It’s a hefty risk developer’s take by making a brand new IP and using a lot of mechanics already used in another franchise which result in it turning out to be highly successful.
This is the shadow that CI Games and Deck13 Interactive’s Lords of the Fallen stands in. Many games have done this before with quite positive results however many falls flat so it’s quite a gamble releasing a game that borrows so heavily from another game. That shadow is cast by Dark Souls. There are so many similarities between Lords and Souls it’s scary but does this mean that it’s a bad thing or is it one of the rare successful ones?
One thing Lords of the Fallen has that Dark Souls didn’t is a relevant story. You are Harkyn, a convicted criminal with the crimes of his past tattooed on his face. Harkyn is released from prison of which he finds the opportunity to redeem himself by fighting back against a demonic army that has seemed to have taken over the world, the Rhogar. It’s a basic story of good versus evil told poorly but it is carried along by regular nicely executed cut-scenes. Harkyn is a hard knock but ultimately bland character. You’re able to choose dialogue at times which only comes into any form of repercussion later on but these do nothing to make Harkyn any more interesting. Same can be said about his supporting cast all of which have little to no personality. The ever present story is a far cry away from the scarce one found in Dark Souls. I played that game for a good few hours without knowing why I was even enduring it, in Lords however, I knew what I was doing and why all of the time.
The main similarities are in Lords’ game-play. It’s uncanny how similar it is in both games. Both Harkyn and your character in Souls play exactly the same, you’re able to choose stances for example whether to hold your weapon with both hands or not and the combat mechanics are the same. Not far into the game things change. You find a magic gauntlet which allows Harkyn to fire a magic projectile of which is automatically aiming and fairly powerful. It helps a lot and I found myself relying on it throughout my experience within Lords. Enemies act similar to Souls too although regular enemies tend to be knocked back easier in Lords. The combat is not as punishing as it is found in Souls but it’s by no means a walkover. Each enemy still requires careful strategy to overcome them and groups are deadly. Luckily though if you are skilful enough, Harkyn can perform a devastating surprise attack from behind which not only looks brutal but allows you the upper hand. Then there is the many bosses littering the world in Lords of the Fallen. These guys are no laughing matter. Overcoming these requires working out the tells that indicate which attacks are incoming. It’s not easy and most bosses are so heavily armoured that it takes a long time to take them down. The second boss, the Commander, took me 15 minutes to take down and that was after 3 tries before I worked out easier ways to fight him. You need a lot of patience in Lords. Another similarity between this and Souls is dieing. Like Souls, when you die your soul floats at the site of your last death which can be collected to recover your hard earned XP. It’s easy to look at this as a Souls game with a new skin and you would be forgiven to think so.
Different from Souls though is the checkpoints which are floating crystals. Reaching these allows you to bank your experience points earned from taking down enemies as well as saving your game and replenishing health and potions. Experience points banked are used to upgrade your attributes or spells. Spells, another difference, allows Harkyn to unleash different abilities depending on which class you chose at the beginning of the game. Spells range from “Prayer” which manifests a spiritual Harkyn which acts as a distraction to enemies to “Quake” which is a devastating hammer attack which deals massive damage if it connects. Early on, these spells are just an aid however once levelled up, these can take enemies down in an instant or make you a force to be reckoned with. There is no online mode in Lords so you won’t find the user hint system found in Souls unfortunately, that was a cool feature that definitely helped.
Lords of the Fallen is a looker. Its stereotypical fantasy world looks beautiful. Dead bodies litter the floors of monasteries and courtyards and snow falls on mountaintops, it never failed to impress. Saying that, most of the wide open environments are never explored with Lords of the Fallen relying on closed in corridor areas, it’s unfortunate. Enemies look ferocious and intimidating and bosses look downright scary with cool helmets, towering shields and gigantic weapons.
A mediocre story laden with a bland cast isn’t worth battling through the frustrations brought on by the excruciating difficulty found in the game-play but the differences that are in Lords make the game more bearable to play through. Lords of the Fallen looks fantastic but it plays too much like Dark Souls so unless you’re a fan, you won’t enjoy it.
Story - 2/5
Graphics - 4/5
Game-play - 3/5
Overall - 3/4
Version Reviewed - PlayStation 4