Lords of the Fallen raised eyebrows when it was announced prior to E3. The game looked like Dark Souls with prettier graphics thanks to the power of the next-gen consoles and PC. Plus, it was developed by City Interactive, a developer with a spotty track record. It was, however, being published by Bandai Namco, the publisher of Dark Souls. In an attempt to put speculation to rest, I got to go hands-on with Lords of the Fallen at E3 2014, and am happy to report that it might actually fill the hole Dark Souls left on PS4 and Xbox One — but only if you can get over its issues.
Lords of the Fallen is a much more narrative focused game than Dark Souls. A fallen god has returned to the world and is wreaking havoc. The people send out criminals, marked by tattoos, to face the god’s minions. You’ll play as Harkyn, and go on a quest to defeat the fallen god. Due to the game having a set protagonist, players will not be able to customize their character’s appearance. Players also won’t learn the narrative through Harkyn and his interactions between characters in the world. The story will instead be told through the game’s world, so it’s up the players to decide how much narrative they want in their experience.
Comparisons to Dark Souls are inevitable whether you’re comparing gameplay or the presentation between the two games. Lords of the Fallen plays exactly like Dark Souls. The shoulder buttons are used to attack and defend, while the face buttons are used for dodging, magic and items. The attacks are purposefully heavy to add a sense of realism to the combat, which feels refreshing considering that all hack-and-slash games are about speed and overpowering the enemy. Just like in Dark Souls, knowing when to dodge and when to attack are paramount to your survival. Health, magic, and stamina bars can be found on the bottom right of the screen, and you will want to pay attention to them at all times.
The presentation feels like it is literally ripped from the Dark Souls games. Dark and dreary, Lords of the Fallen paints a depressing look at the end of times. Castles are crumbling, monsters are slaughtering humans, and blood paints the walls. City Interactive told me that there would be a wide array of different environments, but I was only shown a castle. Lords of the Fallen is a next-gen exclusive and comes with a nice next-gen coat of paint. The environment is pleasantly detailed with some destructible elements, and the player character model contains extreme detail to show off all the fancy different armor and weapons that can be equipped.
Lords of the Fallen does suffer from some glaring issues. I was only given one level to play, a castle, so this might change in other levels, but the level design was rather claustrophobic. Tight corridors punctuated the experience, which would have been fine if there weren’t enemies that took up the whole corridor. Dodging and attacking were nearly impossible due to the size of the shielded enemy and the small space of the level. The camera was also dreadful, and kept getting caught in the geometry leaving me with terrible perspectives. This could all be fixed in the final game, but what I played had a lot of problems.
It doesn’t look like Dark Souls II is coming to PS4 and Xbox One, leaving a gap for fans of the masochistic franchise. After playing Lords of the Fallen there is no doubt in my mind that this game is attempting to fill that gap. Lords of the Fallen is almost exactly like From Software’s games, but it is currently missing the nuances that make Dark Souls so good. The level design in Dark Souls is meticulously crafted so that every death feels like it was your fault. Lords of the Fallen is missing that, and needs that if it is too be more than just a Dark Souls alternative for PS4 and Xbox One come this fall.