The FPS game Coven starts with an old man walking towards you with a torch. You watch on as a mob sets you ablaze, and your shrieks pierce the night. The villagers fold their hands and bow, happy that their witch hunt has come to an end. Falsely accused, I did what any protagonist would do. I left death’s embrace and found myself in a cavern littered with corpses. As I walked over to a dead man, a teeth symbol appeared over his pixelated corpse. My curiosity took over, and one button press later, I had opened myself to a rather controversial diet.
You see, eating corpses in Coven restores your health. While I first found the thought revolting, I slowly began to see bystanders as health boxes. But the game also asks you to respect your meals. Coven was generous with its ammo drops, so I was terrorizing the countryside with a shotgun before realizing that my food was being blown to bits. As you can tell, this wasn’t good news for the balanced diet of an undead witch. Being unable to recover meant that I had to be more careful with my prey during the next encounter.
Coven’s pixelated look pairs rather well with its gloomy atmosphere. It also minimizes the self-induced trauma of drive-through cannibalism. There were times when I’d hear a man scream, only to turn around and receive an axe to the face. Slowing down time became rather handy in emergencies like these, letting me shoot the axe away before charging towards my next meal. The game’s assortment of weapons lets you damage enemies in different ways.
Clearly inspired by the frantic combat of retro shooters like Doom and Hexen, Coven proudly wears its FPS inspirations as it builds on its homages. While you can let an axe do the chopping, dual pistols and shotguns become a necessity against armored foes. And while you do find a shield early on, it gets riddled with bullet holes in minutes.
Don’t let the haunted village aesthetic trick you. Your foes have access to guns, and some knights even have divine spells in their back pockets. Some of these fights were near-impossible without the witch’s newfound ability to slow time. While my health would drop down to concerning levels, it’s nice that Coven ends every battle with a hearty meal.
To preserve the integrity of my meals, I ended up switching to the trusty axe against weaker foes. But that was when Coven revealed its best weapon: a forbidden spell book. It granted me a form of evil vision that uncovered hidden paths and bathed everything in bright red. The book also had a few neat spells, some of which were locked away.
One spell let me fashion a whip out of said red energy, letting me suspend a victim mid-air as their last breath left them. The haunting animation wasn’t even the best part. The undamaged body served up a solid amount of health as I hadn’t peppered my meal with bullets. I decided to save the meal for later and left them on their cursed meat hook. Coven’s grim setting and distinguished method of health delivery set it apart from the other retro-inspired shooters of 2023.
Coven’s first episode resurrects you and demands revenge. Scattered across the world are crude notes that flesh out (I’m sorry) the witch’s real threat: a questionable holy man. While the developers at Gator Shins have promised multiple episodes across time periods, I only got to try out the first two segments (of six) of the first episode. So, this FPS Coven succeeded in transporting me to a medieval village and left me with an unnatural craving for more.