Something that always bothers me about music reviews is that for the most part, they usually consist of drawing comparisons between the band being reviewed and artists that sound similar or have inspired them. It can be difficult to judge something on its own merits without using the “Band X sounds like band Y” or “if you like band X you’ll love band Y” formula.
But with CI Games latest release, Lords of the Fallen, it would impossible to accurately discuss the game without comparing it to the uber-popular and gloomy Dark Souls series, from which the game “borrows” almost every gameplay mechanic that made the Souls games such an iconic franchise. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like many gamers, I can’t get enough of the Souls games, and until Bloodborne comes out next year, I find myself fiending for a similar experience. Unfortunately for CI Games, while Lords of the Fallen does a lot of things right, there are enough flaws present (some of them being actual game breaking bugs) to prevent it from being on the same level as similar games.
Being a third-person RPG that aims to recreate the Souls experience, the bread and butter of the game has to be the combat. Once again, it seems as if CI games took every aspect from the Souls games without really trying to put a fresh spin on it. The attacks are mapped to the shoulder buttons, with R1 and R2 being your regular and strong attacks respectively, and the blocking and shield bashing hanging out on the L1 and L2 buttons. The lock on and dodge/roll mechanics function exactly the same as Dark Souls, and the backstab attack is in full form. On that note, one thing I feel LotF does better than Souls is hitboxes for backstabs. It’s not nearly as difficult to pull off a successful backstab, and this makes playing certain builds (like the rogue) much more satisfying.
The experience point system works exactly like souls do in the DS games: You kill enemies, collect XP, and if you die you have the chance to do a “soul run” to find your lost experience and regain it. These experience points can be banked at checkpoints, to make sure they’re safe in case you die, but if you choose to keep them with your character a multiplier that increases the chances of good loot from enemies will continue to grow with the amount of XP your character is rolling with.
Which brings us to the crux of any Souls clone: the difficulty. I understand that the team at CI Games wanted to make their game more arcadey and approachable, but diehard fans of FROM Software’s style of play will find the game a breeze. Never did I feel overwhelmed, and my natural inability to process rage in a mature way rarely, if ever, reared its angry head. The bosses are not challenging, and when they are it is more because of poorly designed battle mechanics than a challenge that requires an innovative and tactical approach. Several of the bosses can be beaten fairly easily by spamming ranged attacks or getting in so close that dodging makes your character impossible to hit.
Even though the game occasionally hits some high notes, the shallow, buggy, and unpolished elements of the game destroy its chances at being a classic. There were several moments when the game crashed completely, forcing a total restart, and one instance later in the game where a glitched NPC made the rest of the game unplayable. Literally. When this bug appeared, it was completely unfixable and rendered my entire save useless as I couldn’t progress past that point, nor reload at an earlier checkpoint. This is a big deal, and while I’m sure it will be patched eventually, this is something that should have been addressed during testing, and definitely should have been fixed before release.
There is something else that I found oddly omitted from a game so clearly trying to imitate the Souls games. There is no multiplayer. Which is a bizarre choice given the groundbreaking and creative approach of Dark Souls’ PvP system. Players looking to test their skills against other humans are going to get bored with the single player pretty quickly. No invasions, no summoning, no online presence at all. The team at CI Games has said they plan on implementing this in future games, but with nothing at all to show outside of the main campaign, a lot of gamers are going to put this back on the shelf after the first play through.
Anybody looking to fill the months between beating the Ds2 DLC and the release of Bloodborne will certainly enjoy this game. It’s gorgeous, the combat is solid, and it feels so familiar you could be tricked into thinking it’s an expansion. Unfortunately, the shallow nature of the game doesn’t quite warrant the price tag and it’s riddled with glitches and bugs that range from annoying to game breaking. Add to that the lack of multiplayer, overpowered skills, easy bosses, and lack of depth for character customization, and the result is a game that feels underdeveloped and underwhelming. Not a bad first try from CI Games, and I am looking forward to their next iteration provided they take the lessons learned from this game seriously.
Watch Brendan play some Lords of the Fallen on CGM Plays.