Lords of the Fallen, a game daring to dip its toes into the Souls-like genre once again, wields mixed success. The inclusion of the Umbral Realm—a second dimension that can be entered to cheat death or navigate obstacles—offers a distinct twist. However, even this innovative mechanism can’t fully salvage the game’s shortcomings in pacing, level design, and combat.
Duality in Dimensions: The Umbral Realm’s Double-Edged Sword
The game’s standout feature, the Umbral Realm, amps up gameplay with its alternate dimension mechanics. Using your Umbral Lamp, you can either fully enter this realm or peek into it to see what awaits. While it offers a chance for survival after a mortal blow, the Umbral Realm is no safe haven. Overstaying your welcome leads to a surge in enemy attacks, and unlike the real world, you can be fully killed here. This layer of complexity adds both tension and strategy, giving Lords of the Fallen its own identity within the genre.
Yet, the Umbral Realm exacerbates the game’s pacing issues. Instead of alleviating the inherent challenges in exploring the game world, the realm only adds to the frustration, especially during combat.
The Maze of Confusion: Checkpoints and Level Design
The game’s labyrinthine levels could have been a masterpiece of dark fantasy design, but they end up as confusing sprawls. The checkpoint system, crucial in any Souls-like title, lacks refinement in Lords of the Fallen. The game employs “vestiges” as safe havens for leveling up and restocking. The catch? They’re scarce. The introduction of Umbral Seeds, an item that allows you to create your own checkpoints, is a novel idea. However, their rarity and often poor placement in levels dilute their effectiveness, causing more annoyance than relief. This system could benefit from refinement, as it doesn’t seem to serve a genuine purpose aside from forcing you to manage an extra in-game currency.
Lingering Battles: The Combat’s Slow Burn
Lords of the Fallen keeps you on your toes with its combat system, requiring well-timed dodges and heavy strikes. However, the combat too suffers from pacing issues. The dodge mechanic is forgiving to the point of being exploitative, prompting developers to inflate enemy health pools. This results in protracted battles that can quickly turn from exhilarating to tiresome. Boss fights, despite their captivating designs and challenges, similarly overstay their welcome due to this imbalance.
One of the game’s core strengths lies in its robust combat mechanics. Even when heavily armed, your character moves with agility, allowing for rapid mobility across battlegrounds. Weapons in Lords of the Fallen are tactile; they feel weighty and lend a satisfying level of impact. Blocking is skillful, with a “wither” mechanic that discourages turtling behind a shield and demands calculated risk-taking.
Spells & Magic – Seamless Sorcery
The magic system further elevates the combat. The game employs a streamlined method for spellcasting, doing away with cumbersome D-pad selections. Spells are intricately woven into the combat system, allowing for a seamless transition from physical to magical attacks, thereby sustaining the flow and intensity of battles.
Consecutive Confrontations: Enemy Pacing and Reward Structure
The game also stumbles when it comes to enemy pacing. It often throws a barrage of mini-boss-like encounters at you, without providing the much-needed respite or substantial rewards. What could have been a tense build-up turns into a draining, repetitive slog. The risk-reward element, integral to Souls-like games, seems to be skewed towards frustration rather than exhilaration.
Boss Fights – The Climactic Showdowns
Hexworks hits a home run with the game’s bosses. They are well-balanced, with none resorting to infinite combos, and each demanding a different tactical approach. Whether it’s dodging bolts from a crossbow-wielding boss or facing an Attack on Titan-esque monstrosity, the bosses are meticulously designed. However, seasoned soulslike players may find them a tad too forgiving, demanding a tweak in difficulty to offer a more grueling challenge.
Lack of Streamlining: The Inventory Quagmire
When it comes to inventory management, Lords of the Fallen could have been more streamlined. Side paths and Umbral detours often offer weapons and armors that your character might not even be equipped to wield, given their stat limitations. This could be especially grating when you’ve just navigated a perilous area in the hope of meaningful rewards.
Level Design – A Labyrinth of Peril
The game’s later stages feel overpopulated with ambushes and enemy traps. While this adds to the challenge, the sheer frequency becomes overwhelming. Some encounters appear excessively cruel, teetering on the edge of artificial difficulty. The challenge is there, but at times it feels like an unfair game of ‘gotcha,’ instead of a test of skill and strategy.
Multiplayer: How to Co-Op and PvP in Lords of the Fallen
In Lords of the Fallen, jumping into multiplayer is a breeze. Head to any vestige to team up or go head-to-head. You’ve got four options: beckon a random player, invite a friend, assist another gamer, or hunt someone down for PvP.
There are no special item requirements, making multiplayer accessible. Keep in mind, if the host dies, both players are out. However, summoned players can respawn with their healing items intact.
- Xbox and PC gamers can play together.
- PlayStation and PC players can also team up.
- Unfortunately, PlayStation and Xbox players are kept apart.
Lost in Translation: The Verdict
Lords of the Fallen tries to carve its niche in the saturated Souls-like market with the introduction of features like the Umbral Realm and customizable checkpoints. However, these features serve as double-edged swords, enhancing the game in some ways but exacerbating its existing flaws in others. It’s an ambitious endeavor that ends up feeling like a mix of missed opportunities and unrealized potential. The game’s pacing, level design, and combat all show glimmers of brilliance, but ultimately fall short of delivering a cohesive and rewarding experience.
As it stands, Lords of the Fallen delivers moments of ingenuity but they are marred by a series of frustrating gameplay elements, creating an uneven experience that may appeal to some
hardcore fans of the genre but will likely alienate others.
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Microsoft Windows