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Lords of the Fallen Review

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There was a time where you just knew that a Soulslike developed by any studio aside from FromSoftware just wouldn’t quite hit the same.

Sure, there have been some good non-FromSoftware developed Soulslikes, such as Deck13’s The Surge and its sequel, but after playing them you always felt like booting up the original Dark Souls again, or jumping into Elden Ring. Last month’s Lies of P by Neowiz was perhaps the first to give FromSoftware a real run for its money, and now Hexworks’ Lords of the Fallen is doing the same. It’s a good time to be a Soulslike fan, then.

Not to be confused by the 2014 Soulslike of the same name, Lords of the Fallen whisks players away to a dark fantasy world that very much apes those found in the Dark Souls titles. There are ruined castles and dank caverns, along with perilous gorges and other locations where putting one foot wrong can lead to an unfortunate end. You shouldn’t let Lords of the Fallen’s lack of an original setting put you off though, as while this does have all the familiar Soulslike elements, it also has some interesting ideas of its own.

The biggest is perhaps its dual world mechanic. You see, thanks to a nifty lamp that you have on you at all times, you don’t necessarily have to fear death. If you engage in battle and find your health depleted, rather than seeing “You Died” appear on the screen, you’ll instead find yourself in the world of the dead, known here as Umbral. You effectively have a second chance, then, and if you manage to find either a Vestige where you can rest, or a strange flower-covered corpse reaching out of the ground, you can even return to the land of the living.

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Umbral isn’t just a second chance at life, either. Sometimes you’ll need to make use of it in order to progress. While structurally the real world and that of Umbral are mostly the same, you’ll often find that there are differences. A deep body of water in the real world probably doesn’t exist in the Umbral, for example, so you might want to switch over if you need to cross it. And if you find your progress halted by a gate, you might be able to just raise your lamp, its influence changing the world around you just enough that you can pass through. Just be wary of holding your lamp up for too long, or you might get a nasty surprise.

Related: The Best Games Like Dark Souls on PC

Along with its dual-world mechanic, Lords of the Fallen also has a unique approach to ranged weapons. Here, bows and crossbows are very much complementary to your melee weapons rather then being primary sources of damage. They’re powerful, but thanks to a limited amount of ammo being available you have to use them sparingly – though thankfully your ammo is replenished when resting. You’ll acquire multiple arrow and bolt types on your travels, and rather than having to buy huge quantities of them, they each simply have an ammo cost. So, while standard bolts might cost two ammo points to use, for example, weighted bolts cost three, meaning you’ll be able to perform less shots. Throwable items are available, too, and you similarly can’t stockpile them to cheese encounters.

There’s yet another unique element to Lords of the Fallen, too. As mentioned, Vestiges are this game’s equivalent of Bonfires – places where you can rest, level up and fast travel. As you get further into the game, however, you’ll find these drying up, making you cover more ground before finding safety. What you can do, however, is create your own temporary Vestige. Providing you have a seed, you can plant it at flowery outcrops, allowing you to create your own resting point if you feel the need. It’s a nice touch that allows players to cut down a trying journey back to a boss, or simply give them peace of mind.

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All of these features add up to make Lords of the Fallen feel relatively fresh. And with its mechanics being very solid indeed, it leads to a Soulslike that grabs your attention just as much as any effort by FromSoftware – even if it is somewhat derivative. Sure, there’s the odd issue, such as fighting near the edges of platforms being dangerous due to your character lurching forward with each attack, and one particular trip back to a boss should you fail is especially painful, but chances are you’ll willingly overlook them because of how enjoyable and engrossing everything else is.

There’s one thing to be aware of if you’re planning on playing on console, however, and that’s performance. We’ve been playing Lords of the Fallen primarily on PS5, and it looks amazing whether you play using the Performance or Quality presets. Chances are you won’t want to use the Quality preset though, as 30fps just doesn’t cut the mustard for this type of game. Thankfully, the Performance preset does present a 60fps experience most of the time, but sometimes there is a bit of stutter, and in some areas the framerate can drop. It’s not bothered us too much, but if you’re sensitive to such things you might want to see if Hexworks improves things further – numerous patches have been released prior to launch that have already improved things considerably.

With its stunning visuals and unique mechanics, Lords of the Fallen has quickly become one of our favourite Soulslikes. Its setting may be derivative, but it’s so well realised that you likely won’t care, especially when you’re switching between the worlds of the living and the dead, each with their own monstrosities to deal with and treasures to find. Hexworks has created something that genuinely feels like a successor to Dark Souls, leveraging the power of next-gen to push the genre forward. And so, put the mediocrity of the original Lords of the Fallen out of your mind: this may have the same name, but it stands head and shoulders above its predecessor in every single way.

Lords of the Fallen Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Lords of the Fallen is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

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