Review: Lords of the Fallen
Like many of my reviewing buddies, I set myself the challenge of not mentioning the Dark Souls series in this review, but it turns out that is near impossible. Lords of the Fallen feels like it’s been designed specifically to make you reminisce about the Souls games bursting with similarities, but there is one key difference here and that is that it’s a hundred times more accessible.
The story is your fairly standard medieval fantasy romp where you take on the role of Harkyn, a beardy convict who’s been enlisted to take down a demon god and his fallen commander cronies.
You’re thrown in at the deep end as you hack and smash your way through a monastery that’s been overrun with Rhogar, the demon minions terrorising the holy places of the land. After a quick combat tutorial you are more or less left to explore a vast environment in search of your ﬁrst big boss ﬁght.
Harkyn’s journey sees you battle your way from the human realm through to the demonic dimension that the demons call home in search of redemption for his past sins. Whatever they were. There’s really not much more too it, but it doesn’t really matter as smashing the snot out of demons is enough to keep you playing.
Character creation is a straightforward affair in Lords of the Fallen and took me less than 5 minutes to get setup. You have to play as Harkyn and the game isn’t fussy about about the type of weapons and armor that you wield but you’re asked to pick from light, medium and heavy armor as well as a starter weapon. Much like Dark Souls the weight of your armor impacts your movement speed an stamina in combat but the game allows you to carry as much equipment as you want so that you can switch up your gear on the ﬂy.
The main customisation comes in the form of the type of magic that Harkyn wields. This is effectively your class selection and you get to pick one of three types. Rogue magic lets you use stealth and diversion to get the drop on your enemies, Cleric magic allows you cast healing spells and wards of protection and ﬁnally Warrior magic gives you spells that buff your attacks and cast area-of-effect strikes. The latter is not the most imaginative but good for those who think spell-casting is for whimps.
Outside of that you can play the game how you choose and experiment to ﬁnd your perfect combo. You might choose Warrior class but favour dual-daggers with light armor and that’s ok in Lords of the Fallen. The only limitation us weight, so it worth keeping that in mind when encountering different enemy types. Much like in Dark Souls.
Combat is also much like Dark Souls requiring you to block, parry and time your attacks cautiously to slice chunks off your enemies health bar, rather than running in waving your best hammer around like a nutter. That is generally the best way to die a pointless death.
Speaking of deaths though, these will come less frequently than in similar games (like Dark Souls) but are not without penalty. When you die in Lords of the Fallen you keep your equipment, but enemies will reset and you’ll lose any XP that you failed to bank since your last checkpoint. However, returning to the point of your death will allow you to reclaim the lost XP from the ethereal cloud lingers around where you died. The cloud also has some regenerative properties, so hanging around near it will replenish your health. This is a slow process but a really nice touch, particularly in those menacing boss battles where your previous death can mean the difference between victory and failure the next time around.
Another nice feature is that you can swap up your gear in the ﬂy during battles and the game will remain paused while you rummage your inventory. Accidentally gone into battle with a fallen god wearing only your gauntlets and a loin cloth? Don’t worry, that bad boss will patiently twiddle his thumbs while you get yourself primed for the ﬁght. This will no doubt wind up the purists of the genre but I found it incredibly useful, particularly during the ﬁghts where you face off against a number of different enemy types.
The other key aspect worthy of mention is the magical gauntlet that you can equip instead of a shield. This little beauty allows you to ﬁre a number of ranged projectiles which are great for dealing with the archer foes that like to sit out of reach at the top of walls or in towers. It’s a fun addition which can be made to be super-powerful with a few upgrades in the right places. Using the gauntlet requires magic which regenerates over time so it’s often a choice between ﬁring a quick blast or holding out to use one of your main magic attacks. A tool for every task as they say.
From the ﬁrst cutscene through to the last, Lords of the Fallen is a beautiful game to behold. The environments are well crafted and full of the kind of detail that you’d expect to ﬁnd in an Elder Scrolls game and the lighting effects are really special. Harkyn’s armor gleams and glistens in the light in a way that is reminiscent to Ryse: Son of Rome, one of the most attractive games that I’ve seen this gen.
It’s not without its faults though and these are mostly in the animation department unfortunately. You’ll often notice Harkyn’s movements looking quite stilted when claiming hills or staircases and on the odd occasion you’ll spot some slow-down during the more epic cutscenes.
On top of visual issues, I also encountered an issue where the dialog dropped out and I was forced to rely on subtitles to know what the hell was going on. There is a 5GB patch for day one so hopefully that’ll sort a few of these minor issues before you get to play.
All in all though I was really impressed with the look and feel of Lords of the Fallen. The monsters, characters and locations could be considered a sort of vague mishmash of Middle-Earth and Game of Thrones tropes but Square Enix have created a interesting world that I was more than happy to spend time in.
To Sum Up
So I mentioned Dark Souls less than 10 times *virtual highfives* but it’s honestly really difficult not to draw a comparison between the two games. I’d go as far as to say that Lords of the Fallen is unashamedly trying desperately to match the big brother of action RPG games. For the most part it succeeds and in may ways exceeds expectations, providing you with wealth of content for your money and multiple routes to take along your journey.
Lords of the Fallen feels like more than just a warm up act for BloodBorne and for me it’s got enough playability to stand on it’s own two feet, even if those feet are slightly overshadowed by more established franchises. It gives you a credible world to explore, tough enemies to smash in the face and an combat system which is accessible but challenging at the same time.
If you’re a person who longed to get into Dark Souls but didn’t have the patience or time to make it work for you, you’ll get on really well with Lords of the Fallen. If you’re a Dark Souls fanboy, it’s probable that you’ll have some gripes, but you’ll find enough on offer here to keep you playing through the Winter and until the next batch of DLC arrives.
Version Reviewed: Xbox One
Lords of the Fallen is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.