E3 2014: Lords of the Fallen, First of the Soulslikes?

E3 2014: Lords of the Fallen, First of the Soulslikes?

Lords of the Fallen is more like Dark Souls than previously advertised.

Diversity isn't just about characters, it's also about gaming experiences. Mike Williams's beat at E3 2014 involves asking if we're getting real diversity in our games, in all ways.

I just had my digital teeth kicked in for the sixth time. I had no idea that a weird flesh spider was hiding in that room I avoided the first five times around. I was just breaking barrels, thinking I was safe, and I turn around to see flesh spider all up in my business. In the tight quarters of the room, I had nowhere to dodge, so I died.

A hallway leading to self-inflicted pain.

When I first wrote about Lords of the Fallen, I noted that the game wasn't Dark Souls, something I felt "pretty great" about. In that hands-off demo, game producer and former Witcher 2 developer Tomasz Gop said that the game was intended to be "challenging, not punishing" and none of the combat looked particularly difficult. I was looking forward to a Dark Souls Light; all the epic fantasy, with a little less dying.

Lords of the Fallen is still pretty hard.

The game definitely wears the Dark Souls inspiration on its sleeve, with a dark brooding fantasy vibe and combat that relies on careful strikes, dodging, and parrying. Dodging should be high on your list to learn as it's integral to the game, but you can't spam it all day, as it draws from your stamina meter. Most of your attacks are one-to-one: you hit the button, the attack happens. There's a high learning curve to combat and every encounter requires some thought and effort; the official website's tagline is "every victory is born from defeat." Of course, every defeat in Lords of the Fallen causes you to leave some of your hard-earned experience points behind and you only get them back when you fight your way back to where you died.

Wrong turn?

Unlike Souls, Lords of the Fallen is a bit more freeform, allowing you to switch up your fighting style on the fly. You have three classes to choose from in the beginning - Rogue, Cleric, and Warrior - but the choice is more about the special abilities you have at your disposal, not which gear or weapons you're forced to use. The E3 demo included a few weapons: daggers, a sword, a mighty hammer, and a staff. While the dagger is good for pokes and successive combo hits, the slower hammer has a good degree of knockback with a heavy attack. Which weapon you use is down to your playstyle. I stuck with the sword, a weapon with some reach, but also a faster swingtime than the hammer or staff. With any weapon equipped you can also switch between three stances: weapon only, weapon and shield, or weapon and magic gauntlet.

If the combat is still Souls-hard, the Souls-lite options for more mainstream audiences are around the fringes of the game. Glowing red shards acts as the game's bonfires, letting players save their progress thus far. According to Gop, these checkpoints won't be as few and far between as the Souls series' save mechanic. You can also bank your XP as these shards, so you don't lose as much experience when you die. (You probably will die.) Those special abilities you get by choosing your class also level things out a bit. You can't spam magic all day, but it can be used occasionally to smooth out or bypass an encounter.

The team at Deck 13 have built a well-executed Souls clone. It's not a new idea, but they've provided their own spin on it. While other developers say they're inspired by the Souls series, Lords of the Fallen is probably the closest I've seen a developer get to From Software's cult classics. Relying on a single developer means fans have to wait between releases, but if more Soulslikes appear, the months waiting for the king to return won't seem as bad. It's about expanding the genre outwards so fans aren't straved for something to play; if there can be tons of third-person open-world games and roguelikes, why not Soulslikes? So if Bloodborne is high on your E3 radar, spend some time looking at Lords of the Fallen; you might just find your next game.

A bit of light in the darkness.

Lords of the Fallen is expected for release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One this Fall. These impressions are based on the PS4 version.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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