On October 13th 2023, CI Games will be publishing: Lords of the Fallen as a complete reboot of the first game that was also released in October, 9 years ago, this version is being developed by a new game company called Hexworks. So, I decided to spend the last week playing through the entirety of what, I believe is the first ever AAA non-Fromsoftware souls-like game, and decided to give my overall thoughts, what I liked, what I didn’t like and final thoughts.
This review is based on the PS4 version being played on my PS5.
Liked: The graphics look very good for a game that’s 9 years old, so I have to give props to Deck13 and CI games, the developers, it still holds up today in many aspects.
I also enjoy the level design, it’s very souls-esque, a lot of levels eventually merge together into one, well, the main overworld does anyway.
The combat is your usual fair, very much taken from DS2, attack and dodge, while ensuring your stamina doesn’t go below zero. There is one unique feature, if you wear armour heavy enough, you can dash while your shield is up and bowl over some enemies. That’s actually quite enjoyable.
Another good thing, is some of the enemies are well designed.
While most of the characters will be talked about in the next part of the review, I will say I like the craftsman, a mysterious individual who was once a human and is now something else entirely. You first meet him the first time in the Rhogar realm, and he helps you in turning all the blank runes you from fallen enemies into runes that have specific effects, whether that be poison DoT, fire, magic or raw damage, or boosts to your Strength, faith, or agility weapons conversion percentage which results in more damage. You can also apply them to certain armours or shields for additional protections or in the case of Luck based runes when applied to your armour it increases the armour and sword weight you can carry. (equipped items affect weight, not general inventory, this isn’t demons souls). Another thing the craftsman does later on is take you to the DLC area known as the keepers Labyrinth. I will say that this is a very good piece of DLC, it’s small but it packs quite a lot in this level. It’s simple plot wise, reach the centre of the labyrinth and beat the Keeper who is the boss. Now the enemies are late game difficulty, featuring ghost types which can only be hurt with magic attributes or poison, weirdly. Alongside skeleton humanoids which can be hurt by regular damaging weapons.
However the effort put into the boss fight is unique. Rather than the usual get your boss to zero. You actually have to chip away at the barrier it has, avoiding the magical minefield and barrage of other attacks it uses to eventually get the barrier health to zero. After doing this three times and avoiding the insta-kill AOE you finally face the boss mano a Rhogar. It is actually somewhat unique and sets itself apart from the other bosses in the main game.
I also like the experience multiplier, basically, as you kill more enemies, your experience bar multiplies up to 2x. (they respawn after exiting and entering each sub level.) and it basically acts a challenge, if you should keep playing on without resting and getting (some of) your potions back at each checkpoint, that’s a very good mechanic.
The story is Okay, if not a tad generic. You play Harkyn, a former prisoner, freed from prison by a man called Kaslo, to deal with the Rhogar that are attempting to kill the humans leader called Antanus. I will say that giving the main character a voice is one way to attempt to differentiate yourself from the main game you’re trying to copy, but there are some things I will discuss in the next section of this review.
Disliked: Okay, while I understand giving Harkyn a voice, did you have to give him the generic gravely, permanent grumpy voice? It does nothing to differentiate him from the competition around at that time. (Wolfenstein came out earlier that year, plus the other deluges of generic, grumpy white, gravely voices main characters.) Plus the other characters around him aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire, you have Kaslo, the support for you who supposedly is a keeper of balance, who dies. A woman who’s this games, resident Lara Croft, in that she’s hunting for treasure left by her family. Which involves travelling to through the Rhogar’s Domain, who’s dialogue is also no good.
The combat is slow, I mean really slow, a great-sword strike takes around a second and a half when one handed. While I understand the theory making each strike heavy. It makes Dark souls 2, which is slower than the other souls games feel like Bloodborne in comparison, I’m not kidding.
Okay, I mentioned how nice the graphics were and how decent the level designs were, but I do have complaints, for one, the lack of variety, there are two main levels, there’s snowy castle for the humans, and the Rhogar Realms snowy castle, and that’s it, there are areas you can’t access right away, but really it tells me that chances are that CI Games or Deck13 were running low on time or something, as you have to dip back into the Rhogar realm later on to meet Asti, also known as this worlds God, who is evil? Maybe, the lines are blurred in a way, you also use the second boss arena, for the sixth boss, truly a marvel at the originality bestowed upon thy.
Now, the plot is not obscure, unlike other games in the souls-like sphere, you very much know what you need to do, Harkyn needs to save Antanus because he’s… important, but he has a hidden agenda in this world, looking for ways to drive the Rhogar back and kill God. And the it turns out, *Spoiler alert for a 9 year old game* Antanus is actually evil, experimenting on the church’s monks and turning them into monsters, you eventually fight him as the games final boss calling himself “JUDGE” although the boss fight is somewhat okay, you whittle him down, he summons adds then hides, breathing flame down on you, then he converts the health of the remaining adds into his health pool, not a huge amount, but enough to drag it out.
I’ve been pretty harsh on the game so far… Anyway, the enemies and bosses in this world are this they are mostly Demons in Armour, fat demons in armour, humans in armour later on in the game, four-legged spiders (Huh?) or floating spell casters. Now I will say that the enemies are well designed, but there isn’t much variety, at all, you have a slow battleaxe wielding Rhogar., an easy and hard(er) variant of a sword and buckler shield Rhogar. Three different versions of a hideous monstrosity, that still look better than Gollum from his game, and small and large greatshield enemy, Dogs, some fast moving Rhogar. that I call, rushers, a tyrant that wield a pole-sword and you need to find and take his heart before you can kill him (Okay, in fairness that ones not too bad for uniqueness) and ghosts, poison and fire beasts, that inflict poison and fire (Shocking I know) and spell casters. Btw FUCK the spell casters they hit you with magic from far away, when you get close, this cast lightning barrier so you take damage as you damage them, you get away, only for them to do ranged health steal, and to top it off when they die they explode, anything else, you want to give them.
There is a feature I don’t like, that is, when you die, your experience is where you die, fair enough, however, if you didn’t build up a big kill streak, or after a certain amount of time, the amount gets smaller and smaller, until eventually it disappears. (there are items that can auto-get it back but they are few and far between.)
The bosses like of variety is apparent. Here are the bosses I remember in the order you face them;
The First Warden, is a demon in armour wielding a greatsword and greatshield. The Commander, A demon in armour wielding a greatsword and greatshield, except his shield doesn’t break, he occasionally summons adds to wear you down. A boss in a Graveyard who’s name I can’t remember (maybe grave-keeper), a demon in armour who doesn’t use a shield, but uses his scythe to summon spikes from the ground, at the start of each phase, he does a whole arena AOE that kills you. Also in the second phase onwards he occasionally summons rusher Adds that rush you (shocking I know). The inquisitor, a unique boss in the fact that its a three legged spider thing whose weak points are its legs, good luck hitting them as your body skates across the floor to hit the more resistant groin instantly, I will say the boss arena does have an environment hazard that drains your MP if you get too close to it in the centre of the arena, so congrats on the “second most unique generic arena award.” Next is, The Champion, a hulking, fast attacking bane like enemy that rushes you, at the start of each phase its blade fists catch fire, no it doesn’t take damage from charging into the wall, what do you think this is? Arkham Asylum? After that is a creature called The beast, its… a beast that wields a club and occasionally spits poison at you, hit its ankles, then its head. Oh, it does have a local AOE, not an insta-kill but yeah. After that is dual wielding fire sword dude in armour, his fight is somewhat fun, there are multiple cauldrons around the arena that he can call to throw fire at you, its actually an enjoyable boss fight. (this wins the most unique generic boss arena). Down to the final three. Next is lightning mace wielding armour wearing Rhogar., I can’t remember much about him due to how generic he is. A Lightning and Fire Brother combo, the resident generic Ornstein and Smough, two generic looking beasts slightly large than the regular variant, when one dies, the other gets powered up, they rarely attack simultaneously, so it’s more fair than the Foreskin duo from Elden ring. And finally the Judge, dodge his attacks, you attack, kill his adds, dodge his fire breath. Congratulations you completed the game and either saved, doomed or left the world as is.
Minor nitpicks now, the camera shakes violently whenever you attack, get attacked or walk. Harkyn breaths really loudly when he’s tired. Fat rolling makes Dark souls fat rollers look like DS3 mid rollers. The magic circle is limited and if you max the right magic, you can use that one spell and beat most of the main enemies. Your ranged attacks are limited, you have one ranged spell, and a gauntlet, that isn’t the best, even with a buff. Lastly, the side quests are underwhelming, including a choose between two prisoners to free, ones a murderer but won’t offer any hints as to who it is, no matter how much you search for any, because there aren’t any (that I could find and I’m very thorough), best of luck.
Verdict: NOW, the game has its fair share of problems and if this was it, I would give the reward of MID, its fine, it does nothing offensive, pushes no boats out, 5/10 if I was a person who gave scores (Which I DON’T, that 5/10 is an example.) But the main problem is the bugs I experienced on this version, things like the dialogue cutting out or stuck on slight elevations in the ground I can forgive, it kept Harkyn’s Gravely voice quiet. But in the warm-up to this review, my game crashed five or six times while I played, without warning, that drags it down to LOW-MID. Souls-likes need to do something unique to differentiate them from Fromsoftwares mainline series, I think that Deck13 and CI Games realised this, Deck13 were not brought back for this upcoming game, instead they did their own souls-like called The Surge and it’s sequel, a cyberpunk souls-like with limb targetting, that I might cover in the future.
I will offer a slight bit of leniency in the fact that this is the first AAA non-From souls-like (there wasn’t even a definition for these types of games in 2014), so it makes sense that no one really knew what to do to try and be different, these days, most developers try to add their own unique flair, whether that be 2d platforming, momentum building, a pale walker wearing the mortal shell of a fallen warrior and other warriors, have the player shoot with guns and only guns. They all try to do something that is unique, and you can thank the financial success of this game for starting the gold rush of souls-likes. (seriously, as of Jan 2021 it sold 3 million copies, which is good, that’s why a sequel was green-lit, although that sequel was green-lit in May 2015.)
Now, from the few clips I’ve seen of the new Lords of the Fallen I will say that the developer for the new Lords of the Fallen, Hexworks have learned from the mistakes of the first game, but I will keep my hopes tempered, but it definitely appears promising. I wish CI Games and Hexworks the best with the next game. I will most definitely play it either on launch or in the future.