Lords of the Fallen review for PS4, Xbox One, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: City Interactive S.A.
Developer: Deck13 Interactive/CI Games
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

I’m generally not a fan of really hard games. Titles like Dark Souls/Demon Souls, Spelunky, 1001 Spikes? No matter how beloved they may be by lots of people who are far more knowledgeable (and skilled, obviously) than I, I’ve never been able to get into them for the simple reason that they’re just too difficult. It’s totally a matter of preference, of course, but if you give me the choice between tough-as-nails anything or the chance to indulge in a crazy power fantasy (a la God of War), I’ll take the god-like power every time.

I say all this as preamble to writing about Lords of the Fallen because more than a few people have noted the new game’s similarity to Dark/Demon Souls. It, too, has a medieval setting, and it also features knights battling against all kinds of cursed creatures. And, most importantly, it’s hard — not DS-level hard by any stretch, but it still presents players with a bit of a challenge.

Lords of the Fallen-old_monastery_01_s

Based on my first paragraph, you might think I don’t like Lords of the Fallen. And while that’s correct– I’m not really a fan of it — my reasons for disliking it actually have nothing to do with how hard it is. It certainly presents a challenge, but never to an impossible degree; provided you approach things with bit of patience, you’ll find that even the toughest enemies are eventually beatable. Or, to put it another way, you never get the sense that the game is actively trying to kill you at every turn.

So what’s the issue then? Basically, that Lords of the Fallen just isn’t very good. Admittedly, some of this just comes down to my own personal game design preferences not meshing with what the developers wanted to do. Deck13 Interactive/CI Games clearly wanted to give every action a sense of weight, and to that end they made sure that pretty much everything you do — every swing of your weapon, every dodge out of the way, every enemy block, even every swig of health juice — is slow and deliberate, just as it would be if you really were an axe-swinging knight dressed in a full suit of armor.

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The thing is…that’s just not fun. Again, I think I understand what they were going for, but in practice it just feels slow and clunky. Even more than that, it feels like it’s at cross-purposes of forcing players to act deliberately and cautiously. Like, what’s the point of making players wait to pick their spots and engage enemies if the battles just end up being slugfests anyway? You can dodge and block all you want, but you move so slowly and it takes so much out of you you’re better off just whacking away at the demons and hoping your energy fills faster than theirs. Of course, if/when you do take that approach, then you’d better hope that your character can drink down that health mixture quickly — I actually died one time because my character swallowed his medicine (or whatever you want to call it) too slowly.

Of course, if you really want “annoying” and “clunky”, nothing quite matches the camera on those fronts. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt like I was fighting so hard to get a good view of the action. At first I thought it was just because of constraints associated with being inside an enclosed space, but even after things opened up a little, I still found myself fighting against a camera that didn’t want to stay in a good position.

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As for the rest of Lords of the Fallen, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. No matter how cool the Wikipedia plot synopsis may make the game sound, the reality is you’re still just some scruffy, muscle-bound knight fighting demons. You still loot randomly placed crates for coins and other goodies. You still fight enemies that spawn regularly in the same places, to the point that you can make a run through a dungeon killing everything in your way, and then go back to the beginning and do it all over again in exactly the same order. Creative thinking isn’t exactly the game’s strong suit.

Then again, I don’t know what exactly is Lords of the Fallen’s strong suit. It looks nice enough, I suppose, but not to the point where I’d say you must own it just because of the graphics. If you’re looking for something that will help you pass the time in a bland, mostly inoffensive way, then this is the game for you, I guess, but otherwise, don’t bother.

Grade: C+