Lords of the Fallen is a clear and up front homage to the Dark/Demon Souls series from From Software. As a strategic action RPG with a strong difficulty curve plus lots of loot and replay value, Deck13 Interactive and CI Games have made no bones about the inspiration behind their gothic RPG. But does it hold a candle to the esteemed Souls games? Read on for our initial impressions.
I’m playing with a Steam copy provided by publisher Bandai Namco’s PR, though the game is set to be launched simultaneously today on PS4 and Xbox One as well. Ordinarily, with a week’s worth of advanced gaming time, I’d have the review ready for day one. Sadly though, there were some issues switching between an earlier preview build and the general stability of the later review client on my machine which kept me from finishing the roughly 15 hour main quest. LotF would crash randomly on the latter, and not save properly on the former. And for a game that has you dying and restarting from checkpoints often, crashing and saved game woes are infuriating; even worse when you’re working with a deadline.
Additionally, you can lock yourself into combat with an enemy, making circle-strafing possible but the camera can get really lost on geometry sometimes causing deaths that really shouldn’t happen. It’s a small quibble, but when you’ve been dying a lot already it can be maddening to lose because of a design flaw.
But don’t let the rough outset of this article fool you: Lords of the Fallen is an excellent game, and one whose stability issues merely mar an otherwise addictive, and satisfyingly difficult experience. I should have a PS4 version of the game soon, which likely won’t have the same crashing, so our full review will come next week.
But let me warn those of you thinking of picking up Lords this week, but aren’t quite sure: if you’re not keen on dying and trying things again with altered tactics, this one might not be for you. Like the Souls games, you’ll die a lot in Lords of the Fallen. Sometimes it will feel cheap, other times you’ll know right away it’s because you made a wrong move or were impatient. The first boss alone will have some players stuck for an hour (this report comes from the devs themselves). It’s not an easy game by any stretch, but if you’d consider yourself a Dark Souls veteran, chances are you’ll breeze through Lords at a quicker pace.
There are a number of things Lords does to make things still rough, but not as infuriating on the player. Banking experience at shrines so you don’t lose it is one, refilling potions at said shrines is another. Enemies also don’t always respawn when you die, meaning that sometimes you can try a boss again with a quick run back to his room. You’ll still lose XP upon death, and have to retrieve it by picking it up manually where you died, and it does deteriorate over time if you take too long to get back to where you bit the big one. That’s where banking XP comes in: you can do this as often as you like, but you’ll reset your magic find counter, meaning that the drops you get off of monsters and from chests will be far less exotic. You also get to save progress fairly often, and the Gauntlet’s ranged projectiles can be a huge help. Overall the experience is far less punishing, though you’ll likely still die a lot.
The combat in Lords is not something a button-masher could hope to excel at. Diablo this is not. Instead, your best bet is to find weapons and armor that make your own version of Harkyn feel appropriate. There are three base magic classes (Warrior, Cleric, and Thief) but your armor and weapon choices will identify you further as you play the game and get a set of your own favorite gear. That said, you’ll wind up swapping gear around a lot, and as crafting in runes comes into play you’ll find more favorites no doubt.
You see, different enemies have different attack patterns and strengths and weaknesses. So while you might have no problem wielding that big two-handed axe against a slower moving Rhogar (bad guys), you might want to switch it up to something faster when facing a nimbler foe, or equip a shield to help stave them off. And considering the amount of difference pumping stats into your character at checkpoints makes, you’ll wind up finding some weapons and armor better suited to your chosen stats too. Some make lighter dual-wielded weapons deadly, while others might make you a one-shot wonder with the broadsword. Others still can make you an impenetrable tower of defense with a tower shield, or a magic wielding maestro with your chosen set of spells. There’s a whole lot of room for growing and tweaking your build, but you can’t instantly reset skill points, so beware.
Oh! Plus you get a demonic gauntlet early on in the game which can be used for your one and only form of ranged weapon. It spends mana to fire its projectiles though, so you’ll want to use it when it’s actually necessary or useful.
For instance, one of the games’ toughest bosses (in my time so far) is the Worshiper you’ll face in the Graveyard. There is a pretty simple trick to him, but unless you spend a lot of points in magic and hold onto all of your magic regeneration items, you’ll wind up having to be very patient and very agile. Anything less will mean certain death. And when I say patient? I mean it could take you an hour or more to beat this boss without a little help from some magic regeneration and strong spells.
So far, minus the crashing and save game bugs which might only be an issue with our review builds, I’ve had a lot of fun playing Lords of the Fallen and look forward to it cooperating with me so I can finish the story. I highly recommend watching The Hive Leader’s first impressions below while you wait for our final review, because video of the game does far more justice than my words can. Lords of the Fallen is on sale now in stores, on Steam for $49.99 and via Xbox Live and PSN for $59.99. If you pick it up for the PC, let me know if you have crashing issues? I’m genuinely curious, as both Hive and I did during our time playing.