Lords of the Fallen Preview: Dark Souls Lite?
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Dark Souls hard.
Even if you haven’t played From Software’s stellar, relentless RPG (or its equally trying predecessor Demon’s Souls), you probably understand the level of difficulty being described. We’re talkin’ Battletoads tough. Throw your controller at the TV shouting profanities tough. And judging by its showing at E3, things won’t get any easier in Dark Souls 2. Hundreds of people played the hands-on demo publisher Namco Bandai showed off, and only a single person was able to successfully complete it. And that was only after dying many, many times. If you’re among those who like your fantasy RPGs dark and challenging, but think Dark Souls is too damn punishing, City Interactive might have just the game you’re looking for. It’s a new adventure called Lords of the Fallen, and I was among the first to see its gameplay reveal at E3.
Even in its pre-alpha state, it was easy to see why Lords of the Fallen has been compared to Dark Souls. First and foremost, it looks like it could be a Dark Souls game – albeit one created for next gen systems. Visually, it’s brimming with foreboding and filled with eye-catching details in its characters (like the swaying leather straps to Harkyn’s armor) and environments (ornate stained glass windows in the abbey’s main hall).
But it’s in the combat where Lords of the Fallen really gives a tip of the cap to From Software.The section I saw was set in a large stone monastery that’s been overrun by Rhogar (somewhat generic demon orc dudes who have mysteriously started popping up all over this original fantasy world). The main character, Harkyn, a human trying to piece together what’s happening and why, went in to root them out. When Harkyn spotted the first Rhogar, he didn’t charge ahead and start swinging his war hammer, he got into a defensive stance and began circling his opponent, waiting for the creature to attack and reveal its patterns and weaknesses.
According to Creative Director Tomasz Gop, who cut his dark fantasy teeth on The Witcher series while with CD Projekt Red, the goal was to make every fight more meaningful. “The feeling of a duel is very important to us,” he said. “This is not a hack and slash, it’s tactical combat. Button mashing will get you killed fast.”
There was lots of blocking with the shield, diving out of the way, and quick counter attacks, with timing being the critical factor. Even the single, basic Rhogar that Gop faced early on in the demo put up a good fight, making it tough for the guy who actually designed the game to land any blows. Similarly, when Gop was hit, the impact on Harkyn’s health bar was noticeable, forcing Gop to pop numerous health potions. The overall impression was that every fight has the feeling of a boss battle and actual boss fights are akin to the final bosses you would find in other RPGs.
I got to see one of those bosses when Gop went toe to toe with a First Warden, a character who looked very similar to his Rhogar brethren, only three times bigger and with a massive flaming sword and shield. Get hit with one of the First Warden’s heavy attacks, Gop warned, and it could mean instant death for Harkyn. And so the dance began, with Harkyn circling, blocking, and diving out of the way of repeated attacks while patiently waiting for an opening. In time, when the First Warden’s health was whittled down (chunks of its armor flying away in the process – nice touch), the creature became enraged, tossing aside its shield and attacking with renewed vigor. The patterns all changed, forcing Gop to change his own tactics. He strapped Harkyn’s shield to his back and gripped the war hammer with two hands. That meant weaker blocks, but more powerful attacks, and it was nice to see the enemy, and in turn the player, change tactics mid-battle.