I’m a sucker for nifty main menu gimmicks, especially one where you transition right into a cutscene that doesn’t load (looking at you, Spec Ops: the Line). Demo of the upcoming retro FPS, Cowan (opens in new tab), kill it by overlaying the main menu over a scene with a group of medieval peasants staring at you. When starting a new game, a priest steps up to light your pyre and sentence you to a horrific death. The first level then begins with you digging out your own grave for revenge.
Coven (first discovered Alpha Beta players (opens in new tab)) does make me feel a little bit unnerved at times for its extremely grim content, but the lo-fi retro graphics (strongly reminiscent of New Blood’s twilight) help maintain some welcome psychological distance there, with its fast-paced The FPS combat is so fun to be scared for a long time.
Coven’s weapon selection is solid, with several standard FPS offerings featured by two stars. “Axe Pistol” lives up to their bad reputation to me.They’re not mechanically much different from other FPS pea shooters, but the sound of their counter attack is so Weak, it just stings my buzz.Ditto for standard shotguns, though Boomer shooters Specified The Super Shotgun is definitely fun enough that I can use it regularly.
The default melee weapon, an axe and shield combo, is where the party is. It works like a broadsword weapon in Dusk, killing most enemies with a short charge on Normal difficulty. Add in the blocking feature and you get this fun little dance of weaving in and out of hordes of enemies, insta gibbing them one at a time (and insta gibbing never stops being very satisfying).
Coven’s crossbow has the same morbidity, although you don’t get it until later in the demo. It’s a one-hit kill with a headshot, and the bolt completely decapitates enemies, pinning their heads to the next wall. It’s an absolutely crude effect, similar to axe fighting that never goes out of style. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t bring up my favorite little detail in the game: its flashlight. In Coven, you get a little lantern clipped to your hand, like the one in Bloodborne, or, I guess, real history. It brazenly hangs in the upper left corner of your screen, squeezing around with your movements, and I really, really like it.
You can also eat enemy corpses to restore health, a brutal squad, an equally disgusting but hilarious hp regeneration mechanic in Coven. Developer Gator Shins is also working on magic spells to round out your arsenal and really sell “witch” stuff, but the only one available right now is a “witch vision” for solving some light-hearted puzzles.
The demo’s levels are very different from each other, the first being a frolic in a medieval village in the fall, in stark contrast to the second, where you go deep underground into some pagan catacombs. They’re both solid, well-designed shooter levels rich in secrets and backtracking, though the first in the village is definitely my favorite.
Coven’s demo is well worth checking out and you can wishlist it steam (opens in new tab) Its planned 2023 early access release is expected. Realms Deep 2022 is a hodgepodge of real killer shooter demos (my favorite is still Fortune’s Run (opens in new tab)), and the Coven Demo is the perfect gadget to get you into the Halloween spirit.
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