- Although not without issues, Lords of the Fallen is quite an enjoyable Souls-like, until you step into New Game Plus.
- NG+ removes all checkpoints except the one-at-a-time vestige seedlings, which makes backtracking through the frustrating levels filled with tedious encounters a complete nightmare.
- An effective way to demolish this problem is to make the vestige disabling mechanic an optional one.
There’s no such thing as a perfect game and issues are inevitable, but some are more critical than others. A similar scenario plagues the latest Souls-like, Lords of the Fallen. I was quite captivated by some of its fascinating ideas and eagerly awaited its release. When I first dived into this game, I expected a challenging Souls-like, but I was greeted by a somewhat frustrating one instead. However, at that point, I couldn’t have known, that something much darker awaited me down the road.
Previously, I talked about some of the game’s striking problems like the performance and some flawed design choices. But that was everything you faced in your first playthrough. Once you move to NG+, an even more brutal issue rears its head. In NG+, Lords of the Fallen strips you of your vestige (this game’s bonfire equivalent) privileges. Yes, you heard me right, no checkpoints.
What Is The Lords Of The Fallen Vestige Fiasco?
Before going into how this choice might be troublesome, let’s look at the details of the design first. As you move into NG+, the standard Souls-like changes happen; enemies are much stronger and drop better loot, you keep all the stuff and levels from your prior playthrough and start anew. That’s all the expected stuff, but there’s one shocking surprise. When you approach a vestige, you’ll notice it’s no longer working.
So you might ask, are there no checkpoints at all? The answer is that you do have a couple of hubs active. The main Skryest Bridge hub, as well as a more hidden Shrine of Adyr many people might miss. However, other than that you have no active checkpoints in the game. How does one get some respite then? The game allows you to make use of its manual checkpoint system to compensate for the lack of definite vestiges.
But as expected, there’s a catch. Although Vestige Seeds (the item required to create said checkpoints) are plenty in NG+, only a single of these checkpoints can exist in the world of Lords of the Fallen at one time. Once you move to the next area and create a new one, the last one’s gone. I’m sure you understand what this means. Congratulations on completing the game, now welcome to the endless hell of tedious and frustrating backtracking.
You Want To Revisit A Prior Area, Think Twice
I can understand the thought process of the developers to some extent, coming up with creative ways to enhance difficulty and the thrill of a challenge, but after experiencing this myself, I can assure you this is not fun at all. As long as you’re progressing linearly, you won’t feel this as much, but once you come across the need to revisit a previous area, only then will you realize the horrors of this mechanic. Good luck navigating the massive Mournstead.
Areas are indeed connected like the first Dark Souls, but here this means you effectively have to memorize the entire map, find the shortest and safest route, and then run through levels like crazy to reach your destination. That’s a little too much trouble for just completing a quest or revisiting to claim an item you missed. Not to mention the map system in Lords of The Fallen is nothing solid and you mostly have to rely on your memory to navigate.
The greatest drawback to this feature is how it completely discourages you from ever turning back unless you want to run a convoluted mile. I’m sure the developer did this to maximize the use of the interconnected map, but honestly, with such a long walk, the possibility of getting lost, and the mob gangs waiting at every corner do the opposite of the original intentions. Giving checkpoints will not make the interconnected areas any less impressive.
Enemy Hordes in Lords Of The Fallen Say Escape Is Impossible
Oh, and did I mention? the enemy placement, their numbers, and level design in this game are an absolute nightmare. Getting through all this in the first place is troublesome enough. At every corner, you’re greeted by no less than 10 enemies, and the group is designed to be as frustrating as possible. Common mobs to overwhelm, archers or magic snipers to make your life hell, and even prior bosses mixed in as enemies because why not?
Now, imagine going through all this every time you backtrack. And here’s a cherry on top, even if you wish to run through, the enemies practically never stop chasing you, and snipers have deadly accurate aims. If you die midway just because you gave up fighting and ran instead; congratulations, you’re back on the starting line. The treacherous level design and groups of enemies in Lords of the Fallen are severely incompatible with a no-checkpoint system.
Picture this scenario. I wish to return to a prior area and have to make a run for it. Even if I memorized the entire pathway, just one wrong step and I could fall into an inescapable trap. Conversely, hidden enemies, archers, and the game’s over usage of “push you off the cliff” can kill me even if I memorize the map. That means running is off the table, so let’s fight. The moment I decide that, I have to go through hordes upon hordes of irritatingly tedious enemies, and even if I die on the very last encounter, that’s it. Do you get my frustration?
NG+ Is Meant To Challenge Me, Not Frustrate Me
Let me ask you this, why do you continue to NG+ in Souls-like games? For me, it’s a sort of triumphant run. After besting the game and returning with all the equipment and experience, the element of surprise is now gone, and it’s time to test the evolution of my abilities against an enemy whose moves I know now. Although enemies get stronger, their moves don’t change, and avoiding their attacks at the last second to land powerful hits is a sublime feeling.
But, what if tedious and at its core pointless backtracking ruins this experience? I’ve already gone through clearing an area, but what if I have to do it every single time I wish to return? Most people attempt NG+ to achieve completion. This means completing all NPC quests, finding almost every item, getting all the endings, and unlocking extra classes in this game‘s case. All this can never be done without backtracking, and Lords of the Fallen makes this task overly frustrating.
Going through the innumerable hordes of this game is troubling, but for the first time, the thrill is still there. The second time becomes frustrating and the third just becomes a pain. If the game wanted to ramp up the difficulty, there were many other methods, instead of making traversal such a nightmare. Dark Souls 2’s brilliant approach to spicing things up is a great example. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and see yourself getting frustrated over having to run miles just to complete a quest or get a missed item.
How About A Neutral Route — Make It Optional
I say all this but in the end, it’s my opinion based on what I experienced throughout my roughly 100-hour playthrough of Lords of the Fallen. Of course, you’re free to think otherwise and some people find this change appropriate, there are considerable gamers who agree with my stance. Since there are two conflicting opinions on this, why not search for a neutral solution?
Here’s what I think. I believe this vestige disabling mechanism should become optional. When you start NG+, you should get the option to decide your vestige situation. Doing so gives the players who crave this sort of challenge what they want, and also for those finding it frustrating and tedious some salvation, it’s a win-win situation. There’s also another viable solution, make the manually placed vestiges permanent.
The original rarity of Vestige Seeds should carry over to NG+ to avoid trivializing things. So effectively, you should get limited seeds to decide your checkpoints but when you do create one, it should become a permanent addition for that playthrough. That should fix this tricky situation. I’m not sure what sort of changes might come if any, but we can hope this widespread discontent makes the developer look for a neutral route to settle the discord.
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