Lords of the Fallen was almost one of those games that slipped through the cracks for me. I remember seeing some early gameplay footage and thinking that it looked a bit like the Souls series, which I love. After that initial video, I stopped paying attention until I recently overheard someone describing it as exactly that – a game very similar to Dark Souls. I decided to pick it up and give it a crack. Once I started, I couldn’t put the controller down until I’d finished it!
If, like me, you paid little attention to Lords of the Fallen, it’s an action RPG with a combat system similar to a Souls series game. It places you in the shoes of Harkyn, a recently released criminal tasked with taking out all of the Lords of the invading Rhogar army. The leaders in the nameless world of Lords of the Fallen have banished the old gods from their land and are working toward removing all evil when the Rhogar attack, led by several powerful Lords. As you can imagine, the Lords are the foundation of the boss battles in Lords of the Fallen – each Lord is very unique, with their own attack patterns and abilities, and this ties in really well with the game’s combat system.
If you’ve ever played Dark Souls, you’ll know how difficult combat is. More than that, you’ll also understand how satisfying it is to figure out how to defeat a new enemy. If you haven’t played Dark Souls, it’s safe to say that not like other action RPG (such as Skyrim), where simply holding up a shield can block all incoming damage. Here, every time your shield gets hit, it drains stamina, which is required to attack as well as defend, so you need to find that sweet balance between offence and defence. The game does, however, ease you into this system, and it takes a whole 5-10 minutes before you’re thrust into your first boss fight. The shameless ‘borrowing’ from the Souls series is even more apparent upon your death. In Lords of the Fallen, when you die you drop your experience (as you do in Dark Souls), only here your experience slowly decreases the longer you take to return to your ghost.
How much you learn about what’s going on storywise is sort of in your hands. The main plot points are dispersed through dialogue with characters you meet along your journey. If you just did this, you would barely know what you are doing and why. The rest of the story (including some amount of lore) is delivered through notes that are scattered throughout each area. These notes give you a good insight into the people that have died during the invasion or the grumblings of the troops who are still fighting the good fight. It’s not a totally new way of delivering content, but the way it’s employed here encourages exploration, which can lead to some totally off-the-beaten-track areas.
Story notes aside, you will want to explore every nook and cranny in Lords of the Fallen. The level design is very well thought out, with long side paths that often lead to good loot, or to locked areas and side quests that can be completed for additional rewards. One thing that irritated me was that even though there’s not a large amount of side quests, there is no way to track them. You have to remember who gave you what task and where the quest giver is. The only indication you have is a distinct sound that will play when you’ve completed a task – it’s just up to you to remember which one it was.
The game itself looks pretty stunning. There’s a good range of distinct armour sets, all of which are nicely detailed and animated. Each new area is well detailed and tells a story in itself – from the besieged cathedral, where the last of the soldiers are holding out against the invasion, to the harsh and barren Rhogar lands, where no human has set foot for many ages. There’s also a wide variety of weapons to choose from, depending on your play style – slow and highly damaging great swords to swift and deadly staff. However, there are a few points during the game where it feels like certain enemies aren’t balanced well for players like myself who choose the big, slow weapons. There were several times, mostly during boss fights, where there just wasn’t enough opportunity during the enemy’s attack to get your own attack in, and this felt like a bit of a shortcoming in a game with a pretty well-polished combat system. I also felt that there was one particular move in the arsenal that felt really cheap (so I abused the hell out of it) – the shield charge. There aren’t many enemies that can’t be staggered with a shield charge, and once you figure that out, the game is sort of easy from that point on.
If you’re an experienced Dark Souls player looking for your next challenge, you won’t find it here, unfortunately. While Lords of the Fallen is a great game with many similarities to Dark Souls, it just seems to lack the depth that the Souls games have. The combat is easier and the whole game is shorter overall – it only took around 12 hours to finish with a moderate-to-large amount of exploration. It’s still worth playing, as it’s a well refined game with a decent story, but it’s a story I felt left too many unanswered questions.