If you were to take the gameplay of Dark Souls, and filter it through the art-style of Darksiders, you would just about have Lords of the Fallen. Dark, fallen worlds and oversized shoulder armor abound like candy at Halloween. But despite being a game that doesn’t seem to have any original ideas of its own, it still manages to be a fun, albeit flawed experience.
You play as Harkyn, a convicted criminal now spared and set free in the wake of a demonic invasion by creatures called the Rhogar. At the start of the game you customize your character with a choice of starting equipment, which varies between heavy and tanky and light and nimble. This doesn’t matter much, because you can handle all equipment types in game as long as you have the right stats. You also choose from one of three schools of magic, which you can’t change once you’ve started the game, but it also doesn’t matter much because you only get four spells, of which you may only use one. Your character itself only otherwise has customizability through RPG choices made in game, some of which are pleasantly obscure.
The story itself is rather generic, with a few shining moments throughout. The game features a Fallout style summary of all the decisions you made at the end, which covers for all the multiple choices, but some seemed quite random. “Harkyn decided not to stop the evil doctor’s experiments.” “What? I didn’t know there was an evil doctor?” The rest of the characters aren’t very interesting either, but there also aren’t many of them. Mostly it’s you against the world.
Combat takes place on a similar plane of motion to Dark Souls, although it is toned a little bit slower on average I think. And while rolling and dodging are still very viable, there is a far greater capacity in this game to go full armor and take damage on the face. You find a variety of different types of weapons, although nothing too crazy or out there. Most look suitably intimidating, with lots of spikes and names like “Bloodletter.” Bosses are a high point, with most fighting you in interesting ways and looking distinct, and there are also secret achievements and weapons to be gained in defeating them in difficult, yet appropriate ways.
The setting of the game is quite good looking, graphically, although it does suffer a bit from sameness, and it can often be quite difficult to orientate yourself in certain areas. However, towards the late game, I did begin to see how the whole game was in fact taking place in one fairly large area, and that different routes looped back or shortcutted to one another, which was a nice surprise to see how it fitted together. There are also quite a few secrets and hidden areas with collectables.
There are, sadly, a few definite flaws with LotF. There are a hilarious number of bugs and glitches, some of which are game-breaking, although patches are sorting those out constantly. The game would often crash on my PS4 of all things, which no other game has managed. The game itself can also be hilariously easily broken with the right armor set or weapon set. From about the midpoint of the game, almost all difficulty was gone, as I wandered through demonic caves, a vengeful god with my huge axe and armor that didn’t have its textures loaded properly. Another flaw is that the game is just too short. There are only ten bosses to mark progress, and even with heavy duty exploring, it will never be near as long as other games in this genre.
If you like this genre, I recommend getting this game, but only when it’s on sale or at a very low price. You might well get 10 hours out of it if you really push it for all its worth. I’m glad to see smaller devs pushing above their comfort zones, and I hope this game encourages them to try again. As it is, it’s a very, very flawed diamond.