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Lords of the Fallen review

Robert Zak
3 Nov 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
22
inc VAT

Doomed to unfavourable comparisons with Dark Souls, but Lords of the Fallen is still great in its own right

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Specifications

Available formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One

With a lonely protagonist, maze-like levels and tough penalties for dying, CI Games’ Lords of the Fallen follows reverently in the gruelling footsteps of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series. Comparisons are unavoidable, and the passionate Souls community will no doubt vocally accuse the former of copycatting, but Lords of the Fallen largely manages to stand up on its own merits - despite some liberal repurposing of game mechanics.

Stern condemned criminal Harkyn might have more personality than the player-created adventurers found in the Souls games, but only barely. Aside from a passing resemblance to Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, he’s a nondescript character, apathetically shrugging and grunting at people whether they ask him to retrieve a rusty dagger or close a portal to hell threatening the very existence of the world. Released from prison at the start of the game to defeat the Rhogar, an army of demonic lords invading the human realm, Harkyn is a fairly standard fighter that gels with the generic storyline. Thankfully though, Lords of the Fallen wastes little time with exposition, letting you get stuck in to the combat.

From the outset, your choice of the three spell classes, Brawler, Deception and Solace, determine your play style; brawling spells dish out maximum damage, Solace spells encourage a more defensive approach, while Deception spells weaken your enemies and make them ripe for attacking. The three equipment classes, Rogue, Warrior and Cleric, only affect your character’s starting stats and outfit, meaning you can mould Harkyn with your own personal play style as you progress.

Not being bound to a particular class or ability set means being able to experiment with the substantial arsenal of ornate weapons and armour. Each weapon has different combos of heavy and light attacks, and can be upgraded with runes that let you dish out more damage. Larger weapons including two-handed hammers and great axes take several seconds to carry out a single swing, so are best left until you’ve mastered the slow and methodical combat system.

Frantically pressing the ‘Attack’ button will leave Harkyn panting in seconds, as each attack drains a portion of your stamina bar. Attacking at just the right moment after your previous attack will use half the stamina, rewarding perfect timing with a longer combo. Timing varies between weapons, which helps mix up the combat; chopping away at a boss with a perfectly-timed combo, then lifting your shield with the last of your stamina just as it tries to cleave you in half - sending you stumbling backwards but unhurt - is an exhilarating feeling. This fusion of weighty, thoughtful combat with beautiful next-gen graphics makes for several memorable moments throughout the campaign.

The medieval fantasy setting, comprised of snow-blown castles, dungeons and demonic otherworlds, might be generic, but everything within it is a visual feast, giving both the PS4 and Xbox One a graphical workout. Sparks fly from clashing swords, ominous light filters into dank buildings through green-tinted windows, and stoney surfaces gleam with dampness. Pretty though it may be, the art design is indistinct; there are lots of nice things to look at on a technical level, but it lacks in character and substance.

As with Dark Souls, experience is earned by defeating enemies then converted into attribute and spell upgrades at checkpoints. When you die, you must retrieve your unbanked XP from the place of death, but die again before collecting it and those hard-earned points evaporate. Lords of the Fallen puts a new twist on this mechanic by increasing an XP multiplier for every enemy you kill without saving or upgrading at a checkpoint; this encourages you to push on without using checkpoints to build up bigger rewards, but leaving you with further to go if you die.

It’s a shame the difficulty doesn’t do enough to challenge you, as players can quickly outpace the difficulty curve after banking some early upgrades. It can feel like you’re the most menacing creature in the game world after only a few hours, so that even the bosses quickly lose their aura of menace. You can carry your hero through to higher difficulty settings after your first play through, but these should’ve been available from the start, considering that anyone who’s completed - or even played - Dark Soulswill already have a good mastery of Fallen’s mechanics.

For the most part, Lords of the Fallen is content to mimic Dark Souls’ mechanics while making the game more forgiving. It’s an approach that will undoubtedly divide opinion; catering to a more mainstream audience comes at the expense of Souls veterans, who may reasonably stick their noses up and dismiss it as child’s play. CI Games seems shy to experiment with more original ideas, even though the few it does try work very well.

Inevitable comparisons aside, Lords of the Fallen still has some impressive visuals and tactical swordplay, even if the difficulty can’t quite match the series that inspired it..

SPECIFICATIONS
Available formatsPC, PS4, Xbox One
OS SupportWindows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
Minimum CPU2.6GHz quad-core Intel, 3GHz quad-core AMD
Minimum GPUNvidia GeForce GTX 460 / AMD Radeon HD 6850
Minimum RAM6GB
Hard disk space25GB
Detailswww.lordsofthefallen.com/
Product code265300