The reboot of Lords of the Fallen is a great facsimile of video game development in the current age. After a lengthy development period and switching hands through a handful of reboots, the iteration of Lords of the Fallen that we got is one that surpasses the original by quite some way. Despite this major positive, there are still some things that hold this game back from achieving greatness in the genre.
Delving into the Souls-like formula is a huge undertaking, and you can’t just copy and paste Dark Souls and think that will do. So, what does Lords of the Fallen do to innovate in the genre? Well, hopefully, this review will lift that lid for you.
The Story and World
Lords of the Fallen picks up about 1,000 years into the timeline established by the 2014 original. After being imprisoned for millennia, the demonic God Adyr is out for revenge and wreaking havoc throughout the Mournstead region. You, a Dark Crusader and Lampbearer, must battle Adyr to put an end to their evil tyrannical dominion. In keeping with the genre, Lords of the Fallen tells its plot in a loose manner, letting the outside environment speak for itself much of the time. You’ll take in every last element of its universe, from icy peaks to marshy bogs, and it’s an amazing experience to piece it all together.
Two realms exist simultaneously in Lords of the Fallen: Umbral, the land of the dead, and Axiom, the world of the living. You can glimpse into this other world or even travel there completely with the aid of your Umbral Lamp. This mechanism might appear gimmicky at first, but after playing with it for a while, you’ll find that Umbral and Axiom are fundamental to the gameplay.
In essence, Umbral creates new gates, ladders, and bridges that allow you to move through the world in ways that aren’t possible in Axiom. But, this feature also essentially grants you a second chance at life because, upon dying in Axiom, you are transported to Umbral, where you have one more chance to live.
The problem is that going to Umbral may not always be a good thing. Although you will gain a Vigor (in-game currency) multiplier, in addition to the normal adversaries that inhabit Axiom, you will now be pursued by monsters of the dead. The more time you spend there, the more formidable and aggressive the adversaries become until, at some point, your healing supplies are taken away from you, and an almost unstoppable monster starts to hunt you down.
If you have spent any time in any of the many Souls-like games out there, you will be pretty used to the combat experience here. The combat is weighty, and the enemies do provide enough of a challenge to make the combat enjoyable, but it is not as smooth as some of the more accomplished games in this genre. You are able to upgrade your stats and weapons using Vigor, and you are able to take refuge at Vestiges, which are like the bonfires in the aforementioned Dark Souls.
The boss fights are good but nothing spectacular, and there are no bosses that live long enough in my memory and have me thinking about them after turning off the game. My gripes with the gameplay are that the Vestiges are just a little bit too far apart, and when you feel like you have been playing for an absolute age, only to then be killed mere meters away from the next Vestige, it can be frustrating.
Graphics and Issues
This game on the PS5, when working at its best, is one of the best-looking games you will ever play so far in the console’s lifecycle, and it definitely gives me memories of playing the Demon’s Souls remake when I first picked up the console. Every castle and village oozes with atmosphere, and the world feels like it has been lived in for millennia, which is exactly what you want from this kind of game. The differences between the two worlds are very distinct. When you switch to Umbral, you feel like you have been dragged to Hell, and it’s just stunning.
However, while it is stunning visually when it is running perfectly, there are some performance issues I ran into during my time with the game. There are some odd audio issues during gameplay, and sometimes there are frame rate stutters that can take me out of the experience, especially when I go full gamer with headphones on a late Friday night.
Overall, Lords of the Fallen is a slightly above-average Souls-like game mainly due to the amazing dual worlds that it creates. The combat, while satisfactory, never does anything to wow me, and I just wish these kinds of games would come up with something unique and interesting to set themselves apart. If you want that Souls-like itch, I would probably recommend something like Lies of P over this, but if you want something more akin thematically to the likes of Dark Souls, then Lords of the Fallen is a great game to sink your teeth into while you wait for the next FromSoftware concoction.
Publisher: CI Games
Platform: PS5, Xbox Series S/X, PC
Release Date: 13 October 2023