Lords of the Fallen 2023 developed by HEXWORKS and published by CI Games revisits the grim dark fantasy world from the original game with the same name from 2014. This sequel/soft reboot attempts to build on the foundations laid by its predecessor but falls short in a number of key areas. The game invites the player's as one of the fabled Dark Crusaders to embark on a quest to overthrow Adyr, the demon God.
Engaging Dark Fantasy World:
Lords of the Fallen invites us to journey across two parallel worlds in an epic quest to stop the resurrection of Adyr. The living realm called Axiom and the nightmarish realm of the dead called the Umbral. Player's get an item called the umbral lamp that allows them to peer into the realm of the dead, also giving the ability to cross into the Umbral to solve puzzles, find secret areas, find and destroy parasites that latch onto enemies giving them special abilities. Furthermore the lamp also grants the player one resurrection while in the world of Axiom and will grant a second chance in the Umbral realm.
The world design and also the level design is one of the strongest points this game has. The levels are intricate, interconnected and centered around an area called Skyrest Bridge which serves it's purpose as a hub area with friendly NPC's. Vesiges left behind by previous Dark Crusaders serve as checkpoints as you venture out in the world. Players also get the ability to place temporary checkpoints via Umbral seeds.
Decent Combat Mechanics:
The game's combat system is at the heart of its experience, and it does offer major steps in the right direction over the original but there is still room for impovement as there is a bit of a disconnect between the inputs and the animations.
A variety of weapons and abilities provide players with options for different playstyles. The timing-based combat and enemy patterns remain engaging, although they do not push the boundaries of the genre.
However the game does offer some very good ideas in the way of how the magic and throwable systems work. No more cycling through multiple different spells to find the one you want to use, you have the ability to assign 3 to 5 spells to a catalyst then use these skills with a simple press of a button. The throwable system works in a similar way but instead of consuming mana it uses an ammunition bar that replenishes upon resting at a checkpoint or using ammunition pouch consumables.
The game also has a Bloodborne esque health recovery system where your parries and blocks will have you take withered damage which is represented by a greyed our portion in the healthbar, some enemies in the Umbral also deal withered damage with certain attacks, this damage can be recovered by hitting enemies but if the player takes any kind of damage in this state the withered health will be all lost.
Lords of the Fallen retains the soulslike genres trademark difficulty. Players are once again thrust into a world that demands precision, strategy, and patience. The problem with the challenges in this game is that it mostly comes from what we would consider cheap. The amount of enemies the game throws at the player at times is simply too much. There are multiple areas where you are bombarded with 10 to 20 enemies at the same time even in Axiom, and this gets even crazier if you are in the Umbral realm since it has endelessly spawning enemies. The game also way overuses underhanded tactics like some wooden planks breaking under your feet and dropping you into a pit with 5 enemies, or enemies placed as bait for the player and if attacked the other enemy waiting in the shadows will stab the player in the back. These are usual things in the genre, however this game uses them too often and with that the player will expect a setup or trap around every corner.
On the other hand this games big boss fights are usually on the easier side of the soulslike genre. Bosses have simple movesets with rather easy to avoid attacks, and they also give the player stangely long windows of opportunities to get some damage in.
The narrative of Lords of the Fallen, while not the primary focus, fails to make a significant impact. The game's plot and character development lack depth, making it challenging for players to form a meaningful connection with the story or its inhabitants.
The technical performance of Lords of the Fallen leaves much to be desired. Players have reported various issues, including frame rate drops, graphical glitches, and occasional crashes. These problems are not only disruptive but also hinder the overall immersion. The game has very inconsistent performance too, in some areas the game runs well but in other areas it will have major framerate issues.
The games lock-on system also has some major problems. There are times when the game simply refuses to allow you to lock-on, other times it locks-on to an enemy far away from you even though you are trying to fight other enemies in melee range. I also experienced random switches in my lock-on target without any input.
Overall this game would have been received much better if it was delayed and worked on a bit more to iron out some of the issues it has.
In conclusion, Lords of the Fallen is a game that falls short of its potential. While it has some good aspects like the level design, the dark fantasy world among others, it also offers decently good combat mechanics, although it lacks the feel and polish of other games in the genre. Also the technical polish needed to stand out in the crowded action RPG genre. Lords of the Fallen gets a 6/10 panda's on our scale, a decent game with room for improvements.