Lords of the Fallen is a third-person action/adventure game that is available for PS4, XBoxOne, and PC. It is comparable in game-play to Dark Souls. In fact, Lords of the Fallen has garnered a reputation as “Souls lite.” Yes, they did a lot of heavy leaning on Dark Souls, but Deck 13 was clearly influenced by a smattering of other games that gave this game a different feel altogether. Some elements of the characters came from God of War, and the ornate weapons and armor are similar to designs in World of Warcraft or Diablo. The castles and snowy mountain setting really reminded me of Skyrim, and the gauntlet pick-up and scattered audio logs that play without pausing the action hearken back to Dead Space.
This turned out to not altogether be a bad thing. As with Dark Souls, the player’s starting class only matters at the very beginning, since the only things that change are attribute points and equipment/item loadouts. The class choices are Warrior, Cleric, and Rogue. Essentially these are example set-ups that players can use to see how the game plays with different armors and weapons. Once a class is chosen, there is a choice of three different spell types. These cannot be changed after starting a play-through. However, another class of spells can be utilized after finishing the game and starting in on new game+. This means that if the game is successfully finished twice, all three types of spells are available to use.
The combat system is pretty straightforward. Characters can use a light attack and a strong attack. Rolling, running, and back-stepping all have different attacks associated with them, but they all require energy to execute. Weapons can be either used with a shield, two-handed, or dual wielded. Each attack uses a different amount of energy, but energy use can be mitigated to a certain degree using the simple combo system. When attacks are timed well, the player is rewarded by using less energy on the next attack, therefore allowing for a longer attack chain.
An interesting addition to combat is a gauntlet that is found pretty early in the game. It adds another dimension to the fighting and can greatly affect the outcomes of some fights . It offers three different attacks, a long range projectile, a medium range shot that is a bit like lobbing a grenade, and a point-blank range blast that is this game’s equivalent of the double-barreled shotgun. Finally, there is a very basic crafting system where armor and weapons, including the gauntlet, can be fitted with runes. These ruins are all the usual suspects: fire runes, magic runes, poison runes, power runes, and luck runes, each of which do different things whether they are placed in weapons or armor. When placed in weapons they generally increase damage. When put in armor, they increase defense and resistances. Since, (spoiler alert) the story is clichéd and forgettable, at least there is a lot of choice and variety in fighting tactics.
The short and dirty of the storyline is that the main character, Harkyn, is a criminal set free so that he can help fend off an enemy, called Rhogar, invading from another dimension. Even though a lot of the explanation of what happened just before Harkyn was freed from jail is told through audio logs strewn about the different areas, the story took a back seat to the fighting for me.
Lords of the Fallen is a solid game. It makes no bones about being a Dark Souls clone, but the other elements really do make the experience much different. Where Dark Souls is dark, gloomy, and demanding, Lords of the Fallen is bright, violent, and challenging. Dark Souls makes the player feel as though they are on a mission, but even the endings are sorrowful and bleak. In Lords of the Fallen, Harkyn’s story is awe-inspiring and victorious, metaphorically standing on the snowy mountaintop, arm raised in victory, after destroying the enemy horde.
The boss enemies in this game are a mixed bag of interesting and basic. Most players should be able to take them out in a try or two. This makes the game accessible to new players, but the reward of gameplay is fleeting. That loss is made up for by the challenge crystals that have to be unlocked by killing bosses. These allow the player to access extra loot or what is essentially a mini-game that is a nice distraction from the main game. Mostly these challenges consist of beating the crap out of more enemies, and there are rewards for completing them. Fun!
At first the weight of the heavy armor and weapons were a concern of mine. The swings took so long to wind up that it felt as though the faster enemies had too much time to kill me. This feeling went away quickly, though, because armor does actually work in this game. Heavy armor with high defense allows a warrior to tank his way into the heat of battle. Wide, sweeping swings of My Axe (the actual name of a weapon found in the game) ended up being very satisfying as three or four enemies would get knocked down or killed outright. Lighter armor and weapons move much faster and can combo longer, but the trade-off is far less damage on the front-end. One swing of My Axe could one-shot a lot of enemies later on in the game. It would have taken a three or four chain combo to accomplish the same thing with fist or dagger weapons. It’s nice that the styles are so drastically different.
Lords of the Fallen is a good choice of game to pick up for those in need of something to play over the holiday. There is a lot of content packed into a relatively short game. For the gamer with a full time job, the save stones are close enough to one another that this game can be played for fifteen minutes on a lunch break, but the experience point stacking that players get from not saving really encourages longer sessions and adds a nice element of risk/reward once the weekend arrives. Lastly, I recommend bringing a can of Raid to your gaming session, because this game comes with some bugs as big as African roaches.. I played on PS4 and the game crashed on me twice while I was fighting the Champion boss battle, causing me to have to replay sections of the game I hadn’t yet saved. There are bigger bugs as well that are sure to be patched quickly if they haven’t been already. Playing events out of a certain order can halt progress in the story, essentially rendering an entire play-through null and void. Other glitches cause bosses to stand motionless because their script never executed. These bugs and glitches will eventually be patched up and that will leave this game in a good spot.
Lords of the Fallen does not push the envelope of gaming. It does, however, offer a good experience and the promise of some decent replay value wrapped in a fun setting with engaging combat. If some of the glitches were ironed out and some of the bosses had a bit more thought put into them, I might have rated this game higher. As it is, I still give it four out of five Death Stars.
-by Kurt Klein