The retro shooter, or ‘boomer shooter’ renaissance has hit its stride in recent years. We're talking about first-person experiences that wouldn’t feel out of place if they were released somewhere smack bam in the middle of the 1990s. Games that aren’t solely defined by their relatively archaic looks, that is in terms of fidelity and simple geometry, but also mechanics that feel inspired by id Software titles like the original Doom and Quake.
Less cinematic scripted sequences involving highly detailed explosions and soldiers calling out for help, or cover, in that way digital soldiers tend to. Dutifully. No, this is more pressing on a wall like it’s one big button because it just might be, and it might lead to a secret room with some armour and stuff. Or strafing around in a circle real fast as you jump and melt enemies with an endless stream of shotgun blasts.
The more pressing revelation from the return to the sort of level design that could double as an intricate maze that could easily trap Jack Torrence is that if it all comes together, well, the end result can be as thrilling and engaging as anything you’d find on a beige PC loading up MS-DOS. Forgive Me Father is an experience you’d definitely chalk up as ‘retro’, where the first-person shooting and progression through various levels usually comes down to a mix of finding the right coloured keys and enough ammunition to take out waves of enemies.
Forgive Me Father has a rather impressive Lovecraftian world to explore, and some fantastic visual design that creates a sense of being right there on the page of a graphic novel.
A set number of enemies, ammo drops, and layout that is mostly linear with a few added secrets. Of course there’s a lot more to discover here, and Forgive Me Father has a rather impressive Lovecraftian world to explore, and some fantastic visual design that creates a sense of being right there on the page of a graphic novel. In fact, throw in the ability to choose one of two backstories and professions, a skill tree, and early moments that carry an air of true horror (not to mention that ol’ timey survival horror), and the look and feel of a traditional retro FPS might seem like more of a starting framework than ultimate goal.
Forgive Me Father can be quite challenging during its early stages, and definitely later on when you’re facing off against a boss. This comes down to design that results in enemy projectiles doing serious damage, and a keen focus on arena encounters where moving fast and making every shot count is the order of the day. Fast-paced wave battles with enemies spawning in all around you, it’s a pretty big departure from the earlier hints at more measured and cerebral action. Once Forgive Me Father hits this groove it’s one it settles into, like a 10-minute minimal house track that’s happy enough to simply offer up a beat and some percussion.
You’ve also got special abilities to call on, buffs that provide temporary invulnerability and ‘silence monster!’-like spells. And there’s a ‘Madness Meter’ that builds up the more carnage you create, adding to your power. With experience-based upgrades it’s an interesting mix all said and done, but ultimately it all ends up feeling undercooked or not that important when most encounters involve strafing to dodge projectiles and simply keeping track of the limited ammo scattered around.
Fast-paced arena-style encounters where taking a few hits could mean a reload, and try again. Something you begin to expect to happen when enemies are placed around corners and spawn behind or above you. Having a bit of extra health doesn’t really cut it. Nor does a minor boost to damage.
With experience-based upgrades it’s an interesting mix all said and done, but ultimately it all ends up feeling undercooked or not that important when most encounters involve strafing to dodge projectiles and simply keeping track of the limited ammo scattered around.
Despite the wonderful comic book look and feel, and how that translates to enemy movement and death animations, which are also great, there’s very little story to be found. Which was surprising considering the measured pace of the introduction and first couple of stages that rely heavily on the main protagonist struggling to make sense of their horrific surroundings.
Outside of a few mostly inconsequential panel-based vignettes scattered around, and levels that take you from a small town through to a backwoods swamp and then through to industrial and supernatural locales, Forgive Me Father’s narrative is mostly a mystery. In the end it’s hard to look at this as anything but a missed opportunity, where the mix of old and new doesn’t quite come together. The horror aspirations amount to little more than set dressing. Fast-paced shooting is where Forgive Me Father settles, a place where enemies move in predefined patterns and strafing is just about all you need to do to survive. As fun as that can be in doses, there’s little incentive to keep going once you realise that’s all there is.