When action RPG Flintlock: The Siege Of Dawn was revealed in March, its cinematic trailer struggled to conjure up anything more than a slight tinge of excitement. Then a gameplay reveal arrived later at Summer Geoff Fest and it immediately slid into the "Cor, this game looks a bit good doesn't it?" category of my brain. Finally, another game befitting A44, the studio behind minimalistic Ashen which Brendy quite enjoyed.
Colour me excited when I had the chance to see a half-hour presentation of the game in action at this year's Gamescom, and chat to A44's CEO Derek Holding at the same time. It was even better than I'd expected, honestly, and I've come away with the belief that it may just be one of the best Soulslikes to arrive in quite some time.
There's no denying Flintlock: The Siege Of Dawn's Soulslike credentials. It is very much a Soulslike, and has all the hallmarks of one: you build a currency (Reputation) as you defeat monsters, lose it all if you die, and restore it if you nab the pot from where you died; there are intense one-vs-one duels; and as for the story? The door to the afterlife has opened and the Old Gods' army of the undead has risen, so you've got to put a stop to all that by murdering all the undead gods to make them even deader.
Except that Flintlock doesn't seem to fall into the trap that many of its soulslike compatriots do, which is drill so far down into combat that it leaves an otherwise shallow pool of water for the world's story, inhabitants, and character (Thymesia isn't awful by any means but is a good example of this). Flintlock looks to combine the grandiosity of say, God Of War, with the sensibilities of a Souls game to produce an action RPG that's closer to your triple-A fare. I mean, Holding said himself that a good way to conceptualise the game would be to look at it as "somewhere in the middle" of God Of War and Elden Ring.
While you might think, "Elden Ring is already a luxury Souls game, so why do we need Flintlock?", you've got to remember that while Elden Ring may be more approachable than its predecessors, it's still an obtuse and punishing FromSoftware joint. Flintlock is clear in its instruction and lavish in its presentation, first demonstrated to me in a hamlet liberation mission. Nor Vanek, joined by her spirit squirrel Enki, was to defeat a handful of possessed knights, with one Crusader sporting a big red health bar and a big ol' shield.
The Crusader proved a tough – if familiar - fight for Souls likers, as Nor had to flip and dive out of range of his sword, then counterattack with carefully timed parries. All the while, the Reputation meter filled in the top left of the screen, as Nor pulled off bonks and Enki teleported and nipped at many heels. For the most part, combat looked responsive and satisfying. Blows of Nor's axe felt impactful and the overall presentation mirrored that of God Of War, with cool finisher animations and a general sense of choreographed theatre, as opposed to Souls' snappier patchwork of combos.
Once the hamlet had been liberated, Nor wandered into a dimly lit hut only to discover an Outlander, a statuesque being composed of many arms whose face was a tribal mask held aloft by a pair of hands. It asked Nor to nab her some coffee, because undead beings who've been brought back to life are often "obsessed with one thing", Holding tells us. But more than that, they'll tell us "rumours about the world and places you can explore". And while we didn't pursue what I'd imagine could've been little side quest, Holding gave us peek at caravans, which he describes as "[Dark Souls] bonfires, essentially".
The caravan we rock up to is a small encampment set along a cliff edge, with a few NPC friends and a cute little campfire. Again, we skipped on any interaction with these folks, but Holding mentioned that it acts not only as a checkpoint, but also a hometown. And as you build your relationship with folks and help people out, "their base becomes bigger and more developed". You'll meet other caravans or allies out in the field, who may join your troupe too. It's a little reminiscent of Vagrant's Rest, the town in Ashen.
Later in the demo, Holding skipped forwards to a major boss fight against a golden sentinel who was desperate to cleave Nor in two with his enormous greatsword. A fight ensued, in which Nor dodged strikes and gradually chipped his health bar down with axe smacks. There were some bits where Nor had to dodge spectral missiles or hop over magical slashes, and a second phase which was harder, as per. I think Enki flew around and did stuff too, although his impact felt a little like Atreus from God Of War: looked like nothing, but probably did do something.
For all the talk of boss fights and Soulslikes, A44 want Flintlock to be approachable for everyone. You can crank up the difficulty to "Possessed Mode" to make it extremely punishing, or keep it balanced by toning it down, if you'd like. Holding expands a little on the skill trees too, which are "really wide" and let you either deep dive into magic by powering up Enki, go all-in on blackpowder and your guns, or pour everything into swinging your axe. There are ways of "circumventing things around the world" too, Holding says, whether that's using your team of military Napoleonic era sappers to "blow up objectives and change the shape of the world", or Enki, who has these magical triangles that will "propel you through the world magically". And in Nor herself too, who's able to platform across levels and use environmental things like explosive barrels to gain the advantage in fights.
Seriously, Flintlock: The Siege Of Dawn really impressed me at Gamescom and I genuinely believe it could be a real hit when it arrives sometime early next year. That's because it's a Soulslike that should cater to players who want a more cinematic experience with more of the triple A trappings, while still looking out for Souls veterans who want those tricky encounters.