After spending a lot of time playing RPGs lately, it was very relaxing to kick back with a game like Forgive Me Father. Unabashedly, uncomplicated, high-octane action. Fast-paced FPS gameplay in the style of Doom and other Boomer Shooters. It’s a hell of a good time, though it does show its blemishes.
You can play as either a priest or a journalist, both called to the town of Pestisville by a strange letter penned by your cousin. Upon arrival, something doesn’t seem quite right about Pestisville. When your cousin then fails to show up, you instead find yourself assaulted by legions of monsters. With a knife and pistol in hand—soon joined by an array of other weapons—you begin battling your way through town in search of answers.
While it’s as light on plot as you’d expect from a Doom-inspired shooter, it isn’t light on confusion.
Story markers are scattered around each level, but these come off as disjointed and strange. Some invite a response from your character, some are letters or notes you can actually read, and others are just zoomed-in pictures of objects. I quickly lost track of what most of it was even about, at which point the infrequent cutscenes became my only coherent source for plot. Enjoyment of the story is also held back by the voice-acting, which is pretty bad across the board. Especially the female protagonist, whose voice alone deterred me from playing the game a second time.
Fortunately, story is a minor concern in games like this. From the moment you swing open that first door, Forgive Me Father is cathartic action from start to finish. Intense rock music blasts through your speakers as you reduce enemies to piles of gore with your powerful weaponry. In terms of oldschool shooters, Forgive Me Father most reminded me of Blood. Though it takes the best elements of several such games and fuses them together.
This is best felt in the level-design. Like in Blood, levels are oftentimes designed to be sensible spaces. You’ll find yourself battling around a corn maze while moving between farm buildings or platforming around a factory with conveyor belts and dangerous machines. Later levels do make a turn for the surreal, but at a point where doing so feels appropriate. It matches the rising tensions and stakes, as you discover the full extent of the madness that has gripped Pestisville.
These levels utilize color-coded keys, but largely avoid the maze-like structures that usually accompanied such mechanics. You’ll have to do some exploration, but only a few levels ended up being actual labyrinths. This permits the game to focus on blasting enemies instead, which is where it shines the most anyway. Though explorers can still spend a bunch of time looking around for hidden story markers or secret areas.
Your arsenal of weapons is satisfying to use and very diverse. You’ll get the usual staples like an accurate pistol, a machine gun for thinning out hordes, and a shotgun for close-range encounters. Later on this is supplemented by more exotic weapons, like energy guns and a harpoon launcher. Also cool is that you gain experience as you play, with each level up permitting you to select an upgrade. The tree isn’t exactly expansive, but you can do some very cool things with your weapons through this system. Your shotgun can become possessed with some supernatural power, turning it into a monstrous device that fires ricocheting bullets. You can turn your assault rifle into a fully-automatic energy rifle or forego such big transformations in favor of passive bonuses.
Forgive Me Father also has a madness system, which triggers when you go on a killing spree. Madness reduces the amount of damage you take and gives you access to special powers that can aid you in a pinch. You can douse enemies in holy water to freeze them in place or activate modes during which you become immune to damage or have infinite ammo. These too can be upgraded with the leveling system, which can become very powerful.
Initially I felt that all these powers were overkill and thought I’d only need the healing power. However, as later levels introduce increasingly stronger enemies, I found myself relying on these abilities a lot more. Fortunately, you can reroll your chosen perks a few times throughout the game if you end up regretting your earlier decisions.
With that said, I did grow to really resent the last few levels and the enemies residing within them. While the initial enemies have cool designs and unique traits, later foes become increasingly hard to distinguish. They’re all bullet-sponges, they all spam a hailstorm of projectiles at you, and most are unreasonably fast on top of that. Every new room ended up being a grind as I tried to whittle down tidal waves of enemies that just wouldn’t die. Especially since the hit-detection is not generous at all, so you end up wasting a ton of your ammo just trying to hit the faster enemies.
It just feels so unsatisfying when you blast a small foe point-blank with an upgraded shotgun or hit a fast-moving enemy with a grenade that exploded on impact, only for them to lose but a third of their healthbar. I started to miss the earlier levels, where the enemies were tough but not absurdly so.
Even during these low points, the game’s excellent visual directing makes it well worth playing on. The aesthetics resemble a dark, gritty comic book style, with the sensibilities of 2.5D shooters merged into it. Everything is made of flat sprites in a 3D environment. The levels are atmospheric and brilliantly lit to bring out its excellent use of colors. Enemies are horrific in their designs, but with a slight touch of goofiness to them that adds a lot of personality. I also like how each enemy type has a number of variations, so it doesn’t feel like they are all clones.
Boss fights are the highlights where all the good parts of Forgive Me Father come together. Giant monsters with awesome designs, tactical movement, intense music. They’re very tough, but immensely satisfying to fight against. A shame that only 6% of players apparently made it to the end.
If you’re a fan of old school shooters, then Forgive Me Father is a darn good take on this concept. It innovates on the basic gameplay and presentation of boomer shooters and overlays it with a Lovecraftian dressing. It has its annoying parts and certainly isn’t the best game in this genre you’ll ever play, but it’s well worth seeking out if you’re into this genre.