Throughout the promotional campaign for Lords Of The Fallen there have been comparisons made with the ‘Souls’ games, and that is due to how similar the game style premises are. As a player you find yourself in a world where even the smallest of enemies can kill you within a few hits, with the Souls games almost having no sympathy for players. However, Lords Of The Fallen isn’t part of that series and it could be considered a much more forgiving experience than the source of its inspiration.
Lords Of The Fallen takes place in medieval stylised fantasy setting where a vengeful god has called upon an army to invade the human realm, a realm which banished him centuries before. This invasion force are known as the Rhogar and they know how to make things incredibly difficult for Harkyn. He is the protagonist of this tale and has a violent past of his own. Harkyn finds himself drafted into this war after being released from prison by Kaslo, who believes the convict is the key to saving humanity. The story is told through cutscenes as well as scrolls that are dotted around the world, which expand upon the lore.
However the plot takes a backseat to the gameplay in Lords Of The Fallen, and feels more like something that is just there to tie the different areas together. The voice acting isn’t the best you’ll ever here, and on some occasions could be considered bad. It doesn’t help that the facial animations don’t always match the phrase that is being said. Harkyn is a rather generic hero who doesn’t have much of a personality. If you’re looking for a game with a really engaging story or lore then Lords Of The Fallen isn’t it, but if you want a game that really tests your skills then you may be in for a treat.
Lords Of The Fallen doesn’t have a difficulty setting but before you begin you do choose whether to be a warrior, cleric or rogue. You also choose the magic type you wish to equip, with the choice here being between brawling, deception and solace. On the first playthrough it makes sense to equip your character with the set that goes best with the class, for example brawling with warrior. Each magic set has four spells that can be upgraded, providing additional support in fights like -for example- creating a clone that attracts enemies or summoning an ally to help for a bit. After you’ve completed the game once you have the option to start New Game+. Here you can equip a secondary magic type, for instance giving your warrior both brawling and deception. In New Game++ you can have all three magic types equipped to use in fights.
How you cope in Lords Of The Fallen is a mix of the equipment you’re using, and how good you are when it comes to each challenge. Development studio Deck 13 stated that the main campaign could be done in 12-15 hours, but it has taken me longer due to how slowly I progressed. Completing everything, again according to the dev, could take as long as 50 hours due to the amount of content there is outside of the story. That includes finding all the weapons, armour sets, side quest completion, and getting the other collectibles.
In terms of actual combat everything relies on what weapon you’re using and the armour you’re wearing. Armour isn’t restricted to class so if you’re a cleric who fancies wearing a warrior’s chest piece then you can. However what you can use and how fast you move is limited by weight. So you could have a full heavy armour set on with a great axe equipped, which could be ideal for defence and dealing high damage, but will make you vulnerable to the faster enemy types, while wearing light armour and using daggers will see movement and attack speed jump, at the cost of defence.
There’s quite the variety of enemies in Lords Of The Fallen from large brutes with swords and shield, to smaller and faster weapon wielders who can get past your defence pretty quickly. You also have mixes of these two like a large enemy that uses a two handed weapon, but can move incredibly quickly and deal high damage. You also have to watch out for ranged attacks as arrows fly in to set you on fire from a crossbow wielding demon you may not have noticed at first. And if you make one tiny mistake all of these will pounce on you for the kill, with just a few hits enough to send you back to a checkpoint.
The checkpoint area is also the same place where you can bank the experience you’ve earned so far. When banking you can choose whether the experience goes towards spell points or attribute points. It’s a decent system where you’re forced to work out what you really need to improve to advance. Every time you purchase a spell or attribute point the cost for it goes up, so as you go on you’ll need to earn more experience to get stronger. However, you can risk all that experience too for other rewards.
The further you go into the game without banking your experience the more chance you have of getting some better items and gear. Of course the risk here is that if you die you drop all of that experience, leaving behind a ghost. You have once chance to get that experience back, but here lies another risk/reward situation. First though you have to survive and get to the ghost to get your experience back. If you die before recovering it then that experience is lost forever. Should you get back to the ghost without dying then you could pick it up straight away, or you could use it as a buff in battle as it can regenerate your health. Of course this is limited and if you wait too long that ghost will go, and you lose the experience again.
Of course the big risk areas are when you face the boss characters who can take a little while to work out. They follow the same pattern in that when their life bar goes down by a certain amount a new twist is thrown into the fight. This could be summoning extra enemies to fight you, or performing a certain move that could kill you in one hit if you don’t work out how to avoid it. Each boss has a pattern and once you work out what that is the fight becomes something where you exploit that to your advantage. However, as you get further into the game the bosses do become tougher, and sometimes the equipment you have just won’t cut it even if you work out what to do.
This is where exploration comes into play. When you first start Lords Of The Fallen it feels pretty linear, with closed doors that require keys or areas that are just blocked off. As you go on though the world does open up a bit, and exploring different areas net different rewards like runes to upgrade weapons with or new equipment. Certain areas that are locked out add new challenges, and these generally open after a boss fight. Travelling through these portals brings you either to a treasure room where you can just loot some chests, or one of two other, tougher challenges. One is the Proving Grounds where you have to survive waves on enemies to get your reward, while the other is called the Infinite Void. This is a place of almost complete darkness and you have to navigate it to find loot, while fighting the enemies that hide within.
The looks can’t hide some of the bugs that I ran in to though. One of the more noticeable culprits was the clipping of objects and enemies. One prime example is if Harkyn is wearing a piece of armour with a cloak, and also a large shield on his back. The cloak would constantly clip through the shield as if it wasn’t there, which was off putting. Various enemies would also move through the environment, just stepping through rocks or debris as if it wasn’t there. At one point a large spider got stuck in a wall, managed to levitate and then walk around in the air. Another bug occurred on the second boss where he would become frozen during an animation a number of times. When attacked I would eventually be pushed back and take damage, as if he had gone through the motions instead of acting like a statue.
The camera could also be a bit of an issue, something I mentioned in my preview of the game. You have the option of focusing on a single enemy by clicking the right analog, or just letting the camera move around freely. When in a one on one fight the focused camera is good. You can see the enemy clearly even as they charge towards you, allowing the best response to an attack, but now and again the camera would zoom in too far, giving you a close up of the enemy and not giving you a view of Harkyn so you have no idea where you’re positioned. The free roaming camera needs some work too. It can move incredibly quickly and goes into strange angles, obscuring the battle and putting you off.
Lords Of The Fallen has a good core that is being let down by too many other things. The combat is pretty much on point and really does provide a great challenge. If you’re looking for a game that has punishing fights, but is a bit easier than Souls then this is it. However the story and lore just aren’t that interesting, despite a good premise and Harkyn doesn’t have much personality. There’s also quite few bugs that really need addressing, like clipping through the environment and objects, or the enemies that just stop moving completely, yet can still deal damage, or suddenly develop the ability to fly. Those problems take Lords Of The Fallen from a potentially great game to something just above average.
Version tested: PS4