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July 2024

Lords Of The Fallen (2014)

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: CI Games
Developer: Deck 13
Release Date: Oct. 31, 2014


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PS4 Review - 'Lords of the Fallen'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 31, 2014 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Lords Of The Fallen is an action RPG set within a medieval fantasy world ruled by a Fallen God where you will fight against the formidable Lords and Generals that command his demonic army.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Lords of the Fallen is a love letter to From Software's Souls series. It's rare to see a game as wholeheartedly devoted to following in the footsteps of another game with as little deviation as possible, but Lords of the Fallen wears its inspiration on its sleeve. For fans of the Souls games who've long since devoured all the DLC and can't wait for Bloodborne, it may be exactly what they're looking for. However, imitation also invites comparison, and at the end of the day, Lords of the Fallen comes up short.

Lords of the Fallen is set in a grim fantasy world. Players take on the role of Harkyn, a warrior who wants to atone for his sins. An army of horrific creatures is rampaging across the world, and he has a chance to stop them as a way to redeem his past. Harkyn must venture deep into monster-controlled territory, find the leaders, slay them, and stop the infection before it overruns the land.

The characters and the environment in LotF feel really generic, and part of this has to do with the weak art design. It more closely resembles Darksiders or World of Warcraft with a Skyrim flair, and that works against the atmosphere and plot. I'm hard-pressed to remember any of the characters, plot or details when the whole thing is over. The game attempts to have a more traditional RPG feel than the Dark Souls games, with dialogue trees and more cut scenes, but they add little to the title, and few NPCs are worth remembering. Harkyn is gruff but boring, and the only thing differentiating him from a faceless protagonist is the occasional slice of backstory.

The core gameplay and controls are almost identical to Dark Souls. For those who've never played the Souls games, they're action-RPGs with a heavy emphasis on realism. There's little in the way of animation canceling or invincibility frames. Swinging a two-handed broadsword is slow and difficult, and dodging and evading attacks requires precision timing so you're not scrambling on the floor while an enemy embeds a sword in your face.

Players can pick from one of nine classes, divided along two lines: three character classes (Cleric, Rogue, Warrior) and three types of magic (defensive, offensive, stealthy). These determine your starting abilities, though in true Souls style, you're free to deviate somewhat if you wish.

The main problem I had with combat in LotF is that it is weighty. I started with one of the heavy armored classes and found it to be intolerably slow for the enemies I was battling. Upon swapping to the lightly armored rogue class, the gameplay felt a lot smoother. As in Dark Souls, less armor means more mobility, but it doesn't feel as well balanced against defense. Heavier armor allowed me to tank more blows, but it shortened my counterattack windows, increased my energy consumption and didn't really compensate for it. The game feels like it was built around fast agile weapons and low-armor builds. There are some slower weapons that hold their own, and I'm sure players will find heavy armor builds that suit their needs, but it feels too heavy at times.

I'm afraid that even Dark Souls players will get a bad first impression from LotF, and that's a shame because the combat is quite fun. It captures much of the same deadly-and-thoughtful feeling of the Souls games. You have to think carefully about what you do and commit to attacks because a mistake can be costly. In this way, it is more like the Souls games than any other on the market. It's also remarkably engaging for the same reasons.

The boss fights are one of the highlights of the title. They don't quite have the sense of scale or the strong design of Souls enemies, but they're interesting from a mechanical perspective and are incredibly fun. A couple of fun examples entailed tricking a boss into slaying his allies and tricking a boss into stunning himself by damaging objects in the environment. There are a few duds, but none detracted from the experience.

The difficulty level is lower than in Dark Souls and its ilk. Your characters are more durable, the environment is less hazardous, and there are various design decisions that make things easier. It's a lot more viable to gradually clear an area of enemies because you can regularly retreat to checkpoints without enemies respawning. It isn't an easy game, but it isn't as punishing as Dark Souls. Health potions are plentiful and can be respawned at checkpoints, damage numbers are lower, and the more linear gameplay design makes it harder to get confused or lost. This may sound like heresy to Souls faithful, but Lords of the Fallen is more accessible to players and is a good introduction to the Souls style of combat.

With that said, I don't feel the difficulty is quite as fair as Dark Souls, either. When I died in Souls, it felt like my fault. In Lords of the Fallen, there are times when I felt I had clearly dodged attacks but was hit anyway, or times when I was sure my timing was spot-on but the game didn't recognize it, and I took an ax to the face. I certainly died of my own accord plenty of times, but sometimes, it felt like the deaths were due to the game screwing up — something you don't feel in Souls.

Fortunately, death is not a big issue. LotF borrows the Soul Memories mechanic from the Souls franchise. When you die, you lose any experience gained, but if you can return to the spot where you died, you can recover the lost XP. Die on the way there, and they're gone forever. Lords of the Fallen adds an interesting twist to the concept. At any checkpoint, you can bank your earned XP, so you won't lose them. However, if you choose to not bank your XP, you earn a multiplier for every enemy you kill. The further you advance, the higher the multiplier goes, and dying or banking resets it. If you're confident enough to hold on to your experience for a while, you can get a huge bonus, but if you're cocky, you risk losing it all. You have a chance to get it back, so the risk feels worthwhile.

LotF is practically defined by what it lacks. There is no multiplayer, and there aren't any online features like those found in Dark Souls. The environments are not linear, but they sometimes feel like it. There are alternate routes and hidden areas, but the gameplay feels more guided and focused and lacks the sense of atmosphere that makes the Souls titles so engaging. Those who haven't played the Souls series will probably like LotF more because they're not aware of the omissions, but Souls veterans will feel them keenly.

LotF runs remarkably poorly for a next-gen game. The gameplay looks quite good. The character models are detailed, the environment is well textured, and in general, it's a very nice game in screenshots. Unfortunately, the frame rate is very inconsistent and frequently hitches. A day-one patch helped this slightly, but it still runs worse than it should. There are also a number of graphical glitches, ranging from odd texturing to poorly loading models. The game feels like it needs a few more patches to be up to snuff. The voice acting and music are actually better than Souls, but they're still mediocre and forgettable.

Lords of the Fallen is not a bad game, but when compared to the Souls series, it is a lesser one. At every moment, it draws comparisons to Dark Souls, but it never quite lives up to the inspiration. I disliked spending so much time comparing one game to another, but LotF all but demands it, and it never manages to crawl out from the shadow of Dark Souls. As a next-gen alternative for those hungry for more Souls gameplay, it is perfectly serviceable, but that is about the limit of its capabilities. I had fun playing it, and it's a good way to bide the time until From Software's next title, but it never forges an identity of its own. The core for a true Souls competitor is there, but Lords of the Fallen seems content to be a placeholder.

Score: 7.0/10

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