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Lords Of The Fallen Review

Jason Fanelli Updated: Posted:
Reviews The RPG Files 0

I'm not typically a soulslike player. Games like Elden Ring and Dark Souls are incredible experiences, no doubt, but the majority of the time, I typically fall off before coming anywhere close to completing one of those games, whether it's for lack of time or lack of patience. As such, I don't know what I was thinking when I willingly volunteered to review The Lords Of The Fallen. I knew what I was getting into, but I also saw it as a challenge; this would be my time to finally give a game from this genre the attention it deserves. I'm glad I did because The Lords Of The Fallen is a rewarding, if flawed, experience that ran me through the wringer.

I know enough about soulslike action RPGs to know that The Lords Of The Fallen here apes a lot of what makes those games good. The classes it offers follow similar archetypes, the control scheme follows a similar blueprint, and the items and power-ups are carbon copies in all but name only – for example, I'm healing with Estus Flasks in this game, not Flasks Of Crimson Tears. Even with my limited experience, I appreciate the familiarity, as it allows me to get going with little adjustment. 

Lords of the Fallen Axiom

I think Hexworks expected that from most of its players, however, because this game is brutally hard. Hours upon hours were spent fighting through these hordes of enemies, with more than a few carefully placed surprise attacks to keep me on my toes. While I like difficult games, sometimes it felt like Hexworks was out to get me and wanted me to suffer. Restart upon restart might have increased my blood pressure, but I do compliment the team on making me want to try and try again; I was actually invested in success, not just trying to complete a game for a review, if that makes sense. 

In fact, there's this weird reversal of expectation in the world of The Lords Of The Fallen, specifically in its most difficult moments: I had more trouble fighting my way to the big bosses of the game than I did actually fighting them. Furthermore, one of the bosses that gave me the most trouble was one of the first, Pieta, She of Blessed Renewal. She was a royal pain in my backside, but she did a wonderful job of honing my skills for what lay ahead. My favorite boss, however, was The Hollow Crow. I liked how it turned the expected boss battle format on its head, while forcing me to keep constant eyes on my surroundings while focusing damage where it needed to go. 

The coolest element of this game, and perhaps the mechanic it hangs its spiky helmet hat on, is the dual worlds, Axiom and Umbral, which are equally traverseable throughout the adventure. Imagine the world of Elden Ring, but the entire map had a separate Link-To-The-Past-style Dark World where each wall is festooned with vestigial limbs and giant eyeballs for maximum creepiness. That's what's happening here, with the main world Axiom hiding a creepy parallel world called Umbral. Each plane offers its own benefits and obstacles, and planeswalking between the two at will is a technically impressive feat – not that the game handles it well, but we'll come back to that. 

Lords of the Fallen Umbral Zone and Monsters

While Axiom is standard dark fantasy fare in terms of visual design, the separate world of Umbral is absolutely unnerving, which is a testament to the game's art teams and their ability to peer right into my mind and take out everything that unsettles me. The world can be entered via the trusty lantern hanging on my hip, but I can also simply peer into it and see what's happening in that area. Sometimes turning on the lantern will clear a path in front of me – perhaps it's a bridge that's fallen in Axiom, but still exists in Umbral – and sometimes it'll show me an enemy who A) is only dangerous while I'm in Umbral, and B) can only be described as "not now." The use of these parallel worlds is brilliant, a hallmark to not only smart level design but also two worlds worth of replayability. 

The problem with this ambitious idea, though, is how much power under the hood is needed to make it work, and The Lords Of The Fallen simply doesn't have it. Stuttering, frame rate issues, and more plagued my experience, which only added to the frustration of a game that already had its fair share of it. For every impressive moment I was looking at two worlds at once, I was having my timing thrown off because multiple enemies were in my face simultaneously. In a format where precision is key, those types of technical shortcomings become even more noticeable. 

Simply put, The Lords Of The Fallen beat the crap out of me. I languished, I lamented, but I lingered on, and as I'm sitting here now I am looking back fondly on what I did. The dual-world idea is phenomenal, even if it contributes to the game's worst technical tendencies. The mood set by each world, however, is downright creepy and gross, which serves as a strong foundation. Enemies can be bruising, while bosses aren't quite as difficult, which doesn't quite jive right throughout the game. As much as I wanted to toss my controllers around, I would be lying if I said I didn't have fun with The Lords Of The Fallen. 

Full disclosure: The product described was provided by PR for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PlayStation 5.

8.0 Great
  • Punishing but rewarding gameplay for those who stick it out
  • Two unique worlds with plenty of explore…if you can stand how creepy Umbral is
  • Familiar mechanics for Soulslike vets, which lowers the bar of entry
  • I almost had to expense for a new controller thanks to the difficulty levels in some areas
  • Routinely hampered by technical issues


Jason Fanelli

Jason Fanelli is a tried-and-true Philadelphian, having lived in Delaware County for his entire life. He’s a veteran of the games industry, covering it for over a decade with bylines on The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, IGN, and more. He currently hosts the Cheesesteaks and Controllers podcast on iHeartRadio for Fox Sports Radio in Philadelphia.