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June 2023

Forgive Me Father

Platform(s): PC
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Fulqrum Publishing
Developer: Byte Barrel
Release Date: April 7, 2022

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PC Review - 'Forgive Me Father'

by Chris Barnes on June 23, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Forgive Me Father is a dark retro horror FPS set in a comic book style world inspired by the novels of H.P. Lovecraft.

Since the revival of DOOM in 2016, there's been a wave of games released under the annoying but aptly named genre, boomer shooter. Each one tries to offer its own spin while modernizing certain aspects of the old-school shooters of the '90s. In this regard, Forgive Me Father falls in line with that trend. It offers the modern WASD controls that are expected from a shooter in 2022, but it layers on a sprite-based, comic book art style to make it feel distinct from the others in the action-packed, sprite shooter genre. It's a fresh take that makes for an enjoyable ride. With awesome enemy designs that are dripping with as much character as slime, there's a lot to love about Forgive Me Father. However, some frustrating late-game levels, abusable enemy AI, and poor voice acting hinder it from becoming a must-play in the shooter space.

From the get-go, the art will likely catch players' eyes. With Cthulhu-like enemies depicted in a comic book style, the game feels like a live-action mash-up piece created by Stan Lee and HP Lovecraft. Whether it's the sketch-style outlines on the weapons and enemies, the text that flashes above an enemy after a successful headshot, or the onomatopoeia speech bubbles typed in comic sans font, the comic-book style covers every inch of the screen. Even the sprite-based assets invoke this style, as the flatness makes the screen feel like a comic panel come to life. Fortunately, this art style doesn't fall flat when dropped into a Lovecraftian world.

The enemy designs in Forgive Me Father are top-notch. You encounter classic tentacled monsters from the lore, but Byte Barrel diversifies beyond that. The early parts of the game have simple, shambling zombies that carry an additional head in their hands. As you progress, the difficulty level and enemy designs ramp up, such as fishmen, who hide beneath the waters and pop out if you're not aware of their shadow. All foes look vastly different from one another and react differently. Land a headshot on a zombie, and it replaces its head with the head that it's carrying. Another enemy lumbers toward you slowly but has a shield in place, so you must choose your shots carefully.

Each enemy has its own unique sound. Walking into a room and hearing a static radio indicates the need to equip an automatic rifle to deal with the Cthulhu monsters. The gurgling sound of a gorgon-tentacle blob meant it was time to equip my shotgun. This diversity in art, sound, and design across many enemies constantly keeps you on your toes and demands a range of tactics.

Those levels are broken up across multiple acts that span many biomes and planes of the universe. In many ways, the levels mirror your character's descent into madness. What begins as a simple shotgun-wielding priest in a cursed town quickly evolves into a game with laser guns in secret laboratories and trap-ridden dungeons. The map design is nothing out of the ordinary, but there's enough diversity to keep you invested. You'll reach hub points where you need to find colored keys to unlock doors in a certain order to progress. The starting levels are mundane and only feature a couple of branching corridors, but as you progress, the layout and platforming elements also get more elaborate. Secrets that are hidden in the nooks and crannies of each level become more difficult to find. Later levels add more verticality, moving floors, and escape sequences that make for some heart-pumping moments of platforming and sprinting.

Initially, this was a welcome discovery because I was unsure about the longevity of the game. The opening levels were too straightforward and easy to navigate, but as they opened up a bit, I started to enjoy my time. With each level only taking 10 minutes or so, no level overstays its welcome. Just as I was tiring of a particular setting, I'd encounter a boss to wrap up the last few levels, and then I'd be off to a new act.

The boss battles were generally enjoyable. With tons of bullets and attacks flying at you, it's the closest that Forgive Me Father comes to a first-person bullet hell. With that comes a bout of frustration that's balanced out by a burst of relief after succeeding. The difficulty felt just right, with no bosses causing too much frustration. I still died a few times before I learned the attack patterns, areas for cover, and proper usage of the abilities at my disposal. The difficulty curve ramps up in later levels. Platforming elements get mixed in with the aggressive, fast-moving enemies that populate the endgame. I often strafed or walked backward to dodge enemy fire only to fall into pits for an instant death. There are some moments when I felt death was not a punishment from my own misdoings but due to a shortcoming in the level design.

The action is entertaining enough, considering the game's length. It's almost a requirement that boomer shooters should have a diverse arsenal of weapons that sound and feel good to use (particularly the shotgun). Forgive Me Father passes the test. With a range of weapons that feel punchy and distinct, there are plenty of exhilarating moments in the game. Between the well-diversified enemies and a somewhat stingy drop rate for ammo and health, you are constantly switching between weapons, and that keeps the combat fresh.

In addition to weapons, the player has several abilities in their arsenal. There are actually two playable characters: the priest, who possesses more defense-oriented abilities like self-healing and invincibility; and journalist, who possesses more offensive-oriented skills. I have yet to try the journalist, but I'm curious to start a campaign with her soon. The abilities start out a tad weak, but as you progress, you'll unlock experience points to upgrade abilities with stats and perks. This experience can be spent on character stats (e.g., additional health points, bigger ammo pouches) or abilities (e.g., longer-lasting invincibility).

In addition to earning experience, there's a madness meter that builds up as you mow down enemies in quick succession. As that meter increases, your damage output also increases. While a good idea in concept, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Your character's madness is reflected on-screen by adding a black-and-white filter over the screen. Instead of feeling like a crazed priest drunk on madness, I felt like a senile old man who'd misplaced his bifocals. When you hit a certain level of madness, enemies are harder to see and levels are tougher to navigate. Fortunately, there is an option to disable the setting if it becomes too much of a distraction.

Beyond the questionable screen filters, there are plenty of ways to skirt the game's difficulties by abusing the poor enemy AI. I encountered many instances where enemies would stop following me if I stood on the other side of a doorway. I'd argue that this spoils the fun that comes with the outlandish carnage of a boomer shooter, but the stingy ammo drops often made it feel like I had no other option but to adopt these less-than-enjoyable tactics. Instead of running into a room with guns blazing, I often hid around a corner and took pop-shots with my pistol ā€” not because the pistol was enjoyable to use, but because it was my only way to conserve ammo and health. There are certainly levels with open areas where these tactics aren't an option, but it's frequent enough to suppress the joy that should come with a retro shooter.

It's in the game's best interest to have the action and art style be the standout features, and that's for the best. With a nonsensical plot backed up by flat voice acting, Forgive Me Father's narrative elements are forgettable. It starts out promising enough. You arrive in a zombie-infested town that's plagued with demonic, otherworldly horrors and ruled by a cultish mayor. The plot quickly unravels from there. Perhaps it was the story being slowly revealed through lore tidbits, pickups appearing across the levels, cut scenes playing between each act, or maybe it's the flat delivery by the voice-actor.

Either way, my mind quickly forgot what was happening, and I haven't a clue how or why I was fighting demons in an underground laboratory. I learned to ignore and live with the forgettable story; it didn't get in the way of the gameplay that was propelling me forward. The one-liner quips from the playable character are non-stop and repetitive, and they really wore me down. I don't think I can count the number of times I heard the character say, "I have to get used to this bloodshed." Either way, it was painful to hear the first time and continually more grating as he said it over and over again.

These faults weren't enough to deter me from sinking over 10 hours into Forgive Me Father. There's a lot to love about the game, especially if you turn down certain elements in the audio options. Classic shooters live or die on a handful of core elements, and for the most part, Forgive Me Father meets those needs: a strong shotgun that decimates enemies, fast-paced action that constantly has you adjusting tactics, and hidden secret areas scattered across the levels. Some of this falls to the wayside when you're craving the next ammo drop that the game refuses to provide you, but it's an otherwise enjoyable shooter that's dripping with character. It provides plenty of joy with a dose of Cthulhu madness on the side.

Score: 7.0/10

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