|System: PC*, PS4, Xbox One|
|Dev: Deck 13 Interactive, CI Games|
|Pub: Bandai Namco|
|Release: October 28, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Lords of the Fallen, the new action game from Deck 13 and Bandai Namco, is an interesting creation. On the surface, it looks a whole lot like a “Dark Souls” style game, a slow and plodding action game that relies heavily on well-timed blocks and dodges along with incredibly slow attacks that need to be used at opportune times. However, if you stick around and watch the game for a while, you’ll notice some key differences. Specifically, you’ll notice that you don’t die nearly as much. The game forgives you for button mashing more than Dark Souls would. The game also has a deeper focus on plot and no multiplayer elements. It’s then that you realize that Lords of the Fallen isn’t really just a Dark Souls clone, but is rather a marriage between the hardcore Dark Souls style of action gameplay, and then frantic button mashy gameplay we have come to expect from games like God of War. Even though the game stumbles at times, the strange fusion of gameplay styles works and creates a likeable, if not slightly forgettable experience for the action crowd.
The weakest part of Lords of the Fallen is the story. You are Harkyn, a former criminal who was released from his imprisonment to defend the world from an interdimensonal scourge called the Rhogar. And… uh… yeah… that’s about it. The game tries to throw some plot twists your way, saving details about Harkyn’s past until the very end of the game, but plot details drip in at a slow pace and by the time you are halfway through the game’s 15 hour run time, you will likely have forgotten all about it. The game even tries to include elements of a moral choice system and dynamic dialogue, but none of the choices you make matter, and the dialogue feels forced. It feels like a pretender, playing at being a “serious” game with a “mature” plot, while really wanting to focus on gameplay first and foremost.
And, to be honest, the gameplay does not disappoint. As I said before, it is very reminiscent of Dark Souls, right down the management of your stamina bar. Everything you do, from attacking to dodging, uses up your stamina bar, so button mashing is discouraged. Like with Dark Souls, playing the game effectively comes down to this delicate dance of offense and defense, and mastering that dance is what makes the game fun.
Lords of the Fallen excels in offering you different ways to master this dance as well. The weapons that you can equip are many and varied, from axes to scythes to swords to warhammers and more. Each handles a bit differently, although each is decently slow.
You also get three sets of spells to choose from for warrior, rogue, or cleric classes. This set of options isn’t nearly as expansive as Dark Souls’ options, but they also feel slightly more distinct than Dark Souls’ offerings. As you level up and increase your power, some of these skills become broken, removing stamina requirements, reducing damage to nothing, and generally letting you break the rules of the game. But that’s actually what makes Lords of the Fallen feel like so much fun. It’s kind of like playing Dark Souls with cheat codes turned on.
This feeling extends to Lords of the Fallen’s experience system, which is this interesting little risk reward game. Basically, as you continue to kill enemies without dying, you earn experience multipliers. These multipliers stack up quite quickly, allowing you to become absurdly powerful absurdly fast. However, there is a catch. If you die you lose all the experience you have collected up until that point. The experience is then stationed at your ghost, which you have to get to in order to pick it up again. However, this experience is on a timer, and will disappear after a long enough time, so now you have to make a mad dash through an area that just killed you in order to get all of it back. This is actually fun, if not a little frustrating, as you constantly have to gauge how risky you want to play the game. However, even if you do find yourself dying and losing experience, you can always play a little more risky to rack up a multiplier and catch up to where you were before. Since enemies don’t respawn unless you die, this is basically the only way to rack up XP. You effectively cannot grind at all.