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Lords of the Fallen Review - The Fake Dark Souls Starts Here

Jim Sterling | 29 Oct 2014 11:14
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Lords of the Fallen never quite nails balance. When it's at its toughest, it's relying on cheap tricks to feign difficulty. Despite the game claiming that enemies are subject to all the same rules as the player, they're not. They may power through and break all your attack animations, and while their ability to block isn't unlimited, their stamina is unreasonably high and they get to always face you, meaning you struggle to ever get behind the bastards. When it's not pulling out all the dirty stops to be challenging, it can be shockingly easy.

Again, however, other games are emulated to provide more of a fight. You can choose to go without armor, and there are equipment/spell packages at character creation that aren't as easily abused. Warrior and Rogue types employ high damage or nimble, obfuscating powers, and there are optional challenges throughout the game to keep things spicy. In addition, there's both a New Game + and a New Game ++ at completion, giving you a tougher run each time.

Lords of the Fallen is a weird little prospect. On paper, nothing about it sounds good. It's brazenly derivative, technically clumsy, and its difficulty balance is all over the place. It violates its "tough but fair" rules to maintain the "tough" side of things, and when it doesn't do that, it degenerates into a mindless brawler. Yet in spite of itself, it's entertaining. I loved going through the Warhammer-flavored hallways, feeling increasingly more dangerous, with the desire to overcome and preponderate initially onerous opponent providing plenty of motivation.

Not to mention, there's something delightful in just how ridiculous it all is. The imbalance can be its own satisfaction, as the night-and-day difference between hard and easy lets you go and thoroughly bully something that used to give you a lot of trouble. Likewise, the overly grimdark art direction and general tone is hilarious. There are weapons with names like Rotten, Butcher, and Bloodsick. Bloodsick! What could "bloodsick" even refer to? Is it a puddle of sick full of blood, or someone sicking up blood, or is it someone whose veins are full of sick instead of blood? Married to the Games Workshop, intricately spiky, endlessly angsty art direction, there's a lot of unintentional - but nonetheless funny - humor to be found.

Lords of the Fallen has all the stuff needed to be a truly great game. Despite not nailing the point of Dark Souls, it manages to hold its own as a Souls-lite production for a good portion of its running time. The desire to progress is effectively coercive, and there are some legitimately grueling boss fights on offer. Its overall grunginess, as well as the other aforementioned issues, stop it from achieving its potential, but what can I say? I don't dislike this, even if I really should. It's doing something right.

Bottom Line: Lords of the Fallen, a shameless and sloppy copy of Dark Souls, shouldn't be as enjoyable as it is. Somehow, through all its imbalance and oddity, it remains a surprising amount of fun, even if its propensity to make the player laugh is a sheer accident.

Recommendation: If you're hoping for another Souls experience, this is too tepid an offering to satisfying. That said, it's still worth playing if you want an amusing, silly bit of action.

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