By now, you’ve probably heard that Lords of the Fallen borrows liberally from Dark Souls. Don’t be so quick to dismiss it, though. Lords of the Fallen brings plenty to the table that allows it to stand on its own two feet, though it may not ever quite leave the shadow of its mentor. Lords of the Fallen chooses to stand out in other ways, defined instead by its more hack-and-slash oriented combat, Diablo-like loot style, and its unique approach to experience and stat gain that, while similar to Dark Souls, adds multipliers through a system that can prove to be quite a gamble, especially early on. Though Lords of the Fallen may cater to a more casual audience and probably won’t keep all Dark Souls diehards engaged, it presents a great alternative for people hesitant to jump into Dark Souls’ high-stakes hardcore approach. It’s a great entry point with a couple of memorable characters, and stunning graphics. As a huge Dark Souls fan myself, I found plenty about this title engaging, even if it did get a bit too easy about halfway through my time with it.
Lords of the Fallen has a pretty generic story. It tries to emulate Dark Souls’ less is more approach, but fails to hit its mark. Cut scenes and generic story options riddle the game’s campaign, but I couldn’t be brought to care much about most of its characters. The game follows Harkyn, a criminal that has been taken from his cell in order to help save the world from a menacing force known as the Rhogar. If this sounds like a familiar setup, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, nothing broke the mold at all during the course of the campaign, and I found that it served as little more than a vehicle to continue my adventure. Though I missed the deep lore and speculation that came with exploring the world of Dark Souls, I still found myself coming back to Lords of the Fallen because of its spectacular combat and rewarding loot system.
"As a huge Dark Souls fan myself, I found plenty about this title engaging, even if it did get a bit too easy about halfway through my time with it."
If players begin to overlook the poorly designed story then they’ll be delighted to find a truly deep combat system that resembles Dark Souls, but is much more forgiving. The game rewards players for well-executed combos by lowering the amount of stamina required for each successfully timed swing. It stops the button mashing, but keeps the combat focused just enough to keep it engaging. The ARPG-style loot system also rewards the player with constant upgrades to their gear. You’ll find countless weapons and armor sets throughout your session, and you’ll constantly be upgrading them to suit your play style. This helps to alleviate the stagnant environment by continually rewarding the player in ways other than just gaining experience.
I’ve already mentioned Lords of the Fallen’s unique experience system. Sure it revolves around you, the player, killing waves of difficult enemies and holding their experience, it also revolves around retrieving your dead body in order to regain your lost souls, but it adds an extra layer of challenge to the mix: a timer. If it wasn’t bad enough that you had to reach your corpse just to regain any lost experience, it’s made even tenser by the fact that your body is on a timer. If you don’t get there in time your experience ghost will fade taking your hard earned experience along with it.
"You’ll find countless weapons and armor sets throughout your session, and you’ll constantly be upgrading them to suit your play style."
Checkpoints consist of red glowing gems instead of bonfires, refilling your potions and allowing you to save your game. They also serve as a hub that you can place your experience into. You see, the more experience you hold the more of a multiplier Harkyn receives. Though the gain starts off slow, it can quickly add up to be the most efficient way to level. Now, there is a payoff: if you die the multiplier resets, if you store experience the multiplier resets, if you save and quite, you guessed it, the multiplier resets. This makes your engagements with checkpoint areas a bit of a trade. Do you store your experience, use it, or just carry on with your multiplier? It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it or not.
"In spite of all its shortcomings Lords of the Fallen is a game that deserves to be played."
The game offers a more casual-friendly structure to the Dark Souls formula, making a game of this style more accessible to a less hardcore audience. Unfortunately towards the end the difficulty drops, becoming much easier about halfway through the game. Hero powers and magic are ridiculously overpowered, dealing massive damage to whatever they hit. This makes the game a bit of a pushover towards the end. Unfortunately the game suffers without the added difficulty, stripping the player of the sense of accomplishment and triumph that comes with overcoming a hurdle. Boss fights stop being boss fights and seem more like drawn out enemies that will really only kill you because of ignorance, not difficulty. This can be rather frustrating.
In spite of all its shortcomings Lords of the Fallen is a game that deserves to be played. Its unique spin on the familiar Dark Souls formula can be very endearing, even if it is just in terms of gameplay, and provides rewards in different ways, mainly through its tweaked loot system. I’m of the opinion that even Dark Souls purists should at least give a try. Honestly, what else are you going to do until Bloodborne comes out?
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation 4