Lords of the Fallen – Review

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Lords of the Fallen is a game that takes a lot of patience. It also takes time. It’s not a game you can casually pick up for a few hours and just enjoy, not unless you’re a hardcore, seasoned gamer who lives for the kind of sadomasachistic gameplay the genre typically provides. This multiple death action RPG, which pits your wits against ever more complex and deadly opponents while trying both your patience and sanity, is one of the first for the next generation of consoles but is by no means worse for it.

Full disclosure here, I am not very good at these games. In fact my ability to remain calm and best the tactics of bosses is poor at best, even though I know the tactics I should be (and usually am) employing. Maybe I’m just not quick enough or patient enough. Basically the reason this review is later than you’d probably expect is purely due to my playing of it, and my schedule allowing me to get the most time with it. These aren’t the kind of games I normally play so I’m naturally slower at them. I love watching people play Dark Souls online and I’ve started playing it numerous times before getting too busy. Saying that though, I have found Lords easier and more accessible to start than I have Dark Souls. Just so you know, as it is the game it is always going to be compared to, Dark Souls will be mentioned quite a bit in this review although there are many good reasons for this comparison.

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You will go through a very frustrating time in the early stage of the game where everything will appear too powerful for you and unless you have a few hours to kill then progression in the game will be initally slow. Especially once you’ve got past the first boss. However, after several more hours you will eventually be at a good level in your skills and inventory to have plateaued the difficulty in the general playing of the game, despite occasional enemies being hilariously hard in difficult to fight spaces.

In some regards, this is where Lords of the Fallen actually triumphs over Dark Souls, especially for the uninitiated. This easier gameplay is still challenging yet not too alienating for you to reconsider sinking a good weeks worth of play in to it. You could easily lose a whole weekend and finish the game and still feel quite happy about it. I’ve read and heard others refer to this as your character being too overpowered after a certain point, and if you are a well seasoned gamer with experience of these types of games then you might think that. But for everyone else that isn’t the case. The best way to describe the games challenges and difficulty is that it makes you feel like they are never beyond you despite testing you. It’s more of a “let’s sit down and talk about this” feel compared to Dark Souls’s “COME AT ME BRO!” attitude.

However that is also a bit of a curse as, if you aren’t really the kind of person who will want to learn new tactics and play about with their options, the game can get incredibly slow and laborious for you. You could easily be patient and defeat a boss just using your magic gauntlet’s projectile attack if it’s levelled up enough. But that will take you nearly an hour and time is a precious commodity in the gaming world. Of course, it’s so easy to employ that tactic that you can easily get frustrated, start using alternative attacks, ruin everything and have to start all over again wasting even more time. Although you do get a lovely health boost from your experience ghost (like the souls from Dark Souls when you die) that drops on your death. The Experience system is actually very good. The Risk/Reward idea is well balanced with you either cashing in for safety or racking up the multipliers. Either way, your character’s skill progression is pretty easy to achieve over the course of the game. Even if you do get a little bit overpowered and just use your gauntlet to death.

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But to miss out on the various combinations and weapons on display in Lords of the Fallen would be a crying shame because this is again one of the games best features. Armour is excellently detailed and incredibly varied with everything from clerical clean cloth and plate armour to dirty jagged heavy armour. Every part can be worn independently and is totally interchangable in class and design. Heavy boots and light chest? Sure, why not. They look cool. The helmet armours, especially the face mask based medium armours, are increidbly awesome, invoking memories of Flash Gordon’s General Klytus. The weapons and shields are equally as cool with many different sword and axe options, including awesome drops from bosses like the Persistence greatsword, a massive flaming blade, and the Commander’s Shield. What’s even better is, unlike Dark Souls, the items stats are incredibly easy to understand and compare. Not basic but certainly streamlined to give you the essential damage/defence information that you need to know incredibly easily. Even the rune modifers that the Groot-esque spectral blacksmith helps you unlock are easy to understand, change and modify for the right battle.

Unfortunately this doesn’t lend itself very well to a balanced gameplay type, although I’m not saying that it should particularly. That’s the challenge of course to adapt yourself and your style to these different challenges. But these challenges do come at quite the learning curve, especially if you’ve just spent the past however many hours of the game perfecting what you’ve currently equipped. Ultimately it really depends on how you level up your character. There are three classes but these fairly redundant depending on how you use your experience points and spell points, although once you’ve got the gauntlet up to speed it’s a pretty heavy distance weapon, regardless of your character’s stats. The best go to tactic is speed in these games and that kind of dictates how you set yourself up with your armour and your overall weight that you’re incumbered with. The weapons are rather weighted towards the heavy side too with big, high strength requirement weapons that deal big damage very slowly. These quickly become impractical and the lack of lighter, quicker weapons with decent or modifible damage really makes the balanced/rouge class gameplay a longer, more frustrating experience towards the later parts of the game.

Part of me always questions why we refer to these games as being partly role playing in genre as they never really seem to do something that the genre naturally excels at; Storytelling. Lords of the Fallen has a basic arbitrary plot with several side quests to keep you pleasently confused. Confused because there is no direction apart from a basic instruction. Yes the game is intended that way, and its freedom of exploration should allow you to happenstance on dungeons and intersting areas. But in practice it makes you confused as to where you’re supposed to go, can get you stuck in an area way over your level or just lead to dead ends and locked doors with no apparent keys to find and unlock said doors. The voice acting is ropey in the cliche kind of way and your cast of misfits joke and monolgue their way into the oblivious ignorance that the mostly absent leader Antanas is pulling some kind of Emperor Palpatine style subterfuge over everyone. Yet Harkyn, your Roghar slaying anti-hero presumably on a quest for redemption, is actually pretty cool. A bad-ass monster with a terrible past, yes. But despite his tattoos of shame and whichever bullish way you choose to play him, he still seems to earn the forgiveness of someone somewhere and make them happy, whilst saving the realm that incarcerated him to prison and marked him for life.

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The game is intentionally claustrphobic. This makes battles incredibly hard at times but allows for a very well textured atmosphere with nice particle effects all round. The bigger areas have a nice artistic direction to them as well, with the bridge between dimensions being a stand out visual treat. But there aren’t enough of these to really capture your imagination like Dark Souls and they are a bit too similar. A snow covered monastary made of stone and a rather stone based Roghar realm with occasional smatterings of snow… It must have been quite a bad winter when the art designers drew up their concept pieces. It looks great but is all a bit familiar after a while, which doesn’t help your patience, and never really makes you go “wow”.

If you’re looking for reviews of Lords of the Fallen so you can deicde on whether or not to buy the game, it can be confusing. The experienced players will tell you it’s too easy. People like me will say it’s challengingly entertaining but that you shouldn’t get your hopes up for it being like Dark Souls or Skyrim. Ultimately the game succeeds in what it intends to do, which is be itself. It may not be for you, and the style of the gameplay may seem a bit too slow or weighty for the veteran players and the beginners. There’s life in the game with new game plus mode and different classes to try out but you really need to WANT to explore the options to benefit from it. If that’s your kind of thing then you’ve probably done that already in your first playthrough and won’t have much desire to do it again. Or you may consider that you’ve had enough of the challenge now you’ve bested it. Either way you’ll enjoy your time with Lords of the Fallen but just don’t expect it to scratch any itches other games have left you with and you’ll be pleasently surprised.

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Some might call it Dark Souls ‘lite’ or that it’s too easy once you’ve got your character levelled up. Personally, I found Lords of the Fallen enjoyably challenging and it is a game that, even though I’d never normally go out of my way to play, I actually have. There are things that make it much easier than Dark Souls for the uninitiated in the genre and it does look excellent, although the gameplay doesn’t really allow for a balanced approach. If you’re new to this kind of game and have a Next Gen console then it’d be a shame if you didn’t try it, especially if you’re going to buy Dark Souls 2 next year on reputation alone. Start here, and you will enjoy.

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– Excellent Visuals and claustrophobic areas

– Easy to read stats and excellent weapon design

– Experience System is great and game is open to many tactics

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– Will be a bit too easy to get overpowered for more experienced players

– Levels do get a bit similar in the smaller world

– Weapons, while weighty don’t, really give many lighter options

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As I’ve said, I’m not an experienced player of these games. But I do appreciate them and would love to get in to playing them when I have more time in my schedules. Lords of the Fallen is my entry piece and it should be yours too if you’ve never played these types of games. The visuals are great, the weapons and armours look cool and the game always makes you feel like you have a chance at beating it. A few more options for the lower weight armour classes and more varied classes of weapons would have opened this game up a lot more. But it’s a good marker for our Next Generation multiple death Action RPG’s.

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This review is based on the PS4 version of the game

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Lords of the Fallen Preview

Lords of the Fallen has already had its share of comparisons, and it’s easy to see why. Being treated to a demonstration of a level following the anti-hero Harkyn, the new game from Deck 13/CI Games could easily be accused of ‘ripping off’ other franchises like Dark Souls, Darksiders and the like. Even the executive producer Tomasz Gop was formerly involved in The Witcher series. So it’s something they freely recognise but want to distance themselves from.

However I saw something different. I saw a game that, whilst with RPG elements, owes a lot more to its action and its combat. The player’s ability to have choices in how to handle a situation (gung ho, using the environment, using magic) makes the combat look very easy.

It’s all about timing, learning to use the combat system and followed up by how you want to you use it. In fact, I would say that as a game, its gameplay owes a lot more to franchises like Dynasty Warriors than its visual credentials portray.

“With the art direction, this definitely isn’t dark fantasy… It’s more of a high fantasy,” Tomasz told me.

Seeing the current build on a big high definition screen certainly helps to show how good it is.

“The old pen and paper Warhammer series was also an inspiration… but we want it to be more arcade, [in the] Dark Souls/Tekken kind of way.”

lords of the fallen 1You can see what he’s getting at as well. The third person, almost hack and slash, style of the game certainly gives you a very easy pick-up-and-play atmosphere, which is where I got the echoes of Dynasty Warriors. Even just watching it, you could see that as an introduction game for someone who’s never played one before this would work excellently.

That’s not to say that the game is too easy. There’s going to be, depending on the gameplay style, around 20 hours of play in the game. That being said, once you’re in the rhythm though, it’s easy to see this becoming an Internet speed-run favourite. The way the game sucks you in though isn’t its story, or its next gen graphics or enjoyable smashing of nasty skulls. It’s that your anti-hero Harkyn has ‘credibility’.

The game’s lore and entire creative side has been started from scratch, so everything in here is brand new.

“What’s important is not realism but credibility, and the credibility in here means that we want people to believe that Harkyn is actually a guy who can learn things. He could actually wield these weapons, he can actually fight them because he knows what it takes to survive.”

That is something that comes across and makes you connect with Harkyn despite the RPG element of the game being rather secondary to the action and tactical nuance needed for the combat system. Again it means that things are not just there to be powerful or to make yourself heavy or affect your gameplay, but it can just look cool and be fun for, as I put it, kicking ass.

“I’m really fond of the design of the armours of this game,” Tomasz pointed out. “There’s so much detail, I love looking at this and hinting towards people ‘you might want to try this because it looks cool.’”

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This could be, if you forgive the two MMO games coming soon, the first fantasy action/RPG to land on the next generation consoles. Its combat is easy to pick up and play, like Ryse you could surmise, and its RPG element isn’t so deep that you need expert advice on a D20 and a history of mages to embrace it.

Due in the winter months of 2014, you can expect Lords of the Fallen to fall quite literally into your Christmas laps for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Of course at the moment there’s no word on if the Xbox One version will hit 1080p. But if it’s a choice between the game being finished and the resolution holding up other releases, we got the feeling the release would be more important.

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Enemy Front Preview

THE NAZIS ARE BACK, THE NAZIS ARE BACK!

Real Nazis of course, not those zombie/alien/mutated/alternate reality ones, genuine Nazis. In the context of a video gaming sphere, WW2 games have been gone for a long time.

CI Games have decided that, given the slew of future shooters and ‘modern’ combat games, it was time to revisit the events of the Nazi machine, complete with chain smoking commanders, and plop us down in the middle of resistance fighting in Enemy Front.

The concept is pretty easy to grasp, you’re an American newspaper reporter who is trying to get stories from rebels behind enemy lines, until you’re eventually more of a shooty-shooty sneaky-sneaky mercenary than a journalist.

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I managed to get some hands on time with the game and bag a few words with Steve Hart, the executive producer of Enemy Front.

CI Games are of course no strangers to shooting things, having been responsible for the Ghost Warrior series. This game is set more towards the end of the war, exposing the German’s attempts at nuclear fission and splitting the atom.

This then sees you going from various different locals in Europe that, seeing as it’s been a while for a WW2 shooter, gives you a nice feeling of actually belonging there. The textures and overall feel of the environments – be they the French countryside, snowy Norway or the rubble of Warsaw – seem to escape that maligned browny-greyish tinge that so many WW2 games possess.

Thankfully this is something that the Cryengine tackles very well, along with the lighting elements.

“Each area has its own texture set,” Steve Hart told me. “We’ve got dynamic lighting passes for each level… They’re so far removed from any other WW2 title. It’s been in development now for two to three years… [the art team] have worked tirelessly on it.”

So a lot of effort has obviously gone in to the visual artistic direction.

Including the weaponry. Every weapon is lovingly recreated from the authentic guns complete with accurate reloading animations. It could be classed as a good historical document on the weaponry.

“The development team really pushed to get the bespoke animations,” Steve tells me. “The team are big WW2 nuts and military nuts and have put the extra effort into creating it.”

Why do a WW2 game though? Well, according to Steve, the market is ready for this now.

“People are after something like this now and CI Games (a Polish company) wanted to get across the whole Warsaw uprising story.”

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The game isn’t just this run and gun shooting affair though, given the companies history of sniping games. The game gives you a HUD that incorporates a stealth system. You can, or at least attempt to, give yourself a sneaking edge and are given the tools to do so, such as binoculars and tactically tracking the soldier’s patterns, even a record player hiding somewhere for distraction (good luck if you can find it, I did – ner ner de ner ner).

Of course the one thing that some of you may have already guessed is that this is now a last-gen release, coming out on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC later this year. It will also feature the obligatory multiplayer modes we come to expect now. Graphically, the older consoles may struggle a bit more with the visuals, compared to the PC version but hopefully time will tell when we get closer to release date and see some more and play some more.

For now, it is a thoroughly enjoyable WW2 shooter and a return to a gaming environment long abandoned nearly five years ago, but now a bit overlooked and ready for a return.

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Enemy Front by CI Games is due to be released on June 10, 2014 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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