It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t tell you how stoked I was for this game. Faith: The Unholy Trinity was my #1 title I was hoping to play this year, but Airdorf kept it quiet for most of the year before posting a surprise date and releasing shortly after. My buddies had hyped up the first chapter heavily (Including me! Chapter 1 slaps! -Demetri), so I knew I had to go in with a virgin heart and live the atrocities first-hand myself. My friends and disciples: witness with me one of the best games of this year.
Slap open that Run command and head back into the world of MS-DOS as we take a trip back into the 1980s. Lift your feet and sink deep into an era where “ritual abuse” was coined through the discredited saga of Michelle Remembers, the conspiracy theories over DnD and its participants, and the Christian-led deluge of opportunistic profit off the lives of the weird and misplaced. These prophecies never amounted to much but bureaucratic chess moves and a lot of misplaced fear, but Airdorf’s 1986 provides more truth to the tale. Rural Connecticut would’ve been much happier with the former.
Armed with the Cross, you tread the path toward saving the unfortunate victims from the rumblings of a cult set on bringing forth demonic spirits into this world. Faith is split into three chapters, each connected in its own way. Controls are left to walking and raising your Cross. The Cross can help cleanse haunted items granting notes to build the town’s lore, as well as helping keep you safe against demons and other afflicted baddies willing to do the Devil’s bidding. Enemies have a lot of varied attack patterns that coincide well within the various areas you’ll traverse, but ultimately all die from the prolonged sting of the Cross. This style of combat can feel a little stale after a few hours but combat is incredibly unnerving as everything in Faith is a one-hit kill, so each instance must be handled with the utmost care. You will die a lot in Faith, but there’s a very forgiving checkpoint structure throughout to counterbalance some enemies that will take a few deaths to understand.
Airdorf provides a masterclass in doing a ton with a little. With the MS-DOS graphics many of the characters and areas are chunks of 8-bit color, but the cracks are filled neatly with a healthy dose of atmosphere. Games like this make you wonder how in the world you can get scared looking at moving shapes with minimal detail, but when you run your demonic sounds through derelict speech synthesizers and provide one of the best retro soundtracks of the past few years, it’s so easy to be sucked in and jumpy on every screen.
This is built upon more so with the rotoscoped cutscenes. Lord have mercy, these scenes are insane. Where details are omitted in gameplay, these cutscenes leave no stone unturned showing just how cursed the enemies are, how distraught the victims can be, and how much of a toll this all takes on the protagonist. The cutscenes only run a few seconds apiece but the amount of emotional damage it can inflict on you as it sets you up for its next part is menacingly beautiful.
And these scenes combined with the immaculate pacing of it all ensures you can never be truly comfortable. Unknown entities will show for a single frame in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments, pedestrian objects and animals showing up on screen will make you jump since you’re constantly expecting things, and some of the set pieces, especially in Chapter III, are awe-inducing. I won’t spoil details but there’s a specific bit where an item is used to provide a small moment of reprieve in complete darkness. When the object was given and the task was set in front of me I belted out a big “Oh Fuck You, Airdorf.” I mean that in the most complimentary way I can possibly provide on paper. Those moments are what make and break games, and every single moment hit so fucking good that I was giddy playing all these while cursing myself knowing it was going to scare the shit out of me.
Once the campaign is complete there are several extras to unlock including backgrounds, special conditions to replay chapters, and a chapter select within the chapters to help with specific bosses. There’s also secrets strewn about, with multiple endings for each chapter to unlock. I’m still working through grabbing them all, but I don’t think I’ll be able to be the Good Christian Boy that is expected of me. Maybe if I’m feeling lucky.
Indie titles will always amaze me as the video game industry looks to provide the biggest and grandest experiences that millions of dollars can buy. But when you get titles like Faith, which take a nostalgic look of 1980s gaming and inject some of the most tense and nail-biting experiences using nothing but genius pacing and what should be award-winning sound direction, you can’t help but be excited for what could come from any corner of the gaming world.
Bravo Airdorf, bra-fucking-vo.