Back in 2014, I was a novice at the Dark Souls style of game. I’d tried Dark Souls, and had my ass comprehensively whooped by Quelaag. Seriously, that fiery spider wench had stomped me and Mildred more than a few times, and I am ashamed to admit that I ran away and forgot all about the game for a while. Fast forward a bit though, and with a shiny new Xbox One sat under the TV, Deck 13 Interactive went and released a new game in the same vein as Dark Souls – Lords of the Fallen.
The story of Lords of the Fallen is the usual kind of fantasy nonsense, revolving around a world where a god named Adyr was defeated, long ago. Adyr apparently ruled humanity with an iron fist, and was finally taken down by three heroes; a Rogue, a Cleric and a Warrior, who later became demigods known as the Judges. After this, all sins were punished, whether they be great or small, and this is brought to the fore by the look of the character that we play.
Harkyn, as the man is known, is a convicted criminal whose sins are visible on on his face, in the shape of runes which give him a unique look, to say the least. The way that your class was decided in the Lord of the Fallen was fairly unique too, with a choice of magic shaping the way that your Harkyn would play out. First you would have to choose from three types of magic – either brawling, deception and solace – and then take your pick from three sets of armour; they of Warrior, Rogue or Cleric. The choice of styles that you pick lets you have different character builds, with solace magic combined with Warrior armour making a Paladin style character, with less all out strength than a pure warrior, but with access to spells to add a ranged option to the gameplay. Rogues are fast but not terribly damaging, while a Cleric is an almost pure magic using class.
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m always happier in a game when my guy comes equipped with a lot of armour and a big pointy lump of metal rather than spells, so the early days of Lords of the Fallen saw me plumping for a straight out warrior. Brawling magic + Warrior armour = high strength, high vitality and an ability to almost go toe to toe with the enemies. Smaller enemies are usually easily dealt with through this build, and bosses, while still needing care, are simple enough. And so I set off, taking my first steps into the world and almost straight into a boss fight.
Now, with my vast experience of the Dark Souls games, I took to Lords of the Fallen like a duck to water, and soon was dispatching bad guys with nary a care in the world. The game played out in a non-linear fashion – again a lot like Dark Souls – with the ability to wander around and get into trouble in a variety of different areas. Luckily, the checkpoint system was fairly forgiving, with the checkpoints acting like bonfires, allowing you to put experience points into levelling up your character, making yourself stronger to face new enemies. Of course, resting respawned all the non-boss enemies as we are used to, so it was a bit of a risk as well.
At the time of release, Lords of the Fallen ran into criticism for pretty much running the Dark Souls series through a photocopier, copying the gameplay almost verbatim. However, while some of these points were valid, there were a few differences that Deck 13 brought to the table. The main one is the way that the game dealt with the frequent deaths that befell the players. See, in Lords of the Fallen the experience that you drop is still available for pickup if you can make it back to the point of your death, but this time around there is a time limit put upon the recovery. So, if you can’t make it back in time, you lose all the experience that you had, and also if you die before reaching that point, the experience is gone. This does make it a little trickier than that which inspired it, as in Dark Souls you can take your time getting back to where you popped your clogs. Here though, there is an additional pressure placed on you to hurry up. There is also a multiplier effect with the experience that you earn, as the longer you go without dying, or spending the experience you collect, the more you earn; the risk/reward mechanic in this case works very well. It’s easy to see the DNA on display here for The Surge, Deck 13 Interactive’s follow up set in a futuristic setting. The timer, the risk/reward mechanic where you get more experience for running around for a long time, and the crunching combat all owe a debt of gratitude to this game.
So, Lords of the Fallen, while being largely remembered as being “not quite as good as Dark Souls” was still an enjoyable play back in the day. To my eternal shame, I never did finish everything on offer, with other games and priorities coming to the fore. In fact, it still sits in my “Ready to install” list, taunting me every time I look, and it’s only been through writing this piece in which I’ve found the temptation to go back.
It’s strange to think that this is a game that was first played five years ago, as it barely seems like last week, but time has certainly been kind to Lords of the Fallen. It still holds up, still plays well and I’m still motivated to finally beat it.
How about you guys though? Did you play Lords of the Fallen back in the day? Did you manage to persevere long enough to finish it? Let me know in the comments!
If you haven’t yet purchased and played Lords of the Fallen then you can grab the game right now from the Xbox Store or Amazon. It’s also available on PS4 and PC.