Posted

Just how hard is PS4 action RPG Lords of the Fallen?

We go hands-on with CI Games’ grisly, hardcore debut to find out

“Do you like challenging games?” So begins my first step into the demonic realm of the Fallen God – chief antagonist in Thomasz Gop and CI Games’ forthcoming fantasy RPG, Lords of the Fallen.

In answer to that – still bearing the scars of endless Dark Souls re-starts – yes, I do like a challenge. Thomasz’s jovial reply isn’t exactly encouraging. “That’s good! But you’re still gonna die… a lot.”

LOTF_om_boss

He’s certainly not wrong. As executive producer in the small creative team at Poland’s CI Games, Thomasz’s friendly demeanour hides the dark heart of the man responsible for the most brutal, punishing, yet immensely satisfying fantasy RPG to make its way to PlayStation 4 so far.

I sat down with Thomasz at Gamescom 2014 to get hands-on with Lords of the Fallen’s “second dimension”, an alternate realm that the game’s protagonist – and prolific sinner – Harkin will journey back and forth from throughout his blood-soaked quest.

LOTF_cit_agile

“It’s an important point in the game,” Thomasz says as I face the first of the sword-wielding brutes blocking my path. “Learning more about both realms guides the player towards making a massive decision that affects how the story plays out – so getting the perspective from both worlds helps guide the game and the character in a certain way.”

Thomasz explains that players will be free to shift between worlds as they see fit; where I am now however, is Harkin’s second visit. “The first time you enter a world, you’ll need to do a lot of exploration, learning your surroundings and what kind of enemies you’ll face. But I’ve thrown you in a bit later on, so you can experience a boss fight.”

LOTF_chamber_explore

Players are guided on a predefined journey, but there are a wealth of hidden areas and secret paths to discover. “Defeated enemies might drop a key or you might open up a secret area,” Thomasz explains, “and that could give you an opportunity to level up or discover something that will help you when you reach the boss. It’s entirely up to the player.”

Having blocked, parried and hacked through some of the lesser – but still fearsomely testing – enemies that got in the way, reaching the arena of this level’s boss, the Guardian Lord, underlines just how tricky Lords of the Fallen can be as the huge dual-sword wielding knight defeats me in seconds.

guardian-lord

“There’s a steep learning curve for new players,” Thomasz explains, “but we don’t want anyone to feel that they’re being punished constantly. If you learn how the enemies attack and adapt to that, you should be OK eventually. And we’ve added save points before each boss fight, so if you die really quickly you’re not sent all the way back to the start of the level.”

It’s not long before patterns start emerging; as well as the usual block, dodge, parry, attack strategies, finding ways to use the environment proves to be a good tactic. After several re-starts, Thomasz offers a hint: “Try messing with the lanterns around the side. He won’t like that and he’ll try to re-light them if you put them out.”

LOTF_temple_explore

Clever use of the player’s surroundings is an important element in setting Lords of the Fallen apart from other dark RPGs. “It’s something we’ve tried to implement wherever we can,” says Thomasz. “We want something more than a straightforward fight, we want people to put some thought into each battle and not just grind away with their primary weapon.”

A few carefully chosen spells helps too: “You’re not going to be able to mindlessly cast spells every few second; they deal heavy damage, but have a long recharge time, so you need to think about when you use them,” says Thomasz.

infestor

Eventual victory comes with the satisfaction of having genuinely earned it, but not at the cost of being mercilessly punished to the point of frustration. The overall feeling is of a world that it would be easy to lose yourself in for countless hours – which PS4 players will be able to do when the game launches on 31st October this year.

14 Comments
0 Author replies

It’s hard? Sold. As long as the gameplay isn’t loose. As in the difficulty isn’t about fighting the controls but inside your head. Bayonetta for example did this really well in my opinion.

Shame, as I was looking forward to this. Gone are my days of overwhelming challenges that turn to frustration.

I’d much rather some balanced gameplay that allows us mere mortals to reach the end of the story, and still find it enjoyable.

3

Thank god another game to wipe off my purchase list! The game looks and plays like (CENSORED)!

We don’t need another frustrating game to add to the list, make it accessible so people can still enjoy it! Most people just don’t have the time to keep die’ing and replaying same sections over and over again. In these cases 90% people don’t get to even see half the game the devs made! Such a waste!

Apart from the stupid difficulty the game looks like a ps3 title!! Unless that video was of an older version of the game? Cause the pics looked next gen but the games vid looks far from it!

Vulcan_Spectre 20 August, 2014 @ 23:33
3.1

Well that’s just not true. If people don’t enjoy games that require skill and patience, why is the Souls series so successful? You will soon have hundreds of games that will hold your hand from start to finish so please don’t try to take away the few that actually require you to think on your feet and have at least a modicum of skill.

3.2

Good job PS4 gets SharePlay then. You can get somebody to do it for you (someone that has already went past the area your stuck on) if your not able to do it.

You do understand that not all games are made specifficaly for you right?
Some People love games like this(me)
If it’s not your type of game its ok,there’s enough of other games you can buy that are your taste.

I’m sorry for those who want this to be a game that holds your hand, but Im one of the Demon/Dark Souls fans who enjoy the overwhelming challenge that gives real sense of accomplishment. For me, there are way way way too many games out there that’ll hold your hand throughout. I’m sure Dragon Age will do that, so there’s an alterative choice for you. But for people like me, who have longed for these challenges since we last saw them in the early 90’s, this and Souls are a very welcome return. And, I’m personally, grateful. Can’t wait to play it.

ordnaeLeandro 20 August, 2014 @ 23:56
5

I’m really looking forward to this, can’t wait!

This game desperately needs a demo.

I dig the art style, I really like the ideas going on (with the environmental manipulation and so on), and I’m actually really looking forward to it. However, the dev keeps saying hard, and that you’ll die a lot. People don’t love Demon’s / Dark Souls because they’re hard and you die – they love them for the tight controls, and the fact that the game is always a fair challenge. If you take your time and observe enemies, you don’t actually die that often (I’ve finished a NG Ironman run of Demon’s Souls). It’s all about situational awareness and a willingness to change tactics when necessary.

If this game has equally tight and responsive controls, and the same “harsh, yet fair” mentality (rather then “die a lot!”) as Demon’s and Dark Souls, it goes right next to Bloodborne on my “looking forward to” list. We need to actually experience how tight the game controls though, as that will make or break it faster then a cool dark aesthetic and being ...

Show full comment

This game desperately needs a demo.

I dig the art style, I really like the ideas going on (with the environmental manipulation and so on), and I’m actually really looking forward to it. However, the dev keeps saying hard, and that you’ll die a lot. People don’t love Demon’s / Dark Souls because they’re hard and you die – they love them for the tight controls, and the fact that the game is always a fair challenge. If you take your time and observe enemies, you don’t actually die that often (I’ve finished a NG Ironman run of Demon’s Souls). It’s all about situational awareness and a willingness to change tactics when necessary.

If this game has equally tight and responsive controls, and the same “harsh, yet fair” mentality (rather then “die a lot!”) as Demon’s and Dark Souls, it goes right next to Bloodborne on my “looking forward to” list. We need to actually experience how tight the game controls though, as that will make or break it faster then a cool dark aesthetic and being “hard”.

By all accounts, from quite a few that have played the demo last week in Germany, the controls (and tightness) are near on identical to the Souls series. Even the devs have said this is heavily influenced by the Souls series. If anything, the controls may be a little more forgiving in that you can break away from a move midway through if you need to. Something Souls doesn’t do, once you’re committed to swinging that sword, you have to follow through with it. A demo though would be much welcome. Either way, with Bloodborn not due for a little while yet, I’ll be picking this up to quench my appetite. Check out the Access vid on YouTube to get a better idea.

This is exactly what I knew would happen.
Dark Souls is a special game. Its design , balance ,reward and barrier of entry and to bragging right are spot on.
I knew there would be an endless stream of wannabes coming after the success of the series.
This is the first one I’ve seen and I expect many more, which will ultimately destroy the sub genre.
It has no style, no art, looks slightly like a darker Darksiders, combat looks average in the AI department.

This might be a decent game i’ll defaintely keep an eye on it but I don’t expect much.

StevenJamesHyde 21 August, 2014 @ 13:30
8

Could be the next Dark Souls, could be the next Bound By Flame. I’ll be waiting for reviews

Hopefully this emphasis on ‘HARD HARD HARD’ is just poorly thought out marketing designed to cash in on Dark Souls’ reputation, because the difficulty isn’t what makes Dark Souls a good game. Dark Souls is one of the best games ever made because of the world and character design, fantastic music and sense of atmosphere, and a narrative that teases you with tidbits of information as you progress, leaving you to connect the dots in your own mind which helps emphasise the grand scale of the world.

It’s not even that hard, it just requires the player to pay attention, I’d argue that the majority of games from the 8 and 16-bit era are much ‘harder’ games, it’s just that players nowadays can’t be bothered to even try to learn the systems and mechanics of the game they’re playing. Imagine trying to play street fighter without blocking and just wailing on one button the whole time – you’re not going to get very far, but that’s your fault, not the games’. Also, Dark Souls’ death system isn’t...

Show full comment

Hopefully this emphasis on ‘HARD HARD HARD’ is just poorly thought out marketing designed to cash in on Dark Souls’ reputation, because the difficulty isn’t what makes Dark Souls a good game. Dark Souls is one of the best games ever made because of the world and character design, fantastic music and sense of atmosphere, and a narrative that teases you with tidbits of information as you progress, leaving you to connect the dots in your own mind which helps emphasise the grand scale of the world.

It’s not even that hard, it just requires the player to pay attention, I’d argue that the majority of games from the 8 and 16-bit era are much ‘harder’ games, it’s just that players nowadays can’t be bothered to even try to learn the systems and mechanics of the game they’re playing. Imagine trying to play street fighter without blocking and just wailing on one button the whole time – you’re not going to get very far, but that’s your fault, not the games’. Also, Dark Souls’ death system isn’t like just reloading a save, because you keep any shortcuts opened, and items or souls collected are still there to be found if you die, so you’re constantly making progress even when dying. Not to mention co-op summoning, which is effectively the ‘Easy Mode’ of the game.

If Lords of the Fallen ignores all this and just makes it a checkpoint / autosave fest which ramps up difficulty by throwing multiple enemies at you at once (I’m looking at you, Dark Souls 2…), and ignores the attention to detail, atmosphere, art direction and world building of Dark Souls then it looks to be an average game at best. So if it really has something to show for itself beyond its arbitrary ‘difficulty’ then it should shout about it, rather than relying on marketing it off the back of the most misunderstand and maligned element of the game it’s attempting to ape.

10

I have no experience with the DS so it’s hard to compare anything. LoF I really liked it. I do not know how it looks elsewhere, but monsters and demons look pretty good. Light and shadows interact with each other. A lot of colors for such a game. I hope it will not be too difficult, but not quite easy. ;)

We close the comments for posts after 30 days.

Edit history