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Lords of the Fallen PC Review

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there’s no shortness of imitation in the video game industry. Plenty of developers try to reproduce titles that are either currently popular or games that inspired the creators to developer their own take on the concept. With the increasing popularity of the Souls series from From Software, it was only a matter of time before some other company tried to replicate the beauty of that franchise. The first teams stepping up to the plate are German developers, Deck13 Interactive, and Polish developers, CI Games, who have come together to create Lords of the Fallen, a title that is unquestionably  going for the Souls crowd with gameplay that is eerily similar to those three games. There are some areas that the developers have touched upon to add their own twist on the mix,  and this does enough to turn Lords of the Fallen into a rather entertaining stop off while fans wait for Bloodborne.

Lords of the Fallen’s story is one that is easily understandable. You don’t need to work for the plot or the lore, since this is one area of the game that deviates from the in-depth world of the Souls series – From Software’s games are known for getting the player to read every item available and tax your brain to piece together a coherent and deep folklore. Lords of the Fallen throws you into the shoes of Harkyn, a rough looking muscular convict who has markings splashed all over his face, like a tattoo accident gone wrong. These are to shame the criminals with the sins they have committed, although, Harkyn doesn’t seem to care all that much and remains acting like a badass regardless of his permanent face painting.

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There are no character customisation options, so Harkyn will always look the same. Instead, it’s down to the weapons and armour to add to his style. Harkyn is a very direct person who comes off as a tough cookie, but is strapped of any personality other than being this dude who can kick monster butt. The game doesn’t build him up or look into his past, leaving you to wonder what’s gone on with this warrior who has been freed from jail by Kaslo and taken to the Keystone to stop the Rhogar invasion of the human realm. Even by adding NPC interactions that offer multiple choices – killing or not killing someone who is infected with a disease – are simply choices that don’t change the outcome of the journey. The best titbits of information about the lore come from hidden audio scrolls, but even then, the overall journey through Lords of the Fallen is one you will probably forget after the year is over.

I feel the main reason for the above issue is due to the game’s world. Dark Souls is fantastic at joining together a world that feels coherent, yet manages to offer various backdrops while doing this, such as castles, forests, tombs, ruins and lakes, which all feature a distinctive group of enemies to add more personality to the region. The land that is explored in Lords of the Fallen is too enclosed within the citadel and monastery setting. You spend a lot of time exploring the corridors inside of those buildings and their garden extensions. Dark Souls might have had an ideal route to progress through it, but you were allowed to wonder off and explore. There isn’t chance to do that in Lords of the Fallen. You are pretty much set on a straight pathway with deviations that break off to explore small sections. The player is never given the freedom to adventure, especially off into the distance of the mountainous region that encloses this demonic invasion.

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A choice of three classes, rogue, warrior or cleric, determine how Harkyn will develop. The warrior class likes to wear big armour and take/deal damage, the rogue wears light armour and uses agility with small weapons to escape danger and attack fast, while the cleric sits in between as the middle ground, offering a good balance of speed and strength on top of the ability to buff defence and heal themselves. The starting stats are based on the initial class, but you can change them over the course of the game by levelling up Harkyn and putting points into one of the various character stats. Once you grow the character, the only distinguishing factor between the three classes is the magical spells available. Each class comes with four unique magic spells, such as the warrior having the ability to use rage for  unlimited stamina, the rogue can spawn a clone to attack with him and the cleric can slow down enemies.

Combat is based around the use of light and heavy attacks assigned to right shoulder and trigger buttons. Shields are assigned the left side, with the shoulder lifting up the shield to block and the trigger used to parry. Weapons will determine exactly how fast attacks will move, a dagger is easier to swing than a huge hammer, a weapon that is more effective by switching to the two handed stance and putting all your might behind it. Everything Harkyn does uses stamina – running, blocking a hit or doing a running heavy attack – so management of that bar is critical to staying alive. A smart mechanic featured, and one that rewards the player for skill, is the combo timing. If you press attack at the right time on hit, the following attack will use less stamina, meaning more consecutive hits and in turn more damage. Running out of stamina when blocking means taking damage, and having none in the tank while attacking causes Harkyn to become sluggish or struggle to lift a weapons off the ground if they are on the large side.

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It is very clear that anyone who has managed to get themselves through one of From Software’s challenging games will feel at home with the combat in Lords of the Fallen, and if you haven’t, then you’ll be happy to know that this game offers a pretty good tutorial. Patience is important to successfully beating down any enemy. Rushing in will simply result with a blocked attack or a retaliation from the enemy that will take away a big chunk of health. You need to proceed slowly and carefully, staying back and watching the enemy’s pattern – some of these tricky demons can surprise you with a few moves that ravage Harkyn’s health – before committing to the attack. The combat doesn’t quite hit the qualities of Dark Souls, enemies aren’t varied enough to keep encounters engaging in the long run, and it does eventually lead itself to a weaker challenge, thanks to high damaging attacks from the combination of the running and heavy attack that can also stagger the enemy, or high level magic spells that do wonders in giving you the advantage.

That’s not to say the combat isn’t fun, there’s enough here to be entertained throughout the 18+ hour adventure, and while you might not die as often as you would in Dark Souls, you will still meet your maker from time to time and have to deal with the consequences. Experience is the souls of Lords of the Fallen, with each death dropping your experience on the floor.  These disappear if you die again, but on top of that there is a timer that slowly ticks away the percentage left in the pool, adding a sense of urgency to returning to the murder scene before the precious experience disappears. This pillar of light also gives off an aura that slowly regenerates health, just enough to make it useful to keep fights in the confines of its healing zone.

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Boss battles will lock Harkyn in a combat zone, keeping the action focused on the boss as the malevolent enemy keeps you within its sight. Fights with a boss are split into four phases, with the health bar split into sections to represent the boss changing phases after being reduced to that point. This often changes their attack cycle and cracks their armour, speeding up the attacks and damage. An example of this is the first boss, where he begins with a shield and sword, but as the battle progresses, the boss loses his armour and his shield and begins to attack by changing to a two handed stance that allows him to perform a whirlwind of sword swipes. Boss fights, just like fighting normal enemies, requires patience to win, but they also add a good change of pace from battling the same small selection of foes.

Lords of the Fallen features an ingenious risk reward system in regards to experience and its combat – every kill will increase the multiplier of the experience. It starts off small, such as 1.03 times the amount, but if you keep working at it, you can net some nifty experience boosting. If you die or visit a red save crystal to bank the experience points in either spell or stat points, so that you cannot lose them on death, you will reset the multiplier back to one. Saving is one area where Lords of the Fallen remains more welcoming for people, as you are fully healed and gain back all your healing potions, but unlike the Souls games, enemies will not respawn. Enemies only reappear on the death of your character, so the red crystals can be abused when close to large battlegrounds by keeping your health and potions stocked up without any punishment for abusing the system.

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It’s a shame that Lords of the Fallen lacks imaginative environments, because the game’s graphics are fantastic, especially the lighting engine, which demonstrates how effective having good lighting is on creating an atmospheric world to get a player absorbed in a treacherous land. Lords of the Fallen is one of the nicest looking games of 2014, with amazing image quality when running the game on maximum settings. The title is quite demanding when going all out, so it’s recommended to have a top end graphics card to keep it at 60fps, otherwise you will have to drop the quality from “very high” to “high” for such cards as Nvidia’s 660ti.

Lords of the Fallen isn’t ashamed of cloning the mechanics of the Souls series to bring a different perspective on the genre. It’s not as precisely crafted at the seams like those games nor does it have an interesting story, but Lords of the Fallen offers fun combat and some inventive twists on a familiar formula with impressive graphics to boot. Lords of the Fallen falls into the trap of being the game that sadly isn’t up to the standards as the titles that inspired it. There is potential in the future for the franchise to grow its ambitions, but as it stands, Lords of the Fallen is a title I can see people forgetting once Bloodborne arrives, but until then, Harkyn’s adventure is worth a view for anyone wanting something to slow down their craving for death until February comes around.

7 out of 10