As you jump into Lies of P, you will feel like you are playing a reskin of Dark Souls. While, for some, that might not be a problem, this game will very much turn off those who aren’t part of the “git good” culture.
I will prefix this review by saying I am not the best Soulsborne player, but what I am is a glutton for punishment, and Lies of P definitely scratches that itch.
The game does borrow a lot from both Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but it’s the world that really sets it apart from the crowd.
The story is a lot more approachable than most in the genre, but don’t go thinking you’re going to experience narrative perfection. It is a much more linear experience compared to the likes of Elden Ring, and Lies of P does have some cool twists and turns as the story progresses; however, it won’t leave as much of a lasting impression as its world does (which we’ll look at in a moment).
To try and explain the story of Lies of P without giving too much away is tricky. Essentially, Lies of P starts after a puppet frenzy kills most of the humans in Krat, which was once a very vibrant and opulent city. Aside from the puppet massacre, the remaining humans have to deal with a petrification disease that turns them into bulbous monsters. The citizens of Krat really can’t catch a break. You can certainly tell the city has fallen to ruin, with the streets caked in debris, homes with doors and windows boarded up and fire everywhere. As the titular P, your job is to find your dad, Geppetto, and stop the puppets from destroying the rest of the city.
As the story unfolds, you will be treated to cutscenes at the start and end of each chapter, which dump exposition on you and give you your next objective. The best part of the story is the way characters react to your decisions in the world, in terms of what you say and how you dress.
While the genre is known for its vague storytelling, Lies of P keeps the tale tight and to the point. It tells you what is going on, and you slowly unravel the reasons for it. The characters’ motivations are well explained without the need for an encyclopedia of lore to understand the subtle nuances.
Now, onto the good part: the gameplay. Despite my own personal gripes with the genre’s particular brand of die, attack, die, attack and repeat, Lies of P understands what makes these games so enthralling to play and does it perfectly.
You’ll spend most of the game in combat, which is good because it is so satisfying. Every enemy encounter feels brutal, and every swing of your chosen weapon feels meaty and to the point. My favourite action to perform is to sneak up on the standard enemies and perform what I like to call a “stealth takedown”. There are the standard light and heavy attacks, a dodge button and special moves called Fable Arts that have their own rechargeable timers. All of these moves cost stamina, of course, so be careful. The one thing you’ll need to learn fast is the perfect guard or block. The window to perform this is very small, but if you pull it off, you’ll negate all damage and, after a while, break your opponent’s weapon.
Ahh, but what if you miss this perfect window? Well, be prepared to get hit and get hit hard. Even standard enemies can pack a punch if you let enough of them group up on you. In general, the standard enemies are pretty easy to defeat, and this false sense of confidence will make you think you can easily beat the bosses of Lies of P. The bosses are no-nonsense, brutal Pinnochio-crushing machines.
Starting off with the Parade Master to the slug-like creature that kills you with poison kisses, to the King of Puppets, you will feel like the game hates you by the end of each encounter, which is the way a Souls-like should be. I must say I got my butt handed to me a lot by the bosses in this game, and that wasn’t helped by the only real gameplay gripe I have: the slow return to neutral after an attack.
P seems to take an age to return to a neutral stance after an attack, and the bosses punish you for having the audacity to attack. Trust me, you will need every healing med in your inventory for the boss fights, or say goodbye to your beloved controller. Like any game in the genre, you can rest up at Stargazers, which are akin to the bonfires in Dark Souls, to replenish your healing items and upgrade your character.
You can also upgrade yourself and your weapons at the Hotel Krat and take stock before your next brutal encounter.
One particular thing this game has up its puffed-up sleeve is its stunning, and I mean stunning, world. The attention to detail is unbelievable, and it feels like the developers really did put their heart and soul into Lies of P, the same as Geppetto did into Pinnochio. You really feel for the residents of Krat and what they must have gone through. You can see that this place was once an opulent, thriving city, and now it is littered with corpses, both of humans and puppets, that are lit up by such vivid lighting from the streetlamps. The architecture of the world is one of late 19th century France, with its grand cathedrals and cobblestone streets to explore. There are some steampunk elements in here for good measure too. The world of Lies of P will be the thing that sticks with you long after you put the controller down.
Well, Lies of P, what a hard game to sum up. On the one hand, the world and combat are truly wonderful, but there are elements to them that just keep the game from being the perfect Souls-like. What I will say is if you have Xbox Game Pass, download this right now and give it a go. It might make you want to launch your controller out the window at points, but the satisfaction you get from taking down one of the game’s many bosses is something that makes the genre what it is.
Platforms: PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X, PC
Release Date: 19th September 2023