Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn is one of the most exciting Soulslikes on the horizon in this post-Elden Ring world. While it’s hard for games in that genre to impress in the wake of FromSoftware’s mighty open-world adventure, Flintlock hopes to stand out with its unique “gunpowder fantasy” aesthetic that trades high fantasy for the titular flintlock pistol and other early technology.
“We definitely consider Flintlock to be a Soulslike, and there are plenty of inspirations from Elden Ring,” Game Director Hayden Asplet explained in a press event.
Digital Trends got a hands-off look at around 15 minutes of new footage from the game and spoke to the developers about their ambition for this gunpowder fantasy Soulslike. While Art Director Robert Bruce made it clear that Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn’s gunpowder fantasy is “unique and its own thing,” he also said that “when we come out, I think that players will be ready for that next Elden Ring experience and we’ll have a lot of that there for them.”
The portion I saw started at a caravan where protagonist Nor and her magical fox-like companion Enki can speak to NPCs and upgrade and craft items. Before long, she was on a quest to investigate a nearby keep. From the immediate first glance, Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn’s unique aesthetic and setting are noticeable. It doesn’t quite feel like it is set during the renaissance or in a steampunk world, but technology — mostly powered by gunpowder — is slowly starting to creep its way into more and more things.
Some factions resist this change, while others like Nor embrace it on their personal quest to take down the gods. This even bleeds over into movement, as Nor can even use explosive black powder to do a double-jump flip in the air and occasionally dash to certain areas with Enki. That gives Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn some platforming elements, as players can use those techniques to find secret items that help in the adventure.
Soon enough, Nor and Enki found themselves in combat against some enemies. Nor smoothly flowed from enemy to enemy with decisive axe strikes and well-timed and powerful gunshots. Enki occasionally helped out with some magical attacks that exposed enemies to further attacks, too. Combat seems like it will constantly feel fresh thanks to each tool and how they interact with one another. Guns are powerful and getting kills with them increases Nor’s armor, but bullets can only be gained by killing enemies with the axe. As such, it’s clear that players can’t spam moves if they want the best results in a fight.
The slow and steady nature plays well with the methodical nature of a Soulslike. Combat looks smooth, while the frequent but still somewhat slow use of guns gives Nor a slight edge if she preserves her available bullets properly. The clip I saw had a very good rhythm to it, and according to Asplet, this is something A44 picked up on during the development of its last title, Ashen.
“One of the biggest things we learned with Ashen is that to create good Soulslike combat, you really need the combat to follow a rhythm,” Asplet says. “All of the combat and every single animation is based on a sense of having rhythm and really strict beat timing for everything. That’s what makes combat so satisfying. With Flintlock, we’ve pushed that to the nth degree while making all the animations, incorporating the camera, and expanding the number of abilities and exciting things players can discover.”
Elden Ring learnings
I continued to watch Nor and Enki make their way into the keep, resting at campfires and fighting enemies with powerful attacks than can break armor. They eventually reached the entrance of a snow-dusted castle but were annihilated by a super strong enemy. While they could continue to persist and try to defeat this enemy, the demoist decided to leave, go to another zone, and come back when they were stronger. This is one aspect of Elden Ring that Asplet says is present in Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn.
“One of the major things that stood out to me with Elden Ring as opposed to other Soulslikes is that due to its open world nature, you very rarely have to hit your head against a wall,” Asplet explains. “When you come across a strong foe [in Flintlock], you can always go away, level up, and set the level of difficulty yourself. Alternatively, you can go for the challenge.”
Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn doesn’t have an open world but is instead split into three major zones players can explore and fast-travel between. The demoist explored a city, fighting the evil creatures within it before arriving at the Eternal Archive where Nor and Enki can fight the God of Knowledge. This battle was filled with as much tension and spectacle as you’d expect from a Soulslike, with the God of Knowledge starting by slowly swinging around a giant sword before eventually firing off magic attacks that had a large range.
Eventually, Nor and Enki were able to take the God of Knowledge down with the help of a few attack-interrupting gunshots, and the demo was over. Although Bruce is right when he says Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn doesn’t feel like an Elden Ring clone thanks to its slightly different structure and unique world, it’s exactly the kind of Soulslike romp that players will be looking for once FromSoftware’s latest hit is over a year in the rear-view mirror.
Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn will be released for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S in the spring of 2023. It will also be an Xbox Game Pass title on day one.
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