The next generation of games is already starting out with a promising list of action RPGs. With Dragon Age III: Inquisition and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt already penciled in for next year, there's plenty for genre fans to salivate over. However, there's one small publisher that's been pretty quiet regarding its action RPG, Lords of the Fallen. German developer Deck 13 is headed up by Tomasz Gop, who's had experience in The Witcher franchise. Together with City Interactive, Deck 13 is using E3 2013 to premiere a pleasantly surprising game.
Before the demo began, we were introduced to the world. Over 8,000 years ago, mankind entered a fight with a god and, against all odds, it ended up winning. With relative peace in the land, the stories of the deeds became legend and myth, with the only evidence of the events being a mountain range that looks like the fingers of a hand emerging from the ground. Recently, the lords of the god have been appearing in this world to continue the war. With no one left who knows how to fight against such a force, it falls upon a few humans to learn what was done all those years ago and defend themselves from the fallen god and his minions.
As the demo began, we were shown three different classes, all of which fell into expected archetypes. The Cleric is average in all respects and can deliver the most damage with his hammer but is slow. His special ability lets him build a doppelganger to bait enemies and set them up for proper kills. The Warrior is a typical tank character with the ability to be a berserker and kill indiscriminately while taking on heaps of damage. The Rogue, as expected, delivers weaker strikes but does more of them in a short period of time and can deliver stronger strikes out of stealth. While classes are distinct and have specialized skill trees, you can mix up their gear and a few abilities, so you can have a Warrior with Cleric weaponry and Rogue stealth, though the cut scenes present dialogue that depends on the chosen class.
The demo showed off quite of the environment. As is typical nowadays, the demo showcased the interiors of an ancient castle with a snowy backdrop to intensify the mood. As the producers went through the level, they emphasized the importance of secrets by showing off hidden areas and how observant players will find things that will be helpful later on. They also emphasized a severe lack of load screens as the demo went to both indoor and outdoor environments almost effortlessly. Their final word was that while the game is meant to be linear, some backtracking will be available to those who want to open up all of the secrets in one playthrough.
Taking a page from The Witcher and Dark Souls, the combat moves away from mindless button-mashing and peppers combat with hints of strategy. In the demo, we were shown several examples of how button-mashing with even the simplest of enemies gets you killed, so your best resource is to figure out a tell or be adept at dodging. The same goes for trying to separate packs of enemies. Again, this is something we've seen done before, but it's good to see the fluidity with which the combat occurs.
As far as graphics are concerned, there's plenty of next-generation flourish here. The character textures are highly detailed, especially the protagonist's facial tattoos, which are visible during in-game cut scenes. The environments also display this high level of texture without harming the frame rate. Like most of the next-generation offerings seen thus far, there's an emphasis on particle effects, and this game has them in abundance. The boss fight with the lava knight saw sparks as his sword hit the ground and a flurry of them followed his sword during the final stages of the battle. Even the introduction to the player is accompanied by swirls of smoke and particles that look like it came straight from an Nvidia PhysX demo reel. The fight included the natural shedding of his armor as it progressed. What made it more impressive was that this was all done with the company's in-house engine, showing that there's still room for custom-built engines in an era where such things are tackled by specialized development houses.
There's still a ways to go before Lords of the Fallen hits its wide-open 2014 release date, and there are lots of things for them to do, including figuring out which next-generation platforms they'll be hitting. What they're showing off, while not exactly revolutionary, is very impressive and shows lots of promise in how all of the gameplay mechanics are coming together. Look for more coverage on this title in the coming months.
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