I quite enjoyed the original Lords of the Fallen, which launched on the Xbox and other platforms back in 2014. But it always felt a little bit clunky, a little bit unpolished.
Well, now there is a new game in the series, also called Lords of the Fallen, and with Hexworks and CI Games on board, I’m hoping that the sins of the past will be forgotten. With a massive world to explore, populated by all manner of monsters, the scene is set for an epic adventure between two worlds – are you ready to die? Like, a lot?
Presentation of Lords of the Fallen is where we will check in first, and initial impressions are very good indeed. The opening cinematic is extremely impressive and as the game starts, the visual aspects continue to excel. The world is huge, and seems to be all one piece – you can run from one area into the next if that’s what you wish to do. And best of all, there isn’t just one world to explore. Yes, in a mechanic I’ve not seen since Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, our character can switch between the world of the living (Axiom) and the world of the dead (The Umbral) whenever you wish. It’s just that getting out again is a bit trickier.
The difference in the look of the two worlds is stark, as is that of the monsters that you meet. The creatures designs are of just as much quality, and particularly varied; from enemies that welcome death right up to arena filling bosses that require very specific tactics (and a lot of luck) to take down.
But it’s not just the graphical fidelity that is decent, Lords of the Fallen on Xbox Series X|S comes with some sound that is equally good; from that of a monster trying to sneak up behind you to the fully voiced interactions with NPCs. It is all very impressive stuff.
In terms of narrative and this one is only loosely related to that of the first game, in that Adyr, the god we defeated at the end of the first game (spoiler alert!) is trying to make a grand comeback. Obviously, we are keen to see that this doesn’t happen, but, given the fact we are dead at the start of the game, we may have difficulty doing anything about it. Dead, that is, until a lamp comes into our possession that gets us on our feet again! The Umbral Lamp, as it is known, is the most important tool that we will possess in the game, as it not only can move us between worlds, but can also reveal unseen paths and more! There are a series of five beacons that are responsible for holding Adyr back, and all have been corrupted. We must journey across the world, cleanse these beacons (or not, depending on which ending you are going for) and save the day. What could possibly go wrong?
If you played the first game the best part of a decade ago, or indeed any of the plethora of Dark Souls clones that have appeared since that game released, then you will be right at home here. Starting at the beginning, you need to not only choose what your character will look like (and the character generator is pretty impressive) but more importantly, you will need to select your starting class. There are nine possible choices, and while a couple are locked away behind either a paywall or awarded for completing the game, the choices are all quite varied. They range from the standard knight type character, through a fragile rogue to magic wielders like the Fire Apprentice. Obviously, the class you choose will have a big impact on how you progress through the game, and while I initially went for a big guy with a sword, the choice is yours.
Once you begin the adventure proper, the challenge is obviously to stay alive! The combat system is fast and fluid, usually allowing you to see what is going on. I say usually as the camera does suffer from the common problem of freaking out when you get backed into a corner, and while it isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen (Hello, Lies of P) it can be distracting. I’ve also had problems with the lock-on function, which is traditionally placed on the right stick. Sometimes my guy will refuse to lock onto an enemy right in front of him, instead spinning 180 degrees to face the other way. The other annoyance is when the lock won’t release, especially when it happens in a boss arena filled with lava – as I attempted to run away, I instead ran in circles around the bosses leg and then died. Many bad words where said at that point, I can tell you!
Other than those niggles, the rest of the fighting is very good. Gearing yourself up for the battle ahead is very important, yet with a vast array of weapons, armour parts and spells to choose from, you will soon be tooled up and ready to face anything. In a nice touch, the different armour has different resistances to different elements, so if you are fighting a poison based boss, high poison resistance is vital, and so on. Of course, you don’t usually know what a boss uses until it has stomped you, so there is a lot of learning to do.
In traditional action-RPG fashion, enemies that you kill drop souls (or vigor as it is known in this game), and this resource is then used to not only level yourself up , but also to buy things from merchants. As is usual, you level up certain traits to make your character the way you want it to be – upgrading Inferno or Radiance will see the magic power go up, for instance, while strength will let you hit enemies harder should you choose to use a pointy bit of metal. Shaping your character is always good fun, and so it proves here.
The big change with Lords of the Fallen is in the addition of the Umbral world, which is a vital part of the game. Getting to certain points in the real world will seem to be a dead end, and it’s only by holding up the lamp that you can see how to progress. Now, a warning here that the game didn’t tell me – if you hold up the lamp to see a bridge in the Umbral, it is fine to walk across it. However, if you hold the lamp up near water, the water will seem to vanish and you can carry on. But this is not the case – it will still kill you! To go through water, you have to fully enter the Umbral, either by choice or by being killed in the real world, before cracking on. While in the Umbral, your health will continually decrease, and the best way to get the health back is by hitting enemies, of which there is no shortage. If you die in the Umbral, you are dead, so be careful. Anyways, while you can enter the Umbral at any point by using your lamp, you can only leave it if you find a little statue or rest at a vestige (this game’s bonfires), so be aware.
Playing Lords of the Fallen solo is okay, but the game really comes alive in co-op. However, the matchmaking system is flakier than a Cadbury’s factory, and seemingly only works first time when there is a Z in the month. But once you have a partner, it is good fun. You can also be invaded and attacked by other Lampbearers, so this is something to be aware of. On the flip, wandering around and playing in jolly cooperation is great fun.
There is a lot to like about Lords of the Fallen. The scope and scale of the two worlds is impressive, whilst the combat is fast and frantic. Even the exploration side of things, while tricky, is rewarding when you manage to pull it off.
All in all, if you like these types of games, you need to play Lords of the Fallen.