Lords of the Fallen (2023) sticks close to the Dark Souls formula

2014 The fallen lords It was one of the earlier attempts by studios hoping to emulate FromSoftware’s success Demon souls And Evil spirits, the forbidden classics that formed the founding inspiration for the “Soulslike” subgenre of RPGs. it was good? Coming from small Polish publisher CI Games and German developer Deck13, The fallen lords It was, most reviewers agreed, a solid, practical attempt at the Souls formula that made it a little easier, a little crunchier, and a little hotter, without bringing too much new to the table.

Now we have a reboot – first announced as The fallen lordsNow, we’re back to the plain old, article-less, definite version of the title. In the intervening nine years (or 1,000 years, within the game world), things haven’t gotten more cheerful, or less slavish for the work of Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team. It appears that CI Games has decided the issue with The fallen lords (2014) that it was not Adequate Like Dark Souls.

I’m a little unfair. The fallen lords (2023) offers up some interesting mechanical twists of its own, including a parallel worlds visualization that tips its hat to The Legend of Zelda and makes Nintendo’s gaming influence on FromSoft even more apparent. But, judging by a preview that included gameplay during its first few hours, the new game — made by HexWorks, a Spanish-Romanian developer founded by CI Games for that purpose — strains it hard to get as close to the structural complexity, wary combat, and desperate vibe of the Dark Souls trilogy as possible. In doing so, HexWorks bumps into the fact that it’s one thing to imitate FromSoft’s art, but quite another to capture its essence.

Photo: HexWorks/CI Games

one of The fallen lordsDark Souls’ biggest leaps are evident once you start a new game. The original had a pre-defined main character, but here you can tinker with the character generator to make a character of your own, working from nine class archetypes. Participants in the preview were advised to start with one of four melee classes (standard knight, barbarian type, crossbow-savvy rebel, and more cunning infantryman); Also available were an assassin, a multi-professional ranger, magic users who specialized in fire and light spells, and the arcane and demonic convict class.

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Whichever you choose, you’ll be a dark crusader, toiling through the cursed realm trying to overthrow the demonic god Addir. Everything about the place is imbued with a deathly groovy euphoria, right down to the world’s name: Mournstead. In writing and art, HexWorks clearly goes for FromSoft’s blend of devastating high fantasy, ornate language, and epic melancholy. (Even the fonts and UI arrangement look familiarly somber.) But it’s impossible to replicate FromSoft’s unique tone perfectly, and the attempt in this case too often teeters on metal album cover exaggeration or renaissance camp, where characters with nails in all their helmets begin lines with “Therefore” or discuss “the granting of this subsequent grace.” The hooks with which you can pull platforms towards you are personified as weeping ghosts; Defeat a small boss, and “Purge Heresy!” appeared on the screen.

Dark Souls players will feel increasingly at home as they make their way through the tutorial, die as intended at the first boss, and begin to choose careful routes through a quasi-linear, interconnected world with rotating verticals. The fallen lordsMay be the strongest selling point for Satan and Dark Souls in confrontation Elden ringA more open approach, even if it can’t claim to operate at the same level. It offers plenty of opportunities to comically pull off edges in the heat of a fight, as lore demands.

Photo: HexWorks/CI Games

However, its gimmick is that the player can travel between the realms of the living (Axiom) and the dead (Umbral), using the game’s main item, the Umbral Lantern. Peek at Umbral with a lantern, and cross over to it if you see a way forward that doesn’t exist in the Axiom – a platform (made of bones and rotting flesh, of course), or an empty lake bottom. But you can only make the return trip at predetermined points, including ruins that play as flames The fallen lords.

Umbral also lowers the difficulty level of the chosen genre – somewhat. If you die in Axiom, you will be resurrected in Umbral, then given another chance to defeat your enemy before giving up the ghost completely and needing to escape the last corpse to regain your power (The fallen lordstheir souls). This does not revive your healing items, however, so the longer you spend in Umbral, the more Dread you accumulate, and the more complex things get. Enemies get tougher, and more and more zombie-like creatures materialize on your way – it’s easy to kill them, but their presence greatly complicates the battlefield.

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The fallen lords Not inspiring, but a well-arranged game: responsive, playable, balanced, and fair, which is not easy in this genre. Combat is accurate, smooth, and faster than the original game, and falls somewhere between Dark Souls Defense and bloodborneaggression. I suspect it will come into its own in the crisper and more exhilarating caster classes, but it will take more time and a more skilled player than I am to test that intuition.

Photo: HexWorks/CI Games

Perhaps its design is a bit exaggerated, and it relies on a variety of concepts. There is postural damage and a groggy system. There is withered damage, which persists in a variety of conditions and reduces your maximum health, on the contrary Zelda: Tears of the KingdomGloom, but can be partially restored if you hit your enemy first (explained vaguely, and I couldn’t get around it during those early hours). Soul Flay – a move that uses your lantern to extract enemies’ souls from their bodies, allowing you to stack more damage to their morale form – comes with its own resource that can only be bested by Soul Siphoning enemies and resource nodes. There are stances, combos, back lunges, and so on.

It’s too early to tell how good this unintuitive design will be to begin with. But complexity like this is the mill of the veteran Soulslike player’s mill, and it’s HexWorks’ credit that, at the very least, complexity doesn’t get in the way of moment-to-moment combat, which feels hard, and therefore brittle. Based on these first impressions, The fallen lords It doesn’t have a personality of its own – not in the way Team Ninja treats the genre, Nioh And Wu Longdo, for example – but maybe “Soulslike is so good, for people who really like Soulslikes” is all the character you need.

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The fallen lords It will be released on October 13th for PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.

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