Skip to main content

Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn has an intriguing Soulslike twist, but falters on the basics


Close up on Flintlock's black female protagonist Nor
Image credit: A44 Games / Eurogamer

So what's the twist? Soulslikes, or at least heavily-inspired action games, are everywhere, with FromSoftware's influence creeping ever further. Thankfully, Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn developer A44 Games has some clever ideas of its own.

As the name suggests, Flintlock's set in a world powered by gunpowder and pitches its protagonist Nor into a battle against magical, meddling Gods. Split from her party, Nor meets an enchanting fox god named Enki and, in typical fashion, they're forced to team up. Gunpowder and magic make for a novel combination, but it's the Reputation system that's the real killer concept here.

One of the core tenets of the Souls games is death and the player's loss of valuable currency that death brings. It's this that Flintlock plays with in its Reputation system, which I got to test out in a preview build. In simple terms: killing enemies stylishly builds a combo multiplier and bankable experience, while getting hit loses it.

Reputation is this game's souls or runes equivalent, and it's used to level up Nor's abilities in three skill trees equating to melee, ranged, and magical abilities. Every time an enemy is killed Nor earns Reputation, but this must be banked. Temptations await, though: kill additional enemies before banking and the combo multiplier will be boosted. Kill enemies with a variety of abilities and it will be boosted further. However, a single hit is enough to lose your multiplier and any unbanked Reputation.

Let's Play Flintlock: The Siege of DawnWatch on YouTube

It lends Flintlock a welcome risk-reward feel that's integral to any Soulslike - the risk of diving in for another hit, the reward for finally felling a colossal enemy. Here, do you bank your Reputation after each enemy slain, or risk it for a higher multiplier and reward? It means beginner players are free to grind while advanced players can test their skill, ensuring the game is approachable for all in terms of challenge. (There are difficulty levels to choose from too.) Still, Reputation is dropped upon death and must be re-collected.

The combo building feels like a nod to Devil May Cry's stylish combat, with slides, weapon-swapping, and environmental kills all boosting the multiplier. Unfortunately, though, the basics of Flintlock's combat don't stand up to the scrutiny required to make the Reputation system really fly.

Flintlock screenshot showing black female protagonist next to another soldier
Nor's values will likely be challenged over the course of the story | Image credit: A44 Games / Eurogamer

Bloodborne is the most obvious Souls inspiration, with Nor wielding both an axe and a rifle. She only has three shots, but these are replenished by melee hits. Her suite of moves includes the usual hits, dodges, and parries, with the rifle not only adding range (and a method to shoot handily exploding barrels) but also interrupting unblockable enemy attacks - think Bloodborne's pistol parries. Unfortunately, the speed of enemies and the sluggishness of Nor's gunshots mean this strategy doesn't feel like a viable, or satisfying, option. And while enemies can be shot from afar, they usually recover before Nor has a chance to race in to follow up with a critical hit. As such, Flintlock has a stuttering rhythm and I never felt I got into the flow of combat.

It's also too floaty. In part that's down to Nor's movement - her basic jump, in particular, feels supernatural even in this magic-infused world, while her dodge rarely seems effective (at least, until I started dodging sideways instead of backwards). Crucially, the sense of weightlessness is exacerbated by enemies whose combos often cannot be interrupted, leading to a lack of reaction from hits. And when their strikes are often lightning fast, there's little time to learn movesets or react - and remember, just one hit is enough to lose that precious Reputation multiplier. Frustration quickly sets in.

Nor and Enki from Flintlock, black female protagonist and fox god, on the floor of a dark cavern
Close up of Enki the fox God from Flintlock with purple electricity shooting from his mouth
Enki is a friend, honest | Image credit: A44 Games / Eurogamer

Enemy and level design are also basics that don't satisfy, though the preview build is at least taken from the start of the game. Repeated human enemies just aren't that interesting to kill - although a few giant birds provide diversity - and there was sadly no spectacular magical boss to thwart at the demo's climax. There's not much room for exploration either, with progression decidedly linear and lots of claustrophobic hallways to fight through. So far at least, the game as a whole is lacking some variety in its early stages.

And that's a shame, because there's potential for some proper magic here - literally. I really like Flintlock's grounded take on fantasy, with mystical elements simmering beneath a surface sprinkled with gunpowder. Even Nor's double jump is explosively powered, though Enki allows Nor to soar across chasms from portal-to-portal and he's useful in battle too, cursing enemies to prepare them for a critical hit. I'm interested to see what further assists Enki's skill tree provides.

Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn | Release Date Announcement Trailer - Xbox Games Showcase 2024Watch on YouTube

Nor's journey takes her to a number of hamlets that can be liberated by beating the leader of the encamped enemies, followers of evil gods. It's a smart idea to give a sense of progress, though the instant return of the population is jarring. What's more, there's little to do in these hamlets besides receiving a reward from the local coffee shop or playing a game of Sebo. Yes, Flintlock has its own minigame involving moving pebbles on a varyingly shaped grid to form a triangle. Nor takes turns attacking and defending with her opponent, though it's all too easy to cheat by moving the same pebble back and forth to block moves. I'll take the Reputation received, though.

Sebo is one of many intriguing ideas in Flintlock that adds to the sense of world building, though from this preview the experience as a whole falls flat. I hope the late game builds further on the supernatural to ensure combat is as explosive as the Reputation system deserves.

Read this next