Let’s get this out of the way before we start this review. I am a huge fan of FROMSOFTWARE’s Soul series, so as much as I’ll try not to compare this game to them it is bound to happen but I won’t be biased. And trust me when I say huge let’s just say I’ve played Demon’s Souls, multiple times through, Dark Souls 1 and 2 on the PS3 and on the PC. In fact, my Dark Souls game-save is sitting at NG++++ and I’ve logged over 300+ hours on Steam alone. That’s even before I created yet another character to do it all over again.
So as you can see I have a lot of Souls series game experience under my belt and there are bound to be comparisons. Different games they are however a lot of similarities have they share. Now that it’s out of the way, let’s get this started, shall we?
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (reviewed) PUBLISHER: Bandai-Namco DEVELOPER: CI Games / Deck 12 RELEASE DATE: October 28th, 2014 PRICE: PS4/Xbox One $59.99, PC $49.99
I’ve been following the development of Lords of the Fallen for quite some time and I was even lucky enough to score some hands-on time with the game on several occasions and I’ll be perfectly honest that my first time playing the game I was a bit disappointed. Not because it felt like a clone or a copy of the Soul series, no I welcomed that, but due to the controls and how clunky they felt. But other than that I did enjoy it and I expressed my concerns to the Bandai-Namco rep during those gameplay sessions regarding what I liked and what I didn’t. Fast forward to the 2014 New York Comic Con I got a chance to try it again and while it still felt clunky it felt a lot better and the game was more refined or polished I should say. Sadly I was limited during the NYCC hands-on and I couldn’t go as in-depth as I wanted.
The first thing that you’ll notice about Lords of the Fallen is that you’re given a directive, a mission to figure out what’s going on and deal with the guys who are causing all the trouble. This is linear and depending on the player this is can be considered a good thing or a negative thing. For example, the Dark Souls games are open, meaning you could travel to any location at any given time and have it out, you’re not required to go to a specific location or boss in order to progress. Not so here, you’ll have to follow a set path which unfolds as you progress to which felt more traditional as I was given a purpose. Sure there’s a story but it’s not some epic tale of good vs evil but it’s the narrative and how it directs the gameplay. Harkyn go do that, Harkyn go kill that guy, Harkyn, Harkyn Harkyn! Nothing to write home about but it works.
Also, something to take notice of is that the game doesn’t let you create a specific type of character and instead you have three different classes that you can choose from when starting out; Cleric, Rogue, and Warrior. So if you’re looking to create your own character then you’re going to be disappointed. This also means that you can not select a 100% magic class similar to a caster with a catalog of ranged based attacks and instead are limited to the magic that is more suited to boost your melee heavy character. That is until you locate a specific item called the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is a very special item that allows the wielder to cast specific magic attacks/spells and it’s pretty interesting. However, I get the feeling that the Gauntlet was more of an afterthought rather than being something that was the original concept, seeing how every class you pick is melee based and by the way the Gauntlet works. Maybe it’s just me but it seems too direct and downright static. Maybe it’s just me drawing comparisons or perhaps it’s just that I’m a bit jaded that there wasn’t a playable caster class to pick from.
OK, I get it but how does it play
Remember when I said that Lords of the Fallen differs from the Soul Series? While the experience system is similar to the Soul Series in the terms of earning experience akin to earning Souls, this is where it stops. In fact, the experience system here is pretty interesting on how it works. The biggest thing that stands out is the checkpoints. When you use them you have the option banking your experience to use towards stat increases, meaning that you don’t have to be on edge and worrying about carrying a large amount of experience on you. When you die you drop your experience, yes similar to Dark Souls. However, there is a penalty incurred. Your dropped expo will actually start to decay over time so if you take your time getting it back you’ll have far less to retrieve than what you dropped. However in true fashion, if you die attempting to retrieve your dropped experience, then it’s completely lost. Another difference is the multiplier system in which get a multiplier bonus which is based on how many enemies you kill. The more you kill the higher your multiplier goes, though, using a checkpoint will reset that bonus. So that introduces a different type of playstyle which depends on how careful or aggressive you are.
The save system is also similar to the Soul series, big surprise there. Resting at a checkpoint will refill your limited healing items (think Estus flask), enemies that you’ve already dispatched will respawn, saves your game progress and will also let you upgrade your character with your earned experience. So more similarities but it didn’t phase me and I’m sure it won’t bother you either.
Something to also take note of is that in order to fully complete this game, meaning unlocking all the lore and game skill trees you will have to complete not only the original game mode but also NG+ and NG++. You don’t have to if you don’t want to however for those who want to see everything and want to do the game properly, well it’s off to NG+ and NG++ for you. And since I’m such a Dark Souls whore, I know I’ll be in that boat.
A word of warning to those online PVP warriors. There is no online component to Lords of the Fallen and this a strictly offline affair. There are quite a few gamers out there including myself who have spent countless hours (Look at my playtime again) playing Dark Souls doing nothing other than playing the PVP portion of it. This may seem like a bit of a downer, however, keep in mind that this is an Action RPG and while it shares elements with the Soul series you have a job to do and tossing an online function would muck it up. At least that’s how I feel and I’m sure CI Games and Deck 13 also felt the same way.
Not just a pretty face
Oh, and you PC gamers (I included) will be happy to hear that the PC version of Lords of the Fallen isn’t just a port from the PlayStation 4 / Xbox One versions and instead was developed alongside the console versions. I’m also told that SLI works out of the box,er.. download however I wasn’t able to test this as my second GTX 970 is still in route to me, however a few people I spoke to that were also reviewing the game did mention that it was working, however Crossfire it seems is not. Is it something to do with the fact that the game is using Nvidia’s Gameworks, who can tell but I’m sure AMD and anyone running a Crossfire setup will be gunning for answers.
Being a current generation title the game benefits greatly in the graphics department as the game is detailed and great to look at, from the world environment to the armor sets and weapons. There were at times when certain landscapes and items looked flat. It could have been a bug seeing how they were the odd man out and the fact that everything else looked great. That said if you have a capable PC then you’ll be in for a treat, especially if you’re running with a fairly recent Nvidia card such as the GTX 700 or 900 series as the title features Nvidia’s Gameworks and adds some added touches to the game. This can also be said about the sound department. The music tends to vary but never moves away from a moody and overbearing atmosphere, which seems to fit the tone of the game and to be honest it feels like it was ripped from a fantasy similar to Lords of the Ring or another fantasy theme movie. I would have sat in certain areas just to listen to the music but thankfully I don’t have to since I also have a copy of the original soundtrack. The sound effects are well done and do their job well, from the weapon sounds to the battle cry of the enemies as they attempt to alert their baddie buddies that you’ve arrived.
The controls are a bit “clunky” and the camera does cause a problem at times, especially in closed and narrow spaces and it doesn’t help if and when you’re in combat throughout those spaces. Nothing game-breaking but it is annoying at times. There is also an issue with the AI as it seems at times that the enemies are either eager to attack you and then other times they are just hanging out. It’s almost as if they are on a lunch break and would only want to challenge you if you were to rush at them. It’s very inconsistent but also serves up to be a minor annoyance. And while I’m on the AI, let me be fair and state that the boss battles are also hit in miss. The majority of bosses I did end up fighting were split; some kicked my ass while the majority were pushovers. That said this is something that is going to vary from person to person as everyone’s gaming skills are different and what I thought was easy might be a pain for you and vice versa.
Sadly I also have to report that while I didn’t have any issues getting a solid frame rate @ 60 fps with all the bells and whistles turned up at 1920 x 1080, however at 2560 x 1440 resolutions that dropped between 35-50 fps. Since I was more forced on getting this review done I didn’t stop to do any benchmarking, which is something that I’ll be doing shortly afterward. I also did notice from tearing from time to time. It’s not super noticeable unless you go looking for it. I also expected a high number of crashes to which I originally caulked it up to my high CPU overclock and knocked it down some, to which the game still continued to crash. This is frustrating, to say the least as it happens as the most inconvenient times say during a battle or talking to an NPC. There doesn’t seem to be a common reason for the crashing and hopefully, this gets addressed and soon.
Despite CI Games and Deck 13 taking a lot of influence from many games, they have also managed to create something familiar yet unique enough to stand out on its own merits. Lords of the Fallen is a fun Action-RPG romp that at times is a tad too easy yet still challenging enough to satisfy even the most hardcore of gamers. Sadly this title due to it’s setting, it’s similarity and yes even by its publisher will forever be compared to the Soul series and that’s not necessary a bad thing but it is unfortunate that this will hinder the title and will generate unfair bias. This is not Dark Souls nor is it from the same development house so of course I didn’t expect it to be EXACTLY like something from FROMSOFTWARE and neither should you.
You should be looking at Lords of the Fallen for what it does and how it plays and not drawing hundreds of comparisons, which are bound to be drawn. To be fair a game such as this deserves at least a try and for those who are unwilling to part with their money because a title is not EXACTLY like a game you like then I can only say wait for a sale and then pick the game up.
Lords of the Fallen Review
Not a Soul series game but still good and fun!
All in all, I have and still am enjoying my time with Lords of the Fallen and it’s a game that takes elements that made other games fun and popular while adding it’s own charm and twists to it. Admittedly the AI of the enemies is odd at times and the boss battles are a bit on the easy side especially for those are well versed with the Soul series, but will still give newcomers a run for their money. For those who enjoyed the Soul series or even other action RPG’s such as Dark Siders 1& 2, I highly recommend Lords of the Fallen, even if it only serves to be a filler for what many are calling the main course and you PlayStation 4 gamers know exactly what I’m referring to.
Ability to use a different control scheme
Experience system works in varies ways and the ability to storage experience and multiplier system makes it interesting for those who are willing to risk it all
The story is told via in-game scenes and you are focused on your laid out task
The game is beautiful and the design/colors give you that “next-generation” warm fuzzy feeling
Fills the void now that Dark Souls 2 and it’s DLC is finished.
NG+ and NG++ open up a new skill tree and adds additional lore to the game, making another play-through a must.
Game crashed a lot (And still does)
Would have liked more than 3 character classes to choice from
Bosses are a bit on the easy side (However, this depends on the player’s skill level)
No online portion
Lords of the Fallen has enough merits to stand on it's own success