Review: FAITH: Chapter II
Now that I think about it, most of my favorite horror titles are one-off experiences. Franchises often veer off in unwelcome directions or reflect poorly on their origins, which can make having a single, complete vision look much more appealing in comparison. FAITH: Chapter II doesn’t really run afoul of these issues, but it does feel like a departure from the first in the story. We’ll get into why exactly that is, but I will say that’s about the only misgiving I have about this one. In terms of gameplay and design, it’s a clear evolution over the first and a very exciting sign of what’s ahead from this particular developer.
As the name implies, FAITH: Chapter II builds directly off of the first FAITH, so I’ll avoid going into too many specifics about the plot beats. Both games center around the aftermath of an attempted exorcism in rural Connecticut back in the 80s. The first game has you guide one of the two priests involved back to that accursed place, to face the fruits of his labors. Chapter II picks up right after that, with an exploration of how deeply disturbing the entire experience has been for the poor man of faith. It also touches on the fate of the other priest from the exorcism, bringing their stories back together in a confluence of unspeakable dread.
From a broad perspective, Chapter II expands the universe glimpsed in the original FAITH. The events leading up to and taking place during the first game are given a little more context, and are then connected to greater events in motion. New horrors are introduced with their own little mythos, and it all builds to a reveal of much greater schemes at work. It’s a perfectly legitimate way to handle a sequel, especially for upping the ante, but I must say part of the appeal of the original was how it was a very focused haunted house story. The entire game happened in and around a specific house, with a specific threat, and just about everything you encountered tied back to learning about and defeating this singular evil. Chapter II in contrast takes you on a tour of a wider world of evils, almost like a series of vignettes exploring the neighboring supernatural horrors to the first game.
Again, this isn’t a bad thing, just a rather different one. One of the benefits is that you’ll be facing a much wider array of horrors this time around, and while some don’t quite match the horror of the poor possessed girl in the first others blow right past her. There are some extremely creative monster designs here, not just visually but also mechanically. Chapter II is still a one-button game, where you pray as hard as you can in the direction of evil to wear it down to nothing, but the monsters have more ways to attack and avoid your prayers here. Midway through the game, for example, there’s a sequence in darkness that does some very upsetting things with visibility and enemies hiding in the gloom. It’s far from the only effective moment in the game, and many of these shocks come at unexpected moments thanks to some very clever encounter designs.
In terms of gameplay there’s very little different here from the first game, though providing new challenges to overcome with the same abilities certainly counts as innovation. You’ll need to find certain items and solve a few simple puzzles to progress, more complex than in the original but arranged in a linear fashion such that you can’t avoid picking them up. I got stumped on an early puzzle but it turns out I had the wrong execution of the right idea, so I can’t really say anything bad about the challenges offered. Chapter II is a little longer than before, around an hour for your first playthrough and then more depending on how hard you want to work for the different endings this time. It’s still paced out magnificently and never overstays its welcome, so if anything it could probably afford to be longer.
There are so many great moments in FAITH: Chapter II that there’s no reason any horror aficionado should miss it. The scares are fun and unexpected, the atmosphere is wonderfully bleak in that awesome Prince of Darkness way, and it even has one of those rare notes that actually works for inspiring dread. I understand if the powerfully lo-fi graphics put you off but the monsters and environments are exactly as evocative as they need to be, and the sound design does wonders to close the gap between you and this nightmare world. The rotoscoped cutscenes are also fantastically effective, rounding out a rock-solid package of spooks. I’m not sure where the story’s going in this series but the ride is so entertaining, I’m willing to follow it to hell itself to see what comes next, and FAITH: Chapter II will plunge you right into those infernal places in thrilling fashion.