For souls that are slightly less dark…
Lords of the Fallen, from City Interactive and Deck 13, sets itself quite obviously as a clone of the Dark Souls games, an unforgiving action RPG that is aimed at the hardcore gamer. However, despite the quite blatant imitation, Lords of the Fallen doesn’t quite manage to match up with the From Software title. Whilst veteran Souls players will find this a disappointment in some aspects, for newcomers to the genre, this could be a blessing in disguise…
Taking on the role of Harkyn, players are given a few choices when they first begin, choosing a class from the three available and a magic type. The magic types lend themselves to the three classes to create an attack build, a defence build or a stealth build. This is the limitation of customisation for the moment, although players will be able to mix up their weapons and armour as they play to further tweak their character, limited only by the weight of what they carry.
The player is then dropped into a high fantasy world filled with dark forces that have to be vanquished. There is a story here, and a back story for the stone-faced Harkyn, but neither of them seem to be at the front of the developers minds and information is drip-fed in a manner that is largely forgettable. Just think dark and foreboding environments filled with particularly evil-looking enemies and the occasional brutal boss, and you really don’t need a story to know what to do.
First going into the game, it is easy to imagine that this will be a fast moving action RPG with plenty of button mashing. Sure, Harkyn doesn’t move that quickly, but slapping the light and heavy attack button repeatedly takes care of the shadowy creatures that threaten you. An energy gauge limits the amount of button slapping that the player can unleash all at once, which on hindsight could have been a clue to what was actually expected of me, but it was easy to ignore. Holding the heavy attack button unleashes a more powerful attack, but takes more time, so it seemed that some relaxing button mashing was the order of the day. However, then I came up against the first boss…
And died quite quickly, leaving my corpse and all of his gathered experience in a ghostly pile on the floor. Thankfully, players get to keep all of their equipment when they die, and can pick up their lost experience when they get back to their corpse. But that doesn’t take care of this boss. After a few more rather pathetic deaths, I realised it was time to put on my “Dark Souls” hat.
Slow and considered combat is the rule in Lords of the Fallen, not button mashing. Dodge, block, keep out of the bosses reach until the opportunity arises to safely deal damage and then go back on the defensive. Combat in Lords of the Fallen is not as smooth as Dark Souls, but it shares the same thought process, demanding that the player takes care and watches the enemy for the advantage. This first boss battle seemed to last an age, and was by no means easy. But victory was glorious and felt deserved.
Victory also gave rise to my first checkpoint, which gave me a very interesting decision. At these regular points in the game, the player is able to use their collected experience points to improve attributes or spells, or they can just keep hold of them for a while longer. Players run the very real risk of losing their experience points when they die, so the safe player will use them just in case. However, a braver player will keep hold of the experience, betting their progression on their skill in the game, and enjoy a multiplier to increase their experience. It is a nice mechanic that plays into the hands of both the veteran Dark Souls player and the newcomer.
As the game progresses, and the player has taken into account that careful gameplay is what will be needed, things do get easier. Lords of the Fallen is by no means a walk in the park, but the difficulty level is noticeably lower than Dark Souls, which may lead to disappointment from the veterans, but will be a bonus for the newcomers. The magical powers go a long way towards making Lords of the Fallen an easier undertaking, as do some impressive weapons that the player will gather as they go along.
There are plenty of hidden areas to find as you progress, but the gameplay is fairly linear for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to look at as, despite spending lengthy times in corridors, there are some really impressive visuals to enjoy. The setting may be generic, but City Interactive have done a great job of bringing dark fantasy to the new-gen consoles in Lords of the Fallen. The game may be a less well polished clone, but it really does look like it belongs on the current consoles.
Compared to the Souls games, Lords of the Fallen will always come across as the slightly less capable relative. However, without that comparison, the game is a good looking and accessible action RPG that requires a thoughtful approach. Lords of the Fallen is certainly worth checking out if you fancy a bit of a challenge.