Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn Is, Genuinely, an Elden Ring and God of War Mash-up

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There is a majesty in Elden Ring that few other games can match. The world is packed with a thousand pending discoveries, the combat systems are richly layered and the lore begs to be recorded by a dozen YouTube scientists. But every now and then I wonder what Elden Ring would be if it weren’t so bound by FromSoftware’s own rules. What if it had the sense of cinematic spectacle that fuels Sony’s blockbusters? A story-rich story featuring the flashy, skill-enhanced combat of God of War? The answer, it seems, can very well be found in Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn.

At Gamescom 2022, I sat down with some developers from A44, the New Zealand-based developer behind Ashen, to watch them play Flintlock for about 30 minutes. They explained that their new Soulslike RPG, set in a fantasy world of ancient magic and black powder guns, is designed to sit somewhere between Elden Ring and God of War, taking on the challenge and discovery of the former and combining it with the story-oriented, glossy presentation of the latter.

This approach is evident in the demo’s boss battle, where protagonist Nor Vanek faces off against the imposing God of Knowledge, a towering spirit clad in gold plates of triangular armor. As the Soulslike genre dictates, the boss has an inflated health bar, deals massive damage with telegraph attacks, and becomes more terrifying in the second phase. The first steps to overcoming all this follow the Dark Souls playbook; a well-timed dodge throw is followed by a few aggressive ax blows, and then a patient waits for an attack that can be parried. But it’s in the parry that Flintlock’s God of War influences become apparent; Nor does the God get on his knees and the camera flies close to perfectly capture a brutal blow to the side of his head.

The demo is filled with these moments. Nor can she unleash a roundhouse kick that sends an enemy flying, or tackle an enemy on the ground before firing her gun in their face. The camera ducks around the action, causing bursts of slow motion to really emphasize the spectacle. It may use the FromSoft ruleset, but Flintlock’s combat looks flashier – more fantastic, in fact – than any Souls game has ever been.

I walk away from the deal believing Flintlock is the best thing I’ve seen at Gamescom.


But it goes beyond just shiny animations and cool camera angles. Nor does she have a set of skills that make her much more dynamic than a Souls character, including acrobatic jumps and being able to quickly switch between her guns and axe. She is also joined by Enki, a fox-like creature that can, among other things, freeze an enemy in mid-air and absorb their health. Think of him as a bit like Atreus from God of War, just infinitely old and with the ability to channel dark magic.

Since I haven’t played Flintlock yet, I can’t possibly know at this point whether that mix of challenge and cinema will result in a tight, responsive combat system. But the signs are good, and A44 clearly believes in its fights so much that it even has a Devil May Cry-esque Stylish Rank system. Each attack, skill, and combo performed by Nor and Enki earns you points, which add up to thousands over time. Known as your reputation, this score also acts as a currency that can be used to buy new weapons and items on the black market. But, just like in the real world, reputation can be lost. If you die, your score will be reduced to zero and you will be excluded from the black market inventory. Fortunately, it can be recovered if you pick it up from the location where you died.

Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn – Gamescom 2022 Screenshots

However, don’t confuse Reputation for Souls. Character progression is not tied to this temporary score; instead, Nor and Enki evolve using XP points, which, when earned, stay with you permanently. That XP is used to unlock upgrades on what A44 describes as a “deliberately overwhelming” skill tree, with far more options than is possible to unlock in a single playthrough. Further progress comes through victories; each defeated boss rewards you with his special ability, so with each major kill comes a significant expansion of your arsenal of power. Separating the die-and-drop mechanics of character development is a huge departure from the FromSoft formula, and could well be one of Flintlock’s primary weapons for bringing the joy of Souls-esque battles and worlds to a wider audience. .

Outside of the heat of battle, Flintlock’s demo shows a similar rethinking of Souls-esque principles. Also doesn’t navigate the open world on foot, but can also jump high, in 3D platformer style, using grenade blasts to reach ledges and hidden items or, with specific unlocks, Enki can teleport her over vast distances.

However, it’s the way A44 treats its world and population that can really break new ground for a Soulslike. During the demo, Nor and Enki come across a village overrun by the undead (the old gods ripped open the doors to the underworld, hence Flintlock’s big zombie and gods problem), triggering a ‘Hamlet Liberation’ activity. By defeating the mini-boss who has taken up residence here, the original community returns to their homes, a change not restored by resting at a bonfire checkpoint. These villagers can then offer new quests; I watch as Nor introduce herself to a bizarre collection of limbs (character designs can get very out of hand) asking her to satisfy her coffee obsession. All of this suggests that progression doesn’t just come in the evolution of your character build and position on the main story path; there is also progress in the world around you and the communities you encounter. It’s the kind of approach I’d expect from a more traditional RPG than a Soulslike.

As the demo progresses, game director Derek Bradley is constantly telling me about other things in the game that he can’t show right now. The open world is home to numerous optional dungeons and bosses, some of which are linked to side missions or endgame objectives. You can come across all sorts of incidental stories, from a man being robbed by the road to an entire cult obsessed with death. There are special items to be found, including one that revives you as an undead when you die. Over time, you recruit a team of engineers who can use explosives to access shortcuts and secret areas. There’s a story mode that recalibrates the difficulty to something more accessible when people need it. Every new feature he mentions reshapes my expectations and heightens my excitement. I walk away from the deal believing Flintlock is the best thing I’ve seen at Gamescom.

My enthusiastic chatter about Flintlock convinces my colleague, IGN’s executive news editor Joe Skrebels, to make a last-minute appointment to see it. There, Bradley tells him that Elden Ring has pushed Soulslikes in a new direction, and he wants Flintlock even further. It’s clear that the A44 has serious ambitions to shoot for the moon. And at this point, without having played Flintlock, I can’t say with confidence how close the humble studio has come to those lofty goals. Bradley notes that his 60-strong team doesn’t have the immense budget of Sony Santa Monica, and while that’s evident in Flintlock’s not-quite-AAA footage, I hope money won’t affect its ability to run a ​bold rethinking of what a Soulslike can be. Because, more than anything, what I think will make Flintlock special is not his cinematic approach, but his understanding that the FromSoftware formula is not a set of rules to replicate, but a framework to build on.

FPS games were largely considered Doom clones until games like GoldenEye and Half-Life reconsidered what first-person shooting could be. Flintlock, if it’s all it promises, could well be part of the vanguard making Soulslikes much more than just Dark Souls copies.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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