Update: In our hands-on impressions of Bleak Faith: Forsaken (opens in new tab), complete with bug videos galore, writer Lincoln Carpenter calls it "a cautionary tale written in jank."
The makers of the indie soulslike Bleak Faith: Forsaken have removed assets that were allegedly lifted from FromSoftware games (opens in new tab). Archangel Games says Epic Games has now removed the third-party listings from the Unreal Engine marketplace, but it still hasn't told the studio whether or not they were actually stolen.
The similarities were noticed almost immediately after Bleak Faith: Forsaken launched on March 10, and they weren't just kind of alike, they were virtually direct copies. For instance, below is a comparison of the claymore in Bleak Faith and the straight sword in Elden Ring. The positioning and timing is just about dead-on.
Archangel Studios denied the accusations of theft, saying the assets in question were purchased fair and square from the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Later, one of the developers added that the team had submitted a ticket about the issue to Epic's customer service.
"We decided to be preemptive as a sign of good faith and a generally very pleased customer at the Epic Marketplace," developer ubermensch42 said on Archangel's Discord. "We'll let you know what they say about it and will respond accordingly."
Today Archangel announced that it received a reply from Epic, but it wasn't terribly informative:
"Pursuant to the Marketplace Distribution Agreement, each Marketplace seller represents and warrants to Epic that they have appropriate rights to upload their content. As with any store that hosts third-party content, however, Epic is not in a position to independently verify such rights, and Epic makes no such guarantee to purchasers of the content."
In other words, Epic either doesn't know or can't say whether the content being sold through the Unreal Engine Marketplace is legal or not: It's entirely dependent upon the seller to be honest about having the rights to legally sell what they offer. At the same time, though, the assets in this case have been removed from the marketplace (opens in new tab), which is what ultimately prompted Archangel to remove them from Bleak Faith: Forsaken.
"[Epic's response] is not satisfactory for us and so we have taken the decision to replace the assets purchased from the store over the next several days," the studio said. "Some changes we included in the recent patches, and more are coming in the next few days. Certainly this has been a huge lesson for us and hopefully other indie creators out there too that assets on these storefronts seemingly cannot be purchased in good faith."
Archangel said in a statement sent to PC Gamer that it removed the questionable assets "out of respect for the original animation artists and the players." Replacing them is currently "an ongoing process," which will also include frequent patches to address buys, balance issues, and feedback from players.
It's an unfortunate situation, but it does appear to fit with Epic's marketplace distribution agreement (opens in new tab), which puts the onus of warranty on the seller and specifically disavows any sort of guarantee on the part of Epic. That seems like a fairly conventional disclaimer to me, but it's a bit odd that Epic would pull the Marketplace seller's content without explanation, especially if the material was found to be in violation of FromSoftware's copyright. Given the sudden removal of the content, it seems like a good bet that it was.
"The team sincerely thanks everyone for bringing the issue to light," Archangel said. "The utilization of stolen assets is unacceptable, and we hope other indie creators won’t ever find themselves caught up in a similar situation. Asset marketplaces are a critical resource for development teams, particularly those on a minimal budget. We hope the proper vetting and review protocols are put into place soon to provide verified assets for creators of all shapes and sizes to use on their upcoming projects."
In response to our inquiry, Epic declined to comment further.