The PREVIEW we WROTE about LORDS of the FALLEN

I’m not usually one to judge a book by its cover, so to speak, but the capitalisation of LORDS of the FALLEN just has me tickled. It suggests we should shout the first word but then drop to a whisper and, when listeners are lulled into a false sense of security, scream the last syllables like a BANSHEE. If you’re thinking ‘only an angry nutter would do that’ then welcome, my genteel friend, to LORDS of the FALLEN.

I wouldn’t normally open with a screenshot of a loading screen but just hark at Harkyn, the gravel-chomping hero of LORDS of the FALLEN. He is PISSED. Someone’s written all over his face, so I guess you would be? Harkyn’s so angry he shouts WHY SHOULD I CARE at NPCs chatting away and screams with guttural rage at moments of triumph, as if the mere thought of happiness is an AFFRONT. At one point an old man asked Harkyn’s advice on dealing with a poisoned hand. CHOP IT OFF was the obvious reply and, when the chap hesitated, Harkyn did the job for him. These LORDS may be FALLEN but, if anger is any indicator of strength, they are also FUCKED.

All this bluster may be a cunning way of differentiating LotF from its obvious inspiration, Fromsoft’s much more understated Souls series. And ‘inspiration’ is putting it kindly. This is a thirdperson combat game with a loose medieval-fantasy vibe where the system is built around a health and stamina bar, and on death you leave behind a ‘ghost’ containing experience that has to be re-collected. You can parry attacks, roll to dodge them, drink potions refilled at checkpoints, and innumerable other familiar details.

The sheer quality of the Souls games meant that such mimicry was inevitable, and so it’s to LotF’s credit that it does innovate a little. The combo system has an element of timing swings perfectly, for example, which makes them use less energy and with certain weapons is essential to trigger the most damaging strikes. You can also charge attacks by holding the key, which uses more energy but deals more damage and can send enemies flying.

The feel of combat is also distinct, surprisingly so given how much it borrows, with encounters neither as deadly nor as fast as those in any Souls game. The key tactic for Souls, in my opinion, is never getting hit – which makes mastering how to roll an essential skill. LotF features three different rolling speeds (as in Souls) but the slower pace of battles means that even the fastest roll feels sluggish by comparison – and anyway, blocking is much more viable and your dude can take more of a beating. I cannot emphasise this aspect enough: in Souls you can be wearing the fanciest armour in the game, and still get slaughtered by a guy in a loincloth with a pointy stick. Here the minor enemies feel much more like cannon fodder, doing relatively little damage and easy to dispatch with random swinging.

What all this adds up to is a kind of Souls-lite combat system where the elements are the same but something’s slightly off about the rhythm. This may very well be to do with the fact that the preview build had only the first location in the game to wander around in, so obviously the enemies are going to be weaker than what’s to come. But even then the bosses were something of a disappointment. Both had a tower shield gimmick that meant you had to wait for their attacks, get a swing in, then back off and do the same until they were dead – maybe I’m missing something but I couldn’t find another tactic. Things got even worse when trying to do them using the dual-wieldable weapons, which depend on your building up a perfect combo to deal out a third super-damaging strike, because the window to get hits in was too small for that strike to ever happen. This was particularly disappointing because the Souls games allow such divergent playstyles to work – pretty much any weapon can be used to defeat any enemy, and your approach to the huge bosses can be either super-cautious or all-out. Here it seemed like there was one strategy to pwn them all.

This may well turn out different in the final game, and I’m certainly hoping to eat my words, because although LotF doesn’t make a great first impression there’s certainly room for a more arcadey take on what the Souls games do. And it has several smart design choices that could develop into something great – the ‘perfect strikes’ idea adds a tactical layer to dual-wielding in particular, and I never got tired of charging up heavy attacks with a giant sword.

LotF alters ideas like the ‘bloodstain’ in small but clever ways – in the Souls games, when you die a bloodstain remains at that spot containing your acquired souls. This is cool as it is, but in LotF your ‘ghost’ will fade over time, meaning you have to get back to it as quickly as possible to get all the experience back – and before it has been collected the ghost acts as a minor but noticeable healing AoE spell. So if you die at a boss, for example, you can forego collecting your ghost immediately to have some automatic healing for a while.

The best idea, by far, is how the experience multiplier works. Basically the more enemies you kill, the higher your XP multiplier will go – but this multiplier gets reset at a checkpoint when you ‘bank’ your XP into the status screen. So this encourages somewhat risky play, and also means that the further you travel without checkpointing the further you’ll have to travel to get that ghost if you die. LotF (like Souls) doesn’t have a difficulty setting so this is a great way of allowing players to establish their own challenge threshold within the game – and even though I was playing in a relatively small area, I did find it eventually making me more careful against even the cannon fodder.

So the early verdict on LotF is mixed. It suffers enormously from a straight comparison with Souls – everything from the combat’s immediacy to the aesethetics to the way it delivers narrative is much less to my tastes. But they’re also much more different games than it first appears. It may well be that you’re one of those who found Dark Souls’ lack of a narrative through-line disappointing (heathen!), or perhaps wanted a more forgiving combat system, and in that case LotF may well deliver. What interests me is where it goes after this opening. If LotF can amp up its challenge and introduce more interesting enemy types then, along with that clever XP system, there’s hope. But if it sticks with this slightly rote and slow take on combat throughout it’s on a hiding to nothing. Check back next week to find out Wot I Think of the full thing.

47 Comments

  1. phelix says:

    Second to last screenshot: This is a MONASTERY. No WOMEN allowed.

  2. ShaunOfTheFuzz says:

    But… but… they’re all capitalised, just different font sizes…

    • vai90 says:

      Exactly. Kinda ruins this whole JOKE, because it actually doesn’t make as much SENSE as the author thought.

    • Bugamn says:

      There is a thing like small caps, that can be used in place of minuscules in some styles.

  3. theodacourt says:

    So do you generally still want to face one enemy at a time or as few as you can? Perhaps the biggest difference between a souls game and a God of War type game is that every enemy counts and each one takes more focus than in other games, partially because of the difficulty.

    If it’s easier in a way that means you can be fighting multiple guys in each encounter then that doesn’t sound so interesting to me.

    • Cinek says:

      Watch this video: link to youtube.com – it’s a dev response to some of the comments in early previews / stuff that previewers missed.

      And if I understood it well: Despite of what Rich said – LotF doesn’t have “3 roll speeds just like Dark Souls” – it’s much more elaborate system.

  4. amateurviking says:

    I would like this to be good please. Make it so.

  5. YogSo says:

    Anyone ELSE thinks that HARKYN dude has an UNCANNY resemblance to a REALLY angry Tom SELLECK?

  6. Wowbagger says:

    Anyone who is interested in the game should check out ENB’s video on the preview: link to youtu.be

    It has similar points to this article and he articulates them clearly, i’m still hyped for it to be honest as i’ll take anything soulsian to plug the gap before bloodborne.

  7. Anthile says:

    From what I gathered so far:
    -It’s a really blatant Souls clone although seemingly not as difficult (and I’ll eat my hat if it will be anywhere near as good).
    -The massive pauldrons and hoods look ugly as sin. Very Warhammer-ish.
    -No multiplayer whatsoever.
    -Dude looks like he’s from Vikings.
    -There is a recorded stream from Lobos jr (famous Souls challenge runner) playing an earlier version here that should give a good impression if you have the patience.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      This guy is a perfect reminder of why i hate Youtubers being such a predominant force nowadays.

      Granted, i’m still not a the point of watching him, you know, actually play, so he might be the best player in the universe for all i know, but it’s just a pain to follow a linear video with all the buffering issues ( with my country’s shitty internet ) with such slooooooow pacing.

      I hope he’s not going to stop mid sentence for the whole video everytime some new dude subscribes.

  8. Crafter says:

    Looks like another case of silly woman armor but it could still be interesting.

    • irrelevantllama says:

      I thought her armour was fairly sensible. It even has a spot for her boobs to go. I imagine it would be uncomfortable to wear a flat breastplate if you have breasts.

  9. cpt_freakout says:

    OH my GOD

  10. Casimir's Blake says:

    Dark Souls with every ounce of subtlety removed. It seems. This’ll be popular with 13 year olds.

    (I’m hoping it’ll turn out better than Dark Souls 2, though…)

    • killias2 says:

      DS2 had flaws, but it was still one of the best games of the year. There’s no way this is anywhere near competitive.

      • lowprices says:

        Regardless, it seems to be the done thing to be theatrically disgusted by the merely pretty good sequel to an undisputed classic. The same way Invisible War was a decent game whose biggest problem was not matching up to Deus Ex, but everyone who mentions it feels obliged to talk about it as if it was some sort of interactive war crime.

        • Casimir's Blake says:

          As your comment is indirectly referring to mine, I should tell you I am NOT one of those people that share the opinion Invisible War was a terrible game. It wasn’t. It had small levels and a nondescript plot, but its interface, immersion and gameplay were fine. To this day it seems more playable to me than the first game which suffers with a clunky interface, movement and rather broken combat and stealth.

    • inf says:

      I love how all these (i presume relatively new) DkS(II) players have this hipster attitude about how their franchise isn’t mainstream, and subtle, and how it’s ultra complex or something. Here’s a shocker: it isn’t… , and definitely not after this last iteration, which offered more catering to the (underage) masses than an average Mcdonald’s at lunch hour. Lords of The Fallen is for 13 year olds? I honestly can’t imagine DkS having a much older demographic these days.

      The days of Demon’s Souls are over. You know, when it was a platform exclusive, when it was an Asian release, when it had awesome art direction, it was a niche product. This is when that “wow this is a special, unique challenging game” attitude took root. But all said and done, mechanically, even Demon’s Souls was just an ARPG with some rudimentary character building elements, and good, challenging, weighty combat (which got thrown overboard with the first DkS). Stop making it more than it is and comparing it with everything else as if its a stone tablet for everything that is challenging or has depth. Don’t even get me started on the cheesefest that is supposed to be competitive PvP either…

      The franchise is now pure bandwagon material bro’s, lets see how many of these devs / publishers hop on shall we?

      • Crane says:

        Pfft, you scrub.
        I was playing FROMSoft games back in the Kings Field era, not like you johnny-come-latelys. Now excuse me while I stroke my e-peen some more about how much I liked stuff before it was cool.

        *eye roll*

        • Cinek says:

          You had McDonalds before it made Cheeseburgers too?

        • Casimir's Blake says:

          The hipster argument is one of the easiest. Don’t mind him, he feels that fanboy angst and can’t help it.

          ‘Tis a shame, though, that From still haven’t released King’s Field V. Or that there have been practically no free-roaming first person dungeon crawlers of note for years. (No, grid-based movement isn’t enough, it’s a needless anachronism.)

          • inf says:

            Right, because out of all that i said should be deduced that i’m a FROMSoft fanboy… All i did was state some facts about your so called “subtle”‘ franchise. Everything i said was to point out that Demon’s Souls (where the franchise conceptually was bron) was much less mainstream than what it is today. Yet i also labeled it “only” an ARPG, which should have made clear that i found even Demon’s Souls lacking depth. But i’ll admit, i have played a lot of it, and think DkS has only made steps backwards for the franchise.

            I’m sorry if i came off as an arrogant asshole, but the comment wasn’t about e-peen, it was about venting frustration of seeing too many people treating DkS as some golden standard. Older CRPGs (including some dungeon crawlers, as you, in all your modesty alluded to have played a lot of) should, in my opinion, be held as a standard, and new concepts should be derived from them.

            But should they wanna keep the franchise marketable to a wide enough demographic, which is most certainly the case, is it so bad to say; look at Demon’s Souls?

    • adwodon says:

      While I can’t say what sort of demographic they’re aiming at I do take issue with the idea that because a game lacks depth it’s for children. There are all sorts in this world but a lot of my friends, myself included, have challenging jobs, often we get home and we just want something to enjoy which isn’t overly taxing. If you can do a demanding job and still want to challenge yourself at the end of that then more power to you but that isn’t everyone.

      That’s not to say I can’t find time for depth, I certainly can, but it usually has to be planned out, setting time aside specifically for that activity rather than just coming home, working out, then slouching on the sofa for an hour or so before I cook dinner like most workday evenings.

      In much the same way that I’d happily watch something as mindless as The Avengers over The Holy Mountain most of the time, I also wouldn’t look down on others for choosing the same despite acknowledging that one of those movies has way more depth than the other.

  11. Al Bobo says:

    About that dual-wielding… Can’t you ‘cook’ up your combo before hitting the boss so that only the 3rd strike connects? I’m so hoping that this game turns out to be good. I wished that with The Evil Within and it turned true. Maybe it will happen again.

  12. Cinek says:

    Quick question – does this game got that Dark Souls ridiculous system where you can’t do anything while attack animation is playing?

  13. Cortes says:

    Great article. For me Lords of the Fllen will be very interesting challenging game with a lot of fight with bosses. I very interesting how will looks daying system and possibility to pick up our lost experience. This screenshoot looks awesome.

  14. Dogsbody says:

    Dark Souls clone – hell yes, please!

    Dark Souls lite clone, with wussier combat – ugh, why did you even bother.

    • gi_ty says:

      Hey, I loved Dark Souls, I haven’t played the 2nd yet but I plan to. I loved it but man it could be frustrating at points. Sometimes the only way to make progress was to get one of my friends to hang out in a certain area until they could be summoned to help, and we still failed repeatedly. What I am saying is I slightly easier game with better multiplayer systems could be a lot of fun for people that can’t devote as much time as they wish they could to mastering more difficult combat.

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      Harlander says:

      I’d really go for a “Dark Souls, but only about 0.85 times as hard”, frankly.

  15. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    Any idea about how the loot system works? Everything seems very shiny and a lot of stuff seems supposed to be always with you from the get-go, like the various weapon and armor variations.

    Are those as limited as it seems? Does stuff mostly revolve around an upgrade system?

  16. MacTheGeek says:

    Amphibrachic tetrameter in the title? Nice.

  17. derbefrier says:

    Will be waiting for reviews on this one. Even if it is Souls lite it could still be worth getting.

  18. DantronLesotho says:

    Even if it’s Dark Souls lite, it still looks pretty good and sounds competent at the very least. I look forward to the WOT i THINK

  19. dfuse says:

    Can you pause this game? I loved Demon Souls but after I got children it became impossible to play a non-pausable game, so I never got the chance (or the time) to sink 100’s of hours into Dark Souls. This game was on my watchlist to feed my hunger for more Souls in a more digestable package.

    • grom.5 says:

      Yes you can. Pause and menu it seems according to the videos made by the developer as a response to the different preview.

      I like the idea, they seem to… well, put some heart in this game, even if the name is way too generic.

  20. Renevent says:

    Looks fantastic, can’t wait.

  21. Turkey says:

    If you’re going to make your hero the most gravelly motherfucker ever there needs to be a $40 million cut scene where he literally gnaws on a brick.

  22. SlimShanks says:

    Did anyone else notice that Rich Stanton has a poor grasp of Dark Souls mechanics? I suppose writers only have so much time to actually play games, and that’s fair, but it hurts me when people say things that are wrong about games I love. I still love you all though.
    I have nothing to say but yes please about any instance of Souls games being copied. Think about all your favourite RPG’s. Now think about them with Dark Souls style combat.

  23. JiminyJickers says:

    An easier version of the Dark Souls idea sounds up my alley. I find the Dark Souls games too difficult.

    • Notus87 says:

      Easier version, perhaps. more friendly for the player to think more complex story, much the story of the world (from what I know, I read somewhere that it will be 80 soundtracks related to the story describing the world of Lords). for me even graphically pleasing. if I have a different version specify the DS is certainly enjoyable version I would describe lords.