They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery and Lords of the Fallen makes no effort to hide its source of inspiration. There is no doubt that this game is imitating Dark Souls. From the combat to the actual button mapping, Lords of the Fallen wears its inspiration on its sleeves. That is not to say however that it is devoid of its own individuality, but even with its best efforts, it never reaches or comes close to the heights of the game it tries to be. With that said however, when the Dark Souls comparisons are taken out of the equation and we play the game for what it is, Lords of the Fallen is actually a good, if not flawed effort that manages to be fun despite itself.
Players take on the role of the recent prison inmate turned saviour of humanity, Harkyn, who embarks on a journey of redemption and salvation. Harkyn is released from prison by a monk named Kaslo and the two journeys out into the wild and even different dimensions to battle the forces of evil and save mankind. While it sounds like a setup to an epic fantasy tale, Lords of the Fallen never manages to convey any sort of compelling reason to care. The world building is uninteresting and falls into the standard fantasy affair. Harkyn seems to have an interesting backstory but it’s never fully explored and feels like a wasted opportunity. The worst offenders are the characters themselves who feel like soulless add-ons forced to deliver cringe-worthy dialogue. Littered throughout the game however are little audio logs that do provide some interesting insight into what is currently happening in the game.
The open environments are really good and are a treat to look at when given the chance. Unfortunately, you’ll be confined to tight indoor corridors most of the time that all seem to look alike after a while. Lords of the Fallen is also prone to weird graphical pop-ups and other bugs and it even crashed at one stage. Most of these niggles were ironed out in the day-one 5 gig patch though.
Luckily for Lords of the Fallen, the combat is its one true saving grace. Instead of opting for a faster pace experience like most hack-n-slash/action RPG games do, it focuses much more on carefully analysing your opponent and wisely choosing your strikes. Attacks have real weight to them and depending on your weapon type it becomes really important to time your attacks appropriately. You’re given the option of light and heavy attacks with light attacks doing less damage but are faster and heavy attacks being the opposite. You’re also able to charge up your heavy attacks for more damage. To effectively pull off any of these moves, you have to diligently manage your energy gauge.
Each move that you pull off drains your energy gauge thus reducing the number of actions you can pull off at any given time. Management of this gauge becomes just as important as timing your attacks. This type of calculated and methodical gameplay is really effective in keeping the player engaged during every encounter while still providing the satisfaction of dishing out tons of hurt unto your foes. While the combat is pretty good, the enemies themselves offer very little in the way of actual challenge and variety.
After a while enemies start falling into a predictable pattern and most of them feel somewhat similar to one another and because of this battles become somewhat predictable and even though it still maintains that strategic element throughout, you never quite feel that threatened or anxious for what awaits you. The biggest problem with the combat however, and what actually holds it back from being great, is that it’s not balanced.
Two factors contribute greatly to these imbalances. Firstly it’s the magic system. At the start of the game you’re given the choice of choosing between three classes, namely Cleric, Warrior and Rogue. You can also choose between one of three magic classes, each relating to one of the starting classes. So immediately you’ll have access to magic, but the magic spells are easily spammable as your MP recharges quite quickly. Some spells are ridiculously over powered with effects ranging from deploying a decoy to distract enemies to casting a spell that boosts your defense, regenerates your health and reflects damage back at the enemy. While it does make one feel quite powerful it also leaves the combat feeling very one-sided sometimes.
Then there is the equipment. While Lords of the Fallen provides the option to equip your character to suit your playstyle, it never feels fair playing as a character equipped with anything else but heavy armour. While light armour does give you more mobility, attacks are not easy to dodge with agility alone. Enemies tend to lock onto you for the majority of the attack frames which leaves you with a small window of opportunity to attack before they start attacking again and not taking damage is mostly unavoidable. This behaviour makes heavy armor more appealing and preferable as you’re able to absorb more damage and handle blows better. It’s a shame really as there is a decent amount of equipment options available to the player.
Lords of the Fallen does employ some new and novel features though, especially in the way it handles experience points. Throughout the game, you’ll get checkpoints that give you the option to pour all the experience points you’ve gained so far into spell/attribute points (used to increase spell levels or stats respectively) as when you die you lose those accumulated points. If you choose not to use the checkpoint however, a multiplier will be added that increases experience points as you kill more enemies. It then becomes a nice double-edged sword that has you constantly questioning whether or not you should push through sections without using a checkpoint in order to gain more exp.
Last Updated: November 7, 2014