Lords of the Fallen begins life as a poor man’s Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls, and while it’s certainly tough unlike the Souls series Lords is clumsy, unresponsive, infuriating and not at all fun – then about half way through it stops pretending to be something it isn’t, ending up as just another boresome action-adventure game in a sea of action-adventure games.
The Souls series punishes players for not thinking things through, for not thinking outside of the box and each time you fail it will be by your own hand. Lords of the Fallen, however, is just hugely difficult for the sake of being difficult and you’ll garner success more through sheer luck than actual skill and careful planning.
Publisher Square Enix have clearly tried to cash in on the popularity of the Souls series with Lords of the Fallen, but have completely missed the point as to why they’re so popular in the process. As I mentioned above simply being difficult for the sake of being difficult is not where Souls succeeds, but it’s in understanding the nuances of how combat and progression works that ultimately sees success in the field, not blind luck as, in the case of Lords of the Fallen, you try to get to grips with the clumsy combat and controls.
Blocking attacks and rolling out of harm’s way is essential in Lords of the Fallen, however it’s in the execution that Lords ultimately fails. Additional to the standard Energy and Magic bar there is a second energy bar, (stamina basically), that is burned up each time you take a swing with your weapon, roll out of the way or use your defensive techniques, (in my case, having chosen the warriors path, a shield). On paper during the development process the need to keep a careful eye on your constantly draining stamina must have looked great, but in practice it doesn’t work as on the depletion of ones stamina there is a brief moment where you’re completely vulnerable to attack as you’re frozen on the spot, unable to do anything. If the deduction of your stamina was perhaps a little more staggered it may have worked, but having it completely used up with just one block of your shield, or by rolling out of the way of an attack makes for a completely unbalanced gaming experience.
I died a lot playing through the Souls games, but more often than not that was down to my own stupidity and over confidence not bad game design, in Lords, however, I died a lot because of badly a thought out game mechanic. Memorising a bosses’ attack pattern is completely redundant in Lords because the moment you leap in for an attack you’re stamina drains and you’re up shit creak without any chance of turning the tide. Defeating a boss in any of the Souls games through the use of trial and error, skill and sheer determination was always immensely satisfying, in Lords it’s just a tiresome slog, one that relies too much on blind luck.
Here’s the bizarre part, though. After a few hours you’ll suddenly notice that you’ve powered up rather quickly and what started as a poor attempt to recreate the Souls experience makes way for a standard hack ‘n slash affair as you overpower everything you come across. In fact the stamina bar which was the bane of your progression in those first few hours is by now pretty much redundant. It’s almost as if half way through development the team got bored and just thought “Ah, balls to it. Lets just bang out a hack ‘n slash and hope no one notices”. What starts as a frustrating slog turns into a dull, run-of-the-mill action-adventure with uninteresting characters, a flimsy story and uninspired boss fights.
Lords of the Fallen is a poorly put together, decidedly boring game that tries to ride on the coat tails of something far better and after several hours I’d had my fill and switched it off.