I try to maintain my composure during preview sessions. In fact, I often assume the role of the jaded journalist who isn’t fazed by anything anymore. Sure, I get excited when a new anime game or interesting IP is announced, but during these preview sessions, I’m all business. Lords of the Fallen, developed by Hexworks, took me out of my element. The game successfully blends familiar systems of an action Soulslike with unique methods to traverse its nightmarish world. My experience with the game allowed me to only sample what this entire adventure had to offer, but even then, I felt deeply immersed in this world, eagerly anticipating and dreading what lay around the corner.
I want to take a moment to discuss the environments of Lords of the Fallen. The area design I played was crafted to make me feel at ease in a way. It was as if the developers weren’t revealing their entire hand as I explored a cave-like dungeon that I’ve encountered in numerous other games. However, they employed this setting to introduce a few puzzle mechanics that required me to analyze my surroundings to make reality-shifting decisions. During gameplay, you’re able to shift into the spirit realm, where environments change, but it’s not so straightforward to return to the land of the living.
This shifting mechanic also proves advantageous in battles. If you die, you can get a second chance to make a comeback. There are ways to peer into the world without fully committing to the shift, which is employed in certain puzzles and serves as a means of traversal as well. However, after leaving the cave, I caught a glimpse of the world that Hexworks is trying to create here. The ruins of cathedral-like buildings loom over the player, and you’re left in awe of them as you advance toward enemies.
The comparisons to 2014’s Lords of the Fallen are night and day when it comes to design and combat. The concepts related to challenging combat and environmental puzzles remain, but the experience encapsulates the true essence of a Soulslike fantasy. The heavy armor and available weapons force you to factor in weight on the battlefield. Every action in a fight is methodical, yet you also have room to learn about enemy attacks without being completely overwhelmed. I appreciated this aspect during a boss fight, but I ended up dying anyway because I got distracted by how impressive the boss’s second form was.
All of this extends into the lore and worldbuilding of Lords of the Fallen. There’s a rich story to uncover here as you persevere through the challenging combat. Even during my brief time with the game, I gained substantial insights into the role of the Dark Crusaders and the critical nature of completing my mission.
Lords of the Fallen is an enchanting and terrifying experience. It carves its own niche within the Soulslike genre by embracing the challenge and creating systems that provide players with agency over their approach. There’s much left for me to explore, but even with this small glimpse, I can foresee Lords of the Fallen becoming a memorable gaming experience. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to experience the multiplayer aspect, but that only heightened my excitement about delving into this world alongside a friend.
Lords of the Fallen is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam on October 13, 2023.
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