Don’t be fooled by the highly stylized art. The first person shooter Forgive me father is unsettling because of its flat cartoon graphics, not in spite of themselves. At first I was charmed by how the art style made the game feel like a distant cousin of Paper mario. By the end of the second level, I was a paranoid mess.
Forgive me father takes place in a post-apocalyptic New England town. In the Early Access version of the game which just launched this week, you play as a Catholic priest who wakes up to find you are the last survivor of a horrific disaster. As you shoot and fight your way through an army of zombies and Lovecraftian horrors, you try to piece together the kind of apocalypse that has hit your world. Did anyone summon something they shouldn’t have? Was there some kind of viral epidemic? Were they aliens?
The game raises more questions than answers. The mics in the story are too ambiguous to provide clarity, but I agree if the game never properly explains what happened. Forgive me father looks a bit like one of those starter games I made in the Unity engine. The level design looks like a block and there is no friction between your character’s feet and the ground. I am not entirely convinced that my character To feet at all. But the game actively takes advantage of its low-fidelity aesthetic to deliver a constant sense of unsettling error. It is horrifying to see objects that are just close enough to reality, but behave in unnatural ways. Forgive me father uses video game madness for dramatic effect. And it works.
Enemies don’t cast much shadow and tend to spawn without warning. When I blew up a zombie with my trusty shotgun, I was shocked to see another appear immediately behind it. It wasn’t until a few rooms later that I realized that these 2D enemies weren’t hiding behind each other; the zombie was putting on a new head after i blew up the old one. And this was not the only enemy with unique traits. If I didn’t immediately shoot an enemy in a costume in the head, his upper torso would crawl forward to attack me. Some explosive barrels were sentient monsters that charged at me without warning, and my fear of them made me shoot early instead of waiting for other enemies to come within range.
The fight is so quick that I rarely had time to notice anything else. The lack of friction in your movement means that shots on goal are much faster than in many modern first person shooters. I ended up dodging five enemy projectiles at once, which is definitely doable. But it also means these zombies and ghouls are just as quick to surround you from all directions. There is no gradual rise in suspense. Monsters appear without warning and your guns don’t fire fast enough. It is to dodge and kill, or to be killed.
Like many Lovecraftian games, Forgive me father has a madness mechanic, here in the form of a gauge that fills up as you quickly kill enemies. You can then use this gauge to use special abilities, such as healing your character or crippling enemies. However, a high insanity level also applies a gray blur filter to your camera. Since I wanted to be able to see my enemies clearly at all times, I would often spend Madness Points to heal my character in more difficult fights instead of saving the gauge.
However, the satisfying difficulty of these well-designed early stages doesn’t last. Once I was blown up by weapon upgrades and armor pickups, I felt overwhelmed in my ability to just take down anything that moved. Since the game is still in Early Access, I hope the developers reinforce the start of the game in addition to working on the later levels to come. Forgive me father has a great vibe, stunning art style, and a ton of unexplored potential. I will definitely come back once the full game is released.