Lords of the Fallen - Adyr to my Heart
If you’d asked me earlier this year that there was two amazing soulslikes (and I do hate the term) coming out in 2023, let alone within a month of each other, then I’d have laughed at you. The Souls games are a behemoth, best of class, and most of the time it feels like anyone else trying to achieve or even come close to that greatness is met with disappointment. Fans expect a lot and are unwilling to budge on quite a few things. Lies of P kicked arse with its own spin on the genre earlier this month, and now it’s time for Lords of the Fallen to throw its hat into the ring.
Rebooting the franchise after almost 10 years from the first game of the same name, things are quite a bit different now. You play as a Dark Crusader, an umbral lampbearer tasked with taking down the demon god, Adyr. You have the option of playing as one of nine starting classes, all tailored to specific experiences. I chose the Pyric Cultist, listed as an advanced class. It’s an inferno spellcaster that uses light armour by default and only has a single spell. I actually messed up and didn’t know where the vendor was for my spells until a good ten hours into the game, so I was stuck with a single spell (and a fairly average one at that) for quite a long while. This taught me to use melee a good deal, and I end up finding a nice axe that went with my primary stat.
As you’re travelling through the very bleak world, you’ll move between Axiom (the land of the living) and Umbral (the land of the dead). Dying in Axiom moves you forcibly to Umbral with half health and half withered health, which you can earn back by hitting enemies but lose completely if you get hit. The only way to leave the Umbral and its constantly spawning enemies is to find an effigy which are only single use per rest or a vestige, the game’s version of bonfires. Dying in Umbral is an actual game over though, so finding your way out of Umbral when you enter it is a bit of a priority.
There’s also temporary save spots in the form of Vestige Seeds, but these are consumable items that you can only spawn a single one of. A lot of the times I used a seed after a strong boss to rest up, only to walk an extra fifty metres and find an actual Vestige. This was extremely frustrating until I learned the reason for it. In New Game+, there’s no Vestiges. There’s only the hub area, and whatever Vestige Seed you have. Talk about tough.
Combat was rough for me. Not to say it’s badly designed, but I was pretty woeful at it. Bosses were hard, but due to the limited nature of the Vestiges Seeds and limited spots for Vestiges, traversing the world itself became a lot more of a difficult task. Enemies hit hard, they’re good aims generally, and if you’re in Umbral then they won’t stop coming. You have to have your head screwed on straight, because healing is limited by the amount of Sanguinarix (the game’s renewable healing item) and whatever healing stones you can scrape together. You’ll need to take things slowly, and always be prepared. The two things that killed me the most are the game’s version of the mimic, which I won’t spoil but was consistently hilarious to get caught by until I worked out how to spot and kill it much, much later in the game; and enemies that hid behind corners only to push me right off an edge with little regard for my feelings. Check your damn corners, people. Head on a swivel.
The bosses give no quarter too. I fought around thirty total, but still missed a few I think might be tied to other endings, of which there’s three total. Some of them were fairly easy, and became normal enemies later with less health, some of them were extremely tough and required you to really watch and learn and understand their moveset. Blocking won’t stop all the damage, and the parry window felt extremely tight for me, so instead I relied upon dodging. I will say, the dodge felt like it had a bit too many i-frames, I’d love to see it tightened up a bit. The game’s still tough as old boots though, so maybe it’s just fine and I’m just being a pedant.
At first, I wasn’t enamoured with the level design but after finishing the game, I can honestly say it’s actually fantastic. Levels loop back on themselves in a really nice way, there’s very few things you can see and not go to, and there’s myriad secrets to find. Exploring the areas felt wonderful and is often rewarded with either a shortcut or some items.
I really enjoyed the hub area too. It’s sparse, with only a few NPCs in it but they all have interesting and varied stories. They’ll ask you to do or find things throughout the game and will all have their own interests in place. Sometimes helping an NPC will make them an unlockable summon for boss fights, sometimes they’ll leave the hub to do their own thing and you’ll find them in the wild. One thing that annoyed me though is that when they ask you to find something you’ll often have no clue on where that item actually is. A few of their quests, which I had no way of tracking outside of talking to them again, gave little to no instructions on what I was actually looking for or where it’d be so I left a few of their quests unfinished.
I could wax lyrical about this game for ages, honestly. Music’s fantastic, the world is awesome, combat feels great. The tinct system means as you unlock new colour palettes you can apply them to your armour. Looking good is important and it’s great the game found a cool way to include it. Not that there’s not already tonnes of armour and weapons to play with already.
Off the back of Lies of P I wasn’t sure my heart was ready to be sucker-punched with another awesome game in this genre, but here we are. Lords of the Fallen is an absolute triumph and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next from what I hope is a long series, because this game despite some framerate issues in some areas and a few crashes that should be resolved by patches is a hell of a ride. After I finished my first run, something that took me over forty hours, I was ready to jump in for more.
Lords of the Fallen was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by the publisher.