Well, I realize this is hardly news, given that the game has been out for almost a year now, but for anyone interested, here’s my opinion on Lords of the Fallen as seen from the perspective of someone who came quite late to the original Dark Souls, but has since become a massive fan of the series. Please note that this is a full long review, not just a few words – it was originally written with a different purpose in mind (one of the reasons why I wrote it in English in the first place), but wasn’t actually used. I didn’t want to throw it away, so I decided to post it at least here.
So, first and foremost – yes, LotF is a Dark Souls clone. Some people get really agitated when you say things like that, but there’s simply no denying it. The creators of this game tried to differentiate themselves from DS in quite a few ways, but at its core, LotF is still a Dark Souls clone. It’s okay, there’s no inherent problem with a game being a clone of another. And it’s perfectly OK to compare the two games, because they were clearly intended for pretty much the same target audiences. Just go with it.
Having said that, we can move on. For the pros – LotF looks much better than either DS or DS2. Both of these games look fine, but kinda dated at the same time. Especially DS2 looks as if it is a good few years older than it actually is. LotF, on the other hand, looks very much current – even now, almost a year later. The lighting and particle effects in particular are really good. And, thankfully, the really obnoxious chromatic aberation effect can now be turned off. So from the graphics standpoint, it’s really great.
That’s probably the best thing that can be said about the game. The rest is more of a mixed bag.
The great graphics, sadly, results in not so stellar performance. With my GTX970, I wasn’t able to max the game’s settings and maintain solid 60 fps. Even setting the game somewhat lower resulted in not so rare dips into 40-ish fps. The biggest performance issues I’ve seen during the whole playthrough (some 17 hours of playtime) were during the final bossfight – the framerate didn’t seem so terrible, but the game has started lagging immensely, especially in the later parts of the fight, to the point that I was actually getting controls lag and delayed attacks/rolls. The only way to be able to beat the final boss without lags for me was further lower the graphics settings, and, more importantly, disable nVidia Turbulence and Vsync. Then the lag disappeared and the fight became much easier. So there are certainly performance issues and you need a fairly powerful PC to get the game performing good.
The environments tend to be on the monotonous side of your average stone ruins and castles, with you only occasionally visiting some visually more inspired places. But they’re nice to look at overall, so there’s at least that. The world is also more or less interconnected in a way that sits somewhere inbetween the world layout of Dark Souls 1 and 2, and often offers multiple ways of reaching the same place. However, it also has a tendency to be a bit too convoluted and confusing, so navigating through the myriad of staircases and corridors that look quite similar to each other and twist and loop back often can be somewhat challenging at times. It’s up to you to decide whether the fact that you’ll spend some time backtracking already visited areas is a pro or a con – I’m inclined to mark it more as a con, as I really didn’t enjoy navigating some of those locations so much that I would feel pleasure in being forced to go there again.
Also tied to the graphics is the overall art style. While Dark Souls go for more or less realistic medieval/gothic feel and DS2 only deviate slightly from this formula, LotF is much more stylized with more of a World of Warcraft kind of feel – the absurdly large armor pieces, shields and weapons, large-muscled brutes and stuff like that. Whether you like it or not depends entirely on your preference – I’m not a big fan of such style, but if you are, you will probably like it, it’s not like it’s done badly.
With the aesthetic change and the bulky weapons and armors comes probably the most annoying thing in LotF for me – the game feels much slower than Dark Souls. It actually feels sluggish. The first few hours I constantly felt like I’m overburdened and fat-rolling AND someone cast a permanent Tranquil Walk of Peace over the whole game. Even the fastest movement speed feels very slow compared to Dark Souls and I simply couldn’t bear using any of the heavier weapons, given how slow the attacks become – to the point that you actually don’t have enough time to even attack most of the enemies, since the window of opportunity for the attack isn’t actually big enough. Your stats don’t matter here much (but you certainly don’t want to fat-roll here). It got better once I’ve got some decent enough faster weapons (the sword class, mainly) and I’ve also gotten used to it over the course of the game, but even until the very end, I just couldn’t force myself to use the slower, heavier weapons. It was just tediously slow, robbing me of any enjoyment of the game. It should also be said that quite a few of the enemies do not seem to be tied to the same game mechanics you are and are able to perform moves and attacks much faster than you ever are. It just adds to the frustration.
Which brings us to the boss fights. The boss fights in DS series, especially in the first game, are the highlights and the most memorable moments of the game for me, and play a big part in why DS has almost instantly become my favorite game series ever. Fast and demanding, yet hardly cheap or unfair. The bosses also have quite a lot of moves they can perform. LotF, on the other hand, goes in almost the opposite direction. The best way to describe the boss fights is: surprisingly easy, tediously slow and sometimes very cheap. We’ve already covered the “tediously slow” part. As for the “surprisingly easy”, this mostly boils down to the fact that the enemies don’t really have that much to offer. They usually have just a few attacks (three or four is the norm here) they repeat over and over, and most of those attacks either don’t hit you that hard, or can be easily dodged/blocked. You just need to repeat the same tactics over and over, slowly (sometimes unbearably so) chipping off a sliver of the boss’ health and hoping for the fight to be finally over. There were only three or four bosses in the game I didn’t manage to beat second or even first try. The very first boss I had some trouble with because I was still getting accustomed to the sluggish movements and attacks of my character. Two of those (including the final boss) took me multiple tries because of pretty cheap OHK attacks I actually had to learn to avoid efficiently, and the last one of those I failed multiple times simply because I was getting too greedy due to how boringly slow and monotonous the fight was. The multiple stages of the boss fights are a nice touch, but I’m not a big fan of how the stages are visibly marked on the boss’ health bar, so there’s zero element of surprise, and the stages themselves do little to spice up the fights – the boss’ moveset hardly ever changes, it just gains a buff or a few minions while still spamming the same three or four attacks over and over. All in all, the bossfights are the true letdown of this game – they’re just boring, tedious and totally forgettable. When I finally beat O&S or Kalameet in DS, my hands were shaking and I felt an amazing feeling of accomplishment. When I beat a boss in LotF, I just felt relieved that I can get on with the game.
The game overall pretty much lacks any real challenge, apart from a few difficulty spikes here and there (mostly one at the very end of the game). There’s an interesting concept of your bloodstain (here called “ghost”) fading over time, so you have to retrieve it fast, otherwise you’ll lose it forever. You also can decide whether you want to “bank in” the accumulated “souls” (experience points) in an equivalent of “bonfire”, or keep carrying it yourself while getting an always rising bonus multiplier for every slain enemy and better loot. But the loot is plentiful as it is, and even without the multiplier bonus, you get plenty enough of “souls” and leveling yourself more would just make the game even easier for you, so there’s no real incentive to do that. And since you can actually refill your healing potions and health at the nearest “bonfire” without enemies respawning, you hardly ever get into trouble – if you’re low on health and potions, you just run back to the nearest save point, refill your potions and health and continue where you left off. Which means you rarely ever actually die, unless you’re really reckless. It has to be said that the save point does not always give you ALL of your healing potions back, but even after completing the game, I honestly still have no idea how the amount of refilled potions is decided. But it always gives you at least some of them back. And the enemies are fairly easy anyway, at least to any semi-experienced Dark Souls player, so it’s not like you need to resort to this all that much.
As for the story, it honestly doesn’t really matter, I don’t even really have a real idea of what was really going on. You can’t really choose a character to play with (you just have a choice of three predefined sets of four spells – you HAVE to choose one of them, and also one of the four spells is the same for all three of the magic types – and of three sets of starting equipment), you always plays as a convict named Harkyn, who’s done some unspeakable crimes in the past. In fact, his crimes seem to be so unspeakable that you actually never find out during the whole game what it is he’s done, and you never really feel any connection to him at all. You’re in a world you don’t really get to know much about, there’s supposedly some war going on between monsters and humans for reasons that are not really made all that clear to you, and there are some plot twists that should probably make more sense than they do right now. There are also some obvious and less obvious story choices that decide what ending you get, but ultimately, the choices don’t really matter all that much. The lore of the world is delivered to you through the use of audio logs and item descriptions, similar to what Dark Souls did, but the individual lore pieces seemed too convoluted and spread too thin – and also not all that engaging – for me to actually be able to piece together any meaningful enough background for what is supposedly going on around me. It’s all too disjointed and has a very generic fantasy story feel to it. On occasion, it feels like there is some potential for the lore to be interesting, but it has a tendency to jump from one thing to another without actually providing any real links between them, as if there’s chunks of content missing, so it mostly just falls flat.
And that’s really just it. Last thing I want to mention is a personal beef of mine I had with the game, which is related to the audio. The game’s audio is quite good overall, pretty much on par with its graphics. The music is especially nice. It also features a pretty good and distinctly positional audio I would otherwise praise quite a lot – if it wasn’t for the fact that your “virtual ears” (meaning the point in the virtual space your ears are supposedly placed at) often act quite erratic. This results in you often suddenly hearing your character’s attack sounds or his cries or the growl of an enemy in front of you from directly behind you. Or off to the side. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around mid-fight to attack the enemy growling at me from behind, only to realize there’s no-one there and it’s just the audio glitching. Combined with the fact that most of the enemies continue to growl and make noises for some time even after you’ve actually killed them, these audio glitches were really quite annoying.
So, is Lords of the Fallen a good game or is it a bad game? Well, it depends. It’s most certainly not a terrible game. It’s not that great either. My bottom line would be – if you try to make a clone of Dark Souls games, changing things here and there just for the sake of not being a direct DS clone without really understanding what really makes Dark Souls such a great series might not be the best idea. I would very much like to see a Dark Souls game with the visuals of LotF. I’d rather not see LotF game with the visuals of Dark Souls. Nice graphics really isn’t the most important thing in a game.
In the end, I give LotF recommended, but an unforgettable instant classic like Dark Souls it ain’t. Take it as a 6/10, if you will.