Right now in Early Access you can only play Forgive Me Father as a gun-toting priest, but the finished game should also give you the option to play as a journalist. Its most immediate, compelling draw is the striking aesthetic—a blend of 2D and 3D art with hand-drawn comic-style figures and foreground assets that make great eye candy, especially when they're drenched in bloody tentacles.
As with most Lovecraft-flavored stories, everything takes place in an early 20th century New England coastal setting with a strong fishing economy. Scattered notes paint a Dishonored-esque picture of the town of Pestisville, where you awaken in an old house. It gets down to business quickly. Hand, meet gun (the default weapon is a knife, but I barely used it). The more you kill stuff, and the more alcohol you drink, the more your Madness gauge fills up and unlocks utility skills like crowd control and health regeneration.
There's a weird plague-like affliction going around, an ancient cult, a shady mayor, and swarms of shambling monsters ready to eat your face unless you kill them first. Everything is pretty intuitive and straightforward even if you're not an experienced FPS jockey—point, shoot, and dodge, picking up ammo and health along the way. Interactive items all have a “story” label attached to them—book pages, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other scraps of worldbuilding material. I'm hoping that gets replaced with something a little more nuanced during Early Access. In an FPS where I'm moving around at a pretty brisk clip, it's hard to tell what I need to prioritize if everything is flatly labeled “story.”
For that matter it's difficult to get a clear sense of where Forgive Me Father is going: Am I supposed to end up in Providence, or head to the hospital? Will there be a marked side quest to pursue the Beast of Pestisville? Only time will tell.
A string of pop culture references teeter on the edge of Too Much, depending on how immersive you like your period dressing. There's an homage to a carbon-frozen Han Solo which is cute, a fun Stephen King/Notorious B.I.G. mashup portrait, and a nod to The Shining, but on top of the Joker and Indiana Jones jokes they start to distract from the whole “the Old Gods are coming” narrative. (The inclusion of what appears to be a TARDIS feels like a more appropriate reference).
It's the comic-inspired art that really makes Forgive Me Father shine—the varying line weights and intimate hand-drawn feel add a vibrancy to the outdoor environments, making them jump off the screen. The cemetery level and the slice of raw wooded land that comes after it are hands-down gorgeous, especially shrouded in a fine mist, and the brick-walled garden maze level is lovely to blast through. Even simple areas like a multi-level factory are elevated by bang-on atmospheric lighting and nuanced textures. The creature design is fun as hell—there's a real Bugsy Siegel old-timey mobster vibe on the Fat Fish mobs (pinstripes make everything look jazzy), tentacled Liquidators, and cool mob-spawning shrines called Martyrs.
The action could use some fine-tuning, though. Jumping feels weak and needs a better sense of weight and heft, and it's unclear whether the devs are going to add more platforming elements to better reach some secrets (bonus items like armor and ammo). I favored the shotgun you can upgrade into a betentacled spitter, which has a nice juicy feel to it. Headshots are a little inconsistent, too—sometimes things insta-died, and then there were times when after a headshot on a regular monster I still had to shoot it a bunch more times to finish the job.
There's a fun, sweaty little gauntlet section in the asylum level where the “gates of hell” close in on you, which I really hope gets finessed into a longer segment. The skill tree, still a work in progress, is a pretty standard mix of weapon upgrades (including a grenade launcher option, of course) and skill upgrades, like a more powerful lamp. The light mechanic is simple but psychologically effective, forcing you to choose between illumination and your weapon in dark corners with potentially grisly results.
I should also mention that Forgive Me Father isn't easy. There were many times where due to sheer mob density, I wasn't able to use my crowd control ability effectively and ended up getting instantly deleted by tentacle monsters. Mobs hit hard, but by repeating sections you eventually learn their spawn points and work around them.
Overall, Forgive Me Father seems to be in a good place for a just-released Early Access game: every new level is a visual delight and the supernatural carnage is extremely gratifying. As a story-focused player, I can't help but wonder how things will pan out for Pestisville as well as our hapless priest. Forgive Me Father may need a bit more polish to hit the mark, but so far it's worth waiting for.