Here’s our Halloween Special 2023: We delve into the “FAITH” trilogy to explore religious terror, uncertainty, making terror with limited graphics and mechanics, and the need to persist.
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In 1949, Raymond J. Bishop, a Catholic priest, performed a series of exorcisms on a 14-year-old boy identified as “Roland Doe”. The boy had shown symptoms of unusual and aggressive behavior that had led his guardians to suspect that they were dealing with a serious case of demonic possession that went on for months and several exorcism sessions.
Exorcisms were not so well known back then. Even within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church itself, it remained an exceptional and marginal activity, not discussed in public.
Until the writer William Peter Batty read a small newspaper clipping of the Roland Doe case and was inspired to write a novel about the crisis of faith, the fears of motherhood and those terrors that dwell among us.
The novel’s popularity led director William Friedkin to adapt it for the big screen two years later. Engraving in the collective imagination, forever, the concept of Catholic exorcism as a weak point between our routine life and the portals to a supernatural but definitely real hell.
And, since then, thousands of exorcist stories (including sequels to Friedkin’s film) sought to replicate the fear of the original work, with generally poor results Where did they fail? What had they missed?
While many games use the idea of exorcising ghosts and demons, rarely have we witnessed anything resembling a Catholic exorcism in the medium. The act itself, the aesthetic, doesn’t work as an element of terror, especially if you’re a person skeptical of the supernatural.
At least, until a man named Mason Smith, under the pseudonym Airdorf, published a game that clearly answered what factor you had to bring back from the original novel for us to re-experience fear.
It turns out that a little faith was all it took.
Originally, Airdorf was inspired by the simplicity and effectiveness of Puppet Combo’s “Power Drill Massacre” in scaring the player and the economy of resources of Konami’s “P.T.” in exploring a hidden mythology that, at its time of release, the community was trying to decipher together. But Airdorf didn’t feel he could make games with such intense development and began to take the idea of a point-and-click adventure game in the wake of Desert Fox’s “Bad Dream” saga.
So he came up with a more concrete premise for the game: a horror story with retro, almost minimalistic graphics, to see what he was able to do with those limitations. Under that idea, he started a small prototype that only consisted of him trying to recreate the hunting mini-game of the famous and veteran “The Oregon Trail”, but before turning it into something similar, like the most recent version of the original idea, now with zombies, in “The Organ Trail”, Airdorf began to consider that a horror game would require both that we were the hunter and that we could be hunted by other identities.
Holding on to that concept of helplessness, Airdorf changed the shotgun to a cross and the protagonist to an exorcist. Among Airdorf’s objectives was to publish a first chapter as a test on the website itch.io and to have the youtuber Mark Plier play it on his channel, for whom he left several private references such as the presence of mannequins.
For the cinematics, Airdorf recovered the concept of rotoscoping that had given so much success to Jordan Mechner in games like “Karateka” or “Prince of Persia”, but this time not in the service of physical action as much as body horror, allowing him, with the minimum palette of colors and basic silhouettes, to convert each presence of the cinematics in flexible and supernatural creatures that, even so, impact by their proportions and human gestures. He said that the original inspiration was the now classic short shots of series like “SpongeBob SquarePants” or “Flapjack” that those of us from another generation associate more with “Ren & Stimpy”.
But a fundamental factor for a horror game is always the sound. The soundtrack with ecclesiastical hymns turned into chiptune was obvious given the nature of the project, but also the dialogues were going to be heard by the player. Using a text-to-speech program for Commodore 64, which maintained a very robotic and limited sound but with a wide range to modify certain patterns such as pitch, it can be said that here the game found its first iconic element.
With these ingredients and baked in GameMaker Studio, Airdorf self-published the first and very simple chapter of the game on itch.io in 2017, and with it, sparked a new phenomenon.
CHAPTER ONE: THE FATHER
Father John Ward heads off in his car to reconnect with his past, even though what he is about to do does not meet with the approval of the Vatican. It is September 21, 1987 and Ward wants to redeem himself for abandoning an exorcism that happened exactly one year ago.
First, Ward must go through a dangerous forest to the Martin family home. Along the way, Ward may encounter the remains of a coyote killed in what looks like a ritual, a strange cabin, a wild deer, a dead tree and, worst of all, a whitish creature named Michael Davies. Ward’s only defense is his golden crucifix, which allows him to exorcise cursed elements or drive away the creature, receiving, with it, fragments of text from the past that help the player follow the story.
Following the path north of the well, Ward reaches the Martin family home, where a strange presence still seems to await him.
The Martin family consisted of the parents, Bob and Cindy Martin, the eldest daughter, Amy, and the two younger twins, Nate and Jason. From the incidents of years ago, which we barely know through note, we gather that Ward, along with a veteran exorcist named Father Allred, had come to exorcise young Amy in the basement of the house, only to have the possessed resist and kill Allred, her parents and hide in the attic.
John Ward had the opportunity to confront Amy, but at the last moment, something happened and he was not able to do it.
The priest heads to the basement where the exorcism took place, only to have a vision of Amy crawling out from under her bedroom bed. When John opens his eyes, he finds himself in that same bedroom and, if he is not careful, he may suddenly be attacked by the girl’s spirit.
Among the texts he finds, the player can discover a note where Ward says goodbye to someone named Molly, perhaps a love interest from the past.
In the attic, Ward confronts his fears. The young Amyt asks if she is beautiful only to show that, where her face used to be, there is now only a void from which a diabolical arm emerges. The fight between the priest and the demoness is fierce and goes through three phases, but at the last moment, Amy, knowing she is defeated, decides to jump out the window and flee.
If we have collected all the notes, we receive another note describing a ritual called “The Second Death”. Someone performed that ritual on innocent Amy to turn her into the creature she is now.
Ward descends the stairs to find two things: a shotgun and a message written in blood “Kill her.”
Ward takes the gun but decides to walk back to his car with it. Just as he is about to leave the scene, Michael Davies appears one last time. Ward shoots the creature who staggers and is hit by a truck.
The priest finally couldn’t fix the past, and prays in the hope that he did the right thing. Amy is still on the loose and whoever did this to her, too.
CHAPTER ONE: ALTERNATIVE ENDINGS
One of the biggest draws of “FAITH” is how it rewards increased player curiosity. Each installment can be resolved relatively quickly and satisfactorily, but the more attentive player can explore different routes and endings and find out more about why everything is happening.
The first installment is the shortest in its main plot but the neatest in terms of alternate endings. The ending we have already detailed with Ward shooting Michael is joined by four others with different names.
In “The Assassin,” perhaps the ending that most players encounter before the canonical ending, Ward takes the shotgun and heads into the woods. There he can find Amy completely still and, using the only bullet available in the gun, put her out of her misery. As Ward leaves the area in his car, satisfied with the job, he is stopped by a police car and charged with the murder of Amy Martin. Ward tries to defend himself by explaining the facts but no one believes his story. When the police try to cross-check this information with the Vatican, the Catholic Church disavows Ward and says he has never been ordained a priest.
In the second ending, called “Father and Son,” Ward uses the shotgun to go to the shed he saw earlier and shoot a mysterious gray figure that has been following him. Ward doesn’t know it, but that was a companion of his: Father Garcia, responsible custodian of Michael Davis. Ward gets into the car on his way home only to be assaulted by surprise, in the back seat, by Michael, in a scene that reminds me of “Clock Tower.”
In “The Offering,” the third ending, we use the shotgun to shoot the coyote that appears to have been used for a ritual. When Ward takes the car this time he is stopped by a group of cultists dressed in red. Their importance will not be defined until the next chapter, but we can deduce that they are responsible for Amy’s possession and that nothing good awaits John Ward. A letter from cult leader Gary to young Amy offering her a job in a maternity clinic makes clear the connection between the cult and its victims.
Finally, “The Hunter” is almost a joke ending. If, as was the case in “The Oregon Trail” you use the shotgun to shoot the deer, when Ward leaves the area, a group of deer assaults Ward and beats him to death.
In addition to these endings, there is a hidden secret boss in this first chapter. If, when we take the shotgun, we head towards a mirror and shoot, the mirror will break. We have lost the one bullet but, for some reason, the shotgun reappears again with another bullet. Two more shots and out of the mirror comes a long arm that sucks us into another dimension. There we face the Mirror Demon, who will appear in the next two chapters.
Thanks to this confrontation we receive a note explaining Ward’s absence for a year: after the original failed exorcism on Amy, Ward was placed in psychiatric care, living with the guilt of having failed to save the girl’s soul and, moreover, having to deny the facts to his caretakers. This has taken an enormous emotional toll on the priest who has now decided that Amy’s salvation is the only thing that matters.
CHAPTER TWO: THE SON
The second chapter was released two years later, in February 2019 and is much more extensive, varied and detailed than the original, but also less coherent. We will now see why.
We start this time handling Father Garcia, who we hardly knew anything about in the previous installment. Garcia has been guarding the possessed Michael Davies for the past three months. Knowing that he can’t keep him any longer and must return him to his parents even though he still contains a demon inside him, Garcia tries one last exorcism… only to fail completely and the demon ends up possessing Michael.
The creature escapes, but not before devouring a passing neighbor.
We put ourselves in John Ward’s shoes again, this time he finds himself exploring the Gallup cemetery. There he finds the mausoleum of the Save family, somehow related to Gary and his sect. There he finds three thralls, or members of the sect already dispossessed of humanity and turned into demonic slaves. In the mausoleum, a mirror shows a malevolent reflection of John, holding a key.
John’s objective is to exorcise three demons in the cemetery.
To the right, Ward is ambushed by the Umbilical Cord Demon. He is very fast and flies through the small space we have to maneuver, but with some patience, he falls defeated. The note he leaves behind tells us the story of Sandra, a woman who comes to Gary’s clinic for an abortion and crosses paths with another woman who gives her a mysterious smile. Days later, after the abortion, Sandra encounters the same woman, now noticeably pregnant.
To the left of the cemetery is another ambush. This time by the Fog Demon, who uses the clouds to hide. John must take advantage when he hides in a cloud to try to damage him as much as possible with his silver cross. In the note he leaves behind after the exorcism, we discover the terrible story of a boy who, after losing his grandparents, is manipulated into believing that he will be able to see them again if he follows his stepmother to a basement. Upon reaching the basement, it becomes clear that what awaits there are not his grandparents….
The last demon involves following a specific pattern within the labyrinth of the cemetery. Once the statues’ directions are followed, the Labyrinth Demon (very similar to the Mirror Demon) closes the exits and manifests itself. It is the faster of the two, teleporting close to John, but also falls defeated. The note he leaves behind tells of a man consumed by a childhood with an alcoholic father, drug use and self-harm who apparently went into the woods to make a pact with a demon.
Back in the mausoleum, with the thralls gone, the mirror shows John sticking the key in his eye. When we take control again, the real John Ward finds himself in that situation.
With the key, Ward can access the north of the cemetery. There he finds something camouflaged as a tree. And then, the Snake Meadow Hill Church.
Inside the abandoned church, Ward can walk to a confessional. There he regrets his failure to save Amy’s soul, his break with his church vows and how he let Amy escape a second time. The voice on the other side tells him there is only one way to redeem himself before God: to bring the infant back to him.
After finding a note that speaks of a ghost known as The Lanky Woman, and deducing that the candles in each room indicate the positions of both Ward and the spirit, the priest confronts the creature that has haunted the church. Quick and resilient, the woman is eventually exorcised. Her disappearance opens the passage to the basement of the church.
After finding some notes, Ward discovers Amy’s spirit wandering in the basement. By solving a puzzle with symbols drawn on the floor, the priest can pass to the next room and, from there, return to the outside.
Outside, a note inside a circle where three thralls have been decapitated. The three thralls we saw in the mausoleum were victims of the cult in this very place. The press note connects these events to Amy’s death but… Amy did not die in the canonical ending. It soon becomes clear that the note makes no sense and when Ward stops reading…
…he has become a creature, a kind of monstrous spider. The only way to progress is to move north, under a bridge where a couple is arguing. We can kill the couple but it is optional. Ward the spider continues on his way and regains his form, but now he is at the entrance of the Caramel Tunnels, a haven for drug addicts and where, some time ago, the police had a confrontation with a serial killer.
Inside, we meet the Peekaboo Demon , who, as the graffiti on the walls indicate, won’t attack us if we don’t move.
Ward continues through the sewers to a completely dark room, where he can only illuminate a small cone in front of him. Here he is attacked by the Basement Demon, the toughest of the demons in this chapter. From time to time, John will also be able to see, scurrying in the darkness, Nate and Jason Martin, the twins whose fate we knew nothing about in the first chapter, as well as a third anonymous boy.
Upon defeating him, John notices a thrall behind one of the columns and decides to follow him. Back in the dark, “They hate the light” is written on the ground just before Ward is attacked by three thralls who will retreat a few steps when the flashlight is pointed at them. Keeping them away, Ward can exorcise the portrait of a nun in the room and thus, open the next screen.
Nate and Jason make another appearance, as well as we are officially introduced to the nun: Miriam Bell. Just as it looks like she is about to defeat John, none other than Father Garcia makes an appearance.
Garcia has come to destroy Sister Bell’s demon, but he needs John to protect him while he recites the psalms.
This combat has three phases and the objective is both to defeat the nun and to keep Father Garcia alive. The cross will damage her but we must also direct our symbol at the thralls trying to flank us.
In the second phase, Sister Bell turns off the lights. Father Garcia disappears and the nun can teleport and charge at us from anywhere in the room.
If we survive, the third phase will force Sister Bell to make use of all the tactics of all the demons we have fought before, making her the second most difficult boss in the game.
If we defeat her, Sister Bell transforms into a creature known as The Unnamable and… John Ward wakes up in his bed.
This twist where the second act becomes a prolonged vision rather than a reality, I’ll admit, I don’t quite like it. I have no problem with the use of dreams and visions, or unreliable narrators, as my review of “Disco Elysium” gives good evidence, but while the emotional truths and supernatural clues are helpful, the sense that we have not participated in the action alongside Father Ward remains. However, the thematic relationship to that lack of conviction in the events that have transpired is a point in its favor, and, as we learn later, this dream predicts the character’s actions and informs him about them. It is a small glimpse into his psyche of guilt while also to include real new information about the cult.
CHAPTER TWO: ALTERNATIVE ENDINGS
Only three alternative endings this time, but quite long and complex.
The first one is called “Moving Forward in Faith.” If we have defeated Sister Bell and kept Father Garcia alive, John receives a letter from the other priest telling him about something called the Unholy Sabbath, which will take place on Halloween 1987. Garcia believes that if the cult finds Nate and Jason before they do, they will use them as sacrifices to summon the demon Malphas. John Ward gets in the car ready to take on this new mission, knowing that there is nothing he can do for Amy anymore… but he may be able to save his brothers. This is the canonical ending.
The second ending, “Road to Redemption,” implies that we have let Father Garcia die during the dream. This time, in his letter, Garcia details the events of the dream as if he knows them firsthand and warns Ward that he is being watched. Not knowing what to do, John takes his car and wonders if saving the twins might end his nightmares. A thrall follows in another car….
The third ending is entitled “Initiation” and is the most complex of all. First, after receiving the key in the cemetery, you must create a pentagram by moving between five rocks. The demon Pentarox appears and John exorcises him. We continue the game in the Church until we defeat the Lanky Woman. Remembering the confessional where we were asked to bring the infant, we can return to the cornfield and look for the anonymous child that appears randomly. The child will follow us to the confessional where a hand will take him to another dimension, and then the same with us. Inside, we will repeat a fight against the Mirror Demon, which this time will become invisible to complicate things even more.
Now it only remains to kill the couple on the bridge when we become a spider. We continue with the usual route until we wake up from the dream. This time, there is no letter from Father Garcia, but outside, the cultists are waiting for us. The Unspeakable makes an appearance to anoint us in the new faith. John Ward has lost his soul.
CHAPTER TWO: PROLOGUE
Although we have seen the canonical story of chapter two, the truth is that there is another version of this chapter that is known as the prologue. This one functions as a different nightmare of John’s that occurs between the events of the first and second chapter.
After getting into a car accident on the highway, John sees another wrecked vehicle to his right, driven by a thrall. When John returns to his car, he finds it on fire and the occupant of the other vehicle appears to have left the car to walk through a nearby corn field.
There is a scarecrow there that we can exorcise, but further north we have a more dangerous encounter: the Corn Demon. He moves much faster than Ward and dodging him is very difficult. We must defeat him three times to be sure we are done with him.
Further north, a dead dog. Praying for the poor mutt we get a note describing how in the 1950s, the Corn Demon manifested in that field and killed the dog. The graves of six orphans reveal that the dog was not the last victim.
Again, we find ourselves in front of the Snake Meadow Hill Church. There we discover that Sister Bell was in charge of running the church and caring for the orphans.
On the left, a chalice awaits us. But inside is waiting for us the Chalice Demon, which has a similar movement pattern to Amy, making it easy to defeat. Behind itself, another note talking about Sister Bell’s strange behavior with orphans.
A portrait of the Virgin Mary needs to be exorcised. Leaving this room, a thrall tries to attack John. Same on the right with a skull near the confessional.
Another note details how a detective took over the investigation of the disappearance of a woman, an old nun and four of the orphans. Father Clarke, in charge of the church, would have looked to Miriam Bell as the person responsible.
Four thralls wait in front of the altar, but are undeterred. Ward exorcises one of the stained glass windows, which shows a ritual of the Second Death, and the cultists begin to wriggle. John must descend into the basement before he is attacked by the thralls he has just awakened.
John takes a flashlight and finds himself facing the Basement Demon. The fight is not unlike that of the canonical Chapter Two. As he dies, a note details a ritual we can perform.
Two endings await us.
The canonical ending involves ascending back to the altar and finding the thralls facing Nate and Jason Martin. As John approaches, Sister Bell appears…
The second ending involves executing the ritual from the previous note. To do this, we must again exorcise the scarecrow, return to our car and let the fire reach us and run towards the scarecrow to burn it. Nine children appear among the corn. John turns into the spider and walks to meet Sister Bell. And that’s it.
CHAPTER THREE: THE HOLY SPIRIT
Already with the popularity through streamers of the previous chapters, New Blood Interactive proposed to Airdorf to release the last chapter in a pack with the two previous ones, as a single experience: “The Unholy Trinity”. This finally happened on October 21, 2022, a particularly significant date for fans of the game. It was time to put an end to it.
The story begins on October 21, 1986, Amy’s first exorcism. Father Allred is teaching young Ward his first exorcism and asks him to remain calm and do exactly as he tells him. Allred and Ward arrive at the Martin house and together they descend into the basement, where Amy… is waiting for them.
John wakes up. Another nightmare. There are only three days left until the Unholy Sabbath. In John’s apartment we can see a locked room full of crucifixes that he refuses to enter, but it won’t make sense until later.
While Father Garcia searches the adoption system for information on Nate and Jason Martin, John is tasked with investigating the clinic where Amy used to work.
The clinic is in a very abandoned part of town. A policeman at the door watches that no one enters, but John sneaks in through a window from one of the alleys.
Inside, it is clear that it is an abandoned maternity clinic. The clinic would have been controlled by the cult to get babies to sacrifice in the ritual of the Second Death and among them was a woman named Tiffany. John finds a lever that will allow him to remove the planks blocking the doors, but as he heads for them, a creature appears and drags him down the hallway.
Tied to a stretcher, John has to flee as soon as possible. He ducks a couple of times and tries to reach the ladder, from which the policeman at the door descends, wondering what is going on here. The policeman frees us but when they head for the door, they are attacked again by the creature. Finally, the policeman manages to shoot it down.
Outside, the thralls have set fire to the police car. The officer chases them and ends up dead in an alley.
Now we can either leave the area, without having discovered anything substantial, or re-enter the hospital to find a secret. If we reposition ourselves on the stretcher and wait, a door will open. A body on which the Second Death has been practiced rises and pushes us down the stairs.
Following the cries of a baby down a hallway we come to a room where a woman is holding a baby. John asks about Nate and Jason and the woman replies that they now belong to Gary, who, of course, is a completely normal human being.
The woman summons a group of zombie babies that John has to aggressively fend off. In the end, good triumphs once again, but the only thing we take away from the experience is the knowledge that Gary has the children. Somewhere, however, a mysterious sign loses its power….
We return to the night of Amy’s first exorcism. Father Allred asks Ward to take the girl’s parents upstairs to prevent them from seeing the worst of the exorcism.
When we return to the basement, Father Allred lies dead and with his blood has written to take the crucifix and save her.
We return to the present, two days before the Unholy Sabbath. John receives a letter from Lisa, whom we have not met until now. Something strange is happening in her apartment block and she asks us to come to her aid. If she doesn’t respond, we can find the key to her apartment at the home of her neighbor, Tiffany What does that name sound like?
Arriving at the apartment block it is clear that something is wrong. A letter from Lisa says that everything is fine and John shouldn’t have come, but clearly it has been written by someone else. Lisa lives in 5thA and Tiffany lives in 3rdB.
We can use the elevator or take the stairs. On the second floor we find an open apartment with a ceremonial dagger on a pedestal and a note from Tiffany describing the ritual of the Second Death and how she plans to impersonate Amy in Gary’s eyes.
In 3B, Tiffany’s apartment, we find the golden key to Lisa’s apartment. In front of the apartment, an inverted cross. Inside, all smashed, a symbol on a door and an arrow indicating another way. A drawing on the wall shows the dagger and a mask. In addition to a silver key, in the bathroom we find a note indicating the use of the dagger and mask to summon the demon Alu.
On the sixth floor we find a terrifying children’s drawing of the Elevator Demon, drawn by some neighbors’ child, Timmy.
There is no seventh floor. We can’t reach it neither by stairs nor by the elevator, but if we insist with the button, the Elevator Demon will appear and follow us in several screens, so we will have to chase it away with the power of Christ.
On the tenth floor we use the silver key to access a freight elevator. John Ward abandons here his bronze cross to make it descend. Without his main element of protection, John must reach the basement.
Without the crucifix, John finds a chamber that will serve to illuminate, if only momentarily, the path of descent. There he retrieves the crucifix, now restored to its golden splendor, but also finds the mask (or perhaps a severed human face) in the adjoining room. It seems that Tiffany was a follower of Gary and his cult who felt jealous of Amy and decided to perform the ritual of the Second Death on herself, summoning a new demon: Alu. Before leaving the basement, the Demon of the Hiding Place reappears, although it can now become invisible and we must look at the candles to detect its position.
When John leaves the basement he comes face to face with Malphas, the demon Gary was trying to summon. Malphus temporarily transforms John into a monster, but he soon feels better. A new note makes it clear that Gary is the owner and landlord of the building.
With Alu’s ritual finished, we can open Lisa’s room. Except… it’s not really Lisa, or is it: she’s just possessed. We can let the demon possess us, lose control and kill Lisa, but that blocks one of the alternate endings. We must discover where the demon hides every time it leaves Lisa’s body and prevent it from touching us.
With Lisa safe, she tells us that the owner of the building is Gary Miller.
If we now take the tenth floor, the Elevator Demon and little Timmy will lead us to a vision of Tiffany, naked and headless. Tiffany is an incredibly fast boss. Also, when we’re done with her, she’ll pretend to be dead to attack us from behind. A letter from Gary himself congratulating us for getting rid of the blasphemous Tiffany for him is our only reward.
Without much more to do, a second barrier of the magic symbol disappears.
We return to the flashback of Amy’s first exorcism. John goes up to the attic to confront the girl, who knows her dead mother’s name. John lifts his cross and… wakes up again. There is only one day left until the Unholy Sabbath.
John receives another letter from Garcia, telling him about the strange behavior of a group of children at a local daycare center. By the time he gets there, the daycare is under siege by the police. Just as at the clinic, John sneaks inside the building.
Using the children’s drawings as clues, John manages to get into the daycare’s basement — Garyland. A hell on earth. There John learns that acolytes become unwilling thralls in this place.
A puzzle with chairs that seems necessary to move forward turns out to be a trap set by Gary himself, who inoculates John Ward with a substance to make him more susceptible to his commands. Images of desperation, inspired by Sting’s song “King of Pain,” show John’s mental state.
In the effects of the drug, John appears to have killed a group of thralls. A statue of Moloch asks us for three keys: two for his hands and one for his navel.
A floating head begins to chase the priest. If it reaches him, we will see a flashback of his stay in the psychiatric center, being chased by the same spirit. If we move from one screen to another, it will be easy to exorcise him. With him, the last barrier of the magic seal falls completely.
After playing hide-and-seek or blind man’s buff with a group of thralls and getting a key, we can defeat the Mirror Demon a third time to get the second one. The last key is more unprotected.
With Moloch open, we descend into his stomach. We go through narrow corridors until we get a lantern. In full darkness, we try to kill more creatures that are opening a new seal. We can also find here Gary’s cabin, with a letter that confirms that this game and “Dusk” take place in the same reality.
When John descends once again he finds himself in front of… Nate and Jason Martin. Or so the priest thinks. Gary is also with him.
We return to the night of Amy’s first exorcism, where, with all her faith lost, a silhouette of light makes an appearance. John asks this divine-looking figure to allow him to live and the strange presence makes him promise that, in return, Amy will follow her destiny and suffer in his place. John leaves the house and is arrested by the police and committed to the mental institution, where he spends the next year feeling guilty for having condemned Amy… until the events of the first chapter begin.
The conversation with Gary in the present doesn’t add much. Yes, Gary confirms that he is the leader of a cult trying to attract the Antichrist, kidnapping babies to insert them into the holes he carves in the faces of the chosen ones so that, from the other side, a demon will appear. Just as he was born years ago thanks to a ritual of Sister Miriam Bell. As for Nate and Jason… they have never existed and were a figment of Cindy Martin’s imagination after suffering a miscarriage. The cult has only been using these illusions to lead John here guided by his guilt and his need to redeem himself.
It’s time for the showdown with Gary. He’s a terrible foe with the full repertoire of attacks we’ve previously suffered and some new ones like the deadly but hilarious “Spider Rain”. To our credit, if Gary hurts us, we won’t die instantly as against other bosses, but will have some time to hold onto our cross and regain our composure.
At the last moment, Gary will lose his head to a shotgun blast from… Father Garcia!
But this is not the end of Gary. He has taken refuge in the crucible of the Unholy Trinity to be reborn and it is our duty to jump into the abyss one last time to stop this madness once and for all.
There we find Gary in his true form, with Miriam Bell’s body and awaiting the arrival of Malphas. Fast, taking up a lot of screen and projecting magic seals that hold us back, this fight gets complicated when Malphas makes an appearance to fire projectiles or the lights go out for a while.
It looks like we’re finally done with them… but of course we’re not. One last bullet hell against the hardest boss in the game. When we hold out long enough to weaken the trinity and have Malphas and Gary separate from Sister Bell, we must run to a cauldron, set ourselves on fire, and use it to burn the nun’s body.
Amy appears in a shower of blood, sends Gary back to hell and recovers her face in an instant to, at last, forgive John. Or rather: let him forgive himself.
Outside, the cultists and policemen lie dead after the battle. Garcia asks us if we will continue to fight alongside him, but Lisa makes an appearance to ask us to finally take a break from our divine mission. Neither is a bad ending, but this may not be John’s last adventure.
CHAPTER THREE: ALTERNATIVE ENDINGS
Two other endings await us to complete this story.
In “A New Purpose” we would not have completed the optional bosses in the clinic, the apartments and the spirit of Garyland, so the crucible would be closed and John would not be able to sacrifice himself. The only option is to close the crucible so that no one can leave either.
If we have not saved Lisa, Garcia, instead of asking us to please accompany him, will point the gun and force us to continue fighting the demons wherever they are.
If instead of having investigated the clinic, the apartments and the nursery we have decided to return home without getting involved, we unlock the ending “A New Vessel”.
The Thralls will invade John Ward’s house on the last day. They will murder the neighbors, set fire to his car and we will finally discover who is in the locked room of his apartment: Amy. At some point, John found her and locked her up until he knew what to do with her.
Amy devours John through her hole and transports him to the Martin’s house, completely in ruins. There the priest finds a note that clarifies that the twins Nate and Jason were never real. Imprisoned by Amy and Michael Davies, John’s existence is finally erased from reality.
What was it about “The Exorcist” that worked? The same thing that had struck William Peter Batty about the original story: specificity. The fact that this obscure Catholic ritual was something that even church members themselves looked askance at.
Here enter factors such as the enormous weight of fear and guilt as part of Catholic doctrine, which, in a more or less direct way, coincides with its rise as an institution.
It is the institutions, in fact, that make this game so terrifying. Before our eyes we see how, literally and figuratively, they fall apart: the church, the hospital, the kindergarten, the ineffectiveness of the police or the community of neighbors under an evil landlord. The brutality with which normality intersects with the most gruesome violence makes the hair stand on end.
We can think of the collaborative fiction “SCP Foundation” that has given us a good handful of games but also numerous great horror short stories, all of them under the premise that we are reading just one page of a file of a secret institution, with all the categories and formats of a standardized work. That contrast, between office life and the scares they deal with, generates enormous tension.
But the most outstanding aspect of the trilogy is its aesthetics. The low fidelity that refers to Apple II or Commodore 64 combines the idea of the machine as a catalyst of spirits. The machine as an objective reader of a supernatural real to which our senses alone have no access, technology twisting to adapt to this new signal that takes its best form in text-to-speech. A machine trying to sound like a human throat is immediately unnatural to us. Sounds that can only be produced by something alien to nature.
When Michael Davies says “I have the body of a pig” he is quoting a famous viral pyschophony. It is not the only element of this kind: part of the sounds are filtered and edited versions of real exocyst audio, just as the baby’s cries correspond to Airdorf’s own daughter.
The context of the story, though never explicit, has to do with that phenomenon of mass hysteria called the “satanic panic” that led to the actual belief in satanic cults that organized ritual murders in the United States. Gary himself is inspired both by the Founder of the Church of Satan Anton LaVey, as well as by usual suspects in this kind of archetype, such as Charlie Manson or Aleister Crowley.
n fact, Airdorf not only did a great job of documenting and incorporating elements close to home, but he seemed best suited for it: he served for a time as a missionary, and one of the game’s most ominous notes is, word for word, a letter he himself received relating to Santeria practices. Only a man who truly believes in Satan can believe in God.
These notes function as the main source of information for the player who wants to absorb the game’s mythology, which is ideal in this day and age of horror. They are less intrusive than, for example, audiologs in other games. But the important thing is that they are usually not very extensive and are quite direct and informative, almost always containing clues, which prevents us from soon discarding them as something totally optional and deciding to pay attention to what they can tell us.
The rotoscoping is another great success to balance between hyper-realistic images that are assaulted by impossible shapes and grotesque designs, sometimes with comic effects but, in general, always generating a lot of uneasiness every time a cinematic starts.
This brittle aesthetic is not unique to “Faith”, a very clear example is the lesser known “The Horror Of Salazar House”, half graphic adventure, half dungeon crawler and inspired by Virtua Boy.
With all these elements that blur the boundary between the work and reality, it is not surprising that it falls slightly into very subtle fourth wall breaks. Among the inspirations for the boss fights, which show their most excessive and aberrant faces, are both the ending of “Earthbound” and its similarity to “Undertale”.
But why is it so effective? Perhaps because they don’t care about the monsters, whether you believe in them or not. John Ward’s prison is one in which he has voluntarily put himself, a sense of guilt and responsibility, of wanting to make amends for a grave mistake of the past. His cowardice, his weakness, allowed him to give in to demonic forces and condemn an innocent woman and he could never forgive himself for it unless he dares to offer himself as a sacrifice. It is there, in this perpetual search for redemption, where John Ward conveys his fear: the fear of losing faith. Of being an empty shell. Of not wanting to continue.
Airdorf has promised that not only will we have a “Chapter 4” of the saga, but he has also been working on a spin-off about Father Garcia. With this trilogy he has demonstrated a great narrative mastery, an enormous capacity to synthesize horror elements and let the player’s imagination run wild. It is worth thinking that, in the future, we will see more and better stories of this kind that do not have much to envy to the big names in horror games.
But until then, let’s have faith.
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