Lords of the Fallen Preview: A Souls-ful Action/RPG
Lords of the Fallen looks and appears to play a lot like an arcadey version of Dark Souls.
This is not a bad thing. In fact, it seems like a great thing. During my time at Bandai Namco’s Global Gamers Day 2014 earlier this month in Las Vegas, I got a chance to watch a new presentation of a dungeon and boss battle in CI Games and Deck 13’s upcoming action/RPG, and walked away very impressed at what Lords of the Fallen is bringing to the genre.
My first impression of Lords of the Fallen, apart from “This looks and appears to play a lot like a more arcadey version of Dark Souls,” was that it appears to offer a lot of flexibility in how the player is actually able to play the game. In the demo we saw, our main character, Harkyn, was able to quickly switch between a rogue build that featured fast-hitting daggers, and a more burly warrior build that utilized heavier armor and a much slower, two-handed weapon.
While Lords of the Fallen does offer the standard holy trinity of action/RPG classes — rogue, warrior and cleric — it by no means forces you to stick to one combat role. Your starting class determines what skill tree you have access to, but as far as your stats and gear go, how you spec is completely up to you. You are free to upgrade whatever stats you wish with your experience points, and you can easily mold Harkyn into a battlemage, or a versatile melee warrior who can switch between fast and slow weapon types, depending on the situation. Or, you can just play it straight and stick completely to the playstyle of whatever class you initially choose.
Where Lords of the Fallen really tips its hat to the Souls series, though, is in its approach to death. Much like as in Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls series, when you die, you drop all of your experience points at the spot where you were killed. If you manage to make it back to your ghost without dying again, you regain your experience.
But here’s where it gets interesting: When you die, your experience actually leaks over time. So the more time you spend getting back to your ghost, the less you’ll recover. That alone is a pretty interesting wrinkle to the formula, as it adds a little extra urgency to an already stressful situation.
But wait, it gets even better.
Every time you reach a save point, you have the option to safely store your EXP so you can spend it on attributes or skillpoints. But let’s say you’re feeling confident and there’s nothing really that you want to spend your EXP on anyway. If you continue on without banking your EXP, you’ll continue to build a multiplier that will grant you more experience points per kill. The more you kill enemies without dying or banking your EXP, the higher that multiplier goes.
It’s an extra layer of risk versus reward that encourages players to press on to try and obtain more EXP, but proportionally punishes them if they should fail.
It seems to be a pretty high risk, too, because Lords of the Fallen looks like it takes another page from the Souls series in its tendency to teach the players through their mistakes. In one instance in the demo, a lone enemy lured Harkyn into room where two more enemies ambushed him from both sides. In another room, a tough spider enemy suddenly dropped from the ceiling as Harkyn’s attention was turned toward a treasure chest.
And then there was the boss fight against an enemy known as “Champion” — a large, armored monster with dual armblades and relentless aggression. The boss had three phases, which were clearly indicated in its health bar, and each phase added a new element to the Champion’s attacks. While Dark Souls vets probably wouldn’t bat an eye at the Champion’s seemingly predictable attacks — again, this was a presentation — it is worth noting that a fairly high degree of patience and precision was needed to avoid him and find openings for Harkyn’s own attacks.
During the presentation, Lords of the Fallen Executive Producer Tomasz Gop said something particularly interesting with regard to boss battles.
“Each of the bosses in the game will have a certain way, or certain condition, I should say, under which if you defeat them, you will get a special drop or reward,” he said.
Using the Champion fight as an example, Gop said that if you give the boss too many openings, you will trigger a rage mode that causes him to go berserk. But a skilled player can actually find a way to beat the Champion without triggering his rage mode, and if they manage to do it, they will get some sort of special reward. Fans of the first Dark Souls will note that this sounds a little similar to how if you were able to cut off the tails of certain bosses, you’d be given a special drop that could not be obtained in any other way. I love this idea, as it puts an added level of challenge onto a boss fight for the hardcore crowd, without affecting the difficulty for those looking to just get through the game.
Lords of the Fallen is showing a lot of promise. It’s borrowing all of the right elements from the Souls series, while infusing them with its own unique touch of arcade-style fun. Be on the lookout for Lords of the Fallen on PC, PS4, and Xbox One sometime later this year.