Lords of the Fallen
Genre: Action RPG
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developers: Deck13 Interactive, CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Lords of the Fallen finds itself in a difficult spot amidst the releases for major franchises. It has to be appealing enough that a cash-strapped gamer will eschew a sequel to something they know and love for something unknown. Much like the game itself, it’s not a forgiving environment. In the end it all comes down to comparisons and this one is a bit of a doozy.
Dark Souls. That’s the first thing everyone is mentioning when it comes to Lords of the Fallen. It’s not possible to get through a review of this game without mentioning the elephant in the room that is the apparent homage to the series, particularly when it comes to difficulty. The first time I died, I got a trophy for it. It seems like a pretty weird reward system to get a trophy for failing, almost like it’s laughing at you. The challenge is there but it’s not impossible, though. While I did die more often than I’d like, it usually happened because I got careless. This is obviously in contrast to Dark Souls, where you can die over and over again despite trying with all your might.
You play as Harkyn, a man whose personality is the polar opposite of his tattooed face – bland. He is released from prison to fight an army of demon gods invading the human realm. Travelling through the world with your mentor Kaslo, you encounter stronger and stronger beasts, taking them down as part of your redemption. What else is there to say? Umm… sometimes you find cool armour and weapons in weird places.
It’s… not great, story-wise. There’s a fine line between not letting the narrative get in the way of gameplay and whittling it down to the point where you lose motivation. A big scary monster attacking you is a reason to fight but I had no difficulty putting the controller down and forgetting all about it. It’s much better to feel like there’s a reason to fight apart from some bland overarching plot about good versus evil. The bosses are suitably intimidating in appearance, however, and they do have vastly different attack styles, which is a plus.
The character setup is relatively simple, suitable for a game focusing on action. You choose your magic type from brawling, solace, and deception. Then you choose your starting stats by selecting warrior, cleric, or rogue. These are obviously matching sets but you don’t have to play them as such if you don’t want to. It’s all fairly standard stuff. Playing as a warrior means that you’ll cut down lower level enemies more easily but the boss fights require more thought because you can’t dodge as quickly and blocking isn’t very effective against large amounts of damage. Playing as a rogue means you’ll have to engage each enemy carefully (ideally from behind), spending a lot of fights rolling around on the floor to avoid blows but you’re a lot more nimble to avoid the blows of bosses. The cleric offers something of a middle ground. Of course, this is all based on my play style and others might see a clear winner here.
I don’t like to do things in half measures and decided to play with deception magic and rogue stats, with light armour. This requires something of a measured or stealthy approach to combat to avoid getting flattened. While I didn’t expect the stealth to be perfect, it did feel a little lazy at times. Approaching with stealth is just walking slowly – no crouching in the shadows, hugging the walls or surprising an enemy from above. It was still the most suitable class for me but Harkyn’s lumbering form hardly lends itself to it. Plus with some of the creatures it’s kind of hard to tell whether they have their back to you.
The exterior world is impressive, with crumbling stonework and overgrowing gardens set against an ever-changing sky. It’s such a pity that you spend so much time inside dungeons running down narrow corridors. It looks all the more silly when you are trying to dodge attacks, rolling around on the limited floor space. Returning once again to Dark Souls comparisons, the atmosphere isn’t as foreboding. There might be an ambush around the corner but it isn’t scary. It’s just an annoyance.
The XP system is certainly the most interesting feature boasted by Lords of the Fallen. When you die, your XP remains at the place you fell in the form of a ghost waiting to be reclaimed for a short time. To avoid losing XP if you aren’t confident you could make it back in time, you’re able to bank it at certain points. Of course, that wouldn’t provide much incentive to take risks on its own but you can ignore banking it for a while to gain a better XP multiplier. You have to weigh up the risk with the reward and decide for yourself. This banked XP can then be used to build Harkyn’s skills. It’s easily the best idea in the game.
I’m not saying there isn’t an audience for Lords of the Fallen; it’s just hard to imagine it appealing to everyone. People who relished the challenge of Dark Souls will probably find it too easy, whereas people who disliked it will probably still be annoyed by it. It seeks to find that middle ground and I wish it the best. I’ll just be over here waiting for something a little bit more immersive.
- Visually appealing exterior world
- Risk-based rewards system
- Good combination of melee and magic
- Controls not quite responsive enough
- Minimal and boring story
- Too much time spent in tiny corridors