Lords-of-the-Fallen---Xbox-One-Review Lords of the Fallen - Xbox One Review

   27/11/2014 at 23:55       Richard Horne       0 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
 - Lords of the Fallen, Dark Souls, Deck13 Interactive, Third Person Action RPG, Sword and Axes

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well Bandai Namco and Deck 13 Interactive’s Lords of the Fallen proudly wears its influences on the sleeves of its heavily reinforced, ornate magic gauntlets. And you’ll no doubt be pleased to know that those influences are From Software’s Souls games. In fact the Souls games are less of an inspiration for Lords of the Fallen and more of a design blueprint. You see, Lords of the Fallen is an unabashed Dark Souls clone, but with an added European spin.

First off, the controls are almost identical. And Souls purists will be pleased to hear that Lords of the Fallen retains the useful kick move from the first Dark Souls game, a move which was strangely ommitted from the sequel. The level structure and aesthetics are also very similar - except Lords of the Fallen has the added benefit of being a next-generation game with superior graphics and animation. And the in-game systems are also very similar – the 3 traditional health, energy and magic bars are all present and correct.

But one major difference between Fallen and the Souls series of games is in how you collect and then inevitably re-capture your lost souls. Fallen has a multiplier which increases incrementally every time you kill an enemy. Check in at a save point, which incidentally refills your Estus flasks - sorry, slip of the tongue there - check in at a save point which incidentally refills your health potions and the multiplier resets. It’s a very subtle difference but one which can dramatically alter the ways in which you play the game. Risk vs. reward is very much in play here. The longer you can hold out between checkpoints the more souls you’ll earn. But then at the same time, the higher your multiplier, the more souls you collect with each kill and the more you stand to lose should you run out of health.

This is further enhanced by the fact that if you do lose all your health, while you can return to the scene of your death and recollect your lost souls, you’re coerced into doing this much quicker than you might ordinarily thanks to a timer that counts down for every second you waste. If this expires, you lose your lost souls permanently. It’s a well-designed addition and one I wouldn’t be surprised to see added to future Souls games should From Software develop any more.

Lords of the Fallen  does a much better job of explaining its systems and mechanics than the Souls games. Weapons, armour and inventory items are clearly explained with descriptions, attributes and statistics all comprehensively outlined. It’s much less obtuse than Dark Souls, too, and there’s far less head-scratching, which I personally found really refreshing.

Lords of the Fallen’s threadbare plot (again possibly Souls inspired, or maybe just an example of its weak story-telling) sees you taking on the role of Harkyn, a lumbering beast of a man, but for the purposes of the narrative, a convicted criminal. Harkyn’s crimes are highlighted literally on his face thanks to tattooed runes, but he gets his chance at redemption when angry gods descend to attack the human realm and he’s released in order to fight them. It’s quite telling that I had to look this up rather than actually remembering this important plot detail, even though it’s literally the first cut-scene with which you’re presented upon starting the game.

Harkyn’s size and strength lends a real sense of weight and power to the gameplay of Lords of the Fallen. Swords thrusts and axe swings are vicious and brutal. There’s a violent weightiness to every attack and with heavier weapons inducing a longer slow build up, there’s a variety of play styles on offer. Identically to Dark Souls, you’ll need to keep half on eye on your stamina meter as the lower your energy, the less impact and damage you’ll deal out with those lethal swings and blows. 

But then Harkyn’s size also contributes towards one of the game’s biggest flaws. Many of the game’s environments feature tight narrow corridors, which means you’ll often end up fighting the in-game camera. But this proves to be quite problematic given Harkyn will more-often-than-not take up most of the width of a corridor. In order to compensate for this, the player object often just outright disappears as the camera passes through him. It’s quite disconcerting and often breaks the immersion considerably.

On top of that, the framerate in certain locales is just plain awful, which I personally found really strained my eyes and tested my patience. Wide open areas seems particularly affected by this – for reference I played the Xbox One version of Fallen – and it serves only to frustrate as you can forgive Fallen for a lot of its other sins, but not this one.

In addition to the traditional weapon staples, Harkyn also wears a magical gauntlet that grants him various magical abilities. This further mixes up the gameplay mechanics and gives you plenty of additional options when tackling some of the more difficult enemies. You can fight up-close and personal with the aggression and power of a two-handed approach. You can hide behind your shield and chip away at your enemy’s health with quick targeted attacks. Or you can keep your distance and hit them with projectiles, far enough away to dodge and roll away from lunging attacks. It’s a fundamentally sound and flexible system, however, the controls leave something to be desired. You have to press the Y button to switch between one-handed, two-handed and gauntlet attacks, but with multiple sub modes once you’ve got your gauntlet selected, switching from a heavy two-handed attacked to projectile attacks, requires far too many button presses and can often leave you open to attack or mean you waste magic using the wrong attack. There is the option to shortcut your favourite abilities and items to left and right on the D-Pad, but again, trying to switch between abilities in the midst of a tense boss battle is not the most elegant of systems.

How much enjoyment you’ll get out of Lords of the Fallen depends on how much you enjoyed the Souls games. If, like me, you lost hundreds of hours to them and somehow found yourself playing them to death even against your better judgement, then there’s much to enjoy here. The subtle changes Deck13 Interactive has added to proceedings are all welcome additions and it’s certainly worthwhile seeing a completely different developer’s perspective on this genre. But be warned, technical issues are a problem here - for example I encounted an issue where I could pause the game and access the in-game menus but couldn’t actually control Harkyn - are far too prevalent. 

On a final note and something that probably warrants a discussion of its own, I found it interesting hat while Dark Souls was applauded for its obtuse mechanics and minimalist narrative, its terrible frame rate didn’t prevent it from receiving high reviews scores left, right and center. But it seems Lords of the Fallen has been mainly criticized for having a poor plot and too many technical issues, which seems quite hypocritical to me. You can add or remove one star from this review score depending on how prepared you are to put up with these issues.

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