Lies of P Review – Any Price To Become a Real Boy

    Title: Lies of P
    Developer: NEOWIZ
    Release Date: September 19, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: NEOWIZ
    Genre: Action Role Playing

By now, the concept of Souls-likes should be no news in the gaming community after developer FromSoftware pioneered this entire sub-genre of games. However, one title from the team left fans hungry for more, hoping for a sequel or a next-gen 60fps patch. That game is none other than Bloodborne, which was released eight years ago, back in 2015. Although FromSoft has left us in the dark regarding Bloodborne, Korean indie developer Neowiz is about to take the world by storm with the next best thing: Lies of P.

Set in the fictional city of Krat, Lies of P is a dark reimagining of Pinnochio’s story, with you playing the iconic marionette himself. Familiar figures such as Mr. Gepetto and Jiminy Cricket (Gemini Cricket in this case) make an appearance, along with a cast of brand-new original characters. The game even gives you your own “maiden” (think Maiden in Black from Demon’s Souls, The Doll from Bloodborne, or Melina from Elden Ring) equivalent in this game, Sophia, who also seems to represent the Blue Fairy from the original story of Pinocchio. However, something fishy is going on in Krat. The streets are void of townsfolk, only to be littered by mechanical animatronics.

The game’s narrative takes an interesting approach to humanity and explores the different themes between being human and being a puppet. You see, puppets cannot lie, but those rules do not bind you because Geppeto created you differently. After all, we all know that the real Pinocchio loves to lie. Many times throughout the game, you are tasked with a decision to either tell the truth or lie, and each choice will have different outcomes, consequences, and even endings. Do you become a real boy in the end?

Lies of P

The game’s horror undertones, gloomy atmosphere, and Gothic architecture remind you of Bloodborne, but this time in crisp 4K graphics and a smooth 60 frames per second. Souls are known as Ergo here; flasks are called Pulse Cells; and bonfires are Stargazers. The game looks downright the same as a Souls game from top to bottom, including the entire UI design and HUD. It’s astounding how similar Lies of P is compared to its inspirations, so much so that I would say it wears them proudly on its sleeves. If you told me this was an entirely new game from FromSoftware, I’d believe you! Props to the Neowiz team for creating an immersive and lifelike world.

Alright, enough about the story and what this game reminds you of because everyone really wants to know: Is the game any good? If it wasn’t clear already, Lies of P is a Souls-like game to its very core, featuring hard-as-nails third-person action-heavy combat. For the most part, yes, the game is great, as weapons feel impactful, level design is intricate, exploration is rewarding, and boss encounters are thrilling. The game takes cues from several FromSoftware games to create something of its own. You have access to your own prosthetic arm, called Legion, to which you can attach various tools such as a shield or flamethrower. There’s also an extreme emphasis on perfect blocking attacks, and all weapons contain distinctive weapon arts called Fable Arts.

Lies of P

There are no armor slots to dress Pinocchio in, but you obtain several costumes for him to change his looks cosmetically. Aside from traditionally leveling up your stats in vigor, vitality, etc., the other main mechanic is the P-Organ, which lets you unlock passive abilities in a skill tree at the cost of Quartz. This rare material can be found from elite mini-boss enemies or given to you as part of natural story progression. Skills in the P-Organ include increasing your Pulse Cell size, adding an extra amulet slot, or gaining an extra Legion arm. Further into the game, you are introduced to the Cube and Gold Coin Fruit, which act as other tools to aid you in combat. Gold Coin Fruit accumulates on a tree in real-time, like a Gacha game, and you can use it to exchange for various wish stones to attach to your Cube. Wish stones come in many different colors, some healing you over time or others buffing your Spector helper in boss fights.

What surprised me the most is that extensive weaponry can be found, bought, or exchanged for with “Boss Souls.” In my one playthrough alone, I had upwards of 30 weapons, probably even more that I didn’t find. From your generic swords and daggers, all the way to giant saw blades and military shovels, this game has truly got it all. The game’s weapon assembly mechanic is even more impressive, which allows you to detach weapon blades and handles to make different combinations. This will enable you to build a custom weapon based on a blade you like and a handle that scales to the main attribute you are dumping skill points into. No worries if you specialize in dexterity and want to try out a strength weapon!

Lies of P

Level design is pretty straightforward for any Soulslike game. Various shortcuts can be unlocked that lead back to a checkpoint. Enemies hide behind corners to ambush you unexpectedly. Treasure chests and items are tucked away in various alleyways that stray from the main path forward. From time to time, expect to see a rolling fireball coming your way or a collapsing bridge, amongst other environmental hazards. I had a great time traversing various environments, soaking in the immaculate atmosphere, and exploring every nook and cranny there is.

But the actual combat is where the experience starts to fall apart, as the developers have implemented some highly questionable design choices. As a refresher, combat is stamina-based, and you have a light and heavy attack. Lies of P also has a weapon durability system, and weapons can break during combat unless you sharpen them. For starters, there’s no typical parry mechanic. Depending on your weapon, you might have a Fable Art that allows you to parry incoming attacks. However, this comes at the cost of 1 Fable, which acts as a mana bar. Parrying itself is already a difficult maneuver, but having to waste precious mana just to attempt it is straight wack.

On the other hand, the dodge is probably one of the most frustratingly implemented mechanics in this game. If you lock onto an enemy, you are physically incapable of dodge rolling away unless you press the button again. Not only does this not work half the time, but it also wastes so much stamina. This is because the game forces you to side-step to one side or another if you are targeting an enemy. Only when you remove your lock-on can you dodge roll freely. The strafing provides little to no invincibility frames and doesn’t give you nearly enough space to distance yourself from an enemy’s attack.

Lies of P

Perhaps my biggest gripe and critique on the game’s combat is how spongey and cheap many elite enemies and boss encounters feel. Look, I already know what you’ll say – just “git gud” – but hear me out. The TLDR is: you do peanut damage, even if you max out a weapon and grind for levels, and they kill you in 2-3 hits. The game doesn’t reward you for playing well. Instead, it punishes you for playing normally. This is entirely against all of the FromSoftware games because although they are all hard, they’re fair. Lies of P takes the difficulty up to an unnecessary amount, and sometimes fights can be dragged on for tens of minutes even if you play perfectly because that’s just how the game was “balanced.”

Because of the lack of a reliable parry mechanic and the terrible dodging system, you only have the block button. A regular block eats away some of your health and stamina, but you can regain some of it if you attack immediately, like Bloodborne. However, if you perfectly block an enemy’s attack, you take no damage, and instead, you build up an invisible stagger bar on the enemy. It is extremely difficult to perfectly block all of a boss’s attacks, especially ones that just bombard you with a flurry of swings. Once an enemy is staggered, a white bar appears over their health, signaling you to perform a heavy charge attack. Only if you land this charged attack do they tilt over and be susceptible to a visceral stab, known as a Fatal Attack here.

In theory, this system is fine, but because of how unnecessarily aggressive enemies are and how easily they can stun-lock you, you might most likely miss your window of opportunity to even get in a charged attack on them before their stagger meter goes back down. Don’t even get me started on the times that an enemy can stunlock you to death. Their attacks stagger you and bring you down with one attack, but before you can recover, they charge up another one to kill you. This is beyond frustrating because you can do nothing to prevent this. Even if you manage to bring the enemy down for a Fatal Attack, sometimes your inputs won’t be registered because the frames aren’t accurate, rendering your entire attempt a failure.

Lies of P

Let’s be real here. There is little to no accessibility with Lies of P. In fact, I suspect most players won’t even make it to the end of the game, given its insane difficulty curve, even if they are Souls veterans. Get ready to see the Lie or Die death screen more times than you can count. There were many times throughout my playthrough that I felt like giving up due to how challenging some of the bosses were. But those who come out triumphant will surely enjoy the spoils of war the game offers. One playthrough took me around 27 hours to complete, and the game features New Game Plus for you to make different decisions, see different endings, and snag up the other items and weapons you missed your first time through Krat.

From the moment you set your eyes on the game, you can already tell that Lies of P looks gorgeous. The Victorian-era environments, buildings, scenery, and excellent facial animations make for an impressive visual feast. The game’s art style and aesthetics are meticulously crafted to immerse players in a world shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Sound design also plays a crucial role in setting the game’s mood. The beautiful soundtrack, especially the song “Feels,” enhances the overall experience and adds to the sense of immersion. You can even listen to the various records you collect back at Hotel Krat, which is an excellent little detail.

Lies of P

On PlayStation 5, Lies of P performs beautifully, with quick load times and buttery smooth frame rates. I’ve encountered no bugs, glitches, or other technical problems that might have hindered my overall experience. The game offers a performance and graphics mode, but I’d recommend opting for higher frame rates due to the sheer nature of the game.

In Lies of P, players are treated to a meticulously designed Soulslike experience that challenges their skill and immerses them in a world of atmospheric intrigue. With its stunning visuals, twisted narrative, and excellent technical performance, Lies of P would be a must-play for any fan of FromSoftware’s difficult titles. However, the frustrating combat mechanics revolving around the dodge mechanic and some unbalanced battles prevent me from fully recommending this experience.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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