In this Lords of the Fallen Review, we take a deep look at the Lords of the Fallen 2023 release, that resets the stage for the IP and aims to put Hexworks and CI Games on the radar of souls fans. How does the game compare to Lies of P? How long is LOTF? What can you expect from story, performance and gameplay? Read on to find out.
Lords of the Fallen 2023 Review
Developed by: Hexworks
Published by: CI Games
Release date: October 13th, 2023
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 5
Price at time of review: $59.99-69.99
LOTF Review – Story and Setting
The story of Lords of the Fallen is set in the same universe as the original game, and takes place about 1000 years after the events of the 2014 release. Adyr, the God of the Rhogar, or “demons” by human perception, has been imprisoned and sealed away to protect humanity by the followers of the God Orius. But no prison can hold off a God forever, and the wards are weakening.
Preaching their righteous ways, the Hallowed Sentinels aim to restore the corrupted beacons that lock away the demon god. As a lampbearer, gifted with the unique capacity to step into the world of the dead and return, you are called to assist them in this task.
A setting like this is not unusual for RPGs, however, I found the overall world-building to be extremely interesting and well thought-out. In Lords of the Fallen, there is a massive, complex and intriguing world to discover, which appealed to the fantasy reader in me. Additionally, I appreciate that the Hexworks committed to the Dark Fantasy theme and crafted their world and stories to create a consistent atmosphere that carries throughout the game and motivates you to explore and investigate.
The story is told by means of some short cutscenes, dialogue with NPCs, item descriptions and the player-activated “Stigmas” that let the player relive moments in time. Combining all these elements, you will find a convoluted but interesting story with some exposition flaws. It is not difficult to piece together what has happened, and the events that have led to the situation of each NPC can be quite moving, but there are some unfortunately clumsy moments that take away from the intrigue and make it feel more “like a video game”.
There are choices to be made in how to approach some NPC questlines, and ultimately several endings to discover, each with its own roleplay consequence. This element brings the story on par with other souls-likes and ties the exploration and gameplay into a meaningful experience, though the endings of the game leave a lot to be desired.
Gameplay in Lords of the Fallen
Gameplay is the most important part of any souls-like, and Lords of the Fallen brings a good amount of genre-fitting innovations that help it deliver a great experience.
Lords of the Fallen Exploration
Exploration is one of my favorite parts of most games, as I really enjoy discovering what is around each corner, gathering all equipment and items, figuring out NPC progression Quests and ultimately uncovering how the developers tie everything together in their game world.
In this regard, Lords of the Fallen delivered, for me, a truly phenomenal experience. The world inter-connectivity is amazing, and the use of verticality is so exceptional that it puts similar non-Fromsoftware titles that have attempted it to shame. Not only can you find multiple shortcuts, turnabouts and surprise secret pathways in almost every corner, but the size of the world is quite mind-boggling. For comparison’s sake, I loved the world design of Dark Souls. This game has a similar flow, but it is probably two or three times the map size of Dark Souls. And you can see this entire world as you explore, which adds a wonderful feeling of immersion.
On top of this, the whole world was designed twice, as there’s the Umbral realm that can also be explored, has its own set of enemies, its own set of unique pathways, and is layered on top of everything. You spend less time in Umbral, as there are too many enemies and you only need Umbral for specific portions of progress, but the fact that it’s always there and ready for your visit is impressive.
Tying up the size and exploration are of course the NPC questlines and treasure pickups. In this regard, I felt that there was a very good progression of unlockable trainers, storylines and loot to reward me for actually checking every edge of the screen.
The combat of Lords of the Fallen is unfortunately somewhere the game should have shined, but does not. This is not to say the combat is bad, but it lacks a degree of polish that other developers have mastered, and Lords of the Fallen lags behind a bit in this regard.
There are intriguing ideas like Wither Damage when you block, which is similar to Bloodborne’s Rally mechanic, or dodges in and out of range of enemies replacing a roll. The damage mechanics are simple and easy to understand, and the weapon movesets have good combinations with their R2 attacks into the combos.
However, for the entire game I could not shake the feeling of “floatyness” that you get when you overstep forward as you’re swinging, which eventually puts you behind an enemy and forces an awkward 180 turn to continue attacking. There’s also a horrible issue with the lock-on camera, that will prioritize things that are in the middle of the screen rather than your closest enemy. This means that if you’re fighting several enemies in melee range, your aim may suddenly switch to a distant archer, and you’ll start swinging at nothing and become wide open to attacks from the mobs surrounding you.
Another disappointing aspect of combat was the lack of enemy variety. This is something that may not be a deal-breaker for most people, but it does eat into the long-term enjoyment of the game. There are somewhere around 40 enemy types, which is a bit above what Demon’s Souls had at launch. The difference is that you meet most of these early on, and then they are used in most areas of the game, whereas in the FromSoft game you only encountered each type in a certain area, giving you distance from them as you teleport back and forth. Lords of the Fallen is also a much larger game than Demon’s Souls, so you really feel the lack of enemy variety by the end.
There are things that the combat does well, however, and they should be noted. Magic and throwable item management is actually well implemented, with powerful spells and items that give buffs to yourself and allies or deal damage, etc. The treasure distribution means you can use these frequently and almost with abandon, but still have to keep an eye on your usage in order to replenish between fights. Additionally, the combat style with different weapon types does change how you approach the game, so you can look forward to changing your character’s focus and redoing your builds.
Classes, Builds & Itemization
Lords of the Fallen launches with 9 default Classes, and players are rewarded with an extra 4 classes for completing game objectives. The extra classes can only be used in a new playthrough, but their equipment can be found in-game as well. Classes work like they do in the Souls games, in that their only role is starting equipment and initial stat distribution, but players will find that the game is rather big and their wanted loot may be many hours from the start, so the choice can be important to match your gameplay and not have you wasting all your Vigor buying armor.
Itemization for Lords of the Fallen follows a simplified Souls formula, with stat requirements and scaling that apply to weapon categories, armor weight classes and items to deal with damage types and buildup status effects. The game has 15 Weapon categories featuring 180 unique weapons, 3 different Spell types with 60 unique spells, and I think I have counted 90 Armor sets with really awesome fashion opportunities. This is without including the multitude of throwable Items and Consumables that can be used to enhance your combat experience.
All of this together means that the game gives a decent amount of options to create unique and interesting Builds, however there may be some shallowness to these due to Enemy weaknesses and resistances, which are sort of a rock, paper, scissors format.
Coupled with this is the absence of infusions or skills on weapons, as upgrades are a linear progression that simply improves the attack power and scaling of your weapon. Thus, you’ll find yourself using consumable items to buff into different damage types to compensate, which may get in the way of your dedicated cosplay, as your paladin may have to use Fire rather than holy to take on many enemies.
To balance the above, weapons and shields do have Runes that can be slotted and change several aspects from scaling to grievous strike damage or even mana or health regen on kills. These effects play into a build by doubling down with other effects you gain from Rings, Amulets and consumables, but it may take players a while to get into them as runes are slottable only with upgrades and players must find them in game.
Lords of the Fallen Review – Design, Audio and Visual
Lords of the Fallen is an absolutely gorgeous game that makes excellent use of Unreal Engine 5 and a very talented design team that has given the world a unique and appropriately grim look and feel. This is probably the best-looking souls game to date in terms of fidelity, if you don’t include the Demon’s Souls remake, and it is infused with distinct personality. As I climbed to high peaks and towers, I truly enjoyed taking a moment to look back and see the entire world I had explored in beautiful detail.
LOTF Bugs & Performance Review
Unfortunately though, Lords of the Fallen suffers from a couple of performance issues and several bugs that might detract from the experience of players. While the start of the game was rather smooth and I could sustain over 60 FPS at 1440p on a 2080ti, late game zones had some drops into the 40 FPS realm that were quite annoying in combat. Devastatingly, the issues in these areas were doubled in multiplayer, and I had to face many challenging fights against groups of mobs with a blighttown-level 20 FPS.
However, there have been continuous patches during the review period, and these things have only gotten better since then. A patch pushed just yesterday addressed many performance issues, and these later zones now perform much better, though still have some FPS dips here and there, though not to the same degree.
There are also some minor but annoying bugs that popped up during the preview period, including menu clicks not working, an item popping in and out of existence at the hub, umbral enemies becoming invisible but able to attack, and a random teleport back to a lamp while in the middle of a level. None of these were game-breaking, but they did give the feel that the game was not as polished as it should be, and perhaps could have used a bit more time in development.
Audio & Soundtrack
Lords of the Fallen has a fitting and impactful music score that I very much enjoyed. Idling in areas did not live up to the magic of some other RPG tunes, but the boss themes were powerful and delivered that intense crescendo that I crave during these difficult fights.
I have seen a lot of commentary regarding the sound effects and sound cues of the game, but I personally found them good enough, with nothing out of place and nothing outstanding. There was, however, one thing that I did find annoying and that was the “buzz” of Umbral, a high-pitched sound that made me want to get out of there as soon as I could every time. I do know the devs have announced they will be working on this aspect, so we’ll see what they do with it.
Voice acting is truly a mixed bag, with some incredibly good deliveries by several outstanding actors, and some truly bad miscastings that unfortunately ruined some NPCs for me. There’s not really much more to say about it.
Pricepoint, Game Length & Replayability
My first Lords of the Fallen playthrough took about 50 hours, and I didn’t find or do everything that was available in game. There are still zones I haven’t visited, Bosses I haven’t fought and NPC questlines I need to further explore. This is before you factor in NG+, that lets you continue playing with your existing character.
The replayability of these games comes in several forms: different Builds, continuation into new game plus to unlock different endings, and multiplayer. There’s a serviceable variety of builds to work with and those who like to tinker and re-roll will probably find a happy space here. New Game plus will also give completionists a progression path to keep challenging themselves.
Multiplayer is something that I actually love, and it is something I extremely enjoyed, even through performance and technical issues that were being worked on daily. The implementation of coop play in Lords of the Fallen is absolutely fantastic. You can summon random players, use passwords, or simply use your friends list, and you will find very few barriers and can pair a starting character with an endgame one.
Your summoned companion will stay in your world until they choose to leave or you kick them, meaning you can actually continuously play the entire game with your friends without the need to keep resummoning them. They will get enemy drops and Vigor, they can use all your services including the blacksmith and upgrades for the lamp and healing. But they won’t get any treasures or boss remembrances and thus will be locked out of some gear progression, unless you opt to drop them items they may wish to use.
Something I particularly liked about coop is that, while enemies are harder and can become more challenging, if your summoned partner dies you can simply bring them back from a ghost right where they fell, or from the checkpoint without resetting the level. I very much appreciated this as it felt like we were in it together. Of course, if the host dies…well that’s that.
All in all, I’m not sure how multiplayer performance will pan out. We had good days and bad days with no FPS issues sometimes, and other days where we had terrible FPS drops and rubberbanding. With the recent patch I can say performance is much better, but because we have not had as much time to test it, it’s really hard to say what sort of multiplayer experience each player will get…
And this brings us to the ever-contentious pricing. When considering a game’s pricepoint, we take into account the amount of content available, the experience impact, and the value of purchasing a game right away versus waiting for patches or a sale. Lords of the Fallen is a content-complete game with some very well-done aspects, and a mild lack of polish in others.
For me, even with its issues, I had a great time with the game, and even though I have completed the game on PC, I have purchased a Playstation 5 copy for myself and intend to play again with the community. This is because LOTF delivered in exploration and atmosphere, and because I have seen the developers patch the game quickly and effectively based on feedback, so I think they will continue along that line and end up with an excellent product.
Lords of the Fallen is the first soulslike to deliver a truly enormous and intricately interconnected world with addicting exploration and a significant variety of discoverable loot that makes you want to find every secret the game has to offer.
While lacking in combat polish and struggling with framerate and netcode in a couple of areas, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, I’m ready to play again, and I feel like any Souls fan looking for their fix is going to get something out of the game.
Whether you buy it now or wait for further patches, if you enjoy the Souls genre, Lords of the Fallen is a game that I would fully recommend. No other Souls-like to date has so thoroughly mimicked the Souls formula, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Lords of the Fallen is an amazing achievement from the Hexworks team, and Souls-like fans will immediately feel at home in this highly ambitious title. Despite a few performance issues, and a handful of bugs, Lords of the Fallen is some of the most fun I’ve had this year, and that’s saying something considering the titles that have launched in 2023.