Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher Square Enix Developer Deck 13 Interactive, CI Games
Genre Action-RPG Platform Played PlayStation 4
Comparisons between the Dark Souls franchise and Lords of the Fallen are going to occur; it was something that was always bound to occur. From your first death, it is quite obvious Lords of the Fallen has been inspired by the soul crushing (pun intended) franchise, due to your experience being dropped once you perish, and the ability to successfully recapture said experience when visiting your previous resting place. This is just one of the similar qualities that both Dark Souls and Lords of the Fallen possess.
Lords of the Fallen isn’t a carbon copy recreation of Dark Souls. Despite the clear inspirations here, Lords of the Fallen doesn’t try to make the process of combat tedious and overbearing. Consider Lords of the Fallen a title that seeks to provide a Dark Souls-esque experience to players who found the franchise to be too narcissistic. Lords of the Fallen does provide some challenging battles, but for the most part, players will experience hundreds of cannon fodder enemies rather than an ultimate challenge.
Playing as the convicted criminal Harkyn, we are told he is the world’s last hope against the invading Rhogar – a.k.a. demons with a fancy name. An evil god has sent this army of demons, alongside a selection of boss-enemies known as the Fallen, to take over the world. As far as story goes, Lords of the Fallen’s tale is generic at best. The narrative isn’t explored in much detail, even during the occasional cut-scene and scattered audio log. Side characters feel like throwaway objects and the main villain is introduced within a small fragment of the game’s 15-hour story towards the back end. Which is also when I finally realised there was a main villain in the first place.
Even our main character is the generic type. Everyone considers Harkyn to be a dangerous individual who has committed many crimes. So many, in fact, they are tattooed on his face as a constant reminder of his previous wrongdoings. Yet we are never given any hint as to what Harkyn has done or if his sins are beyond retribution; his history is never explored. Though this did allow me to create my own version of Harkyn with the choices I made, these choices never felt like they mattered. In fact, one choice was actually wrongly depicted during my playthrough’s conclusion.
Aside from the main story-quests which usually end with a boss encounter, we are also able to partake in a number of side-quests. The problem with these tasks is that they are never listed within your menu once they are accepted, making the task at hand easily forgotten. Making your way from mission to mission is especially troubled due to the lack of navigational direction, or an in-game map. I think I spent a few hours trying to figure out where certain locations existed, simply because there isn’t much notification aside from the small text once you enter each area. I’m all for exploring areas without markers, allowing me to find my own fun, but when there isn’t much fun to be found, the aimless walking trying to find my next objective becomes a tedious process.
Lords of the Fallen starts to impress once you begin slaying the plethora of cannon fodder enemies within the environment. Lords of the Fallen’s combat sits in-between the slow methodical pace of Dark Souls 2 and the more fast-paced action style of Darksiders 2, and it works spectacularly. Taking down enemies with shields, bow and arrows, or even spiders spewing acid is a great time.
Players will be able to choose between a warrior, cleric, or a rogue, which will determine which magical properties your character will possess. Interestingly, in the New Game Plus and New Game Plus Plus options, players can extend their spell set with a new class type, meaning during your third playthrough, Harkyn will have access to all the spell abilities of each class. Which comes in handy since enemies become stronger during each ongoing playthrough, as will the available loot.
To succeed, players need to learn when to attack with a fast fury and when to slow the pace and wait for the opportune moment, forcing you to step outside your comfort zone when facing the Fallen. Some Fallen are too fast to be taken down by a slow warrior type, forcing me to replace my overbearing armour for a lighter set, literally changing my entire battle style in hopes of survival.
I loved the fact not every battle could be won with the same strategy, and when I was forced to change my game-plan in order to slay a massive beast, I felt a grand sense of accomplish. Some Fallen boss-battles will require a game-plan to succeed, and while some battles can simply be won by hammering an enemy into a bloody pulp, though this definitely isn’t a guarantee to victory. Utilising defensive measures, learning when to roll out of an oncoming attack, and memorising enemy patterns to find their weakness makes most boss fights an enjoyable experience. These fights certainly don’t provide an overwhelming challenge, but they do enough to balance a challenging experience that always feel like it can be accomplished with the right strategy.
Harkyn also has access to a powerful gauntlet, which can be used for an explosive shotgun blast or a distance shot. But once you factor in Lords of the Fallen’s rune system, your gauntlet may now stop enemies in their tracks with magical powers or deal prolonged poison damage; the choice is yours. The rune system allows new buffs to be added to certain weapons, which allowed me to fully customise my load-out before each Fallen battle. Utilising fire runes in order to increase my defence against a Fallen’s fiery breath is only one way these runes can be utilised.
When you die, you will drop your current experience, which will then start to count-down before it eventually disappears forever. It’s an interesting concept, but due to the lack of powerful enemies in-between Fallen battles, it never felt like an urgent matter. Due to the constant checkpoints that can be used to refill health potions and your health bar, there was never a time I felt like I couldn’t make it to my experience without time to spare. The checkpoint system also allows players to upgrade their character with the experience they earn. Lords of the Fallen also introduces a multiplier system which increases the amount of experience you earn from each kill without death; banking your experience or dying resets this multiplier. This was one of the best systems in Lords of the Fallen, which made long arduous treks throughout the world more exciting when you had a huge multiplier along for the ride.
The world of Lords of the Fallen looks great, and at times, under the moonlit sky of the Rhogarian home-world, it looks downright amazing. Though most of the time Lords of the Fallen suffers from a drab and bland visual palette. Despite the fact Harkyn travels to the demon world throughout his journey, there is little to differentiate each world. Both worlds are infected by the same drab rocky architecture, making each world blend in seamlessly; which isn’t a good thing. Lords of the Fallen looks much worse during cut scenes, with some poor lip syncing and weird audio issues. Sometimes, the audio would sound like it was recorded within an empty gymnasium, and other times it would be absent completely.
Lords of the Fallen’s artistic style shines through in the array of armour sets and weapons that can be collected. No matter where you explore, there will usually be a chest containing new weapons or an entire set of armour waiting for you, and they all look genuinely badass. By the time the credits rolled, my Harkyn warrior was a hulking behemoth, with massive armour and an even bigger hammer.
The loot system is also easy to understand due to a similar system to Diablo. All loot is clearly marked within your inventory as to whether or not it is better than what you are currently wearing, so it’s easy to see if you are over-encumbered; the fact only items you wear count towards your overall weight it is also a nice touch. Having unlimited pockets may not be realistic, but it is useful and it never forced me to get rid of any items; which made the little hoarder inside me squeal in glee.
Lords of the Fallen isn’t without a list of technical problems, aside from the aforementioned audio issues. I experienced several game crashes during pivotal battles with no word of warning or reasoning behind the crash. Battles can also be frustrating within enclosed areas, as the camera will constantly zoom in on your characters back, which made Harkyn invisible from view and allowed enemies to get the upper hand as I struggled to get the camera under control. Though this is certainly a nit-picking issue, there were also many errors in the subtitles throughout Lords of the Fallen. Whole words were either added, missed, or simply spelled incorrectly; of course, this is no reason not to buy Lords of the Fallen, but it was definitely noticeable.
Lords of the Fallen is no Dark Souls 2. This fact can be considered a very strong point for those who were put off by the Souls series due to its cruel difficulty, yet still want to experience a strong, combat-focused medieval RPG. Lords of the Fallen has many interesting systems in place – from the rune customisation to the kill based multiplier, there are many great systems at work.
Unfortunately Lords of the Fallen’s experience is hampered by an array of technical problems, with audio issues and game-crashes arising more often than they should. The confusing lack of side-quest direction, and this lack of direction made exploring the same bland areas for hours on end, a tedious venture.
If you’re looking for a strong RPG showing while you wait for Dark Souls 3 or Bloodborne, Lords of the Fallen is right up your alley. Though the extreme challenge may not arise until you enter New Game Plus, there is enough challenge during the multitude of Fallen battles to keep players on their toes.
Fun and varied combat
Forgettable story, bland characters
No logging of active side quests