Three millennia ago, humankind defeated the army of god. We had been enslaved, but rose up against our slavers and banished them from our world. In the years that followed, humanity sought to lay down its weapons and remove the evil that lay inside, entering a period of peace, but leaving themselves weak and helpless in the face of the return of the god’s army.
Thankfully, there’s one last glimmer of hope for humanity, with Harkyn, the best of the worst that humanity still has to offer and branded by tattoos that represent all of his misdeeds, sprung from prison to wage war on the god and the Rhogar Lords once more.
Immediately, it’s clear that Lords of the Fallen is an Action RPG with clear parallels to the Dark Souls series. It’s heading to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, eschewing older platforms and making good use of the added graphical oomph as a consequence, but there’s that same heavy focus on tense and unforgiving melee combat, where your mistakes are punished quite severely, as you fight against towering demonic creatures. Timing your attacks, dodges, blocks and parries are vital, as is knowing your enemy and how best to defeat them.
One encounter saw Harkyn fighting against two enemies which you could potentially tackle in a few different ways. Of course, you could head in there and, as these are lesser enemies, despatch them fairly easily, but knowing that they are blind and attack you based only on sound, another tactic would be to strip off your heavy armour and sneak in to deal with them quietly.
At another point a large queen spider descends from the ceiling, and if not dealt with quickly, will start spawning baby spiders that will, over the course of a minute or so, grow to full size and attack you. Dealing with the queen quickly is quite important, then.
Of course, there are the larger enemies without any real weaknesses, where you’ll have to learn their patterns and only attack when their vulnerable. A fairly standard boss enemy would switch between sending homing shockwaves through the floor and charging at you, whereby you could dodge the charge and quickly get your attacks in before it recovered.
A lot of this will come down to how you equip your character, and there’s a ton of flexibility and possibilities here, as you can switch your weaponry and armour wherever you are in game. Putting on the most protection and grabbing the heaviest two handed hammer will naturally weigh you down and make you more sluggish when you need to dodge attacks and using up more stamina in the process, so finding the right balance, whether it’s combining a magical gauntlet and its powerful ranged attack with Wolverine-like blades to be more nimble, or grabbing the Cocoon Tower Shield to protect and nullify charging attacks.
Looking at the world around you can also be helpful, and you might use it to your advantage. Just as heavy armour makes you weigh more, the sheer size of some of these enemies make them physically heavy. As a hulking beast runs towards you down a curved corridor, knowing to turn tail and lead him over the planks of wood covering the well in the floor is a big deal, as it avoids a potentially very tricky fight.
Of course, it can easily go very wrong. You might mistime your dodge and get hit, the enemy might swipe its arm out as you attack and send you flying, you might lead demonic beast over those planks of wood at the wrong angle and then fall down the hole yourself as you try to dodge its attacks. Yet the game doesn’t necessarily send you back all that far into the past.
Save points are set to come roughly every 20 minutes as floating red crystals, and recharge your health and so on. It’s a length of time that seems to try and keep the game accessible, even though the gameplay will still focus around a degree of trial and error. Dying and respawning at the save point will still see all of the enemies resurrected, but that the next one isn’t all that far away makes the game feel more manageable to me, even as it repeatedly smashed my face into the ground.
Admittedly, this is still likely to be a game that’s not really for me. The ultra-difficult hack and slash genre that the Souls series of games spawned has never really appealed to me personally, but it has a large following amongst those that want a game to punish them. Lords of the Fallen plays to that audience quite plainly, but while it will still be gruellingly difficult, it aims to make your defeats at the hands of the demonic hordes more palatable.