your success. This is done in the game's hub area, where you can visit from time to time to craft and upgrade your gear.

As for the game's story? Well, in typical Soulsborne fashion, that's something you need to piece together for yourself. The game's non-linear nature allows you to explore and venture out in any direction that takes your interest, be it a new area, enemy encounter, or boss fight. Even after 35-plus hours (and A LOT of deaths), it still feels like there is plenty to explore and discover with the Omnistructure.

A Soulsborne contender

As far as criticisms go, "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" has tight-enough controls, but they feel like they could be weighted just a little bit more. The physics are fine, but sometimes it does feel like you are a little too light on your feet. Also, gamepad players take caution: not all controllers are compatible with "Bleak Faith: Forsaken." The game does well to actually give you directions in the settings menu on how you may be able to fix it, but you'll definitely know whether or not your controller is compatible if upon starting the game, the camera is nauseatingly spinning in circles.

In addition, with such an in-depth world to explore, there are lots of opportunities to get stuck in a random hole or crevasse and having to "typewriter" yourself free. Couple this with the sometimes finicky camera, and it can be a bit frustrating. However, these are minor gripes in the grand scheme of things.

"Bleak Faith: Forsaken" is an excellent example of how to take a beloved genre and make it your own. It deserves to stand alongside the Soulsborne games as a must-play title. The game keeps you on edge with its intense combat, thrilling boss fights, and satisfying (and addictive) exploration. The game's design is brilliant and highly detailed, making it one of the most visually striking titles out there. From the sweeping vistas to its endlessly vertical levels, each area feels alive and teeming with secrets. The game also employs a fantastic soundtrack that builds on the atmosphere and tension of each area you explore.

If "Bleak Faith: Forsaken" is enough to finally make a believer out of someone who doesn't really enjoy the Soulsborne genre, then you won't be disappointed.

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