I have been dying to see a developer create a game to compete against the now illustrious Souls Series by FromSoftware. For years those games have graced my television screens, but there have never really been any direct competitors out there to this type of RPG. That was until CI Games released Lords of the Fallen, a western alternative to the Souls series that introduces a new world, characters and more. Does the game live up to expectations or does it fall flat? Time to gear up and find out.
Lords of the Fallen has you play as Harkin, a prisoner with branded tattoos on his face for each crime he has committed, who is on a quest to defeat the Lords and bring peace to the land. From here, you are thrown straight into the game with no real back story of Harkin, which is a letdown right from the word go. I would have liked to have found out more about his past, such as how severe his apparent torture was whilst he was imprisoned. Heck, even a cutscene of Kaslo, the man who helped Harkin out of imprisonment, actually releasing our hero or their journey towards the kings court would have been nice to see. It felt as if the title relied solely on its lore to tell most of the story, which it admittedly does very well through collectibles, but the lore on its own does not drive the story. These collectibles mostly give you an insight into the world you’re exploring or provide tips towards item locations or boss fights, and not the kind of epic story moments I was hoping for.
Want to dive deeper into the world? Find and pick up all of these
However, the first thing to commend the game on is the controls. Every button responds and feels perfect. Originally I was put off by the switch weapon button as it switches you from shield to two handed to the gauntlet. That said, after getting used to switching into these different stances, the controls felt even more solid. Every weapon that you equip has its own unique weight to them. Obviously the bigger weapons are going to be slower than your small weapons, but this is far from a bad thing. These speed differences give you the chance to decide what weapons you prefer. From the large two handed poleswords and the dual wielded shortswords to the light weight fist weapons, there is something for everyone’s tastes. Once you have taken the time to learn the movesets of these weapons and find your favourites, your game experience is immediately made better and more unique.
The art style and animations for the game are both great. The look of the world you’re exploring reminds me of something from Darksiders crossed with Warhammer, which is a truly great combination. The animations, for both you and your opponents, are incredibly smooth. Every swing, slice and knock back feels authentic which adds to your experience when fighting. However, enemies are mostly restricted to humanoid forms, which is disappointing. I would have liked to have seen more bestial creatures from this hellish world of the Rogar.
Now to move on to the real weaknesses of Lords of the Fallen. First off, there still seems to be infuriating bugs everywhere. Enemies and sometimes even Harkin glitch through walls to different areas, while tutorials do not appear correctly and end up freezing your character in place, leading toward either a restart or button mash session to get yourself back to normal. However, one glitch in particular is so rage inducing that it can completely ruin some people’s experience of the game. This event occurs randomly when you fall down a bottomless pit, as the screen fades to black indicating that you have died. The problem is that no loading screen appears afterwards, and the screen just stays black. When entering your character or main menu and exiting out again, you can see that Harkin is now floating above the dead zone. Move just a tiny bit and you will fall to your death once more, with your experience ghost left in that unreachable floating spot and not where you fell off. Unless you have the very rare item that can retrieve your ghost for you, this can completely ruin your adventure as all the XP you could be carrying on you will be lost.
Defeating foes like this can feel cheap, but at least you look cool doing it
Now let’s move on from glitches, to the outright poor challenge that Lords of the Fallen offers. Whilst other titles will rely on enemy variation, level design and player experience to win a fight, this game seems to throw in cheap alternatives. First is enemy placement. Tough opponents placed just against a wall or a large number of foes patrolling a single area and all aggroed at the same time is nothing short of cheap. What is even worse is some of the scenarios which occur during the game. Here is an example of one encounter: at some point in the game you encounter Tyrants wielding two handed poleswords. When first encountered, the Tyrants are hard to fight against as they will restore their health from their heart. You can find it placed in a random vase nearby which you need to break, and then pick up the heart. What makes this a tougher task than necessary? The heart is guarded by six enemies whilst you’re being attacked by the Tyrant. If you don’t know where it is placed, you need to take down the Tyrant at least once so that its location is revealed. Once finding out that you are then swamped by enemies that will most likely get you killed in the cheapest way. Yes, this does then inform you of its location when you respawn, but even then, it is still an awkwardly tough battle. Did I mention there is also a pitfall to the side of where the heart is? Deaths ahoy!
I am not stating that the game does not have legitimately challenging sections that do not resort to cheap tactics. In fact it does. Many of the boss battles are brilliant, and most of the areas are great. But from time to time you will encounter these moments where you will die over and over again not because of your lack of skill, but because the game is pounding you with cheap challenges. What makes the competitors to Lords of the Fallen better is that whenever you die, it is your fault. Failure to execute a roll on time, failure to block appropriately, rolling off a cliff etc. However, here you’re getting constantly punished by the difficulty curve, the sheer mass of enemies or the level design itself. The amount of times I was trapped in a corner and constantly knocked down to the ground because of multiple enemies spamming the same move made me leave the game time and time again. I love a challenge as much as any other gamer does, but this kind of ‘difficulty’ just feels tacky and pasted on with no real thought behind it.
Art Style, Lighting, Colours are all brilliant
With the main chunk of the game causing frustration because of inefficient challenge, one redeeming factor was the lore scattered throughout the world. The lore looks into everything you can imagine. The history of the monastery, the background of the Rogar, the power struggles between rivalling monks, and so much more. One fantastic use of the lore this time around is that it can also be used to find either hidden treasure or enemy weaknesses. The most interesting out of the two are the boss weaknesses that you can discover. These may seem trivial, but they can inform you of a unique trait the bosses have. This can be anything from what moves they can use, what environmental dangers there are, their direct elemental weakness or even what not to use against them. You can completely disregard these and just battle the bosses as you normally would, but I find this little addition very helpful.
After playing the game over and over and trying desperately to fall in love, Lords of the Fallen just doesn’t hit the bar. It is so painfully average as an overall product that I just cannot recommend it to everyone. If you are a fan of the Souls series and want to try something different then this is the title for you. If you have never played any of those games then you may be disappointed with this one as the cheap challenges, bugs and game based frustration will keep you from truly admiring everything the game has to offer. I was expecting a great title here, but instead it is a Lord that has truly Fallen.
What do you think of Lords of the Fallen? Does it live to your expectations or does it lack the exciting factor? Let us know what you think of the game in the comments and check out the Highlights of our Lords of the Fallen Livestreams down below.