- Lords of the Fallen (not to be confused with, well, Lords of the Fallen) is the latest Souls-like and despite some flaws is a genuinely enjoyable game.
- The major issues that plague the game are intense performance drops, high co-op restrictions while being “seamless”, frustrating level design, and the thinking that tons of enemies equal difficulty.
- Although not without issues, non-FromSoftware attempts at the genre have come a long way and I hope they continue to improve.
In 2014, we saw one of the first attempts to replicate FromSoftware’s formula — Lords of the Fallen. And now after 9 years, it’s back, with the same name? The new Lords of the Fallen is the latest Souls-like, and where there’s a Souls-like, you’ll find me. First, we had Lies of P and now Lords of the Fallen, it seems the non-FromSoftware products have started becoming much more competitive.
Lords of the Fallen’s features looked like a massive undertaking. The concept of two different game worlds simultaneously was such a brilliant idea. It also meant designing the locations twice. In addition, the game’s promise of seamless co-op, a phenomenal number of weapons, and boundless possibilities for unique builds convinced me it would be a rich adventure. After release, however, there were certain striking problems that I’d like to discuss here.
Performance Issues Can Kill Even The Best Of Games
Now, for the problems, and some pretty serious ones. First and foremost is the highly unstable state of the game. It seems performance issues are back to haunt us. When will this nightmare end? As a PC gamer, recently, whenever I look forward to a game and anticipate its release, performance issues say let us introduce ourselves and ruin it in an instant. Take a look at some recent PC releases. It’s very hard being a PC gamer these days.
In Lords of the Fallen’s case though, the performance issues are not only limited to the PC version either. They plague the console versions too, but PC seems to be the extreme case. Frequent stutters that don’t get better with time, insane frame dips that can even make you dizzy, sudden crashes to ruin your experience coupled with save corruption, and the highly erratic frame rate even on high-end systems; we just can’t catch a break.
The game can’t run smoothly even on an RTX 4090, let alone a standard system. I’ve been playing this game since launch, and the performance issues are severely limiting my enjoyment. The game is difficult enough as it is, we don’t need an “extra handicap”. But, here’s a piece of good news. Developers are aware of this and are actively working to fix things. Several patches have been released which have made things a lot better. Some issues persist, but since they’re on it, I can’t complain too much.
Where’s The Seamless Co-Op?
Okay, this was a pretty impressive feature and I was eagerly looking forward to it. Lords of the Fallen promised a seamless co-op experience. Rather than co-op in only certain restricted areas like the Soulsborne games, Hexworks presented the possibility of playing the entire game with a friend and taking on the many ruthless adversaries with a buddy cause there’s strength in numbers. However, the reality is slightly different than what I imagined.
The entire game can indeed be played in co-op, but some of the mechanics make it a less desirable choice. For starters, you can’t interact with the majority of the stuff in the host’s world. Be it NPCs, loot, or any other interactable locations, only the host can do so. This means for some definite progression of questlines and loot collection, I need to return to my world and complete that entire location again (Sigh).
I know the lack of progress in your world can be justified in co-op, but at least let me collect some of the sweet loot I genuinely contributed to making available. What’s even more unfair is how you can only get a third of Vigor (This game’s leveling currency) in the hosting world. What’s even the point of completing the area in co-op when you come out with nothing but scraps?
Lords Of The Fallen And “When Will This Level End?”
Moving on to the level design, and while on paper the interconnected areas, lots of routes to explore, two different worlds and manually adjustable checkpoints seem like a pretty good design choice, it is vastly different in execution and that’s where the trouble comes in. Don’t get me wrong I love difficult games, but Lords of the Fallen’s level design borderlines on tediousness and frustration rather than challenging fun (I’m looking at you, Pilgrim’s Perch).
The area is designed with such confusing and winding twists that you get lost more often than not. With a ton of branching routes, getting lost and killed is the last thing you’d want, even though some sweet weapons await at the end. Couple that with a frustratingly repetitive design philosophy and you get an area you just can’t wait to get out of. A majority of the game features narrow platforms, enemies at almost every corner that will push you off, radiance magic hitting you from 100 miles away you can’t even see, and your dodge plunging you to death.
Most importantly, what is wrong with the checkpoint system? Using a currency that’s incredibly hard to come by, and located at points that practically demand to be used or you risk losing massive progress. These should have been definite checkpoints since navigating some of these areas is more pain than enjoyment. You navigate a frustrating area and finally reach a checkpoint but Voila, it’s an optional one and you don’t have the item. Move a little further only to die, and welcome back to the beginning!
I’m Pretty Sure Another Enemy Gang Awaits Beyond That Corner
How to make a convoluted area with a lack of respite even more difficult? Put 10 unfairly brutal enemies one after the other. That will surely make the players question their decisions. Lords of the Fallen truly loves overwhelming you with enemies that quickly becomes more frustrating than engaging. And it’s not even a rare location either, it is just commonplace for this game. Tackle one or two elite enemies with impossible health while typical nobody enemies mess around with you and snipers make your life a living hell.
In my entire playthrough, I rarely had a one-on-one with any enemy. A second, more like a fifth, was always close by and ready to jump in. And what’s more, the game even puts prior bosses as mobs in subsequent areas. Every time I’m battling a boss, I’m also resolving myself to tackle it amidst a bunch of annoying lackeys later on. It’s less challenging and more please leave me alone when damage-sponge enemies gang up on you through the entire area.
To add fuel to the fire, the game’s lack of solid checkpoints makes it even more of a slog. If you’re unfortunate enough to die in an unfair encounter, which you will undoubtedly, you have to go through all those tedious battles once again. And forget about running past them, since the game’s uneven terrain and horrible platforming, 100 enemies following you, and the deadly mage/snipers make sure you die a swift death should you attempt to escape.
Flaws Aside, Lords Of The Fallen Is Still An Impressive Souls-Like
After all that talk, I’ve possibly risked giving you the impression that it’s a bad game, so let me make this clear. Lords of the Fallen is a good and enjoyable adventure thanks to some of its merits, but it could’ve been much more had it not been for these problems. The game has enormous potential, but some of the design choices inhibited it from reaching those heights.
First, let’s talk about the combat mechanics that genuinely impressed me. It follows the standard Souls-like combat formula, but in practice feels pretty good to execute. There is very little jank in the mechanics as you hack away at the enemies. Combos transition quite well animation-wise, and even the dodge is extremely smooth. One thing to note here is that the dodge is a little too long-distance. It’s quite impressive in open areas but the game’s level design will plunge you to death very frequently when you dodge.
The major problem with any Souls-like is generally the failure to reach a FromSoftware-level combat feel, but I’m glad to say Lords of the Fallen is safe in that department. Similarly, the large number of weapons and inherent Powerstancing make build variety extremely good in this game. You have a ton of options, each equally fun to play around with. Couple that with a unique dual-worlds system and exploration incentive, and you get a pretty good Souls-like to scratch that particular itch.
My Final Thoughts
Let me say one last thing. Although I’ve spent close to 100 hours in the game grinding and exploring, I strongly recommend not to get into NG+ lightly. A very nasty surprise awaits you if you do so, which I believe is a highly awkward choice. Let’s just say your traversal and thus the enjoyment will take a serious hit. If you wish to achieve completion, it’s better to just start anew with a different class to try, as counterintuitive in a Souls-like it might be. It’s up to your choice, but you have been warned.
Although these issues made my experience a little on the frustrating side, I can’t help but acknowledge that the non-FromSoftware iterations of the genre have come a long way. Take a look at Lies of P, it’s a brilliant Souls-like that shows the potential of future projects. And Lords of the Fallen is no different. Many of its features and mechanics are genuinely creative and welcome additions. It also far surpasses the 2014 predecessor, so it’s on the right track.
And it’s not yet over. The game has started receiving patches and updates that can potentially fix some of the issues. Although I doubt the level design and enemy placement can be changed, we’ll just have to live with that. At least the co-op experience can still be improved and performance issues minimized. If I can play the game with a friend who is equally benefited by the co-op, the gang fights can be conquered too. I hope Lords of the Fallen receives the much-needed fixes as it is potentially a fantastic adventure.
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