I’m not a souls-like guy (normally those games are covered on this site by the fellas of the Pressed for Time Show), but something about Lies of P’s reveal trailer drew me in with it’s twisted Belle Époque setting, eerie clockwork automatons and intense combat cemented the game as a must play. So it is quite fortunate that at this year’s Summer Game Fest, a demo was released giving players a taste of what’s to come in the city of Krat and even more fortunate was the fact we got access to the demo in advance to give us time to fully go through every nook and cranny…
You start with the image of an ephemeral blue butterfly slowly flying to a slumped figure…harkening it to awaken. Once contact is made, gears churn…the previous lifeless figure is awakened. This is P, he is a puppet, but yet he is different from all of his brethren that are rampaging through the city. You make your way through the dimly lit train car and eventually you’re asked to arm yourself. You’re offered three styles and the choice will determine your starting weapon (I opted for the way of the bastard…which grants you a speedy rapier, but eventually you will gain access to weapons of the other style). Exiting the train car you step onto a quiet train platform punctuated by the sound of rain and suddenly accosted by what appears to be a uniformed automaton. There is no reasoning with it, it is relentless so you must put it down. The game makes no attempt to hide that it is a souls-like, your attacks whittle down a stamina bar so you can’t go in swinging indefinitely. You explore the abandoned train station, until you come across and vanquish a larger puppet (The classification of these automatons) that possesses the station key.
Making your way out of the train station you are introduced to the city of Krat. A once ornate city which relied on puppets for prosperity, now lay in ruins as their saviors have turned on humans in an act dubbed the Puppet Frenzy. You are urged to take refuge in Hotel Krat, one of the few safe havens left in the city. As you make your way through the streets of Krat you’ll unlock gates which will create shortcuts and let you avoid combat should you have to revisit the area. Oh I should mention you have to restore Stargazers, the game’s equivalent of bonfires. You’ll definitely need to use these things as you’ll need to use the Ergo (souls) to toughen yourself to ensure your survival in this cruel world. Your path to the hotel is blocked by a gigantic puppet called the Parade Master. Originally designed to delight the people of Krat, the Puppet Frenzy has twisted it into a mindless monster. It’s slow and prodding, attacks in sweeping swipes. You’ll need to dodge or block these attacks to get close enough to whittle its life down. After depleting its life to a set amount, the Parade Master will rip its own head off and use it as a cudgel giving his attacks added range. Vanquishing it will allow you to proceed to Hotel Krat.
As you approach the door of the hotel you are informed that puppets aren’t allowed on the grounds. This obviously will be an issue as you are clearly a puppet, however it is mitigated by the fact that you can lie (Thus meaning you aren’t bound to the Grand Convent, this world’s equivalent of Asimov Laws of Robotics). Lie to get yourself into the grounds (The demo’s load screen implies excessive lying will have negative effects) and you will be greeted by a fair lady with blue hair, this is Sophia, the analogue to the Blue Fairy and she’s the entity that woke you up. She pleads for you to find Geppetto, the creator of all puppets and informs you his last whereabouts is in Elysium Boulevard. If you’re not in a rush you can explore the grounds of the hotel and meet the residents. Eugenie is a weaponsmith that can modify your weapons. Polendina, the puppet (HYPOCRISY!) butler that also acts as a shopkeeper. Lady Antonia, the enfeebled wheelchair bound owner of the Hotel Krat who seems to know more than she lets on.
Exit the hotel and make your way through Elysium Boulevard as you face new and stronger foes. Those who are attentive can find points of interest that serve to give you additional background on the world of this title. During your travels you will hear a crying woman, talking to her will grant you a side mission which upon completion will grant you a reward. Eventually you will come across a bridge where a man clad in a donkey mask, wielding a cleaver is accosting a parked carriage. It appears the occupant of the carriage is Geppetto, the man you’re tasked to find. The masked man gets belligerent and attacks you. Putting him down will net you his mask and clothes, it appears can customize P aesthetically in this way. Geppetto is happy to see you, but before you can talk, he urges you to take back City Hall from rampaging puppets.
Patrolling the grounds of City Hall are sturdier puppets that are capable of guarding against your attacks. However strewn on the grounds are also electrical dummies you can use to trigger elemental damage to these puppets. As you approach the courtyard you see that this will result in a boss encounter, unlike the leadup to the Parade Master, there is an altar in the area that will allow you to use a star fragment to summon a specter to aid you in battle. I’m sure most veteran souls players will poo poo the usage of this mechanic, but I’m no veteran… Many attempts were made but eventually I eek out a victory against another enormous puppet that was intended to be a police mascot and I returned to the hotel to seek answers from Gepetto. There’s a small bit of exposition, setup for my next objective. I am given a P-Organ (your skill tree in this game) and the demo draws to a conclusion.
It was a pretty lengthy demo, my poor skills meant I spent about 10 hours in this slice of Krat. I’m positive souls-like acolytes will cut this playtime by a lot. As stated this game doesn’t hide it’s inspirations (ergo/souls, stargazer/bonfires, etc…), but that not to say it doesn’t bring anything to the table. Weapons customization, degradation/repairs and fable arts keep you on your toes during combat. The environmental storytelling has me invested and eager to learn what caused the Puppet Frenzy, the conflict between the old families, the industrialists and alchemists and what’s so special about P. The demo definitely cements my eagerness to get my hands on the full title…however I dread how much time I’ll need to sink to get through it. I guess I finally have to “Get Gud”. I’d be lying if this isn’t going to be a monumental task.
Lies of P will be available on September 19th on PC, PlayStation and the Xbox platforms.