Amazing new soulslike game could be better than Elden Ring
LORDS of the Fallen was an early contender in the genre known as Soulslikes, a brutal genre spawned by FromSoftware’s Demon and Dark Souls series.
When Lords of the Fallen first released in 2014, it felt like there was a lot of potential, but next to From’s games like Elden Ring, it felt like little more than a cheap knock-off.
Now, developer CI Games is trying once more to make Lords of the Fallen into the game it was meant to be, with a brand new game using the same name as the old one.
The first major change you’ll see is the character customisation, which has been greatly overhauled compared to the 2014 game.
While the original game pigeonholed you into a specific character and specific moveset, here you get to make your own, exactly how you want it.
Whether you’re big or small, quick or powerful, there’s plenty of options to choose from, including an archetype that would look right at home in Bloodborne.
During our hands-off demo with the game, we started in the tutorial section, where it was immediately noticeable that the game was absolutely gorgeous.
The art team who worked on the game has done a good job of bringing the game up to modern expectations visually, and it easily surpasses FromSoftware’s works on a technical level.
The developers are clearly aware of this too, as they put a dedicated lantern into the game to let you illuminate the beautiful world around you.
Lords of the Fallen is set in a universe where two worlds exist in parallel, and the lantern lets you have a peek into the other world.
Each world has its own layout and features, which are used heavily in clever environmental puzzles, but also its own enemies and hazards.
In one section, the player is shown exploring what looks to be some wooden scaffolding in one world, but lifting the lanterns shows that it’s actually a dead, hulking giant in the other world.
If you’re unlucky, enemies can even pull you into the other world, which is also where you’re trapped if you happen to die while exploring.
While you’re in the other world, your character loses their mind, which causes enemies and other nightmares to descend on you.
If you make it to an anchor before you go insane, you can return to the real world with all your experience intact.
You can also place your own anchor anywhere in the world, effectively giving you the option to create your own checkpoints in the game.
These player-created anchors only last for a certain amount of time, and if you’re playing on New Game+, these are the only anchors you have, as there won’t be any in the world.
The world design is exceptional, with the team doing a great job of fitting it all together and making it interconnected in a pleasing way.
It’s much like the first Dark Souls game, with areas looping back around on each other and coming back in unexpected places.
At one point, the developer showed the camera zooming up inside a big church tower, which revealed yet another area to explore, high above the player.
Game director Cezar Virtosu says: “The world is semi-open, which means from every level, you can go in two directions, and every three levels loop back into each other.
“Our areas are hard to be defined by levels because some of them are vast, and some of them are small, but it is supremely interconnected.”
The game also has the great quality of piecing together how people in this game world lived and died from environmental clues.
Far from just a series of environments placed there for the player, this is a world that was lived in, worked in, and where people spent their lives.
Duality is a major theme throughout the game, and it extends beyond just the two realities offered to explore.
One boss fight shown by the developers is actually two characters, conjoined twins who hate each other because one is more dominant than the other.
Halfway through the boss fight, it enters its second phase, which sees the usually weaker twin take over and unleash its full power.
It’s a difficult boss to read, as it moves a lot like a contortionist, twisting and flailing about all while being terrifying and unworldly.
Vitosu says: “We wanted bosses to shock you, we wanted body horror, because we wanted you to ask, ‘what is the nature of this world?’
“Now for this boss, as unbelievable as it sounds, it was [motion captured] by a gentleman called Troy James, who fits in a box.”
Leaning further into the theme of duality, Lords of the Fallen also offers cooperative play, and it’s a lot better than FromSoftware’s implementation.
Unlike Dark Souls, where you can only summon other players in temporarily, here you can play with another player for the entire game.
There are even encouragements for doing this, such as sets of armour, for completing certain tasks or clearing milestones, but the challenge will be ramped up to accommodate for the extra player.
Combat has been reworked entirely from the original too, retaining its methodical impact but with many more tools to use in battle.
At one point, a player pulled a soul out of the body of an enemy, then placed it over a ledge, after which the body tried to retrieve it and subsequently died.
Virtosu says: “We wanted to nail that elusive Soulslike combat. There is a lot of knowledge that we found out along the way, but we want it to land perfectly to address all the feedback that the previous game had.”
One of the biggest changes is to how parrying works, since if you time a parry incorrectly, you’ll now still block the attack rather than getting hit.
The other major change is magic, which is the most impressive thing about the game so far, with plenty of fun options.
You can map magic to a radial menu to create your own spell combats, and using magic is fast and snappy, with no wind-ups or long casting animations.
Magic is all flashy spins and twirls, firing off fireballs and bolts of lightning at rapid pace, or mixing it in with sword attacks, with all of it flowing together seamlessly.
Later spells even let you summon meteor storms of biblical proportions, allowing you to wipe out large groups of enemies with ease.
Virtuoso says: “We wanted to achieve that Jedi fantasy, where you swing the sword and do a little force push and you continue with the sword.”
So far, it seems like the development team is nailing it, with a beautiful world, fast and snappy combat, and a fascinating approach to duality.
Lords of the Fallen has no exact release date yet, but it’s expected to launch on PC, Xbox Series, and PS5 sometime in 2023.
Written by Oliver Brandt on behalf of GLHF.
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