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Taking the ‘Dark Souls’ Formula to Next Gen

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Players looking for a real challenge in their games found it in From Software’s ‘Souls’ series and the success of ‘Souls’ has inspired quite a few developers to try their own hand at creating similar experiences. One such game on the horizon is Deck13’s Lords of the Fallen, but the game is not without some key differences.

The most readily apparent distinction Lords of the Fallen affords itself is the fact it’s a purely next gen title and it shows. The Souls series may be great, but we’ve yet to see one take advantage of the horsepower of the next gen consoles and Lords of the Fallen does this in spades. Each and every animation in the game is motion captured, and so everything from enemy movements to weapon swings appears to be much higher quality. The game also features a visual style that sets itself apart from the Souls games’ drab palette, opting for a more vibrant, but still dark style similar to games like Darksiders or even Diablo III.

Another key differentiation is the way the studio has approached story and narrative in Lords of the Fallen. The Souls series tends to keep things fairly light or at least subtle, but Lords of the Fallen goes the more traditional RPG route with an emphasis on story.

Thousands of years preceding the events of the game, humanity was ruled by a malevolent god and successfully beat him back in a massive war, then banishing the demon lord from the realm. In the intervening years, humanity decided to brand those who committed crimes or sins with facial tattoos, with each crime or sin punished with a new tattoo.   They figured that it may be possible to escape from prison, but it’s a lot harder to escape from your own face.  

Fast forward to the present day, and the banished demon lord’s forces have inexplicably begun to return and a decision was made to fight evil with evil.  To do so, a heavily tattooed prisoner named Harkyn has been released and tasked with saving humanity from the rise of the fallen demon lord. This means you’ll be playing as Harkyn instead of creating your own character, and while the game may not be wholly linear (you can explore and go down different paths), there is a story being told, cutscenes and all.

Gameplay will be very familiar to fans of the Souls series.  You’ll primarily face more intimate one on one encounters, with each fight generally ending up as a trial-and-error puzzle you’ll have to figure out or die a horrible death. The environments themselves can be dangerous, too.  The game also controls similarly to Dark Souls, with shoulder buttons governing the use of weapons in each hand.

Another major difference is in how the game utilizes classes. Picking a Rogue, Cleric, or Warrior only determines the line of spells accessible to your character. While each class favors different stats, players can do things like equip heavy armor to a Rogue or daggers on a Warrior, if they so choose.  Playing through New Game + and New Game ++ will allow you to choose the other classes, leaving you with a character who can tap into all the game has to offer by the end of it.

Lords of the Fallen is also a lot less brutal than the Souls series. There are checkpoint shrines that can be used once to replenish health and mana. Experience lost upon dying can also be reacquired if you get back to your point of death in time. Even though the game is obviously less punishing than the series it takes inspiration from, fights feel no less tactical.

The first foe I fought was a lumbering fellow with a huge bludgeoning weapon. Keeping my distance wasn’t necessarily a guarantee of anything, as he would have no problems slamming his weapon into the ground and hitting me at range with the resulting shockwave. The real twist with this guy was the fact he was actually immortal, sort of. In order to defeat him, I had to make my way past him and smash a nearby jar containing his heart. It was only with his heart in my possession that I was able to fully dispatch him.

My next adversary was a mage who would fire an array of magic missiles at me, charge me and knock me back, and then form a lifeleech bond with me that could only be removed by exiting its range. To make matters worse, he even blew up when he died, but thankfully I had enough life after our battle that he wasn’t able to get a revenge kill on me.

I eventually came upon the final boss of the demo, a huge champion of the fallen demon lord, and unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to take him out since I burnt a good deal of my time dying in the process of learning the fight.  This guy wielded massive blades and would charge at you from far away and then swing fairly quickly in succession. Additionally, he would draw power from flaming braziers encircling the battle area and command them to launch an assault of fireballs that had to be quickly dodged. Kicking these braziers a couple of times would put out their flames, reducing the number of fireballs that could be spit out. This would entice the boss to head over to the snuffed out braziers and rekindle the flames, opening him up for free hits while occupied. I eventually figured all of this out and got him near death, but I then got greedy and went for too many hits, opening myself up for a painful retaliation that cost me my life.

If you’re looking to scratch your Dark Souls itch with a new game on next gen platforms (or PC) and you don’t mind things being a bit less brutal than you’re used to, give Lords of the Fallen a look when it releases on October 31.


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB