Lords of the Fallen Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Lords of the Fallen is one of the better Soulslikes we’ve seen in a long time, but some design choices hold it back from true greatness.
- Developer: Hexworks
- Publisher: CI Games
- Release Date: October 13, 2023
- Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5
- Tested On: PC
- Weapon Variety
- Masterclass In Art Design
- Dual Realms System
- Intricate Levels
- Unique Enemy Designs
- Artificial Difficulty
- Bad Checkpoint System
- Performance Issues
Although 2023’s Lords of the Fallen reboot shared its name with the 2014 game of the same name, these are in fact two different titles. This one is a successor to the first title, and it has been stuck in development hell for many long years now.
But it finally broke out of that cycle very recently, and the final release has some of the most creative gameplay mechanics I’ve ever seen in a Soulslike title. But there are still some major faults that kind of ruin the overall experience currently which will be discussed in detail in the review.
Story And Setting
Like many other Soulslikes, Lords of the Fallen starts out with a cryptic narrative with a defining baseline or an objective. At its core, your goal is to contain the big bad that has destroyed the world of this universe, The story is actually set eons after the narrative of the original Lords of the Fallen, which was released back in 2014.
A demon god known as Adyr has finally been unchained due to the destruction of the Beacons of Light, and now the world is in disarray. So you wake up as a Lampbearer, who has to restore these beacons and destroy the demon as explore the vast setting of Mournstead.
The story is actually set eons after the narrative of the original Lords of the Fallen, which was released back in 2014.
The scale of this game is extremely huge, with all of the levels connecting intricately to create some of the best level designs we’ve seen from a Soulslike not made by FromSoft. There’s a large variety of locations in this kingdom, which are further enhanced by amazing visuals paired with great art direction.
If you’re an avid Soulslike player like me, then you will feel right at home with the gameplay of Lords of the Fallen. Aside from some creative gameplay mechanics used in exploration with the Dual Realm system, the core melee combat does not bring anything new to the table, for better or worse.
Combat is pretty straightforward, with quick dodges against telegraphed movesets and counterattacking in between combos. You also start out by choosing one of the many starting classes and then proceed to put levels into the stat points that complement your builds and weapons,
Much like other Souls games, stats like equipment load also play a role in your dodging abilities, so you have to manage these when leveling up or trying on new gear. The diversity of equipment is actually impressive, but the animations for most of these just don’t feel as polished as something out of say Elden Ring.
The build variety is also going to be a strong selling point of the game. The level of customizability is a welcome addition and adds an incentive for New Game Plus. I could not test multiplayer myself due to server issues, but it supposedly allows you to play the entire game from start to finish with a friend.
Even the critical attacks and the parries don’t have that weight to them and are lacking in the sound design department additionally. Nevertheless, the combat system is not going to give you any problems during gameplay.
Dodges are swift and responsive, and attacks don’t have the feeling of jank to them. But something that does have that jank is the enemy placement in some of the levels, which becomes quite irritating.
It almost translates to artificial difficulty since the game just matches you up against a big group of enemies, which sometimes even consists of previously defeated bosses. Even the camera doesn’t hold up really well when you’re fighting a large number of enemies at the same time.
Aside from these problems with the gameplay though, there is a mechanic in Lords of the Fallen which I think is so creative that it sets the game apart from any other title in the genre. It is the intelligent use of the Magic Lamp, both in exploration and combat.
The game has two different realms of worlds that you can explore. The realm of the living is known as the Axiom, and the realm of the dead is known as the Umbral. Upon death, you will be automatically transferred to the realm of the dead, and dying there will spawn you back at the checkpoint.
There is a mechanic in Lords of the Fallen which is so creative that it sets the game apart from any other title in the genre. It is the intelligent use of the Magic Lamp.
During boss fights, this transition almost acts like a second chance since you can continue to fight in Umbral after dying. The Magic Lamp can also be used to view the realm of the dead while exploring Axiom seamlessly. The developers have creatively used this mechanic in creating the level design of the game.
Some passageways that will be blocked in Axiom are actually open in Umbral. So you can easily use the Lamp to traverse such blocked areas.
I felt that another creative use of this mechanic is that some enemies and bosses remain invincible to your attacks in Axiom. You’ll need to use the lamp to destroy their weak points in Umbral, which will allow you to damage the enemies in Axiom.
The level design is not just complemented by the use of Magic Lamp, but the various zones of Mournstead connect seamlessly as well. Additionally, the scale of the game is huge, and stitching all of the zones together is actually a great feat.
The areas that you see in the distance will become explorable as you progress, and this aspect almost reminded me of Elden Ring. However, there are some flaws in the level design department, which consist of a bad checkpoint system and the levels being too large that you might get lost in them.
I think that the checkpoint system is really bad since it adds another layer of artificial difficulty. Basically, you’ll get one main checkpoint for a complete zone. You can add two more checkpoints around the area using Vestige Seeds, which you can either buy or get by defeating bosses.
The checkpoint system is actually really bad since it adds another layer of artificial difficulty. It actually hinders exploration by adding more tedium.
Now, if you run out of these seeds, you won’t be able to create checkpoints before a boss, which will make the run back to the arena even harder. Additionally, only one seed can be used as a checkpoint during exploration.
So, if you decide to create their checkpoint before the boss battle, you won’t be able to side-track to other areas and create checkpoints there, which also hinders exploration. These checkpoints replenish your healing, however, and the speed of using a heal during fights is fast, and the time limit is really forgiving during boss fights.
Speaking of boss fights, there are a lot of them in Lords of the Fallen, and each has a striking and almost horrifying design. And while I do think they offer a decent bit of fun, there is a big issue with them that veterans of the genre like myself will notice more than others.
They felt too basic in terms of their movesets. Sure, the designs are flashy, and animations for some of the attacks make for a big spectacle, but fighting them did not make for a major challenge since the moveset consisted of simple attacks.
This might vary from player to player, but I thought that the attacks felt really easy to predict, and I did not really ever break a sweat. It does achieve artificial difficulty during exploration by loading a group of enemies on you, however, but that’s another thing completely.
Visuals And Performance
Lords of the Fallen is a visual treat not only in terms of fidelity but also in the art direction department. The amazing visuals were a given since the game is built on Unreal Engine 5, but the developers have managed to paint their locations with a distinct visual art style, which adds to the overall sense of exploration.
All of these wonderful visuals and the dual realm system come at a cost. And that price is paid in performance.
There are so many different areas in Mournstead that can be easily distinguished by just looking at the visuals, and I was always left surprised upon entering each new location. Both the realms are also really distinct, and the game simultaneously loads them while you’re exploring the world.
But all of these wonderful visuals and the dual realm system come at a cost. And that price is paid in performance where the game critically lacks in its current situation. It is almost unplayable on low-end systems, and frame-rate stutters persist on high-end hardware as well.
Lords of the Fallen is a great Soulslike that introduces a really creative gameplay mechanic of Dual Realms with combat that feels right at home for people who are fans of the genre.
It has some of the best-level design we’ve seen from a Soulslike not made by FromStoft themselves, but it’s held back by its bad checkpoint system and artificially difficult enemy placement. Boss designs are also magnificent, but not so challenging to fight, and the feel of some attacks does not feel satisfying.
Performance issues currently ruin the experience for everyone, and I’d recommend holding off your purchase until these issues get fixed. Once the game gets patched up properly, I’m sure it will go down as one of the better Soulslikes, and I’m really excited to see how the studio goes forward with what they’ve learned here.
This has been our Lords of the Fallen Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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- Mineko’s Night Market Review
- Assassins Creed Mirage Review
- Payday 3 Review
- Resident Evil 4 – Separate Ways Review.
Why You Should Play This Game
You should play this game for its great selection of weapons and build diversity, and the fantastic Dual Realm system. It’s also a very pretty game, so the visuals themselves will be a selling point for many players looking to explore a beautiful fantasy world.
Why You Shouldn’t Play This Game
You shouldn’t play this game if you’re a hardcore Soulslike fan who values boss fights above anything else. The rest of the Soulslike DNA is still here, but boss fight in particular can be a deal breaker for veterans of the genre.
Who Is This Game For?
This game is for fans of FromSoft titles that value great fantasy worlds, creative-level design, and those looking for their next hit until the Elden Ring DLC comes out in the near future. If you enjoy the Soulslike formula, then this will scratch that itch for you.
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